Monday, December 30, 2019

New Year’s Resolution a la 1900:

Contributed by Werner Kappus, Apia, Samoa
This image was created in the year 1900 in France, showing how the author thought education would look like in the year 2000. It is part of a series of future technologies imagined, published in the form of cartoons which adorned cigaret and cigar boxes. Later, the images were available also as postcards. A full coverage of these are published here:   Enjoy! And let your imagination roam as to what kind of technologies will be doing 100 years from now …

Friday, December 20, 2019

Why put so much effort into learning?

That’s the problem:  There are individuals who don’t want to learn at all, or spend the time, or the effort to learn.  And if they absolutely have to, they’d like to do it the easy way, or the easiest way possible.  I guess that’s human nature, or at least some humans’ nature.  Yet the parents and the community are usually very anxious for their offspring getting a decent education.  In the case of grownups, also that they continue learning throughout their life, enhancing their capabilities to more fully benefit from their increased knowledge.  And deep down, even the most reluctant is then likely to undertake some effort of learning.

Therefore, IMHO, the very first task for parents, educators, and the community at large (through its representatives) is to convince everybody to get going and learn, and then keep on learning.  It’s the motivation of wanting to learn that needs to be instilled in its citizens, ALL its citizens.  That’s where many countries fall short, or are even opposed to bringing motivation to some reluctant masses.  Maybe, some day they may wake up to find that this is a duty they should be pursuing wholeheartedly.

OK.  Now when you have the subjects in the mood to put effort into learning, then, of course, that learning should be made as easy as possible, even as play rather than work.  And there are, of course, many ways which have been pursued throughout history.

Now, here is a method which was recently developed under the name “active learning” (also called “active instruction”) which, so far, consistently has produced best results. It involves chaperoning students in working  through problems and reasoning things out as an inherent part of the learning process.  That is in contrast to merely attending lectures.  Here you can learn more:

Which would be nothing new for Benjamin Franklin at his time, who said: “Tell me, and I forget.  Teach me, and I remember.  Involve me, and I learn”

Yet we are here 250+ years later, with technology on our hands which can greatly facilitate whatever learning process we are following.  For example, we can learn online instead of in classrooms, from anywhere, any time, at our convenience.  In other words, more of those learning-impeding habits and circumstances can be overcome easily, and learning can be more fun instead.  The way of getting there is what makes the difference: ONLINE.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

LEARN What, And How?

The dictionary definition of “learning” is to “gain or acquire knowledge of or skill in (something) by study, experience, or being taught.”

OK.  To become a healthy, happy, useful person, there is a lot to be learned, which we normally do, one way or another, where some ways are easier than others.  

For example, if you were going to learn another language because you want to travel to that country, read its literature, talk with the people, being fluent in that language will be very useful.  It could become imperative if you wanted to take a job there or plan to live there for any length of time.

So, how do you go about acquiring that language?

Well, for most people that means going to school somewhere where they teach that language.  And then, like a toddler learning her mother’s language, slowly that language will be pounded into you in many which ways.  Depending on the proficiency of the school, over time, you’ll pick up the language, or at least a rudimentary version which will enable you to read and write, and communicate about simple things, hopefully increasing complexity and fluidity with time.

My first job in the USA was to serve as an interpreter under the U.S. State Department.  Most of my colleagues there were highly proficient and fluent in at least three languages.  And most of them were in the process of still adding another new language to their repertoire, studying in their spare time all the time.  One of the jokes making the rounds among us was that the best way to acquire another language was to get a “dictionary with ears” in that language.  In other words, get a girl- or boyfriend in that language, and then it will be easy to go on from there.

I don’t know how many took that advice (I can’t recall a single one) but rather slogged it out the conventional way.  Yet the logic is sound.  Anyone learns best on a one-to-one basis, one teacher one learner, no distraction or side-influences.  And foremost, the teacher must be an authentic and good one, like a dictionary for a language.  These are the two criteria, in my humble opinion, which the intended learner needs to get hold of first before learning can begin:
  1. A competent, well qualified, authentic knowledge source, possibly in the form of a teacher, although the source could very well be just data and historic evidence properly compiled and presented.
  2. A one-to-one teaching/learning relationship to that knowledge source.  No intermediaries in between, no diluters, distorters, politicizers.
Of course, this principle does not only apply to the learning of languages, but to ALL types of learning, be it in the fields of chemistry, astro-physics, behavioral science, what have you.

That’s all.  That, of course, is quite different from how the educational world around us is working today.   Nevertheless, there is always room for a better way.  So this is one better way:

 Authentic true knowledge source, and direct connection to it.  The will to learn, and off you are to acquiring whatever the knowledge or skill.

Now, as it so happens, ONLINE is an ideal format for this knowledge transfer to work, for it easily can come from a qualified source, and be direct in the transfer.

Yes, it is true.  All this will work only if there is a will to learn by the learner, not for someone being taught against his will.    But that’s a different subject we’ll deal with in another posting.

In the meantime, here are a couple of web sites for learning which work on this premise:

Learning can be fun!

Friday, November 29, 2019

Online Dancing, Why Not?

Yes, you can learn all your dance steps online, at home, in school, with your friends, anywhere.  YouTube makes it possible.  Here are just three examples of what you can get yourself into, if you are curious to learn …

(Please return to this page at 

after you are finished on YouTube, to see more dance samples and for the rest of the story.  Thank you.)

THAT exercise will keep you in shape, too.  You even won’t need a partner for doing it, although, of course, having others doing it with you will be a lot more fun.  But, maybe, Hip Hop is not what you had in mind for dancing.  So, here is an example at the opposite end of the dance spectrum, classical ballroom dancing,

Solo Waltz from the the 2018 Russian Championship:

Maybe, if rather conventional ballroom dancing is for you, so that you’ll be able to step on the dance floor at the next wedding party of your friend, or your own, why not start with

Slow Foxtrot, a Basic Lesson:

OK.  Now you got the picture.  Yet really this is only the very beginning.  The web is full with dance instruction videos for all types of dances.  Plus, of course, there is a wealth of DVDs out there giving you the same thing, like, for example, from Arthur Murray Dance Studios

where, if everything fails, you can go to and have an in person dance lesson for singles or couples.  However, ONLINE is a lot cheaper, or even cost free, and available way beyond Arthur Murray’s 270 studios worldwide.


Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Tango Your Way to Brain Health

from “Energize Your Brain” by BrainHQ Posit Science San Francisco:

Studies show that dancing reduces stress and improves mood—but also that it can improve cognitive function and reduce risk of dementia. One study compared dancing to biking, swimming, reading, doing crosswords, and playing golf, and found that of those activities, dancing was by far the best for the brain. Here are some ways you might incorporate dancing into your life:
1: Read this article from Stanford about how to make dancing as “intelligent” as possible. It will help you understand what types of dancing are best, and what you need to do to get the most brain benefits from dancing.
2: Sign up for a dance class, ideally one that’s partner-based. It can be a more advanced class for a type of dancing you already know, or a beginners’ class of a dance that’s new to you. Go to class and try your hardest while you’re there to learn the moves and respond to your partner’s moves.
3: Going to or hosting any parties? See if you can get the room dancing!
4: Dance at home! Get on YouTube or another video website and follow along with dancing tutorials, like this one for basic tango, this one for waltz, or this one for moonwalking. Keep practicing until you master a video, then move on to a new one.
Why is dancing good for the brain? 
Here’s a brief description of why dancing is especially good for the brain from Dr. Michael Merzenich: “Complex dances require you use multiple senses at the same time—sight, sound, and motion—coordinating your movements in time with the music and your partner’s steps, all while remembering a routine. That kind of multimodal activity gives your brain a great workout, in addition to the aerobic benefits of exercise.”
Reach BrainHQ at

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Good Parenting 101

What should a “Good Parenting” course look like?

Obviously, it would need to be geared to the particular audience to be reached, which means that under no circumstances can it be ONE course.  It rather needs to be an educational program going through different levels, the last of which to be an ongoing advisory with feedbag and consultancy available, consultancy ad-hoc by real people, online and on the phone.  Services like this already exist, for instance like the telephone number 911 for a general emergency, or 1-800-273-8255 to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.  Except that as of now no national (or international) “Good Parenting” hotline exists.

However that’s what ought to be established:  A “Good Parenting” educational program which should be running day and night for all ages, essentially being available to everyone throughout his/her entire life.  Maybe its name could be different, say instead “Family and Friends” or “Human Societal Membership” or something else.  The name won’t matter, but what is being taught will:  how to grow up as a human as part of a family, a community, a world, and becoming a better human exemplar till the day of death.  All of this is truly what good parenting is all about.

So, naturally, this educational program to the very young will look quite different than already the next level up to, say, 6 and 7 year olds.  And on and on. The word “parent” will probably not even appear in the early levels of the curriculum, but rather the ability to understand what is good and bad, desirable and not desirable, will be developed.  Relationships will be made clear, and how certain interactions produce predictable results.  The different forms of “love” will be realized, such as the love of parents and child, sibling to sibling, the family, the neighbors, the town and country, other country’s citizens, and the ultimate, a romantic love partner.

I guess, at age 10 or thereabouts the word “parent” and the concept of “parents” can be introduced, starting with the love parents bring along for their offspring from the day of their conception to forever, the sacrifices they make, and what else their job is as parent to do or supply.  Plus that a lot of responsibility comes along with that task, such as protecting their kids from harm, keeping them fed and clothed, making sure they go to school and learn, and so on.

When in their teens, the “Good Parenting” studies become a lot more important, and are more likely better understood because the youngsters’ minds are fully there, sharp and bright, by then.  Actually they’ll be hungry for learning anything at that stage, and certainly all about “Good Parenting,” a world not too far ahead of them.

Yet, the educational program ought not to end when they turn 20, because “Good Parenting” is really an ongoing activity which they are going to be involved with for the rest of their lives, either as someone being parented or not, or as a parent, eventually grand parent, great grand parent …

Society as a whole, and each member thereof individually, would greatly benefit if “Good Parenting” became a national program like learning the ABC.  It wouldn’t need to cost a fortune because most of it, particularly for the higher levels, could be done ONLINE.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Parents Are the Problem

Yes, parents are key to your success in life.  Even your health, your mental well being, and whether you are going to have the right or wrong kind of friends.  And, yes, of course, there are exceptions to this by individuals who grow up and become healthy, happy contributors to society IN SPITE of their parents.  But they surely are few and far between the great majority who ARE the products of their parents, for better or worse.

We all know that we learn the most, particularly about the basics of human life and relations, in our youngest years.  We learn how to walk, to talk, to think while we are growing up, what is truth, respect, how to associate, to learn, and to love.  Or we don’t, because there are no parents, or the parents are absent, or just not parenting.  That’s, of course, a problem, which is a widespread condition in USA today.

That’s why the USA has the highest amount of juvenile offenders behind bars, many teenagers failing their high school curriculum, becoming almost unemployable ignoramuses, open to addiction to destructive ideas as well as to drugs and other forms of harmful pursuits.

I am of the opinion that the parents of those juvenile failures are as much responsible for their underachievement and the misdeeds they are performing as the affected adolescents themselves.  Actually more so, because the parents are grownups, they know the real world, they know what is right and wrong, and what needs to be done to be healthy and happy in this world, and how to succeed.  The kids don’t.  They need to learn this by the example the parents are living.

Well, therefore, according to how I see it, society as a whole, and our government in particular, has the duty and should educate its population for becoming good parents.  In my humble opinion, that should be a top educational program, an ongoing teaching course, along with learning to read and write.  At the same time it should be made available to all parents who happen not to have a clue as to what they were in for when taking on the job of being a parent.

All of which, of course, can be done ONLINE.  Thus no excuse for not being able to study and learn good parenting, for one can study on one’s phone, tablet, what-have-you.

If you want to try it out and get started, search the web for “Good Parenting” on your computer, phone, tablet, and take it from there.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Killing Time, Intelligently …

Yes, there are people who have time to kill, at least from their perspective.  For example, a while ago I was stuck in a high rise elevator, and it took them over two hours to get me out.  So what do you do with all that time to yourself by yourself and nowhere to go?  No WiFi, no phone connection either.  Well, no problem for me.  I did my Tai Chi exercises, nice and slow, and again, until the rescue crew was able to pull the elevator up to a floor and pry open the door.  I did have my iPhone with me at the time, but there was no reception in the elevator.  Otherwise I might have been online instead.

Yet there are many occasions for many people to be stuck in what could be dead time, which could be filled usefully somehow.  For example, I know retired people who, after a full professional life, are now in a totally relaxed position, free from any work demands, free from having to interact with busybodies and other keyed up individuals pursuing some urgent idea.  Actually, as some have told me, they wake up, and after breakfast they dread the empty time laying ahead for a day in which nothing is going to happen except that the usual timekillers like watching TV or watching the birds can be followed.

These empty times waiting to be filled are not only available to oldsters.  They come in different forms also for the young, maybe even more so, because they haven’t been exposed to all the multitude of world-intruding opportunities.  For example, the weather is bad and it’s not advisable to go outside and play.  All the other players won’t be there either, for the same reason.  So, what do you do?

Well here is the answer, or at least one answer, if the reception on your cellphone works, or a computer is handy, hooked up to the internet:  Go ONLINE and learn something!

Yes, that’s my recommendation.  Learning is and should be a lifelong process.  There is sooooo much to learn, much of it useful, and some of it just for the pleasure of it. So why not go for it?  If you absolutely have to, or want to, kill some time, go ONLINE, and study something,

If nothing comes to mind that you’d love to study (which is hard for me to comprehend), start with the history of your name, where it comes from, what it means, who else has it.  Then go from there finding out who those people were, where they lived, and how, what their lives looked like.  Who were their friends?  Their enemies?  What was or is their society like?  What would they look for in you, what you’d be doing and hopefully accomplishing.  Come to think of it, look at your society around you, of which you are a part.  Find out how your society sees you, what it likes to see in you and expects you to do.

That should give you a good start for subjects to examine more closely and learn about.  ONLINE all the way!  No more time waiting to be killed.  Studying and learning means and keeps you alive.  Being bored and mentally inactive means and does diminish your health.  Yet you are here to live, be healthy and happy.  That’s what it’s all about.  Why not go ahead and have fun!

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Your World Expands ONLINE

In the year 600 A.D., the world average life expectancy was between 20 to 35 years, depending on where you lived. From the 1500s onward, till around the year 1800, life expectancy throughout Europe hovered between 30 and 40 years of age. Only 100 years ago, in 1919, life expectancy in the USA was 54 years. Currently it is 78 years in the USA, 80 years in the United Kingdom, 82 years in Canada. For the U.S., this is an increase of 44% in 100 years. There is no guarantee that an increase in that percentage range will continue over time. However, the current outlook is that life expectancy will continue to increase at least into the foreseeable future.

Although people live longer in 2019 and will be living longer yet in the near future, dementia and other mental diseases are making great inroads in that aging population. Alzheimer’s is one of the fastest growing epidemics in the United States, and elsewhere, affecting a growing part of that getting-older population, heavily impacting many long lives. The Alzheimer’s Association reports that the estimated progression rate of Alzheimer’s in the U.S. from 2000-2050 will increase by 193%, Plain dementia likewise.

What’s going on here? Why can’t the mind stay healthy as well as the body is able to last longer? Even thrive?

Well, it can, for Alzheimer’s as well as almost any form of dementia are not caused from the physical invasion of the brain by malevolent bacteria or the like, but are mere mental processes, or the lack thereof, which result in the brain getting calcified, Alzheimerized, or just losing its mental muscles altogether.

It’s these processes, which, however, are at the root of the problem, while really totally under one’s own control, even though one may never have exercised them or even known that we have them. If so, that then is part of the problem, for sure the beginning of the disease.

Therefore, if you want to be healthy, and have a healthy mind, it is essential to recognize that our brain is not a machine or computer which we inherited when we were born, and which will work as well as it can as long as it can. No. Our brain is alive. an organism, about 100 billion neurons that gather and transmit signals through around a trillion connections, “talking,” talking all the time, or not, if getting sick or getting otherwise impaired.

Normally, our brains are fully alive and plastic throughout. If you have any doubts about that, I recommend that you read the book “Soft-Wired” by Dr. Michael Merzenich - a world authority on brain plasticity - explaining how the brain rewires itself across the lifespan, and how you can take control of that process to improve your life. Amazon has it for you (free for Prime members):“Soft-Wired”+by+Dr.+Michael+Merzenich&qid=1566802653&s=gateway&sr=8-1-fkmr0

Yes, that’s what you can do. Take control of that process and let your brain flourish. Also, that’s where ONLINE comes into the picture:

Regardless of your age, or particularly if you are advancing in age, don’t be scared by the technology of it. Using a computer, tablet, iPhone or Android is good for you, since with it you’ll be able to exercise your brain, work the processes that make it hum and blossom.

Most easily, ONLINE you can practice the mind exercises your brain needs to stay active and alive, such as produced by BrainHQ (, which will give you “proven brain exercises to build your cognitive resilience.”

Try it out and enjoy:

Monday, September 30, 2019

War Zone Schools No More

“The U.S [population 327 million].experienced vastly more school shootings between 2009 and 2018 than dozens of other countries combined.”  Not to mention the time since then.

Elsewhere, there have been no school shootings in the United Kingdom  [population 66 million] since the last century.  China [population 1.386 billion] has had stabbings, hammer attacks, and cleaver attacks in schools in recent years, but no shootings.  School shootings in India [population 1,339 billion] are “virtually unheard of,” though a “rare school shooting” left a “14 year old dead on December 14, 2007.”

That’s the record:  The United States has this phenomenon of “school shootings” while the rest of the world does not.  It seems to be a sickness prevailing specifically in the USA.

There are, for sure, many reasons for it.   No doubt, all of them are being addressed from many quarters with great urgency right now.  Hopefully, a cure for this epidemic will be found and applied, soon.  Most likely, though, it will take time, maybe lots of time until that day will come.  Yet here, in the meantime, and for the long run as well, there is a solution to eliminate “school shootings” immediately, so they just remain a bad memory:  

The answer is LEARNING ONLINE, each learner with his/her own computer, tablet or other personal device, in his/her home or anywhere, at a friend’s house, at the beach, or wherever the environment is safe, friendly and conducive to spending time learning, studying, having fun..

Nowadays, courses can be brought via video online, with far better Illustrations and demonstrations than are possible live in a school setting.  Plus they can then be replayed as many times as the learner might want to review them again, at a time and place of his/her convenience.

Also, meetings can now be held onscreen, virtually, with the various participants in totally different locations.  In other words, nobody needs to feel lost by being all by him/herself in a remote learning location.  From my personal experience, I often feel much closer to whoever I’m conversing with onscreen than if we were in the same room together.  It’s a feature of the video connection to truly bring you much closer to the person you’re talking with, in many ways.  

So overall, and disregarding the reason for switching to ONLINE LEARNING, it will be more personal, more in depth, more convenient, and for sure far safer to study this way.   Not to mention, far less expensive.

As long as Americans are not going to abandon their violent gun culture, physical schools will remain sudden war zones where a shooting may happen any day.  Fortunately, electronic technology has advanced to make study in old fashioned school buildings obsolete. 

It’s time for orthodox schooling to come into the present, the age of technology enabled learning. 

Friday, September 20, 2019

Being Online Too Much?

The press is overflowing with stories of harm being done to individuals who are “online too much.”  Such as the kids who have their iPhone glued to their ear all day, even taking it along to bed at night, keeping texting and “talking” around the clock. Then, of course, there are the guys and dolls playing video games, again at any time of day and night.  Plus more, their eyes linked to the computer or cell phone screen whenever they can, as if they were living in a different universe.

Children’s and young adults’ minds, the experts say, are particularly vulnerable to excessive online exposure, both physically and mentally.

Thus, computers and handhelds come with apps which enable parental control of how much and what the user will be able to see and do online, and for how long.

All good and well, for they sure have a valid concern, which is the many forms of harm a particular online exposure can produce.  Mind you, the same or worse harm would be done if that particular behavior or activity were done offline, say, not sleeping but rolling dice in bed, or playing the slot machines no end, or smoking and overstaying at a gaming table, etc.

I’d like to make the case, however, that there is nothing wrong with being online, nothing at all.  Rather the crucial question is, WHAT one is doing online, and for how long.  Online enables the user to do things which would be harder to do, take longer, and maybe couldn’t be done as well as online.  So, that’s really great.

Online is an advanced form of communications, very much like the bicycle is a technology-assisted form of walking.  I can imagine that there were lots of like critics when the bicycle was invented, for it, likewise, was seen as becoming far more dangerous in covering distances, and much faster.

So, online is just fine.  As long as you are spending your time online intelligently, it can greatly enrich your life.  That’s all.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Other Than Ivy League Education

In my humble opinion, the value of graduating from a name university is highly overrated.  And more so, going into debt for financing the attendance there definitely is.

Look around you, checking the educational background of high profile achievers in all kinds of fields, and look at their educational path, this is what you are going to find (histories picked from web):

Already 133 years ago, Frank Lloyd Wright (one of America’s greatest architects, interior designer, writer, and educator) was admitted to the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1886, but left after only one year.  Only then his real education started, and truly never ended.

In more modern times, Warren Buffett (CEO of Berkshire Hathaway) never had the intention of going to college. By 13, he was managing his own business as a paperboy. Yet, his father urged him to attend the University of Pennsylvania for business, which Warren did at age 16. After two years of complaining that he knew more than his professors, he moved on to the University of Nebraska in Lincoln and finished his degree there, graduating from the University of Nebraska at age 19 with a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration.

Buffett wanted to keep his education going, so he applied to Harvard but was rejected. He then researched Columbia University, and earned a Master of Science in economics from Columbia in 1951. Then, shortly after graduation from Columbia, he briefly attended the New York Institute of Finance.

Bill Gates (Founder of Microsoft), you already know, attended Lakeside School 1967-1973, then Harvard College 1973-1975, when he dropped out.

FaceBook’s Mark Zuckerberg, you may recall, is another Harvard dropout.

Dell Computers’ Michael Dell dropped out of University of Texas at Austin his freshman year at the age of 19. …

Apple’s Steve Jobs dropped out of Reed College after just six months.

And so it goes …

Instead, these high performers got their high quality education from lesser known institutions and otherwise, all of which obviously did as good as, or even a better job, than the Ivy League colleges.  Not one of these superbly educated individuals went into debt in order to study.

And that’s of course how it should be:  Get your education at an affordable rate or entirely cost-free, if possible.  Which IS possible.  All it takes is to check out ALL avenues of learning.  You’ll be amazed how many there are.

One way to go, which was not available to Frank Lloyd Wright, not even to Warren Buffet and most of the others who needed education before the year 2000: is ONLINE.

Yes, great institutions of learning now exist which are entirely ONLINE.  No need to enter any classrooms or travel across town or the country.  The teachers and all the supporting evidence for your studies come to you, wherever you are, and can be replayed as often as you like.  In comparison to brick-and-mortar institutions of learning, the cost of online learning is rather negligible; for sure no need to go into debt for. Even, there are many courses which are entirely cost-free.

So, no excuse for NOT studying for whatever you are interested in learning, nor taking out loans to get your learning.  Here find a list of Accredited Online Programs, Colleges & Universities:

Ideally, learning should not mean a substantial outlay of money, but be affordable, inspiring and fun.  By these parameters, ONLINE is a good way to go.  Enjoy!

Friday, August 30, 2019

A Perspective of Low-Income, First Generation Students

I recently stumbled across two very meaningful blog posts that gave a perspective of being a low-income, first-generation student. First-generation being that the student is the first in his/her family to attend a four-year college. The blogs were written by Andrew Martinez, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education and research associate at the Rutgers Center for Minority Serving Institutions.

Andrew Martinez talks about how when he was at a college orientation why he felt like he did not belong. For example, he had to take a summer bridge program to "catch up" academically, while other students either traveled over the summer or did an internship. Another example is that sometimes wealthy parents or peers may intentionally or accidentally remind him that an elite school was not meant for someone like him. A way that this may be portrayed is that Martinez may be labeled as a pity-admit stemming from Affirmative Action. To some extent, Martinez admitted that this may be true, however, he felt like he was completely deserving of this opportunity because he had to work harder for his academic accomplishments.

All in all, his writing is quite inspirational and my short-summary simply does not do it justice. I highly encourage you to read his pieces, as it will give you either a better perspective on people born in a less advantageous position or if you are also a first-gen student, it may hit home with you.


URL to blogposts:

What I Remember About Orientation as a Low-Income, First-Generation Student

The Opportunity of Being First-Gen

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Reading Retention on Paper vs. Digitally

In a recent Education Dive article, the issue of retention between reading digitally and on paper was discussed. This article cited the Hechinger Report, conducted by Virginia Clinton, a professor at the University of North Dakota. In this report, "results indicate that retention after reading printed text improves more than a fifth of a standard deviation". The Education Dive article explained that a possible reason for this result was that textbooks receive more respect than digital prints and that students would put more effort into reading on paper publications. I do really agree with this point because simply reading words on a page does not mean that the reader would understand the material. To understand the material, a reader must "read critically" and be able to apply the concepts to other scenarios.

The article proceeded to say that even though many schools are now transitioning into less on paper prints to save money and paper, they should still provide students with the option to choose between both resources. Even though the results from the research may say that on paper prints may be better, I do prefer digital textbooks as a student. One of the benefits of a digital textbook is that my back won't be aching after a long day of carrying a heavy textbook around. In addition, a digital textbook allows a student to easily and quickly access the text on a phone or laptop anywhere. While reading retention may be higher with a paper textbook, I believe that students can re-read a digital textbook more times than an on-paper textbook, thanks to it being very convenient, which also leads to good retention.

URL to article:

URL to Hechinger Report

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Ways Technology is Helping Schools

No More Snow Days in Pennsylvania

This is one of the more interesting pieces of legislature that I have seen this year. In July, PA Governor Tom Wolf, signed a bill into law that allowed schools to have five days of flexible instruction. While the above article noted technology as an option on these days, other creative means of instruction may also be possible. Understandably, kids will be disappointed that their snow days are now cyber-learning days, however, teachers that struggle to keep pace with a difficult curriculum will be able to keep the students moving at a reasonable pace, even when schools are closed.

'Paperless First Day' attendance recording boosts efficiency

This is another great example of technology. For example, "schools [spend] an average of $50,000 a year on paper and ink", which adds up over the years honestly. This could be money that is well spent on technology and eliminates the cost of paper and ink. In addition, the article also states that in today's day and age, "students also often prefer to work on screens rather than paper", which is a statement that I can confidently attest to as a student myself.

Another added benefit of technology is efficiency. Texas' Lamar Consolidated Independent School District, Director of Digital Learning Chad Jones states that the paperless initiative has been a "game-changer" because the schools can easily track absences without delay. However, he also noted that while these gadgets may seem useful, a school district must have a clear willingness to make changes for a program like this to work.


Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Happiness U...Wait what?

Recently, Win Straube made an interesting suggestion regarding a school located in Honolulu, Hawaii that educates its students on non-traditional academic topics. Their mission is to, "teach that which was not taught in a traditional classroom about how to live a heart-centered life". In addition to this, they want to teach their students that finding happiness is completely within their control by accepting life. To find their full mission statement, click here.

Happiness U offers both online and in-person courses, so don't worry if you're not based in Hawaii! Below is a short overview of some of the online courses that they provide.

Click here to view online courses.

I did actually find a few especially interesting classes at Happiness U, such as: 
  • Western Astrology and Chinese Astrology Combined!
  • Life Purpose 101
  • Healthy Money Mindset 101  
Click here for a full menu of classes offered at Happiness U.

I do believe that these classes are important to both full-time students and those who are already working full-time. You've heard it a million times, but life really is about finding a balance. Too much work and too little life management can lead to negative mindsets and fatigue. On the other hand, too much leisure and too little work can also lead to anxiety and stress. I hope that with this post, readers can utilize this excellent tool to find balance and happiness!

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Ways To Reduce College Tuition

There is a great contest for individual economic opportunity as well as a desire for America’s economic prosperity. As a result, the job market has become grossly competitive, making the attainment of a postsecondary credential essentially a necessity. And while having a college degree has become more important than ever, the cost of attending college has become higher than ever. This creates the dilemma that haunts a majority of American citizens; go to college and receive a degree along with thousands of dollars of debt, or skip out and risk the inability to secure a steady stream of income and security. Since both of these options only offer extremes and neither seems to suggest a win-win situation, I have put together a list that can propose some sort of middle ground. It turns out there are many ways to reduce the cost of attending college so that you are able to earn that bachelor’s degree without drowning yourself in a heap of debt. Here are four ways to lower college tuition:

Legacy Scholarships: Having family members who graduated from a school makes you a “legacy”, and while many people think this only sometimes comes into play during the admissions process, it can actually play a role in reducing tuition as well. Some schools offer special scholarships and programs to legacies, such as the Legacy Program at Pittsburgh State University, or even children of faculty and staff that can cut some expenses. Make sure you are aware of and take advantage of the scholarships that are available to you.

Attend a “no-tuition” college: There are up to 12 schools in the United States that cover the full tuition for every student that enrolls (Forbes). Some examples are Barclay College and the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.

Take courses over the summer: This is becoming a very popular course of action for many college students. Courses generally do not cost as much over the summer as they do during the regular school year. In addition, it is a good way to expedite the college process in order to graduate a semester or two early; further reducing the amount of tuition to be paid.

Attend college overseas: Many countries offer a great quality of education at a much lower price than the U.S. Additionally countries such as Norway and Germany do not charge tuition to college students—international students included.

For even more ways to reduce college tuition, visit:

By Chizbel Oham

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Recommended Read: As K-12 virtual reality use grows, researchers consider impact on children

In a day and age of technology, where education has inevitably crossed roads, schools are slowly implementing more and more types of gadgets. Virtual reality is a gadget that has risen in popularity over the last few years. It involves a user wearing a headset that covers both eyes completely. In this, an immersive experience is provided and the user may feel as though they are in a different world. In fact, there are even more advanced virtual reality systems that incorporate the entire body so that the experience can be even more involved, such as a game that simulates riding a roller coaster.

However, schools are now slowly incorporating the use of virtual reality devices in classrooms and many parents and researchers are concerned that this device can affect a child's development because it may be over-stimulating. One may ask why schools would take the risk on a child's development for such a device. The answer is that this device has brought many educational benefits to a child's learning. Instead of learning from a dry, boring textbook, kids are put in an environment where they can see what they are learning. In fact, students who are learning English benefit the most because they can see the words that they are learning and easily understand what it is. Another example is that a virtual reality set can bring students on a class trip to some extent. When the students strap on a headset, they can be taken to Antarctica and be given a visual understanding of a setting. Obviously, a real-life Antarctica trip with elementary school students is not plausible.

The benefits of virtual reality for students are rich, however, the number of possible consequences that it brings along for a child's development is also a serious matter. In this day and age, it is important for educators to not be shy from testing out new technologies, but also be observant and cautious of potential harmful signs.

To read the full article:

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Evaluating Taking Online Courses while Enrolled in College

A recent Education Dive article, "Community college students more likely to take, prefer online classes", dug into how online courses have become an alternative for in-person classes. For example, students in community colleges were four times more likely than four-year college students to have recently taken an online course. In addition, researchers found that "Community college students who prefer entirely or mostly online classes tend to be those who are women, work, are married or in a domestic partnership, or have dependents". In other words, those who carry significant life responsibilities in addition to academic work prefer to enroll in online courses.

While the article was subjective and did not carry any sort of viewpoints, I do want to provide some student opinions in this posting regarding the two facts stated in the above paragraph.

As a student at a four-year college, we enroll in courses for the next semester a few months before the end of the current semester. During enrollment last semester, I realized that for the five classes I was prescribed to enroll in, three of those had an online option. It was actually mind-boggling because my "potential class schedule" looked like I only had classes 2 days a week. While having this flexible option is excellent for students who work concurrently with their studies, I opted to take all 5 of my courses with in-person instruction.

Points that led to my decision

  1. Online courses require a great deal of self-discipline. Since it has greater flexibility, students often find themselves falling behind in online courses. 
  2. The level of difficulty and quantity of coursework are similar to an in-person class (at least it should be). While many students do try to take online courses as an "easier, or less work" option, this is usually a fallacy. For example, many online courses still require students to write the same essays as the in-person class. The difference is that an instructor grades your work remotely.
  3. The quality of education is lower. Like I stated above, an instructor grades your work remotely, meaning that students lose many opportunities for academic advising. 
  4. The cost is similar to an in-person class if you are already enrolled in a community or four-year college. Many schools simply charge you a full-time semester fee or on a per-credit basis. Since online courses are supposed to be a legitimate/accredited alternative to in-person courses, the workload and credits must be identical. My opinion is that if I am paying tens of thousands to attend college already, I might as well get my money's worth by sitting in a classroom.
  5. Less networking opportunities. Simply put, online courses have less student-professor interactions. These interactions can prove to be extremely valuable networking opportunities. 
While I did list many points against online courses above, I do recognize that sometimes the benefits of having more flexibility may be more important than the reasons above. The purpose of this article is to hopefully educate students to make more sound decisions in choosing an online course and not to just take it cause it is an easier course. Before making any rash course decisions, I highly recommend speaking to an academic advisor first.


Thursday, June 20, 2019

The Flipped Classroom

Numerous teachers are constantly looking for new ways to teach and engage their students in order to enhance their learning experience. One of the techniques that resulted from this search is a concept known as “the flipped classroom.” This concept came about when Aaron Sams and Jonathan Bergmann, chemistry teachers at Woodland Park High School at the time, were looking for a way to keep absent students up to date in class without having to reteach lessons. They decided to record their lessons, include annotations, and then post them online. This way, students who were absent in class on a particular day could see what they had missed online. Bergmann and Sams later noticed that even students who had attended class found the online material useful, and used this to discover a new way of teaching.

Several teachers around the world have since adopted the “flipped classroom” technique. While not all use an identical approach, the common principle is for students to learn what would previously have been taught in class at home through lesson videos the teacher creates. Then class time would be used to work through problems pertaining to the topic covered in the videos as well as concepts people had difficulty understanding. Students are able to work with the teacher or with their peers, creating a more active and engaging learning environment.

My experience with this form of learning came in the 10th grade when my chemistry teacher decided to test it out during the second semester. She, along with the other teachers in the chemistry department, created a work packet that had practice problems for all the topics we would cover that semester. Each night, we were assigned videos to watch and take notes on that her fellow teacher had created and uploaded to YouTube. These videos, similar to those found on Khan Academy, were of a black screen where the instructor would write down important points, formulas, or examples as she taught. The next day in class, the teacher would briefly go over any area there seemed to be general confusion in. Then each student would work on the section in their packet that correlated to the videos we had watched the night before, while asking each other or the teacher for help when needed.

I really enjoyed that semester of learning in the class. The “flipped classroom” method allowed me to have a deeper encoding of the material I was learning because it was almost like I was teaching myself the material. It did pose its challenges, such as when the lesson video was difficult to follow, but since I had access to the Internet while watching it, I was able to search the web for clarifications and take my own time until I understood. This method was not a success with all students, however. This is due to the fact that some students work better with the freedom and independence the flipped classroom offers, while some students are more successful under a more structured learning environment. It is also not appropriate for all subjects, suiting subjects like mathematics and science more. While the “flipped classroom” is not for everyone, there are students that can greatly benefit from it. If there can be a structured way to implement it into the learning environment of the students it is effective for, then their learning experience could be vastly improved.

Read more on the “flipped classroom” here:

To read more on the "flipped classroom" in our blog:

Monday, June 10, 2019

"Computers in the Classroom May Do More Harm Than Good-- If They Are Overused" by Tom Jacobs

New research finds that computers are most effective as teaching tools when used sparingly, and to teach kids at certain ages specific subjects.

Initiatives to provide every schoolchild with a laptop or tablet computer have, to date, been well-publicized failures. And perhaps they were bad ideas to begin with.
Computers can certainly be effective tools for teaching children of certain ages specific subjects. But a large new study suggests their presence in the classroom is far from universally positive.

"Students worldwide appear to perform best on tests when they report a low-to-moderate use of school computers," Helen Lee Bouygues, president of the Paris-based Reboot Foundation, argues in a just-released report.
"When students report having access to classroom computers and using these devices on an infrequent basis, they show better performance," Bouygues writes. "But when students report using these devices every day, and for several hours during the school day, performance lowers dramatically."
The Reboot Foundation is a non-profit devoted to "cultivating a capacity for critical thinking." Its new report suggests that, while computers can sometimes help children grasp certain concepts, their overuse is highly worrisome.
Bouygues analyzed data from two sources: the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress, which provided math and reading scores for American fourth- and eighth-graders, and the Program for International Student Assessment, which provided data from 30 nations.
After taking into account various factors that could affect student achievement, including household income, teacher training on the use of computers in education, and (for the international students) the size of the nation's economy, she identified several disturbing trends.
"Across most countries, a low to moderate use of school technology was generally associated with better performance, relative to students reporting no computer use at all," Bouygues writes. "But students who reported a high use of school technology trailed behind peers who reported moderate use."
For instance, students in France who reported using the Internet at school for a few minutes to a half-hour every day scored 13 points higher on the PISA reading assessment than students who reported spending no time on the Internet at school. Meanwhile, French students who were online in school for more than 30 minutes per day consistently scored lower than their peers on that same test.
A similar pattern was found for American youngsters. "Fourth-grade students who reported using laptops or desktop computers in more than half or all of their classes scored 10 points higher than students who reported never using those devices in class," the report states.
But the overuse of computers seems to have produced diminishing, and finally counterproductive, results.
"We found evidence of a learning-technology 'ceiling effect' in some areas, with low to moderate usage showing a positive relationship, while high usage showed a negative relationship [with student achievement]," Bouygues writes. "The results regarding tablet use in fourth-grade classes were particularly worrisome. Fourth-grade students who reported using tablets in all or almost all classes scored 14 points lower on the reading exam than students who reported never using classroom tablets. This difference in scores is equivalent to a full grade level, or a year's worth of teaching."
These results do not prove causation, but they're certainly cautionary.
"While there's clear evidence that technology can improve learning outcomes," the report concludes, "our data suggests that technology may not always be used in a way that prompts richer forms of learning. Our findings indicate schools and teachers should be more careful about when—and how—education technology is employed in classrooms."
So by all means bring an apple for the teacher. But that Apple for the student should spend the bulk of the school day switched off.
Shared by Michele Straube
Article by Tom Jacobs


Thursday, May 30, 2019

A Practical Experience Versus Textbook Learning

I recently stumbled across an interesting article, "Take STEM lessons outside of the box with these 3 approaches", by Lauren Barack of Education Dive, which talked about a few ways educators have become more creative in teaching practical skills to middle and high school students. Before I delve into some of my views and experiences of learning by "experience", here is a summary of the three approaches given in the article.

The first example asks for fourth graders to work in groups of eight to build a vertical freestanding ring with Pringles. During the class, some students finished before other students and ended up going around the classrooms helping other students. By the end of the class, all students were able to finish the project in the end but all with different methods. According to a teacher, a key lesson that students learn from this is that there are multiple ways of solving a problem in STEM. 

In the second example, an elementary school in Georgia asked their students to build a replica of Berlin, Germany, with a focus on the Cold War Era which included the Berlin Wall. Students were asked to incorporate mathematics in this replica by finding the volume of buildings. This project reinforces the lessons the students learned from both mathematics and the Cold War era.

In the final example, a K-8 public school in Ontario started a rock curling competition and a halfpipe competition. Students in the rock curling competition coded robots to throw rocks at a target. Their main goal was to get the rock closest to the center of the target. In the halfpipe competition, students applied their engineering skills to build ramps for robots to launch.

In my opinion, all these examples are fabulous ways educators have revolutionized learning because students simply remember experiences much better than words in a book. In the future, they will remember the cool project they made a few years ago that included the Berlin Wall and be able to recall what happened during the Cold War. Another way these projects are great is because it demonstrates that innovative and effective learning absolutely does not have to be expensive. The two examples with the Pringles and the replica of Berlin were certainly low-budget projects.

In addition, these projects evoke practical skills and experiences students will eventually need one day for a job. Problem-solving skills or the ability to communicate effectively with other group members are required skills in many jobs. Like training any muscle for a sport, these things also requires constant practice to improve.

The sad truth is that many schools nowadays are too focused on test results and hound their students with textbook after textbook. Even though having the textbook knowledge to any subject is essential, not having the practical skills such as problem-solving, leads to the inability to apply the material to real-world usages. Instead of chasing for the best school ranks, schools should attempt to prepare their students to be the most effective workers in the labor force. To do this, schools need to make the three examples listed above to be a norm, where we don't need to be reporting on these "special cases" because every school does it frequently. With this, I encourage educators to take their classes to the next level with more hands-on experiences and less lecturing. Even though this will be more work, I am quite certain your students will reap the benefits of more effective learning while at the same time enjoy school better. Remember, interactive and effective does not mean expensive!

Link to the article: