Education

5 Things We Need to Teach in Our Classrooms

K-12 Teaching

Subjects like English, Science, and Mathematics are commonplace in American classrooms. These traditional subjects are important, but many of them don’t offer any value when it comes to life’s most useful lessons. Many people believe the classroom should incorporate some more practical subjects that can be employed long-term. Here are some topics that many students wish they had learned while in school:

Basic Finance

Most American K-12 schools don’t provide students with training in financial literacy. Unfortunately, many Americans don’t understand the basics about building credit scores, homeownership, investments, savings, insurance, or retirement and how these issues can impact their overall health and well-being. Many schools are advocating for more personal finance coursework and training to help curb some of these issues and ensure Americans are well-equipped to take control of their own financial destiny.

Tax Codes

Taxes are an inevitable part of life, but you’d be surprised to learn that the average American misses out on several thousand dollars of tax credits each year. Many Americans are uneducated when it comes to tax codes, and many can’t do their taxes without the aid of technology. As a result, most Americans won’t claim their full refund unless they enlist the assistance of a tax professional. A little training in this area can save great heartache and distress in the future.

Mental Health

Mental health issues have been a taboo topic for decades, especially in large parts of the black community. Unfortunately, the hush-hush nature of this subject has led to a debilitated society where those in need of help fail to seek it. Schools should invest in training that assists students with healthy coping mechanisms and encourages them to seek help when needed.

Time Management Techniques

Time management is important in both work and play. Many employers are looking for students who can balance the demands of home and work with ease. In today’s structured society, many students enter the real world with no concept of how to manage their own time. Courses in time management can be quite useful in curbing anxiety and propelling students to the next level.

Self-Defense Techniques

Self-defense techniques can be taught in a physical education class or a special elective and can be beneficial in the long-term. Physical safety is a no-brainer when it comes to an educational package, and many schools are opting to include this kind of coursework in their curriculum.

Today’s children have the most benefit in learning these principles early, and yet we are severely hindering them from being prepared for the future. Our education system should reinforce the skills and knowledge pertinent to a successful life, such as mental health awareness, cultural sensitivity, and financial stability. We owe it to our future generations to have all of the tools available to them from the beginning, not until it’s already too late.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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What You Need to Know When Going Back to School as an Adult

Working Adult College Students

It’s never too late to obtain a degree, but going back to school as an adult can be difficult. As an adult, you may have many other responsibilities that your (much younger) fellow students don’t have, such as a full-time job, career or parenting responsibilities. Even if you can devote yourself entirely to being a full-time student, you may still feel like a duck out of the water. Whether you’re jumping into a four-year degree program, or you think it might be a good idea to take some online classes. Here are three things you need to know when going back to school as an adult.

Talk to an Advisor before Registering or Enrolling

As an adult, your educational needs will most likely be strictly academic rather than both academic and social. While an incoming college first-year student might benefit from living on campus and staying at one school for all four years, your best option might be to take online classes at a community college before enrolling at a four-year institution. Speaking with a college admissions counselor may help.

Also, Collegewise counselors are passionate about “creating customized plans and setting deadlines to ensure that students complete their applications and essays thoughtfully, effectively, and early.” 

You May be Exempt from Some Classes Based on Experience

Adults have the benefit of work experience that most first-year college students do not possess. Another way college admissions counseling can help you is in determining if any of your applicable work experience might exempt you from having to take certain classes. The fewer classes you have to take, the sooner you can obtain your degree and the less that degree will cost you.

It’s Going to be a Big Change

Working adults who become college students must alter the lifestyles. How often do you need to take your work home? If often, then you may find it difficult to set aside time for research and homework after you arrive home from work. Although it may seem unmanageable to work a full-time job and attend college, you can manage both. With careful time management and dedicated preparation, you can do it. Think of the goal at the end to keep yourself in high spirits, and try to enjoy the shift in the atmosphere of the classroom versus the workplace.

Remember, receiving academic advising from an experienced higher education professional is critical to a first-time student’s success. While effective college admissions counseling isn’t the sexiest topic, it can make the difference between satisfying college experience and an unsatisfying one.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Make Homeschooling Easier with Technology

Homeschooling

(Photo Credit: Black Blue Dog)

The best learning experiences are the result of a dedicated educator, a student’s curiosity to learn and a supportive environment that values academics. Using technology as a resource can enhance these learning experiences and academic environments, whether lessons are learned in a school or at home.

You’re not just the parent of a homeschooler; you are also a teacher.  You want to inspire your child to think critically and stay motivated.  Technology can cultivate new ways of thinking and new ideas. Android or Apple tablets can specifically serve as creative tools and interactive textbooks.  Tablet materials and apps can customize the learning experience and tailor materials to suit the learning style(s) and meet the needs of a student.

Online Textbooks & iTunes U in Class

Enrich learning experiences at home with electronic textbooks on a tablet.  Services like iTunes U provide customized, hands-on lessons for homeschooled teens of all levels.  Texts and photos come to life when you use electronic textbooks.  Think back to the days when you turned pages and used a marker or highlighter to note sections in printed textbooks.  The postmodern student can learn by swiping a screen, engaging in interactive animations and even rotating a 3-D object.  Highlight notes with a finger.  Zoom in on a diagram.  Create digital study cards.  The tablet is a space-saving, all-in-one learning device that functions as any type of textbook, a note taker and study partner.  Keeping learning materials on a mobile device can be handy for your student to study anywhere.  Homework can be done on a car trip or at a friend’s house.

As a home educator, you can also use online educational apps to organize lesson plans and learning materials for a course in one central location.  Build courses using the iTunes U Course Manager, and your student can listen to an audio lecture, watch a presentation and organize coursework notes.  Then your student can complete assignments and share what he or she learns using any of the thousands of academic-oriented apps available, tablets and popular smartphones.  Help your teen engender a multimedia presentation using special effects in Keynote or a visual web journal using multi-touch editing.  A tablet-based learning curriculum is a dramatic improvement from the days of overhead projectors and plastic report covers and binders.

Smartphone Social Apps

While tablets enhance learning, reserve the smartphone for socialization and fun.  A blog post by Heather Sanders from The Pioneer Woman writes that as a home educator and mom, she welcomes smartphones as a communication tool that “can help students expand their specific hobbies or areas of interests.”  Her daughter Emelie turns to smartphone app Tumblr as her virtual inspiration board and Feedly as her blog reader.  She uses Instagram and Snapchat to share videos and photos with friends. The Kik instant message app also keeps her in touch with international friends.  Sanders’ other daughter, Meredith, likes Wattpad for writing books and reading stories from other authors.  You can even use the smartphone as a study break or incentive.  For example, if your teen aces an exam let her chat with friends on her phone or stream media from Netflix as a reward for meeting her goal.

With the sophisticated advances in technology, postmodern homeschooling can be a rewarding experience for both the teacher and student.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Baby Boomers Head Back to College: Common Concerns and Solutions

Non-traditional Student

(Photo Credit: The Guardian)

Attracted by better opportunities and the chance to embrace learning, baby boomers are returning to college in droves, and even those who aren’t interested in enrolling in classes are moving to college towns for the intergenerational communities, diverse culture, and lively atmosphere.  One of the many boomers who has enrolled in college for a second act, sixty-one year old Alan Moore, walked on to the football field at Faulkner University two years ago and became the oldest person to ever play college ball, according to The Week.  Although few of his peers are playing ball, the transition to college is one that takes as much bravery and skill as football.

If you’ve just decided to embark on this journey, know that you are not alone.  The rest of your generation is right there with you, and it has many of the same concerns and worries that you have. Questions about lifestyles, moving, getting an adequate amount of guidance, and understanding the terminology can be daunting.

Lifestyle

Just because you don’t plan to rush a frat or ever do a keg stand doesn’t mean that you cannot find a comfortable lifestyle in a college town.  Many college towns are designing communities to meet the needs of baby boomer students.  AARP has a detailed list of retirement communities located on or near campuses in towns all over the country.  You’ll find communities near top universities like the Holy Cross Village at Notre Dame, University Place at Purdue, and The Forest at Duke.  You’ll discover dedicated retirement communities near numerous state higher education institutions as well.  Before moving, contact the student services department at the institution you plan to attend and ask someone about living options.

Moving

Saddled with debt for years, many boomers are selling their homes and moving to college towns, as The New York Times reports, but this trend isn’t the most affordable option for everyone.  Some boomers who have paid off their homes or who enjoy their communities need to stay put, and this can make attending college a bit more difficult.  Locating a program at Collegeonline.org allows you to complete your degree without having to move or sacrifice any of your current financial stability.

Seeking Help

Not all baby boomers are headed to college on an educational lark.  Many are pursuing degrees to give themselves a leg up in the employment arena during the last decade and a half of their working years. Without the right support, this endeavor can be overwhelming.  Programs like the Plus 50 Initiative are crafted to aid working boomers to complete a postsecondary degree.  Thus far, Plus 50 has helped more than 24,000 students retrain for postmodern careers, according to Plus50.aacc.nche.edu.

If your institution is not involved with the Plus 50 program, it may still have resources to support you. Rather than letting older students get lost in the shuffle, higher education institutions are concentrating on attracting and assisting them, as divulged by University Business.  Kim Larson-Cooney of Arapahoe Community College posits that the sheer volume of boomer students makes it important to cater to them, while Robin Ambrozy of West Virginia University sites the generation’s unbeatable work ethic as the primary reason that colleges should work with these students.

Terminology

One of the hurdles many boomers face is understanding college language itself.  From “FAFSA” to “interdisciplinary,” the college landscape is full of new and strange concepts.  According to TheFreeDictionary.com, some of the most critical terms that you need to understand are defined as follows:

FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) – Before starting your program, you must fill out this form to determine your eligibility for grants or low interest loans.

Certificates vs. Degrees – Certificates are typically offered by community colleges, and they certify that you have an adequate amount of technical knowledge about a particular subject.  A degree indicates that you have studied a broad range of subjects with a focus on one.  Whether you need a certificate or a degree depends on your career objectives.

Transcript – This is a record of grades and courses from your previous schools.  If older students cannot obtain old high school or college transcripts, some institutions will let them bypass that part of the application.

Interdisciplinary – Rather than offering courses than can be clearly defined as history, math, or biology, colleges are now offering interdisciplinary or hybrid courses that mix different subjects together. At many schools, you can even make up your own interdisciplinary major.

Work-Study – Work-study programs offering on-campus jobs for students who need an extra financial boost.

Prepare to hit the books; the schools are ready for you.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Multimedia as Part of Your Educational Experience

Multimedia Classroom

(Photo Credit: The Modesto Bee)

Developments in the direction of a more technology-focused and multimedia approach to education demonstrate a correlation between an online learning environment and performance improvement.  How is multimedia as an educational tool trending toward permanence in the academic landscape?

Social Apps

Multimedia devices that have interactive learning and entertainment apps can connect instructors and students outside formal digital academic communities.  Vine, Instagram and other multimedia platforms can give students and teachers the opportunity to interact in fun and interesting ways.  Video platforms provide more dynamic teaching and learning relationships facilitated in ways never before envisioned in the more traditional brick and mortar educational milieu.  The creation of educational apps is a lucrative trend with more mobile choices offered for both students and teachers.  For example, the Oxford Picture Dictionary is a full 4,000-term dictionary you can access anywhere.  School Fuel is another app teachers can use to connect with students remotely to answer student questions and give guidance.

Why Digital Learning?

As online education becomes more prevalent, multimedia and digital concentration will also increase in use in accredited postsecondary programs.  For example, those who pursue an Early Childhood Education degree online at Penn Foster can experience the following advantages:

  1. It’s cheaper—73% less than an average online or traditional institution.
  2. It’s practical.  Knowledge and skills for promoting language and literacy development and activities that are mentally and physically stimulating are applicable for a prosperous educational career.
  3. It’s flexible and convenient.  Learn at your own pace while you fulfill other responsibilities.
  4. It’s a stepping stone. Skills (and credits) are transferrable, which is helpful as you progress.

It’s becoming clearer that your ultimate success is contingent upon your familiarity with the basics of video, multimedia presentation and communication.  With these education programs, you’re just beginning to explore the tip of an ever-expanding monolith in technology, something that you may decide to pursue in more depth in the future.

Joys of Learning

Let’s face it, there’s a significant amount of book learning in any educational program.  It doesn’t have to be dry, boring or fraught with colorless ambiguity.  The multimedia element in education is a way to incorporate your life into your learning process, and then encourage your future students to do the same with their own personal experiences.  It’s a way to put your passion back into education, colorize the frames in all the sessions and engender a more dynamic and diverse atmosphere than you may have ever thought possible.

Teachers who incorporate different platforms in their process will have a better chance of engaging students.  Multimedia classrooms also hold students accountable, keep curriculums organized and offer greater opportunities to learn and apply.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

BYOD in Public Schools? 3 Top Benefits of Implementing a BYOD Program for Teens

Educational Technology

(Photo Credit: Reuters)

Should middle and high school students be allowed to bring their own smartphones or tablets to school?  Until recently, most teachers and parents would have said no.  An increasing number of public schools around the country are implementing “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) programs for their students and are finding the educational benefits of such programs to be outstanding, according to Education Week.  This piece offers a list of the top 3 reasons many teachers love BYOD.

1. BYOD Engages Students More than Traditional Teaching

Cite World explained that teachers who have had direct experience with BYOD programs at their schools in Kentucky have divulged that students become more engaged in learning and participate more in class when they can use their own mobile devices.  Today’s students are generally excited about new technologies.  When they own the technology on which they are doing their school work, they become more interested and invested in the material and show a greater desire to do well in class.  Student success rates are high at schools that employ BYOD programs.  BYOD is also a good selling point in attracting top students from outside the district or in getting parents to enroll their children in new charter schools.

2. BYOD Use Can Be Controlled by Teachers and School Administrators

Every school that has a BYOD program can also lay out clear rules for students regarding the use of their devices in class.  Social media sites are almost always banned during class time.  The use of other websites and even apps may also be banned, depending on the particular school and its needs.  Use of devices may be restricted to only certain times during class as well.  Most students have to sign agreements saying they will follow the rules, and may be suspended or barred from the BYOD program if they habitually break those rules.

While the whole concept of BYOD is still relatively new to public schools, those that are using it are adapting well.  Some schools are even taking a page from the BYOD policies governing students as well as staff at colleges and universities and are implementing mobile device management (MDM), according to Alberta Education’s “Bring Your Own Device: A Guide for Schools.”  This allows teachers or school administrators to control what software and apps are installed on students’ devices, block certain websites while on campus, and even delete unauthorized apps remotely.  Some companies like MDM by Blackberry offer this service to schools and give them the ability to control every brand and type of device from one platform. This ensures all students are in compliance with school BYOD rules.

3. BYOD Saves Money that Schools Can Use to Invest in New Teaching Technologies

BYOD saves schools precious dollars.  By allowing students to bring their own devices, schools can avoid the huge expense of having to provide every student with an identical device.  The New York Times disclosed that schools may still set aside funds to supply devices for students whose families can’t afford them, or let students borrow devices.  The money a school saves by implementing BYOD can be used to invest in other teaching technologies, such as innovative software, interactive whiteboards, 3-D printers and more.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

A Brief History of Student Loans

Student Loans

(Photo Credit: BET)

Modern universities that require a sizable investment of resources have only recently become the norm for higher education.  A glance at the archives of University of Pennsylvania from the 1950s suggests generations of yesteryear paid a fraction of what students do today.  When did filling out a loan application become a requirement for completing a college application?

In The Beginning

American higher education systems take their model from European universities.  Some of the oldest universities, such as Oxford University in England, charged nothing for students to live and study behind their walls, since many students who went into a university intended to take up a religious order afterward.  Instead, they required these pupils to perform a range of diverse services, including food preparation and laundry, for instructors.

Financial Shifts

For several centuries, universities only accepted students with the intention of going into religious orders.  During the Renaissance, however, increasingly more universities competed with one another to attract the best teachers and students.  The Italian city of Bologna spent about 20,000 ducats on its university, which amounted to nearly half the city’s expenditures, according to Melissa Snell, About.com’s Higher Education Guide.  The increase in teachers’ salaries resulted in higher tuition for students.  Banks and lending institutions sprung up during the Renaissance to give financial backing for all types of investments, including education. These banks competed just as universities did, trying to entice better mathematical minds and to offer lower interest rates to customers.

American Universities

The first Ivy League schools founded in the U.S., such as Harvard and Yale, charged only a fraction of what they do today.  According to the Yale University Undergraduate Admissions offices, the university charges $60,000 a year for a four-year degree (although the university also takes great lengths to provide financial aid).  However, a few hundred years ago the cost of admission to an Ivy League school would have been only a few British pounds per year, back when an American colonist earned about 20 to 30 pounds per year.

Federal Loans

After World War II, the American government threw its weight behind the GI Bill in order to provide comprehensive education for soldiers returning home from fighting in Europe and the Pacific.  Federal involvement in student loans intensified with the National Defense Education Act of 1958, the Higher Education Act of 1965 and the 1972 Student Loan Marketing Association, according to The Huffington Post.  While these government-approved funds made it easier to get a loan, it also increased the money supply going into universities.

Today’s Students

Universities in the U.S. have elevated their tuition rates nearly every year for the past decade. This does not mean, however, that degrees are not worth the investment.  The degrees awarded by music production schools in California allow students to pursue a career in music production or management, giving them the technical and business tools needed for success.  Higher education is an investment that still has a payoff.  According to a recent report from the U.S. Census Bureau, the lifetime earnings of college graduates are still greater than non-college graduates.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison