Wednesday, February 20, 2019

YouTube's Educational Advantage

Every year, more and more people are getting access to an education due to the creation of various different platforms. These learning channels such as Khan Academy have helped millions of students and knowledge seekers figure out everything from remembering how to factor to the proper ways to practice accounting. However, one major player in social media, in particular, is using more resources than ever to expand an opportunity inaccessible learning. The branding question, YouTube, has already been competitive in this realm, but with new funding being directed, they are trying to become the world leaders.

Growing up, whenever I had a question about anything- from how to change a light bulb to remembering the presidents in order, I would find an answer on YouTube. YouTube is a tremendous learning tool for students of the twenty-first century because you can find a litany of different sources that have expertise in their field. This sector of YouTube has gone unchecked for years but with the recent success of other educational apps and websites, YouTube plans to throw their hat in the ring. It has been announced recently that YouTube is investing twenty million dollars to broaden its education system. This could be game-changing for those seeking to expand their learning on a budget because of YouTube

As YouTube has evolved it has become more user-friendly in that it offers more accredited content. This includes the new YouTube kids' platform that offers educational videos that are meant to foster a fun exciting space for kids to learn. The platform is very user-friendly as it can be controlled by parents and it can be allocated to the age or education level of the student. Rather than tackle more scholarly topics, the website's plan is to curate videos that are geared toward adolescent interests.

Arguably the most important facet of YouTube's new educational endeavors is that they are free for all. In a world with so much information, there are plenty of different avenues that one can go do down to seek expertise at little cost. What inhibits YouTube's continued success in the educational realm is the ease of accessibility. YouTube success in the future for their educational endeavors will be their ability to maintain a cache of quality videos while continually expanding through a great start on their educational platform.

Examples of YouTube's Educational Value (Suggested by Jennifer Caswell):

Learning Sign Language:

Changing a Tire:

By Dale DeSantis

Image result for youtube log]

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Does Play-based learning actually work?

Something I've noticed in my college experience is that sometimes, schoolwork can make students feel miserable. However, I have yet to decide on whether if that's actually a bad thing or not. Is schoolwork meant to be difficult, but rewarding at the end of the experience, or is it supposed to be fun? Can it be fun and also rewarding at the end of the experience? An article I recently found on T74 advocated for more "play-based" learning within elementary schools and I personally have some reservations for their ideas, but at the same time, I believe that their suggestions are for the correct motives.

The main purpose of the T74 article was to advocate for more, "...guided play and a playful learning approach in elementary schools", because, "’s playtime that prepares students for classes like math and reading, Hirsh-Pasek said: Learning how to play teaches collaboration and community building, which aids language development through listening and talking". They even included research results such as the below:

  1. Academic experience is the traditional worksheets and lecturing styles of learning. Graph shows worse results in 3rd/4th grade.
  2. Child-initiated experiences include guided-play and playful learning. Graph shows improved results in 3rd/4th grade.
Even though the logic and results in this article "add up", I still have my reservations. If educators make learning more "play-based", would there be an abrupt transition in older academic years? By this, would "play-based" learning be so ingrained in students that they would only expect work to be "fun" when in reality, work is difficult? In order to eliminate this transition, educators would have to make education "play-based" through all of high-school and maybe even college! Even then, students would realize that sometimes jobs are stressful and tedious. 

In my opinion, "play" is an important concept at younger ages, however, we should guide children to both playing and working hard. We should let them know that playing is an important component to learning social skills and gaining valuable collaboration skills while working hard is a requirement for success. The emphasis should be on creating a good balance.

Feel free to express your opinions in the comments section below!

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Student-Centered Learning vs. Teacher-Centered Learning

We have all been in the position of not understanding something even after someone explains it. This is completely normal because the human brain is like a muscle. We must train it like any other muscle in order to strengthen it. Could a baseball pitcher be "told" how to pitch? Or does he/she have to practice? This similar principle applies to learning in school as well. 

Recently, I have been taking a science pedagogy class and some of the things we talked about were quite relevant to this blog. An interesting article speaks on why, "Lectures aren't just boring, they're Ineffective, too". The issue today is that with an ever-growing student population, classes sizes are growing and student-centered learning is diminishing. College campuses often have lectures with over 300 students and with this kind of class size, it is a logistical challenge to create an active learning environment. Unfortunately, the reality is that many professors simply give lectures and talk about things they find interesting themselves because asking the class to participate is difficult. This is teacher-centered learning because the things that are occurring within the learning environment are being catered to what makes the teacher's life easier. This is rather unfortunate because a study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, "concluded that teaching approaches that turned students into active participants rather than passive listeners reduced failure rates and boosted scores on exams by almost one-half a standard deviation". The good news is that in recent years, teachers have been trying to find innovative ways to create a more active learning environment even with 300+ students in a classroom. 

The most recent methods teachers have used to create an active learning environment in large lecture settings is the use of clickers. The teacher simply puts up a multiple choice question on a large screen and students answer using their personal clickers. From these clickers, teachers can see the results of the class as a whole and also the results of individual students. Some of these clicker questions are often graded and are given sporadically throughout the duration of the class. With the aspect of points being earned throughout the class, students are much more engaged. 

Another tool teachers could use is Kahoot. It is similar to clickers and is usually presented as a multiple-choice question on a big screen. The primary benefit to this method is that it is more fun and also given a competitive aspect. An in-depth post regarding Kahoot from January 2016 on our blog can be found here.

All in all, creating an active learning environment is the key to creating a successful learning environment. The use of Clickers or kahoot are simply examples of innovative ways teachers have used technology to create student-centered learning even when the class size is 300+. Lastly, innovation does not stop at these two tools, so I encourage you to test new tools and share back with us here what you have found effective!

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Affinity Photo Workbook

Quite a while back I discovered an offer to beta test a new photo editing app for the Macintosh that had the potential to be high quality and less expensive replacement for Photoshop.

Photo from  

I applied and beta tested Affinity shortly after working with the app through the beta period and started using the Golden Master and through the updates, I deleted Photoshop.
Then came Affinity Designer(I own that as well) and deleted Illustrator.
Now, I have never looked back.
At the moment, there is a Photo Workbook to get you started and to help you become a master of the app.
Well worth the price.

Contribution by Bill Martin

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Code Academy

What is a skill that is valuable for all STEM majors in 2019? Coding. Getting every bit of coding skill/experience is important in convincing your next interviewee to hire you. Nowadays, there are many different languages for coding, however, they all have similar basic skills. In universities, computer languages such as Matlab and C++ are being taught because schools realize that their students will benefit tremendously from these skills. However, education at universities nowadays is costly and is not affordable for everyone. 

My goal in this blog is to help you, the reader, to find cheap (or even free!) online education resources, that could perhaps model a college experience. Codeacademy is an excellent online resource for coding. You even get a free trial for the first 7 days!

In my opinion, the user interface is quite friendly and very suitable for a beginner. 

What makes Codeacademy such a great resource is because it provides hands-on experience alongside instruction. Coding is like learning any skill in life. It takes time and it takes practice. Would a skater be able to learn moves by only watching others? Would a basketball player be able to make free throws by just being told how to shoot a ball? They must first practice by doing, and this is the type of learning Codeacademy promotes.

Using the next bars on the bottom of the page, Codeacademy provides you with additional tasks to code. In addition to this, there are also many different courses that Codeacademy provides. Since I have a very limited skillset in coding, I was put in the most basic coding lesson. However, when you first sign-up for Codeacademy, they will provide you with a short questionnaire regarding your coding skills, then proceed to place you in the most suitable lessons. 

In addition to the lessons Codeacademy provides, there is also a community in which can provide specific support and learning. Overall, this is a fabulous low-cost resource for acquiring a skill that is simply too valuable nowadays.


Sunday, December 30, 2018

Holidays and Break

Being a student nowadays is not easy. Students are perpetually busy and sometimes breaks can disappear without any notice due to extracurricular work. For example, summers may be filled with internships and winter breaks may be used to prepare for upcoming classes. During the school year, some classes move at such an insane learning pace that students sometimes feel obligated to pre-study in order to be able to maintain pace with the class. In addition to this, students often find themselves forgetting previously learned material when they do not study over a break. This great article provides a few good tips for students who worry they may forget material over break.

My favorite part of the article is when it says to, "schedule in the work". Humans generally like routines. Ask yourself this... Do you find yourself doing the same tasks every morning before work or school? Do you drive the same route and find yourself being increasingly more confident (e.g. like you know which lane is the fastest) when driving the same route over and over again? With routines, we can do things more efficiently because repeated practice helps our brain work better. College students generally have the same schedule every week and have homework due on the same day of the week, every week. From this, students quickly enter a routine and work better and better as the semester carries on. However, the problem with breaks/holidays is that this routine gets disrupted and students need to readapt when a semester restarts. In my opinion, this is the reason why some students don't start off well in a semester, even though this is when the material is usually the easiest.

Developing a routine over break that both provides a decent amount of rest but at the same time does not turn off a student's brain is essential to avoiding struggles at the beginning of the next semester. The article says, "Think about schedules in advance of the break to determine when there are 30-60 minute stretches of quiet time that can be used for work.  Is it right after breakfast, or is it mid-afternoon?  Making the work a regular part of the day (like meals and other activities) establishes it as part of a routine". These are some great tips that you will definitely find rewarding at the beginning of the semester! Enjoy the rest of the holiday season and have a happy new year!


Thursday, December 20, 2018

Trade Schools

Trade schools are often underrated by high school students, as they assume the next step after high school is to attend a four-year University. What they don’t know is that a trade school can offer them specific technical training in the field they want, for nearly a fraction of the cost of a four-year University. A trade school is a vocational training institution that teaches technical skills specific to your career of choice. Trade schools differ from a community college because students get to bypass the general education classes and dive right into their trade with hands-on application. The most common trades one would attend a vocational school for is automotive technology, cosmetology, food service, massage therapy, medical billing, HVAC, paralegal studies and other similar trades. The major benefits of a trade school are the affordability of them, length of time to complete and hands-on experience they provide. If you are interested in trade schools, check out the options below to find info on what you’re looking for.
Then use Google to find the courses in or near where you live, or resort to Old-School and use the Yellow Page telephone book.
Good luck for the future.

Common Trade Courses:
  • Elevator Installer/Repairer
  • Radiation Therapist
  • Geological and Petroleum Technician
  • Web Developer
  • Dental Hygienist
  • Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
  • Respiratory Therapist
  • Electrician
  • Plumber
  • HVAC Technician
Contribution by Bill Martin