"I believe that education is the civil rights issue of our generation." – U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan, October 9, 2009

Archive for the tag “higher education”

Technology and the Transition in Education

Change is in the air. Actually, it’s in the classroom. Education in America has been hit with a wave of technology from iPads to iMacs to electronic whiteboards. It’s exciting; the growth of technology and its application to the classroom allows more opportunity for learning. Teachers can teach more efficiently; no more fussy overheads or booting up the computer for 10 minutes. And with tools like Diigo, teachers can present and share a series of sites to their students instantly.

The possibilities for the use of the iPad for students are endless, and they are undoubtedly sparking creativity. Young elementary school students are using the iPad to make their own digital storybooks, featuring text, photos, and links to other sites and content. High school students are using them for anatomy demonstrations, turning in assignments, recording lectures, creating group presentations, and even for assisting in lab experiments.

With the boom in technology we are also seeing a rise in online education. Top universities are now offering classes online for free for students around the world. All students have to do is locate Internet connection, login, and they have access to assignments, video lectures, tests, and other course material. This is a cheap, efficient way to gain an education; giving even disadvantaged students the opportunity to gain an education (can you see why Bill Gates is working towards increasing Internet access? Brilliant).

Online education certainly has its perks, but when combined with the fact that college tuition is becoming more and more expensive every year, I fear we are headed in a bad direction. Lets face it, online education is cheaper and people may soon come to realize that they can earn their degree without traveling miles away, paying over-priced housing, books, and tuition and putting themselves in student loan debt. People may start to question, is the “college experience” even worth it? It’s society’s future, potential answer to this question that concerns me.

I do believe colleges can and should become more efficient institutions, but is there a way this can be accomplished without robbing students of the crucial ingredients they need to thrive? I’m talking about the physical, hands-on experience of learning, serendipitous discovery, the benefits of interacting with other students, putting our minds together, sharing, and growing together into well-educated individuals. These are all things one can gain from attending class, things no technology can ever fully replace.

This past quarter my lab group in Animal Behavior went out into the field to run our own experiment on crows and their mobbing behavior. We created a mock dead crow (a black sock filled with dirt, complete with fake feathers), laid it out on our established site, and observed crow behavior. This experiment was so fun because we designed it on our own and obtained some interesting results! Crows actually mobbed our fake crow and one feisty one had the nerve to attack it, physically plucking its feathers out! It was experiences like these that made me think, ‘I love college; I love learning.’

Now if higher education transitions to the Internet and college campuses disappear…who will run the crow experiments?



Attention Grads: Don’t You Worry, Never Fear, Teach for America Is Here

In thinking about life after college, you may be experiencing this:

But once you’ve done some of this…

Get off the floor and consider your options.

Today’s post is here to inform you of one of those options: Teach for America.

What is Teach for America?

An organization working towards helping kids in poverty gain an education. They target communities of low-income, ensuring those children get equal opportunities for education just as those raised in higher-income neighborhoods.

What members do: Take charge of their own classrooms and invest in students

Teach for America creates individuals who teach effectively. Recruits undergo intensive training. This training persists throughout the two-year experience, where recruits are continually learning and altering their methods while they teach in the classroom.  Corp members attend five weeks of summer training at the Institute where they learn from experienced teachers. While at Institute, members are instructed in the basic foundations of teaching, learn how to design their own lesson plans, how to carry them out effectively, and how to measure their student’s progress.

Under the guidance of a faculty advisor, corps members are able to apply what they’ve learned to the classroom. These advisors act as role models and a form of support by observing and providing feedback on corps member’s teaching. But once summer training is done, members are not left alone to teach; they continually receive feedback, tools, and resources in order to help their students achieve. One great thing about Teach for America is that they are not creating a homogenous group of teachers who all teach the same way. They help each member gear their teaching to fit the needs of the specific students in their classroom.

Who helps make this happen?

The best of college graduates who have demonstrated hard work and dedication throughout their higher education. The organization’s goal is to deliver grade-A, top-of-the-line education to disadvantaged students, and doing so requires recruiting those who have the most potential.

Don’t let your lack of experience teaching in the classroom deter you from joining Teach for America, in fact many corps members do not have this experience prior to joining. Instead, they look to individuals who, through years of schooling, have demonstrated leadership, excellent grades, the ability to manage projects, and possess interpersonal and critical thinking skills. Teach for America recruits individuals who are committed to helping children reach their full potential, who push through adversity, and are open for growth and improvement.

Why join Teach for America post-graduation?

  1. Through your education you’ve learned to think critically, to manage your time, to manage projects, to take initiative, and you’ve honed your interpersonal skills and ability to communicate effectively. Teach for America after college is a good idea because it gives you the opportunity to apply what you’ve learned in school to a real life setting. Many post-grads find it difficult to land a job because they have not demonstrated themselves outside of school. Teach for America can help bridge this gap, giving you practical experience in a leadership role—the kind of experience employers are looking for.
  2.  Let’s not forget the biggest reason for joining Teach for America: you’d be making a difference in the world. Become a part of a movement and make a lasting impact. Through your teaching, you can help children earn the best education, giving them the opportunity in life to reach their full potential. You’d be helping Teach for America make the achievement gap a thing of the past, where children’s success in life is not limited or predetermined by the wealth of their family or their community.  If you’re looking for a rewarding experience, look no further.
  3.  Teach for America will give you the opportunity to immerse yourself in another culture and to gain an understanding of another community.
  4. It’s an experience that will stick with you. The experience of taking on such a large leadership role leads many corps members to continue philanthropic work with other nonprofit organizations or to continue teaching in the future.

How do you apply?

To apply for Teach for America in 2013, fill out the application on the Teach for America website by one of the listed deadlines. After submission of your application, you may be asked to do a phone interview, a full-day interview, or to perform some requests online.

How can you prepare for the application process?

Make sure you have a thorough understanding of the requirements, expectations, and policies of Teach for America. Check out the website’s tips for the application and interview process. The application will require information on your educational background, leadership experience, a resume, and a letter of intent in response to three questions.

To end on a good note, life does not end after college; it is only the beginning. If you’re looking for extra preparation for the real world and looking to make a significant impact, Teach for America may be a great option for you.






Certification: The Underestimated Route to Career Success

Should certificates be considered post-secondary education just as associate’s and bachelor’s degrees are? The article Certification Opens Path to Gainful Employment, Middle Class Earnings explores this very question.  If you had asked me this question years ago in high school I would have made a snap judgment and said no. Shamefully, as a high school student, I would have scoffed at the idea of a fellow classmate pursuing an education in cosmetology or culinary arts. Some how I thought that such an educational route was unlikely to meet with a successful future. I suppose that my opinions were largely affected by the importance that society places on obtaining degrees and how society devalues the earning of certificates for post high school education. Plus, pursuing a vocational route after high school wasn’t the norm, and, being in the minority, it led me to believe it was not a wise course to take in life.

My judgments in high school are unfounded. I learned from the article that those who earn certificates frequently earn more than those who have earned associate’s or bachelor’s degrees. In fact, the earning of a certificate often paves way to obtaining these degrees.

The information in this article is more in line with the opinions I hold about higher education now. I believe that society has become so preoccupied with sending their kids to four-year universities to earn degrees that they have failed to consider other alternatives that can produce equal if not more desirable effects. Going to a university is not the only route to success and I do not think that obtaining such degrees guarantees the highest paying jobs. In holding these opinions, I think the earning of certificates should be considered post-secondary education.

If society could shift its gears and recognize other routes to successful employment and income, I think we’d see a lot more high school graduates pursuing education in fields they are passionate about.

The Combat Against Cheating: Forever a Game of Cat and Mouse

I recently heard from a friend that students occasionally pay someone to walk into their lecture hall and take their finals for them. For starters, I can’t imagine anyone willing to take such risks, getting away with the crime, and that the faculty administering the tests fail to take precautions. Secondly, it’s astonishing that students can become so desperate as to rise to such dishonest conduct.

Academic dishonesty was brought to my attention once again when I read Online Classes See Cheating Go High-Tech, which quite frankly, spurred some feelings of resentment. The fact there are students who have cheated their way through school and get to bask in the glory of claiming a degree makes me furious. I’m going to be completely honest–I’ve worked very hard in my academics in hopes that one day I’d get the job of my dreams. But if I am up against someone for a job who has falsified their education, and they get the position over me—that is messed up!

So I was pleased to hear from the article that there are people out there who have recognized this problem and are coming together to combat academic cheating. Programs have been designed to catch plagiarism and are continuously being refined. Additionally, efforts are currently being made to advance the security of online courses. Innovations such as requiring students to login by taking a photo of themselves via web-cam and the development of programs that analyze typing styles are also being explored.

It’s great that people are working to fight this problem, however, I have concerns over whether their efforts will yield positive, sustaining results. Students are smart, share cheating techniques with one another, and can become desperate enough to put in time and effort to crack anti-cheating technology. I fear that the clash between cheaters and those who attempt to combat against them may forever be a game of cat and mouse.

Pressures of Education—Contributing to Mental Disorders?

As an avid psychology student, stumbling upon Prozac Campus: the Next Generation was like finding that the last piece of chocolate cake in the back of my fridge (score!). Well you must think I have much to say about what appears to be a current epidemic in the deterioration of student’s mental health—I do! As a student myself I can concede that academic pressure is on the rise. I’ve worked my tail off since day one in kindergarten, and yes, I was always the student in intro to art who stayed afterschool to finish their color wheel. Why strive for such perfection? I suppose that I always felt like I needed to give myself a competitive edge so that I could get into the college of my choice. According to the article, my feelings may not be unrealistic, where students are met with more rejection by colleges today than they have in years past, alluding to the fact that college admission involves fierce competition.

This competition and academic pressure to get into college is only just the beginning; it spills over into our college experience and us students struggle to maintain perfection. So what does this all mean for college students? For me, as I am sure it is for most other students it means emotional difficulties—wait, no, that is far too simple and hardly captures what really goes on behind the scenes. My attempt to adjust to college life as a freshman constituted of tears, feelings that my efforts never paid off, homesickness, test anxiety, not to mention the weekly rounds of therapy with Häagen-Dazs.

Today, it is all too common for students to pathologize symptoms such as stress, feelings of loneliness, and anxiety that are nothing more than natural consequences of the challenges and pressures they face in life. The author of the article makes the point that students fail to openly discuss their feelings which leads them to believe that they are alone in what they are experiencing. Such beliefs may lead them to think they are suffering from a mental disorder.

If students openly discussed their feelings and confided in others, perhaps it would reduce this supposed rise in mental disorders. To help students communicate these feelings it may be beneficial for colleges to offer and encourage students to actively participate in groups where they can learn that their feelings are mutual among others. What are some other ways in which we can assist students’ psychological well-being?

Societal Beliefs on Education and Success: Harming Student’s Futures?

“Graduating from college makes one successful.” Society holds such an assumption, but is it true?  The article Why We Need Vocational Education explores this common belief.  Mark Phillips claims that today people in America place great importance on graduating from high school and getting into college, seeing it as sign of success and the guarantee of a bright future. I’ve been influenced by this belief myself, though I may have been unaware of it at the time. It was always assumed that I’d go to college; it was just what everybody around me strived to do and I did the same without much thought to alternative routes. Any decisions other than going to a four-year university seemed risky.

College no doubt has benefitted me. I may not remember J.B Watson’s impact on the field of psychology or what role serotonin plays in certain mental disorders. These are facts that may be long forgotten years from now. But what will always stay with me are the skills that I have acquired from my experiences. Through college I’ve enhanced my ability to communicate effectively, developed an awareness of multiculturalism and diversity, and honed my ability to think critically. Such skills will contribute to my success in my future career but will they entirely account for my success? This is where I disagree with society’s assumption that college makes one successful.

I’ve realized that my education has provided me opportunities but shut out others. College has stuck me in the corner of the library, put my nose in a textbook, and shielded me from the real world. This is somewhat ironic when I consider that I’m learning about the “world”, and this notion concerns me. Since my education is supposed to prepare me for the real world, I wonder why I’m not out in the real world gaining experience and applying what I’ve learned. Does anyone else share this concern and if so what should we do about it?

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