Google Glass Given To College Students To Explore Filmmaking

Google Glass Given To College Students To Explore Filmmaking

LOS ANGELES — Beauty is in the eye of the Google Glass wearer.

At least that’s what the Internet search giant hopes a handful of young filmmakers will discover. Google is enlisting film students from five colleges to help it explore how its wearable computing device can be used to make movies.

The $1,500 Google Glass headset is already being used by 10,000 so-called explorers. The device resembles a pair of glasses and allows users to take pictures, shoot video, search the Internet, compose email and check schedules.

As part of its experiment, Google will lend each school three pairs of Google Glass.

The participating schools are American Film Institute, California Institute of the Arts, Rhode Island School of Design, University of California, Los Angeles, and University of Southern California.

Google Inc. says it plans to share an update of how students are progressing sometime after school resumes in the fall.

The company says the schools will explore how to use Glass for documentary filmmaking, character development, location-based storytelling and “things we haven’t yet considered.”

Norman Hollyn, a professor at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, said students will be encouraged to use Glass to tell stories incorporating the first-person point of view.

He said one model that students might follow is one explored in the film, “Timecode,” by director Mike Figgis, which uses four cameras to capture four different people simultaneously. Students will also be encouraged to try to use Glass’s data overlays as a way of revealing elements of a story. At least two short films are expected to be done by the beginning of next year, he said.

“We’re kind of looking at it as, `How can we push this to tell stories rather than just sit on a cool Disneyland ride and broadcast that out to people?'” he said. “This excited us in a lot of ways.”

Glass users can shoot video in “720p” high-definition quality by issuing voice or touch commands.

Google has already shown off a few examples of how people are using the device, such as tennis pro Bethanie Mattek-Sands preparing for Wimbledon and physics teacher Andrew Vanden Heuvel taking his class on a virtual field trip to the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research.

Examples of Google Glass video can be seen at

Why High School Kids Are Financially Illiterate

Why High School Kids Are Financially Illiterate


If the U.S. education system can’t teach Johnny how to read, it’s not surprising it can’t teach him how to balance his checkbook or calculate compound interest.

A report out this month from the Champlain College Center for Financial Literacy (CFL) in Vermont finds that the vast majority of states are doing a poor or mediocre job of educating high school students in key financial skills. The report card, which awarded each state a letter grade, gave 60 percent of the states a C or less; 44 percent of those received D or F grades.

John Pelletier, director of the CFL and author of the 2013 National Report Card on State Efforts to Improve Financial Literacy in High Schools,  argues that to make programs successful at the high school level, “financial literacy topics must be taught in a course that students are required to take as a graduation requirement.”

The other essential ingredients for success are increased teacher training, funding to ensure that classes are offered to all high school students, and standardized assessments that insure that training is working.

In the aftermath of the 2008 banking and real estate crises, experts say financial education is critical to helping young adults better handle everything from credit card debt to student loans, and to make more complex choices about investing and mortgages. Since there’s no national curriculum standard for teaching financial literacy, questions remain about who should teach the classes and even whether funding should come from public or private sources.  As a result, the quality of financial education varies wildly from state to state and from district to district.

A-rated states like Virginia, Utah, Tennessee and Missouri are the only ones in the report that require a one-semester stand-alone class in personal finance as a graduation requirement. Tennessee, Georgia and Idaho (the latter two also received As) require students to be assessed on their knowledge of financial topics.

Alabama, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Rhode Island and Washington, on the other hand, all received failing grades because they have few or no requirements for personal-finance education in high school.

For some schools, financial literacy is just not a top priority. “If your [students] can’t read, or you’re struggling with gang problems [in your neighborhoods], financial literacy is fairly low on the list,” says Carol Roth, a former investment banker and the author of The Entrepreneur Equation.

So how does financial education fight its way in, when every subject in cash-strapped school districts is competing for its own piece of the dwindling budget pie?

Not easily, according to Todd Harrison, founder and CEO of Minyanville, a New York-based financial education and media website. Harrison’s company has developed a financial literacy curriculum that has failed to gain entry into public schools. He blames a “labyrinth of politics in the school systems” that are hesitant to experiment with alternative teaching methods and that undervalue financial education.

“A financial framework is entirely more important then just an elective program,” he says. “It should be mandatory.”

Billy Hensley, director of education for the National Endowment for Financial Education, a non-profit group based in Denver, believes there is reason to be optimistic about the future of financial education.  He points to states like Colorado (which received a B grade in the CFL report) that have improved financial education by integrating personal finance into economics and mathematics classes.

Both Hensley and Pelletier agree that “embedding” fiscal literacy into other core classes can be an effective way to teach the material. They also agree that many instructors feel uncomfortable teaching financial.  A 2010 University of Wisconsin survey funded by NEFE found that less than 20 percent of K-12 educators believed they were “very competent” to teach a class in personal finance areas including credit and debt and savings and investing.

Benjamin Harris, a senior research associate at the Urban Institute, is skeptical that financial knowledge leads to more responsible adult behavior and says that studies have been inclusive. He suggests that targeted seminars and counseling sessions on student loans and credit cards are most effective when the students are about to make decisions that involve acquiring credits cards and financing their own higher education.

Another issue that concerns some experts is that classes on financial literacy will have little impact if parents have no insight into their own behavior with money.

“If the home environment doesn’t reinforce it, there’s only so much that can be done in the classroom,” Roth says. “It doesn’t matter what the teacher tells [the students] f they’re going to live entirely differently.”

Roth supports community literacy programs that can target the entire family, so that parents and children can share ideas and include financial learning in their daily lives.

The CFL report suggests that schools should establish partnerships with corporations if they can’t get government funding.  The national accounting firm PwC and Discover Financial Services both support financial literacy programs in public schools.

But Pelletier warns that while financiers may be good sources of cash, they may not be good instructors.  “Just because someone is a financial professional doesn’t mean he’s a great teacher,” he says. “Someone from Schwab or Morgan Stanley almost always talks about investing in bonds and equities, but not about [basics like] savings and budgeting.”


Reclaiming the Promise of Public Education

Reclaiming the Promise of Public Education

by Randi Weingarten

The idea that teachers have the summer off is something of a myth. I recently spent a few days with several thousand teachers — not at the beach, but at TEACH, the AFT’s largest gathering of educators focused on their professional practice and growth. Teachers spent long days learning from fellow educators and other experts about concrete ways to improve teaching and learning. Many teachers told me how they were spending the rest of their summer: writing curriculum aligned to the new, challenging Common Core State Standards; taking classes, because teachers are lifelong learners; and working with students — in enrichment camps and in programs to stem summer learning loss. So much for the dog days of August.

But our conferees did much more. We also committed to reclaim the promise — the promise of public education. Not as it is today or as it was in the past, but as what public education can be to fulfill our collective obligation to help all children succeed.

Yet even amidst this dedication and inspiration there is a great frustration. The promise of a great public education for all children is under pressure not only from out-of-touch legislators, but from economic and societal factors outside school that make it much more difficult to achieve success within the classroom. Nearly 1 out of every 2 students in public schools lives in poverty, and educators have become the first responders to their stress, hunger and hardships. But these factors don’t keep us from teaching, they keep us up at night.

Public education is also under assault by people whose brand of “reform” consists of austerity, polarization, privatization and deprofessionalization–and who then argue that public education is failing. Maybe they never learned the difference between cause and effect.

And a frequent sentiment I hear from teachers is that the people passing the laws, calling the shots and defunding our schools are totally out of touch with what their students need and what it’s like in their classroom.

But people are beginning to see that the emperors of reform have no clothes. Years of top-down edicts, mass school closures and test fixation with sanctions instead of support haven’t moved the needle — not in the right direction, at least.

The AFT recently conducted a poll of a broad array of public school parents. Parents want approaches that are vastly different from prevailing policies they believe hurt schools and students. They overwhelmingly choose strong neighborhood public schools over expanding choice, charters and vouchers. The majority are concerned about overtesting. Parents soundly reject the austerity-driven policies gutting schools, including teacher and staff layoffs; increased class sizes; school closings; and cutbacks in art, music, libraries and physical education. And they strongly support wraparound services in schools to mitigate the effects of poverty.

This frustration and fatigue over failed “reforms,” and a growing consensus among parents and educators about more-promising ways to provide all children with a great education, make this a critical moment to reclaim the promise of public education.

Reclaiming the promise of public education is about fighting for neighborhood public schools that are safe, welcoming places for teaching and learning. Reclaiming the promise is about ensuring that teachers are well-prepared, are supported and have time to collaborate. Reclaiming the promise is about enabling them to teach an engaging curriculum that includes art, music and the sciences. Reclaiming the promise is about ensuring that kids have access to wraparound services to meet their emotional, social and health needs.

This vision may look different in different communities, but it has common elements. Reclaiming the promise of public education will bring back the joy of teaching and learning, which has been drained by years of harmful policies. It’s the way to make every public school a place where parents want to send their kids, teachers want to teach, and children are engaged. We are looking forward to parents and community partners joining with teachers — as we return from our summer “break” — to achieve this promise.

What It Means to Be ‘Wealthy’ in America Today

What It Means to Be ‘Wealthy’ in America Today 

The rich don’t really think they’re rich. In a new survey, the vast majority of investors with $1 million in assets don’t consider themselves wealthy. Which brings up the question: What do the terms rich and wealthy really mean?

A new report from UBS surveyed investors who on the surface all appear to be pretty well off. Of the survey’s 4,450 participants, half had $1 million or more in investable assets, and all had at least $250,000 in investments. Compared with the huge portion of the population that barely has any savings — about half of Americans don’t have an emergency fund that’d cover three months of expenses — it sure seems like the people in the survey are doing quite well financially. But do these people think they’re rich? For the most part, the answer is no.

Of those with investable assets worth $1 million to $5 million, only 28% answered yes to the question “Do you consider yourself wealthy?” The majority of investors surveyed with $5 million or more in investable assets consider themselves wealthy, but perhaps not in the overwhelming numbers you might imagine: just 60% answered yes to the question. In other words, 4 in 10 Americans with assets of $5 million or more think they’re not truly rich.

What would have to happen for these individuals to consider themselves rich? Well, that’s another question asked in the UBS survey. The most popular answer, selected by half of those surveyed, was “no financial constraints on activities.” The idea that you’re rich, then, seems to have a lot to do with what kinds of things you’d like to do, rather than hitting some specific asset or income number.

Or does it? The Chicago-based Spectrem Group, which has been publishing surveys about wealth for several years, asked “What defines a rich household?” Nearly three-quarters of respondents (73%) answered “wealth level,” with just 48% choosing “lifestyle” as an indicator of whether or not one is rich.

These surveys are among the many that deal with our fascination with “being rich” and trying to define wealthy — a term whose meaning has changed over the years, and that can mean very different things depending on where one lives and works and the lifestyle of the person next door. As the Wall Street Journal’s Wealth Report blog noted when the latest wealth-survey data hit the wires in 2008, people tend to look at individuals doing twice as well financially as they are as rich. “Those with $100,000 in incomes say $200,000, while those worth $5 million say $10 million,” the story explained.

One’s age — and peer group — has a lot to do with one’s perspective on wealth. In the Spectrem Group’s 2013 survey, 45% of Gen X and Gen Y investors (basically, those 40 and under) said a person needed a net worth of at least $1 million to be rich. Among investors ages 60 and older, however, only 22% said someone with $1 million was rich.

During the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, those in the demonized top 1% income bracket were pointed at as undeniably rich. This elite 1% included anyone earning $343,927 or more in 2009, according to IRS data.

Yet everything’s relative, and the terms rich and wealthy can be applied in very different ways depending on the circumstances. Personal-finance writer Liz Weston noted that pulling in the median household income in the U.S. (around $52,000) would put you in the top 1% of earners worldwide. In a story published late last year, researchers for the Wall Street Journal quantified the concept that where you live in the U.S. has a lot to with where you land in the income hierarchy, and how rich (or not) you feel:

A prince of income in Danville, Va., is a relative pauper in New York City. In Danville, the threshold for the top 1% of earners kicked in at $179,000, while it took $588,000 to reach the top 1% in New York City and northern New Jersey.
During the debates about the fiscal cliff a few months back, the subject of who is truly wealthy — and who should be taxed as if they’re truly wealthy — came up again and again. Roberton Williams, a senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center, gave CNN Money probably as good an explanation of “rich” as there is — vague and variable as the statement is.

“Who’s rich? It’s a good question,” Williams said. “Rich depends on where you live and with whom you are comparing yourself.”

Early high school graduation programs gain traction

Early high school graduation programs gain traction

by Kimberly Railey

Early graduation as an option

Almost half of the states allow students to complete high school in fewer than four years. States without policies may allow local school districts to graduate students early.

Lindsay Kast had a different experience in high school than most of her peers.

The Tell City, Ind., native missed out on senior prom and never took study hall periods, becoming the first student in her alma mater’s history to graduate in three years. The 19-year-old’s accelerated diploma allowed her to enroll in August 2012 at Indiana University in Bloomington and qualified her for a $4,000 scholarship.

“I always felt part of older classes” in high school, Kast said. “And I had a really great experience my freshman year at IU.”

Financial incentives also are offered in Idaho, Minnesota, South Dakota and Utah to students who complete high school in fewer than four years, lowering districts’ instructional costs. Although exact figures remain elusive, the creation of these programs suggests their popularity may be growing among students, said Jennifer Dounay Zinth, a senior policy analyst at the Education Commission of the States.

In Indiana, the number of scholarships awarded to students who graduated high school early rose from 17 in 2011-12 to 204 in 2012-13, a 1,100% increase, according to Amanda Stanley, director of program relationships for the Indiana Commission for Higher Education.

But that pathway may not be wise for all students, education experts say.

“There are probably kids who are mature enough to begin college when they’re 17 years old and there are probably kids who are not,” Zinth said.

Across the nation, fewer than 3% of students graduate high school early, according to the National Center for Education Statistics’ most recent report from 2004. About half of states have policies that allow the practice, according to the Education Commission of the States.

Now early high school graduation programs are getting a boost at the local level.

Dallas Independent School District, the second largest in Texas, is creating a three-year high school proposal that would direct savings to finance pre-kindergarten programs. If approved, the option likely would take effect for the 2014-15 school year.

A desire to better tailor the educational system to students’ needs is the motivation, proponents say.

If students are enrolled in a structured vocational program or rigorous course work such as Advanced Placement classes, then four years of high school remains worthwhile, said Mike Morath, a Dallas school board trustee. If they are not, senior year has fewer benefits.

“The thrust of high school is to try to help prepare kids for their next steps,” Morath said. “How can we make that more effective?”

Texas school districts now receive money on a per-pupil basis. A bill passed in the state’s most recent legislative session will enable the Dallas district to obtain state dollars for students who graduate under the three-year proposal.

Advocates of the programs across the USA say they help reduce state spending and can give students a jump-start on college and their careers.

Oftentimes, the programs target low-income students, who face the highest barriers to access and success in college, said Michelle Camacho Liu, a former policy specialist at the National Conference of State Legislatures.

It also can help eliminate senioritis, when “a lot of people see senior year as completely wasted,” Zinth said.

But the drawbacks to accelerating high school may reveal themselves when a student enters college.

Ally Neal, who graduated at age 17 from Westwood High School in Mesa, Ariz., said it was difficult to connect with her Grand Canyon University classmates in Phoenix.

“When I was starting, I felt so grown-up, but now I don’t really know anyone,” she said.

Neal, now 20 and planning to attend law school next year, said her age will become less of an issue in the future — but she still will feel young when she completes college.

“It feels really weird,” she said. “I’ll graduate before I turn 21.”


To Improve Teaching, Get Serious About Training

To Improve Teaching, Get Serious About Training

by Stephen Chiger

Although we are halfway through most teachers’ summer breaks, July is smack in the middle of a busy season for administrators designing the professional development curricula they will kick off this fall.

At least it should be.

The reality — as the Center for American Progress reminded us this month — is something far less inspiring. The group, reporting on the state of professional development opportunities for teachers, called the bulk of it “short-term, episodic, and disconnected” … and unlikely to move student achievement at all.

This reminder could not have come at a more critical time. With growing national focus on teacher accountability and academic standards, the poor state of teacher training is the missing third leg of a stool we’re all about to sit on. Without it, the best efforts of anyone hoping to improve our system will crash to the floor.

Perhaps the most exciting thing about the Common Core academic standards – slated for implementation in 45 states – is that they will bring some collective language around our needs as educators. Shared standards mean new opportunities for districts to converse about technique, coaching, and training on like-minded initiatives.

It’s time to change the way professional developers do business, because we’re increasingly finding ourselves in the same marketplace. Before any revolutions occur, however, we have to get serious about managing the quality of our trainings.

We could start with making more time for professional learning in the first place.

Imagine your child’s school were required to report the number of professional development hours it provides for teachers – broken down by whole-staff training, 1-1 coaching, department meetings, etc. You might be surprised to find how little of it is happening. According to Learning Forward (formerly the National Staff Development Council), most teachers receive no more than 16 hours of training on the content they teach.

Research suggests teachers may need closer to 50 hours.

If I were a teacher applying to a new school, one of the first things I’d want them to tell me is how, in detail, they help teachers get better. Helping people improve is the core of what good schools do.

Of course, time spent on professional learning only points to a school’s priorities, not its competency. As the Center points out in its report, there is limited peer-reviewed research on what systems are most effective for teachers.

But great schools must refuse to wait for research to catch up with practice, especially when some of the most basic approaches are well documented.

The best professional development is written into the bones of a school. It is a system, rather than an isolated experience, requiring more than a few one-off sessions. It demands consistent time for teachers to work with mentors and colleagues to analyze achievement data, practice concrete instructional techniques, or plan new curriculum. It takes repeated observation, follow-up, and practice, all embedded into the job.

We don’t teach children in one-off lessons or crash courses. We shouldn’t teach adults that way, either.

This is not a small change from what many schools are doing now. Executing a professional development curricula – rather than a series of disjointed experiences – requires a fundamental shift in how we allocate teacher and leader time in our schools. It means investing in training our trainers, and building time into the school day that simply doesn’t exist for many teachers right now.

It almost certainly requires re prioritizing district budgets, too.

We can start with an open conversation about just what is – and isn’t – working in our schools.

Just as the No Child Left Behind Act led to increased transparency about student achievement, we need a similar movement to target how much – and what kind – of professional learning happens in our schools. We need to celebrate and emulate the most successful models, and we need to replace the least so.

Once we have a clearer sense of what is working best, setting up idea exchanges seems like the sort of thing that can gain traction.

Lots of educators are anxious about what the new educational standards will mean for their practice. If districts have been humming different tunes in the past, now seems the perfect opportunity for us to start listening to each other and begin creating some harmony.

The alternative is to continue whistling in the dark.

The Science Behind How We Learn New Skills

The Science Behind How We Learn New Skills

Learning new skills is one of the best ways to make yourself both marketable and happy, but actually doing so isn’t as easy as it sounds. The science behind how we learn is the foundation for teaching yourself new skills. Here’s what we know about learning a new skill.

Our brains are still a bit of a mystery. We’ll likely be learning about how our brain works for years to come, but we are starting to get a better idea of how we learn new things. To that end, let’s start by talking about what happens in your brain as you take on a new skillset before moving onto some of the scientifically effective ways to learn.

How Your Brain Changes As You Learn a New Skill

The Science Behind How We Learn New Skills

Every time you learn something new, your brain changes in a pretty substantial way. In turn, this makes other parts of your life easier because the benefits of learning stretch further than just being good at something. As The New Yorker points out, learning a new skill has all kinds of unexpected benefits, including improving working memory, better verbal intelligence, and increased language skills.

Likewise, as you learn a new skill, the skill actually gets easier to do. Cornell University explains what’s going on:

Specifically, training resulted in decreased activity in brain regions involved in effortful control and attention that closely overlap with the frontoparietal control and dorsal attention networks. Increased activity was found after training, however, in the default network that is involved in self-reflective activities, including future planning or even day dreaming. Thus, skill mastery is associated with increased activity in areas not engaged in skill performance, and this shift can be detected in the large-scale networks of the brain.

Essentially, the more adept you become at a skill, the less work your brain has to do. Over time, a skill becomes automatic and you don’t need to think about what you’re doing. This is because your brain is actually strengthening itself over time as you learn that skill. Scientific American breaks it all down like so:

Many different events can increase a synapse’s strength when we learn new skills. The process that we understand best is called long-term potentiation, in which repeatedly stimulating two neurons at the same time fortifies the link between them. After a strong connection is established between these neurons, stimulating the first neuron will more likely excite the second.

In addition to making existing synapses more robust, learning causes the brain to grow larger. Optical imaging allows researchers to visualize this growth in animals. For instance, when a rat learns a difficult skill, such as reaching through a hole for a pellet of food, within minutes new protrusions, called dendritic spines, grow on the synapses in its motor cortex, the region that allows animals to plan and execute movements.

The more connections between neurons are formed, the more we learn, and the more information we retain. As those connection get stronger, the less we have to think about what we’re doing, which means we can get better at other facets of a set of skills.

We’re still learning about learning. So, while we can see how learning skills affects the brain, we’re still digging into exactly why it happens and all the benefits of doing so. As the old saying goes, practice makes perfect, but how we practice is just as important as if we’re practicing.

How You Can Use This Science to Learn Faster

Knowing how your brain adapts to new skills is just part of the process. That knowledge is worthless if you don’t know how to apply it. With that in mind, let’s dig into some of the tried and true methods of learning new skills as quickly as possible. It’s all about boosting your brainpower in one way or another. Thankfully, it’s surprisingly easy.

Force Yourself to Learn Without Guides or Help

The Science Behind How We Learn New Skills

When we’re learning a new skill it’s easy to rely on YouTube, tutorials, walkthroughs, and guides to help get the process started. That’s great for those beginning days, but if we keep doing that we won’t ever actually learn because we’re not solving problems on our own.

We’ve heard a lot lately about the benefits of experiencing and overcoming failure. One way to get these benefits is to set things up so that you’re sure to fail—by tackling a difficult problem without any instruction or assistance. Manu Kapur, a researcher at the Learning Sciences Lab at the National Institute of Education of Singapore, has reported (in the Journal of the Learning Sciences) that people who try solving math problems in this way don’t come up with the right answer—but they do generate a lot of ideas about the nature of the problems and about what potential solutions would look like, leading them to perform better on such problems in the future. Kapur calls this “productive failure,” and you can implement it in your own learning by allowing yourself to struggle with a problem for a while before seeking help or information.

Take the example of learning the guitar. You can easily hunt down the tablature for “Paint it Black” online, but that’s not going to help you learn the actual sound of each chord you’re playing. Instead, try to figure it out on your own instead of seeking out the answer. This is essentially learning by trial-and-error, which is frustrating, but works really well. The same goes any number of other skills. Sure, sometimes you need to break down and search for a solution, but you’re going to be better off if you don’t.

Spread Out Learning Over Time

The Science Behind How We Learn New Skills

When we’re picking up a new skill or learning something entirely new, it’s easy to binge-learn and obsessively work on it over time. However, that’s not always the best idea. In fact, spreading out learning, also known as distributed practice, is thought to be a better way to learn. A review of studies in Psychological Science in the Public Interest found that spreading out learning is far more effective than cramming:

Dunlosky and colleagues report that spreading out your studying over time and quizzing yourself on material before the big test are highly effective learning strategies. Both techniques have been shown to boost students’ performance across many different kinds of tests, and their effectiveness has been repeatedly demonstrated for students of all ages.

“I was shocked that some strategies that students use a lot — such as rereading and highlighting — seem to provide minimal benefits to their learning and performance. By just replacing rereading with delayed retrieval practice, students would benefit,” says Dunlosky.

Choose Your Study Time Wisely
The Science Behind How We Learn New Skills

You wouldn’t think it, but when you study or practice is just as important as how. As we’ve seen before, the body’s internal clock is tuned to work better during certain points in the day, and that goes for learning as well. According to one study published in the journal PLOS One, we learn best when we do so before sleep.

The study found that subjects who went to sleep right after learning something did significantly better in a series of memory tests. We’ve seen this before with naps, and know that sleep has a big impact on memory retention in general. Basically, when you learn a new skill before bed, you’re helping fortify the link between the neurons in your brain. This means you retain information better.

Apply Your Skills Every Day
The Science Behind How We Learn New Skills

We’re big proponents of experiential learning here at Lifehacker, and that’s because it’s often the best way to learn the types of skills we talk about here. The more you can apply what you’re learning to your every day, the more it’ll stick in your head.

The reason is simple. When you’re learning by doing, you’re implementing everything that makes our memory work. When you’re able to connect what you’re learning with a real world task, that forms the bonds in your brain, and subsequently the skills you’re learning will stick around. This is especially true with learning a foreign language, where application is the key to learning quickly.

You can do this in a number of ways. For some skills, like music, deliberate practice is a way to be more mindful of what you’re doing so you can actually improve. Deliberate practice is all about tracking what you’re learning, focusing on short learning sessions, and practicing as smart, not hard.

Just like memory, we learn best when we have context, and that applies to new skills as much as it does random facts in school. That’s why something like the transfer of learning is helpful when your learning a new skill. This means you’re applying your new skills in your day to day life in a context that matters. For example, if you’re learning about mathematics, make sure you find a way to work that into your daily life, even if it’s as simple as figuring out your gas mileage every day. It’s simple, but it’s about forming connections in your brain that actually matter to you.

Everyone prefers to learn a little differently, so unfortunately you might need to experiment with different methods as you’re taking on a new skill. The above list certainly doesn’t inlucde everything, but it’s a starting point to learning more effectively. You’re bound to hit plenty of barriers along the way, and sticking with it isn’t always easy, but the benefits are worth it: a bigger, smarter brain that can process things easily.

Who pays for college education? Not Mom and Dad

Who pays for college education?
Not Mom and Dad
by Sharon Epperson

A new study finds parents are footing a smaller portion of the college tuition bill as families become more cost-conscious. The burden is shifting to the student, who now has to depend on money from other sources to pay for rising college costs – and many are also finding “free money” to pay for a large chunk of the tab.

According to a new report released Tuesday by Sallie Mae, scholarships and grants have trumped parental contributions as the number one source of paying for college for the first time in four years.

Scholarships and grants paid for about 30 percent of college costs in the 2012-2013 academic year, up from 25 percent in 2008-2009, the Sallie Mae study found. Meanwhile, contributions from parental income and savings dropped from 36 percent four years ago to 27 percent today. Student borrowing has risen four percent in that time and now covers for 18 percent of college costs.

“Student borrowing has leveled off in the past few years, but parent income and savings has come down considerably,” says Sarah Ducich, senior vice president for public policy at Sallie Mae. Parents are “just as willing to stretch to pay for college,” she says, “but they don’t have the money they had pre-recession.”

Meanwhile, as parental contributions have declined, “college and universities are stepping up,” Ducich says. That may also be another factor that has changed who pays for education costs. “The majority of students getting scholarships are getting them from universities and colleges,” she says.

Eric Charity got a free ride from Penn State University and he didn’t hesitate to take it – even though the school was not his first choice. Charity had dreamed of following in the footsteps of his older brother and cousins, who graduated from Princeton University. But he changed his mind after being offered a full academic scholarship to Penn State.

“When it was my time, my parents really needed some help financially for me to attend school,” he says. If he had gone to Princeton or the University of Virginia, his other top choice, Charity says he “would have been in severe debt.” With the university scholarship as well as private scholarship from a local non-profit, Charity paid for tuition, room and board, fees and other expenses (including a new computer and school supplies) for four years with scholarships. He graduated from Penn State in 2010 and earlier this year got his law degree from William and Mary, which he chose in large part due to cost.

Students and their families are increasingly following Charity’s path. “We’ve seen parents bring their spending down. They’re eliminating schools more frequently as they go through the (college selection) process, so that by the end about two-thirds of families have eliminated a school due to cost,” Ducich says, referring to Sallie Mae’s new report on “How America Pays for College.”

As incoming students and their families see recent graduates facing a tough job market, they are also more reticent to spend or borrow great sums of money for college, financial advisors say. “If your college educated kids make less money, then you spend less money on their degree,” says Ivory Johnson, founder of Delancey Wealth Management. “If you hear stories about degreed friends who are burdened by student loans, then you borrow less money.”

Using that lens, more families are choosing colleges and universities based on cost. It’s an encouraging trend, Ducich says. “Making the choice that’s affordable not just for the first year but the fourth year as well is so important.”

Tips for finding free money for college

Sallie Mae, the nation’s largest private student loan provider, offers these tips to help students find more scholarships:

  • Start searching for scholarships as early as possible.
    You can begin as early as ninth or tenth grade, as scholarships for younger students sometimes have less competition. The key is to start early and renew efforts year after year to take advantage of additional opportunities.

  • Sign up for a free online scholarship search service.
    Sallie Mae’s free database lists more than 3 million scholarships worth over $16 billion.

  • Expand your search.
    Not all scholarships will be found online: check with local clubs, religious organizations, employers and your guidance counselor. Local scholarships tend to be less competitive. Also, corporations often award scholarships to their customers or children of employees.

  • Don’t be intimidated by the competition.
    Scholarship judges look for other qualities such as leadership and volunteerism, and many don’t ask for GPA or standardized test scores. Make sure to showcase commitment and depth with involvement in campus clubs or organizations.

  • Don’t overlook unusual opportunities.
    Some organizations offer scholarships to highlight interesting career opportunities, hobbies or products. In fact, there are scholarships such as the Scholar Athlete Milk Mustache of the Year Award and the Stuck at Prom Duck Brand Duck Tape Scholarship Contest.

  • Search year round.
    There are many scholarships available all year long, and scholarships due in the winter can have less competition. Treat scholarship searching and applying like a part-time job, as many opportunities come up throughout the year.

  • Watch out for scholarship scams.
    Scholarship searches should be simple and free to use.


Putting the spotlight on drama students’ employment prospects

Putting the spotlight on drama
students’ employment prospects

by Joshua Feldman

A panel of experts asked what the future holds for drama graduates after a recent report found that the employment landscape is changing

Drama graduates would like to think that all the world’s a stage, but more often than not they’re left playing the fool. Recent research into the destination of drama graduates carried out by the BBC’s former head of casting, Jane Deitch, found that less than 2% of drama graduates end up on the West End stage.

On Friday 12 July, a panel of performing arts specialists gathered at a symposium held at Birkbeck University to discuss the research’s findings and the reality of the  UK ‘s drama students’ employment prospects.

“For the first time drama school students will have a realistic and detailed picture of their employment possibilities,” Rob Swain, programme director of Birbeck’s MFA in theatre directing and co-host of the event, said.

“It may not only prevent some students from having over-optimistic aspirations but it will also show that their job prospects range from traditional work in theatre and TV to new opportunities in digital media, and to related work such as cabaret and stand-up comedy,” he said.

Deitch’s sample was comprised of 365 students, 77% of the possible 474. The number of jobs which these students reported to undertake in the year after graduation totalled 1,697 (between 4 and 5 jobs per student on average), but it should be remembered that the category “job” includes work that may have been unpaid or only performed for one day. Of these jobs, 987 (58%) were in live media and 710 (42%) were in recorded media.

According to the results, about a quarter of drama students find work in fringe theatre during the year after graduation. Deitch stressed the ongoing significance of fringe theatre as a place for actors to network and gain experience, calling it a “young person’s game”.

There were also a sizeable chunk (17.5%) acting in short films, which Deitch called the “recorded media equivalent of fringe theatre”. Although pay for these jobs is low (if existent at all), short films enable young actors to get experience in front of the camera.

The results were disillusioning for young actors looking to work in commercial theatre. Sixty-six jobs were taken in theatres and major companies, and only 6 in the West End (excluding work with musicals). Deitch called the paucity of commercial theatre “a major concern”, especially given how drama schools prepare students for the industry.

Commercials provided only 93 jobs, but were substantially better-paid than most other options. “If there weren’t commercials, I don’t think graduates could survive”, Deitch said.

The revelation of such employment diversity led to a debate over the function of drama schools: should they focus on the core skills – projection, movement, enunciation – or offer more vocationally orientated content?

The room was split. But the symposium concluded with the sober reminder that an actor’s creativity is almost always underscored by a need for financial pragmatism.

‘Introduction to Ancient Rome,’ the Flipped Version

‘Introduction to Ancient Rome,’ the Flipped Version

By Jennifer Ebbeler

I spent last year “flipping” my 400-student “Introduction to Ancient Rome” course. For those unfamiliar with the term, “flipping a class” means that students watch lectures online outside of class and then spend class time participating in discussions and working on problems.

It’s a concept that has gotten an undeservedly bad name because supporters of so-called disruptive education have tied it to the controversial massive-open-online-course movement, which says students are served just as well, if not better, by an absent “star” professor than by faculty members employed by their university.

That’s a pretty serious misunderstanding of what a well-run, successful flipped class looks like. It takes a lot of effort to make one work, but the rewards can be great, as I have learned.

For me it all started last August, when I naïvely assumed that the students would be delighted to listen to short lectures at their own pace and away from an uncomfortable and noisy auditorium.

The problem, I soon discovered, was that nobody told the students they were supposed to hate lectures. They were genuinely disoriented when I didn’t spend class time lecturing. Only about 25 percent of them watched the prerecorded lectures before class. As a result, class discussion of content became an exercise in futility. Their comments at the end of the semester made it clear that about two-thirds of them preferred a typical lecture class.

I’m pretty sure my students would have been no more interested in watching a Superprofessor lecture on Ancient Rome than they were in watching me—it wasn’t me or my style (as they clearly said in the surveys); it was the extra work required of them.

That fall cohort taught me a lot about how to flip a class. First and foremost, assume resistance and disorientation. Assume that you will need to spend a large amount of time training students in how to take such a class, and in what their role in a flipped class will be (and what yours is). Provide a lot of structure, including weekly quizzes that require students to stay on top of the course content. Recognize that, in a large class, students will need to consume about 50 to 60 percent of the content in forms other than class lecture.

As well, recognize that you can’t just throw students into a flipped class; you have to ease them in and, in a very large class, probably can’t ever entirely abandon lecture even if it can be greatly minimized. I found that my students needed to know that “the Professor” was still there, still in charge, still setting the vision and monitoring progress.

My Spring 2013 class was a pretty clear success. The students’ graded performance—especially in the A-B range—advanced remarkably over previous versions of the same course. The same content, more difficult exams, and new instructional methods led to improved learning. More anecdotally, the students were able to discuss the complexities of Roman history in a way I’ve never seen among nonmajors. They were clearly thinking hard and engaged in the course content.

This kind of success is why more and more colleges are considering partnerships with education-technology companies, like Coursera and Udacity, which want to make the process even more efficient. Instead of teaching multiple sections of the same course on a campus (or at campuses in a state system), the “best” professors will be tapped to provide the content delivery, and then faculty members (or more likely, teaching assistants, or even some new breed of course curator) will be expected to use this content to flip their classes.

At first glance, this seems like a winning proposition. The best lecturers, either at other partner institutions or at that particular institution, do the lecturing while instructors work closely with individual students in their quest to master the course content.

But in the humanities, at least, a flipped class is unlikely to work very well with content created by someone other than the instructor because doing so reduces the instructor’s authority in the eyes of the students. Mohamed Noor, a biology professor at Duke University, used his own Coursera course to flip his campus-based course. But I suspect that the flipped class would have been substantially less successful if he had been required to use someone else’s lectures and other course materials as the “textbook” of his own course.

In basic terms, every instructor tells his or her own story with the course content. Not only is that part of the fun, but it’s the place where our research intersects with our teaching. Furthermore, students tell us that an essential component of a successful flipped class is a strong connection between in-class and outside-of-class activities.

Another key secret about flipping a class: Content delivery is the easy part. The hard part is figuring out what to do in class that keeps students engaged, and motivated to prepare for class. In other words, they have to come to see the value of doing assigned pre-class work and then see that coming to class is an efficient way to learn (or, more precisely, to earn high grades). It will take considerable effort and resources, not to mention additional classroom support staff in larger classes, to run pedagogically sound flipped classes. It will take a lot of energy to develop activities that work for one’s particular audience—and what works for my group may well not work for a class at Haverford or Yale.

I have emerged from this experience a proponent of the flipped-class model—but also a careful and candid one. Contrary to what the fashionable disruptive innovators might have us believe, flipped classes are not easy to teach, and they are not easy to take. An effective flipped class requires much more classroom support than a traditional lecture course, and it requires more contact with and more engagement from students. At the same time, it can increase student learning and raise grades, even in a large cohort.

Any educator would like to see every course on campus capped at 30, but this is unrealistic at most publicly supported institutions. Given these limitations, the techniques of blended learning, applied judiciously, using evidence of effective practice, and coupled with instructor mentoring, can do a lot to improve classroom teaching—and learning.