Trends in Ed: Is College Worth It? It Depends on Your Major

Submitted by Demetri Lales on Wed, 01/25/2012 - 3:08pm.
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When it comes to the growing trend of questioning the importance of college, the Uncollege concept springs to mind. People are starting to question whether or not college is worth the massive debt that students have to pay back after graduation, and if they do. Well according to this Forbes article, college is worth it, only if you pick the right major. Below is a chart of majors, their unemployment rates, and earnings of recent graduates.


It’s easy to see from the chart which majors produce more unemployed recent graduates, and it looks like majors that are more focused on training for a particular occupation or industry, (Healthcare, Education, etc) have fewer unemployed graduates, while the opposite is true with majors with less focus (Humanities, Liberal Arts, etc.). When it comes to computer and math majors, employers are more likely to hire those who can write and invent new applications, rather than those who use software to manipulate and mine data. It seems that the notion of going to college to explore your career options is becoming extinct. Instead college freshmen should be deciding earlier on in their college career which occupation they would like to work in and declare the major that focuses on that, to avoid potential unemployment or going deeper into debt.


Gaming to Solve the World's Biggest Problems

Submitted by Demetri Lales on Tue, 01/24/2012 - 2:53pm.
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As educators continue to look for more engaging ways of teaching, many have turned to introducing students to educational gaming which are computer based and usually simulation types games, like Second Life. While few educators are trying out different ways to integrate gaming in their curriculum with the hope that students will experience better learning and applying their knowledge, most educators still have a negative view on using gaming in the classroom. Many don’t see the educational value behind gaming, which may be true for some games, but there are many games that can educate students in ways that classrooms just can’t do. Below is a Vialogueof TED speaker Jane McGonigal discussing how she believes that people playing more games can potentially solve more of the world’s biggest problems, which may seem like a bold statement to some people. But by watching the video below some educators may get inspired and apply her ideas to improve their STEM classrooms.

Potential for sySTEMic Change: So how does this idea of more gaming help improve STEM education? Well an educator doesn’t necessarily need to include more gaming in the classroom to improve it, just the right kind of game that helps challenge students into using their STEM knowledge and applying it in creative and meaningful ways through gaming. Simulation games are a great way to challenge STEM students. One of the games that Jane McGonigal created, World Without Oil, is a great example of a simulation game where students would need STEM knowledge and creativity to solve a problem that has no one right answer.

There are many computer games like these that educators can research and use to engage and challenge their students. It may be time to start using more creative ways of teaching with new resources, instead of using the same old ditto worksheets from the 1950’s. Educators themselves may want to learn more about gaming concepts, and what game elements keeps players engaged and apply them to the classroom. Let’s keep gaming, everyone.


Math in the Real World

Submitted by Demetri Lales on Fri, 01/20/2012 - 2:59pm.
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One popular method of improving the education of mathematics is to relate math concepts to real life issues or current events. Most educators believe that students would become better engaged in the math classroom when the problems are easily relate-able with the real world. Some educators might not yet know how to go about giving math problems that students can easily relate to. Yummy Math is a website that gives math problems that are relate-able to the real world, and a great resource for educators to get some ideas and inspirations on how to create math problems that will better engage students.

Potential for sySTEMic Change: For far too long the math problems in textbooks keep becoming more outdated. They are not relate-able to students in the classrooms today. If a student can’t relate to the problem then he or she will not be fully invested in solving the problem. But before we even start thinking about what types of practice problems to give students, to apply their knowledge of math, we should first explain to them how math is used outside of school and how different professionals use math in their day to day work. Once students start looking at math problems like the ones in Yummy Math, they will hopefully realize the usefulness of math in real-life. Let's keep solving real-life problems, everyone.


Learning Electrical Engineering Through Playing

Submitted by Demetri Lales on Thu, 01/19/2012 - 11:30am.
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In the first Engineering Edition, there was a discussion about how the subject of engineering should be introduced to younger students, and taught throughout K-12. Some educators might not know how to start teaching young students about the vast topic that is engineering. Well first we must be aware of the fact that some students do start engaging in structural engineering activities when they play with wooden blocks or LEGOS. So by using the same “learning through play” method we can introduce younger students to electrical engineering. One way to this is by letting young students play with a littleBits kit. littleBits are reassembled circuit boards, each with a different function based on its color. This functions include: power, led, vibration, pulse, pressure sensor, etc. Each little circuit board can connect to each other through magnets on each side, so students can make different types of combinations with every little bit.

Potential for sySTEMic Change: Kits like littleBits can help younger students explore electrical circuits and their functions and is a great start to learning more about the STEM topic of engineering. "Learning through playing" can be the way to introduce younger students to other engineering topics like civil, environmental, computer, mechanical, etc. Most students have no idea what engineering is, and it would be more beneficial for STEM education to introduce students to the huge subject of engineering earlier than high school, to give them more time to explore the subject. Sparking an interest in engineering at a younger age, by connecting tiny electrical circuits, might inspire more students to connect larger electrical circuits later on. Let's keep connecting, everyone.


The Tablet Powered by the Sun! (Just Like Superman)

Submitted by Demetri Lales on Wed, 01/18/2012 - 10:58am.
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In recent news, One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) just came out with a new XO 3.0 tablet at the Consumer Electronic Show. This is an interesting laptop that was designed for students in developing countries and it's priced at $100 per tablet, but is sold only in bulk to countries. Even so, for a $100 tablet, it has some very interesting features, such as multiple ways to give it power. The tablet has a solar panel cover that provides the tablet with power. This is the main method of charging the battery, but can also be powered by a hand crank, a waterwheel, or a bicycle, all of which is separately purchased. This tablet is a great way to provide students, in developing countries, a great tool for education.

Potential for sySTEMic Change: This piece of technology can potentially help more students around the world learn about STEM topics. A very financially sound tablet cannot only benefit those in developing countries, but for students right here in America. At $100 per tablet, maybe there can be one tablet per student right here at home. Most believe that every student has access to a laptop or tablet already, but this is false, especially when it comes to rural and inner city public schools. But every student having a laptop wouldn’t completely improve education. Teachers would need to be trained in how to utilize the tool in their curriculum. It would be a great start though, to better educate our students here at home. Let’s better educate everyone, everywhere.


Research Digest: Teaching Physics Using Simulations

Submitted by Demetri Lales on Tue, 01/17/2012 - 6:45pm.
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Wieman, C.E., Adams, W.K., Loeblein, P., & Parkins, K.K., (2010). Teaching Physics Using PhET Simulations. The Physics Teacher, 48(4), 225-227

Description: This paper describes how a physics interactive simulation application called PhET can be integrated in the classroom. The authors also discuss how simulations in general can be woven into the classroom curriculum and generate effective teaching. Some of the major advantages, according to the authors, to using this type of simulation application in the physics classroom include: simulations can be used in classrooms where the real equipment is either not available or impractical to set up, they can be used to do “experiments” that are impossible to do otherwise, and that it is easy to change variables in response to student questions that would be difficult or impossible to change with real apparatus. It is stated that teacher guidance is very necessary when learning with simulation as teachers can pose a scenario, ask for students’ prediction, then run the simulation and discuss what happened in terms of physics. There are brief descriptions on how to use the simulations for homework and lab activities, as well.


Clearing Up Misconceptions About Scientists. Not All Scientists Look Like This

Submitted by Demetri Lales on Tue, 01/17/2012 - 1:33pm.
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Ask any young student to draw a picture of how a scientist would look like, and most of them would draw someone with glasses, a lab coat, and hunched over a set of beakers and graduated cylinders. If you ask them to describe a scientist most will say they are nerdy and geeky, and will mean it in a negative way. There might be some who see them as the cool people depicted on shows like CSI, or superheroes like Batman (yes he’s a scientist too!). It seems that a lot of students have a big misconception when it comes to how they view a scientist, whether as geeky person in a lab coat, or the heroic kind they see on certain shows. This can dissuade younger students from having an interest in science, and eventually becoming a scientist. As educators to younger students, it is imperative to clear these misconceptions and give them a clear view on what a scientist really look like and how their work is very cool.

Potential for sySTEMic Change: Clearing these misconceptions will definitely help more students become interested in science and potentially other STEM fields as well. A great way to do this is to show students what real scientists look like and the projects that they work on. Students become more interested and engaged when school subjects are connected to real world situations. Once students see that scientists look like normal everyday people, they can better relate with them and dream of becoming scientists performing cool experiments. Let’s keep dreaming, everyone.


What Does the EdLab Think About the 2012 Election?

Submitted by Demetri Lales on Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:59pm.
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So about every morning before I come to work, I always watch the morning news and hear about how the Republican candidates are faring in the primaries. Well since we had the day off, and I missed the 6'o clock news, I was watching videos on the candidates on Youtube. I found this interesting video that I posted up on Vialogues on Ron Paul. Feel free to watch and discuss the Vialogue below.

I just started researching Ron Paul's history and policies, but I wanted to ask the EdLab what do you think of him, or any of the other Republican candidates? Also are you paying attention to the Republican primaries, or do you believe that Obama will have his second term as president? It would be interesting to see the EdLab's view on this upcoming presidential election.


EdLab Review: Wordia

Submitted by Demetri Lales on Fri, 01/13/2012 - 2:41pm.
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Description: Wordia is a website that provides students with a variety of games to learn more about traditional K-12 school subjects, and has resources for building up vocabulary. The website has a search function where users can type in a vocabulary word and get several results including: the text definition of the word, a video definition, if available, and a game that would test a student’s understanding of the word. All of their games are also categorized by subject and recommended age group.

Pros: This website is very organized when it comes to their resources, which makes it easier for users to find the right game for them. Their vocabulary search feature is very interesting: users just need to search a word that they would like to learn more about, and they would receive up to three different resources, (text definition, video definition, and related game) to help them fully understand the word.


Soapy: A SOPA Killing Application?

Submitted by Demetri Lales on Thu, 01/12/2012 - 4:09pm.
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Mashable just released an article about a Firefox extension that would allow internet users to still access a censored website by going directly to the website's server. It seems that the internet is already finding ways to circumvent the SOPA initiative before it even passes! Will this have any effect on the government's opinion on passing SOPA or PIPA?

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