Friday, May 30, 2014

Is It Worth It To Drop Out of College?

By Alisandra Wederich

We've all heard about college drop-outs who found their way to success through hard work and entrepreneurship. Names like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, Lady Gaga, Oprah and Michael Dell are just a few that come to mind when we think about those who have succeeded by dropping out of school. There is even the annual Thiel Fellowship which offers $100,000 to a handful of students under the age of 20 on the condition that they drop out of college and pursue a business venture instead - an effort by Peter Thiels to offer legitimacy and support to those who want to try the drop-out "path." However, in the midst of all these success stories, and in an age where student loans cause many to question whether it is worth it to start a college education, much less finish one; we often fail to hear about those who drop out of college and flounder.

It can be very misleading to think that dropping out of college will just land you on the path to a multi-million dollar project. Even in it's generous monetary offerings, the students selected to receive the Thiel Fellowship are extraordinary: a student who was matriculated into MIT by age 14, one of the youngest students at Harvard, and a student who was a Ph.D. candidate by age 16. These are students whose history already attests to their hard work and astounding success, so offering them money to continue their endeavors is less of a risk and more of an investment in already proven and focused efforts. Yet the story we hear when recounting many college dropout successes is not about a history of incredible success, but how dropping out of college provided them with the opportunity to launch their successful careers, leading to the belief that dropping out of college leads to success, rather than the key elements being luck, intellect, talent, or any other array of contributing factors.

The facts tell us a very different story than the "American Dream," we hear about. Many college students, daunted by student loans, have decided to drop out rather than push on to graduate, and it often comes with a great loss: these students are less likely to be employed, and will earn significantly less on average than their degree-wielding counterparts. In fact, according to the O.C.E.D.'s report, a college degree is worth $365,000 for the average American man (subtracting all its direct and indirect costs) over a lifetime. For women, who still struggle for wage equality in America, a college degree is worth $185,000. This makes a college degree incredibly valuable - far more valuable than what a Thiels Fellowship would offer.

Additionally, compared to those who finished their degrees, college drop outs are four times more likely to default on their student federal loans, and are unlikely to earn much more than those who only have a high school diploma. We never hear the stories of failure though - only those of success, which can offer a warped perspective on what to do when a desperate student is confronted with the abominable price of student loans.

There are, however, alternative solutions to these problems. While the Thiels Fellowship offers possibility to already exemplary individuals, other opportunities are available to those students who are not already successful young stars of the education world. Offering more financial aid to students is certainly a step towards making those student loans less daunting, but the best solution is providing a more affordable education to begin with. There are many already existing affordable and even FREE websites you can go to in order to pursue higher learning and many are already listed on our website. MIT, Stanford, and Cornell, already have online learning options available, but if more institutions invest in technology as a means to serve their student body, we will find that the cost of education does not need to be so outrageous. Technology serves to improve our world in countless ways, and the realm of education need only take its reins (or touch-screens) to find the benefits it can offer. We have already mentioned some here on our blog, but keep reading for more ways in which technological innovations can aid with education at little to no cost to students!

Sources: Peter Thiel and the Cult of the Dropout by Alison Griswold and Dropping Out Of College and Paying the Price by Eduardo Porter for the NY Times

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Bringing Computer Coding and Programming Classes into Schools

By Sean Scarpiello

As technology continues to become more advanced and cutting edge technology makes it onto the market each day, there has been some technology which has inevitably made it into schools. However, bringing technology into the classroom in the form of laptops or tablets is simply not enough. Some educational professionals are pushing to get schools to include computer science as part of their curriculum. While this may sound like a crazy idea, I think schools will eventually begin offering classes on coding and programming. Every day, we use computers, cell phones, apps, and tablets yet the overwhelming majority of us are completely unaware of how they work. Further, there are other classes, such as cursive and even spelling, which can be phased out as technology increasingly works its way into our lives.

Education has always focused on keeping students informed on the unknown and mysterious world around us. From early on in our science education, we learned why water freezes, how seasons change, and what the earth looks like from space. However, as technology becomes more advanced, it continues to be shrouded in mystery for many students and teachers. We continue to use this technology for work, utility, and fun, yet we still have no idea how an app works or how computer programs are designed to help us accomplish many feats in all fields of study. Therefore, much like simple science was once as mystery to everyone as children, it is imperative that classes on computer coding and programming are implemented in schools.

While this may seem as a huge undertaking, teaching students about designing software does not have to be difficult. I have already seen online platforms that schools can use to teach students some of the basics (such as Tynker, which I wrote about here). These platforms are available to students in second grade and up. Beyond this, schools can even start up their own computer science classes where teachers instruct in basic coding and programming. This would not be extremely difficult, as students will be excited to use computers and the use of this technology allows educators to walk students through the lesson step by step. Computer science classes can even be used to replace cursive and other similar types of classes which are becoming obsolete with the rise of technology. Even classes on typing could be used as an opportunity to teach students how to learn to type computer programs instead of the usual nonsense and repetitive words in class. Even more beneficial would be that students can instantly learn and apply their programming knowledge to make their own simple games, apps, and computer programs. Classes can spark their interest in STEM related fields and students can begin to work on their own independent projects outside of school. This would be especially beneficial to society as more and more technology is being released to the public each day. Further, the countries that are pumping out this technology will no doubt have an advantage in all other areas of scientific research and medicine.

In all, computer science classes would be simple and easy to implement in grade schools and up through college. Many students have very little, if any, knowledge on coding and programming so by starting students off early in their education in such a way that gets students interested in a STEM related field, coding classes would definitely by a huge success. Overall, many students would be actively learning STEM subjects through the implementation of technology which would be available to schools at little cost, thereby further advancing society in the cutting edge and interesting field of computer science and technology.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

MindTap: A New Type of Online Learning Platform

By Sean Scarpiello

Cengage Learning is an online education technology company devoted to bringing education into classrooms in such a way that keeps students engaged in learning and collaborating with others. Among many of Cengage Learning’s different programs, there is a completely original application called MindTap. Many educational institutions across the country are now beginning to implement MindTap along with other Cengage Learning platforms. MindTap showed a lot of promise already - 88% of MindTap students would recommend using this platform to others.

MindTap is not a learning management system or an e-book. Instead, it is Cengage Learning’s comprehensive learning platform where students can access all of their course material at a single, organized site. MindTap is available for instructors to use and personalize for their class. Schools can purchase different courses in subject matter pertaining to just about any subject. Courses include economics, business, art, English, sociology, psychology, and more. Further, Cengage Learning offers even more online-based classes for grades K-12, as well as college level courses. For students, MindTap allows class material to be easy to navigate, highly organized, and makes learning fun. As it is a online learning technology, class material available on MindTap can be accessed anytime and anywhere with an Internet connection. MindTap really simplifies students’ lives in that it allows all of their course content to be available and easily accessible in one secure location.

MindTap is also easy to use for instructors. In fact, teachers are able to completely personalize their course content and availability on MindTap. This means they can add or remove any course material or modules that they would like. Further, teachers can add videos, links, quizzes, their own material, and much more. Should teachers run into problems with MindTap, there’s a lot of support quickly available to help teachers get their class back on track. Instructors are also able to share different online applications with their students through MindTap. These applications include flashcards and collaboration programs which allow students to be more engaged with class material and with each other. Last, and most importantly, MindTap courses are available at reasonable cost for schools.

Overall, Cengage Learning’s MindTap learning platform is sure to be a success as it brings together course content in a highly organized easily accessible manner. This also helps teachers provide a highly personalized education for their students in a way that is fun and engaging. MindTap is sure to be successful for students of all ages as it brings a high quality education at low costs to many students by utilizing technology.