Monday, December 10, 2018

EYE STRAIN: Staring at a Computer All Day (Finals)

The first two weeks of December marks lots of joy for the holiday season but also lots of chaos for many students within the United States. These two weeks are usually marred by final exams for the end of the semester and are usually quite stressful. Technology involvement in education has exponentially grown over the past 5 years, and even as a college student, I find it difficult keeping up with all the new technology resources my university provides for me every semester. While technology involvement has made education much more diverse, it also has brought many bad side effects such as Computer Vision Syndrome.

LIKE IT OR NOT: The days of burying your head in a book before finals are gone.

Laptops are now essentially mandatory for college and studying or completing assignments are now impossible without a computer. Often, studying for just a single college final exam requires multiple hours of study time. The problem with computers instead of books nowadays is that students end up staring at a computer screen for an unhealthy duration. According to the American Optometric Association, "Viewing a computer or digital screen often makes the eyes work harder. As a result, the unique characteristics and high visual demands of computer and digital screen device viewing make many individuals susceptible to the development of vision-related symptoms".

So what should I do?

Computer vision syndrome
Source: American Optometric Association

First things first, it is important that while using a computer to have a correct sitting posture. The above diagram by the AOA gives a fantastic overview.

Secondly, my advice would be for students to not cram studying the night before. Study over many days to reduce the time of each computer session.

Lastly, take many breaks while studying. This is important not just for eyesight, but also for better material retrieval during the exam.

Have a great exam/holiday season!

Friday, November 30, 2018

An Hour of Coding!

Apple is celebrating Computer Science Education Week from December 3-9 and will be offering FREE coding workshops at their local stores! This is a great opportunity to get jump-started on coding because they will be utilizing a great coding app called Swift Playgrounds. Frankly, learning coding is really like learning a new language. Most people can probably concur that learning a new language is difficult at first. However, Swift Playgrounds really makes it interactive and fun and this is probably one of the most innovative apps I have ever encountered.

Swift Playgrounds can be installed from the App Store.



To make it all even better, this app is free for download! The free workshops Apple will be hosting at their local stores will give you an overview of how to use the application.

To sign up for a free workshop, click here.

Suggested by Win Straube

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Teaching Robots

Starting way back in the day on TV; starting in the late 1940ʻs, there was Kukla Fran and Ollie, and Howdy Doody.  

Later, as we moved into the 1960ʻs: Captain Kangaroo, Mr. Rogers neighborhood, The Electric Company and Sesame Street. Some of these had less education and more entertainment.

But there are exceptions. Some were there to give very young children a bit of a real “leg up” before or in place of Kindergarten and the early grades.

Those were our FIRST “Teaching Robots”. Notably Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, The Electric Company and Sesame Street.

Now we are getting around to more personal Teaching Robots whether in the home or in a more usual classroom environment. 
And not just a flat panel screen monitor. 

Read on. It is only getting better and more widespread as this technology progresses.

The Conversation
Why R2D2 could be your child's teacher sooner than you think
The evidence suggests robots would be great teachers, say Kristyn Sommer and Marie Bodén from Australia's University of Queensland.

Contribution By Bill Martin

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Cheaper, Smarter Ways to Learn

If you have gone through a college education in the United States or in the United Kingdom, there is probably one thing from your college experience that you will definitely remember. The one thing that you will most likely remember is the hundreds of thousands of dollars you paid in taking courses. In fact, you may still be paying for the courses you took 2 decades ago, today! First of all, this post is not contrary to the previous post and does not discourage people to pursue a college education. Like previously stated in the last blog, a college education is the best investment you can make, and even though you may still be paying off your tuition, it was all worth it.

However, taking smart measures to reduce the accumulation of debt while being able to acquire skills is an even better plan. This is where the article by Mashable10 online courses that can teach you something useful for $15 or less, can come in handy. The title is self-explanatory and what this article is representing is that anyone can buy a learning kit online for a price that is much cheaper than a college course.

For example, tuition at a state school such as Penn State is between $891- $1541 (source) per credit! That is actually asinine in comparison to the price of the courses you can find on the internet. You can learn, "HTML 5 from the Ground Up", for only $15, but if you choose to take it at a state university, the cost would easily run into 4 figures!  The link we provide on this post is only ONE example. If there is a particular skill you would like to acquire, a simple Google search may even suffice.

DISCLAIMER: It is important to remember that knowledge and credentials are two different things. Even though some of these online courses are excellent and can help you acquire a particular skill, you may possess the skill, but lack the credentials for it. Before deciding between taking an online course (cheaper) or taking a college course, it is important to evaluate the reasons why you are seeking to acquire this skill. If it is perhaps for a job, an online course may not suffice due to credentials. However, if it is for personal enrichment, then an online course is probably the most economical method. The choice is yours!!!

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Researching and Comparing Different Schools with Discover Business

Are you looking to work with money one day as an occupation? According to Pew Research Center, "among millennials ages 25 to 32, median annual earnings for full-time working college-degree holders are $17,500 greater than for those with high school diplomas only" (U.S News). Based on this, it is quite fair to say that a college education quite important and has almost become mandatory to enter the upper-middle class (where the upper-middle class is located is up to the discretion of your opinion). People who work with money are not an exception to this case. Having a tertiary education does not hurt and in fact, it is the best investment any person can make today. 

So college is important... now what?

Having gone through the modern-day process of selecting schools and then applying, I can definitely share a bit of information. Choosing a college is difficult nowadays because there are so many selections. Simply googling a list with college rankings is actually quite counterproductive. A list with rankings is simply the opinion of either a single editor or a group of editors. Their interests may not exactly fit your interests and what's best in their opinion may not be what's best for you. Selecting the best college you can go to is a long process with many, many variables to consider. For students looking to work with money, there is a dandy tool called Discover Business to organize facts about each school for you. 

On the website, there is an explanation for each business major and why it may be beneficiary for you to pursue a career in that field. 

Another useful tool they provide is a table with facts of each school offering business degrees. These facts are important to consider before attending a school because it is important to understand the expectations of how much the college can provide for you after graduation. 

Lastly, the feature above narrows down the specific school for a specific field in business. 

Obviously, the prestigiousness of the school is important. However, this is only half of the pie in terms of determining which school to attend. I highly recommend students to use this resource to create a list of schools they would like to visit/tour in person. The tools will always be available online and it is important to use it but NOT rely 100% on it. 

Saturday, October 20, 2018

The Perks of a Play-in-the-Mud Educational Philosophy (Contribution by Bill Martin)

Click here for Article

This first sentence grabbed my attention, held it up and shook it.
““Most American kids don’t spend large chunks of their day catching salamanders and poking sticks into piles of fox poop.”

The way I grew up during WWII, I stayed with relatives on the prairie farms and ranches of Nebraska.  Close to the earth.  Learning about horses, cattle, chickens, ducks and pigs, wheat, rye and barley from a very early age.  The last 7 of which usually ended up on our dinner plates.  Horses were used for plowing because gas was rationed or hard to get to put into tractors.  At one point, we journeyed into town for supplies in a horse-drawn, flatbed wagon.  Family dogs lived in little houses next to the house and were a siren alarm if something strange happened, were the hunters, guides, and protectors for family members.  They didnʻt EVER come in the house and certainly didnʻt sleep in our beds with us.  Things have changed in that regard, thankfully.

In a different scenario, I lived with my grandfather in the Black Hills of South Dakota where I was introduced to methods of geology and gold mining, to members and children of the Oglala Lakota, and tramping on mostly forgotten pioneer trails to the cabins of nearly forgotten “old-timers” who my grandfather knew.

I had an education in and out of the classroom.  Schools didnʻt teach what I learned from being “close to the earth” and how animals lived and moved around in the wilderness AND the farm/ranch. I saw baby animals being fertilized and born and knew about the “birds and the bees” long before I even started school.

As an adult, I became a licensed operator of a sailboat for hire.  I took children and teachers out on a working sailing vessel and showed them not only the handling of the “ship” but marine life under their feet and up close and personal.  Fish, whales, dolphins, sea otters, seabirds and their nesting areas.  The ways of wind and water.

WHY shouldnʻt preschoolers spend their day, or even PART of their day finding snails and minnows in a pond, seashells by the seashore, on a forest trail, or out on the prairie spying on Prairie Dogs? Touring a working ranch or farm?  Spending a day in a wilderness park with the people who live and work there?
Close to the earth rather than pictures in a book?
Learning about the world they will inherit and make changes to save it.

Learn about their world first-hand?
This is an eye-opening read about educating our next generation.

Contribution by: Bill Martin

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

The Beauty of URLs/the internet

It's October. College midterms are in full bloom. Homework is now cranked up to the max for students around the world. As a college student, I have realized the beauty of the internet and URLs! A bit weird to say actually. Anyhow, I just wanted to share some of the experiences I have had with homework in school so far. 

No Computer? No good. 
Something that has drastically changed over the last decade is that, without a computer, homework is practically impossible to do in college. Essays are submitted electronically via an online dropbox. Quizzes and sometimes even exams are done on the internet. Even homework written on paper refers to URLs that students have to visit in order to complete the task. 

I am a believer that this revolution of technology is a great thing for students. Homework assignments are now so much more interactive. For example, in one of my classes, Meteorology 201: Weather Analysis, every week we receive a problem set to complete as homework. Within this homework, there are dozens of links we have to click on to interact, then respond to questions. For example, we may be told to click on this satellite image and provide an analysis regarding the weather at that specific time frame. Another example is an interactive tool with clouds/moisture/water vapor imagery. 

By using technology, people who are "visual/do-it" learners can learn so much more! Personally, it is difficult for myself to learn simply via text. Seeing and then interacting solidifies my understanding of something tremendously.

The increased use of technology has led to increased plagiarism. Often, students are unaware of the infraction and involuntarily plagiarize. This is a mistake very easy to make as a student when the internet is filled with all types of resources and a citation is left out by accident. With the benefits of the internet, comes a price.

Overall, college is a wonderful experience. The education methods have drifted towards more technology over the last decade and the quality of education has improved. With this post, I encourage educators around the world to increase technological interactivity within assignments. You will be shocked by how much the results can change!