Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Exploring the World Through Tablets

 Exploring the World Through Tablets

by Rose Pleuler, Intern Fall 2012

Tablets are used in many classrooms today, as they can put a number of highly effective learning resources literally at students’ fingertips. The versatility and mobility of the device allows it to supplement most educational environments. Tablets can provide access to global content, allowing teachers to show students on a more interactive level the content of their lessons—perhaps a history teacher can pull up an audiovisual clip of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream“ speech, rather than have students read the text from a book. A student can also share and create content of his or her own, such as a web-based book report or a video tutorial.

However, the tablet can be used as more than just lesson supplement. Consider the tablet’s built-in camera. With each reimagining of the tablet, the camera is finessed into a more sophisticated medium than before. Because the quality of the camera is so good, some classroom innovators are attaching magnifiers and microscopes to tablets. You can magnify an image up to 20 times larger on a tablet and still yield great photo quality. Mini-microscopes can accurately enhance pictures up to 40 times larger! This is an exciting and effective tool for the classroom.

Using the tablet as a microscope, magnifier—or as any tool, for that matter—allows students to interact directly with the environment and also encourages students to explore. Instead of showing students a picture of what a hair follicle looks like, students can investigate on their own. This hands-on experience in the classroom, where interactivity was previously confined to the lab environment, is invaluable.

The inspiration of the tablet resource when used with magnifiers and microscopes demonstrates how we may choose to investigate the world around us. Embracing the tablet in the classroom is a fantastic opportunity for students to connect hands-on exploration, academic enthusiasm and the important technologies of the now and future.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Transition Away from Standard Classroom Learning

The Transition Away from Standard Classroom Learning

by Holly Spicer, Intern Summer 2012

In a world that is becoming increasingly dependent on technology and the Internet, it should not come as a surprise when parts of our lives that we take for granted become more computer based. When I was in elementary and middle school, I used computers only for very basic things, such as games and word processing, and I hardly used our dial-up Internet access. Today, there are high school and college programs taken entirely online, a concept I never could have imagined.

According to a recent Education News article, in the year 2000 only about forty-five thousand K–12 students took online courses. But in 2010 participation rose to close to four million, showing just how rapidly this teaching technique is growing. Even in standard classrooms, teachers and administrators are moving toward an online approach to learning. The Los Altos School District in California has begun using a technique called blended-learning that incorporates online lessons into standard classroom teaching: fifth through seventh grade math classes in Los Altos combine online courses with traditional classroom learning. The blended-learning style still involves teachers in the learning process, but these online programs are able to target differences in students’ learning styles to help the individual needs of students and to reward their improvements.

Online classes and schools are certainly causing a major change in public education as we know it and will continue to do so. I am part of a generation that has grown up with in-school classroom learning, and while it is hard to imagine from a traditional college perspective, the shift toward more Internet usage in learning is already taking place. It will be difficult to ever turn completely away from classroom learning, but it will be interesting to see the developments in these methods as they continue to gain popularity.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Changing The MCAT

Will Changing the MCAT Create Better Doctors?
by Jordan Newell, Intern Summer 2012
One of my most powerful memories from my childhood is of going to the doctor for my preschool checkup, where a nurse pricked my finger for a blood test. The room was cold, the nurse was less than friendly, and I have since developed an intense fear of medical professionals. An article in The New York Times reports that I am not alone in my feelings: recent surveys have shown that many people feel uncomfortable interacting with physicians. Many patients feel the medical world is driven by technology, and the patient’s thoughts and feelings tend to get ignored. But can a change in medical education help improve doctor–patient relationships? The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) thinks it just might.
A revision of the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) is in the works, and the new exam is projected to include two new sections that span nearly half of the exam. One section will cover social and behavioral sciences, while the second will focus on critical analysis and reading. This section will test students’ ability to analyze passages covering subjects such as ethics and cross-cultural studies. The new MCAT, to be administered for the first time in 2015, is an attempt to restore bedside skills to the medical profession.
Given the changes that the MCAT will undergo, it is becoming more common for medical schools to require students to take classes on interviewing and communication techniques in an effort to create a more holistic admissions process. The New York Times article reports that classes once largely populated by social science majors have had an extreme increase in enrollment by premed students.
The first few years following this change, which will alter the premed educational system, will likely have a few hiccups and require further adjustments. It is my hope, however, that implementing these new requirements will allow for better doctor–patient communication. Barrell G. Kirch, president of the AAMC, states, “The goal is to improve the admission process to find the people you and I would want as our doctors.” And that is something I look forward to.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Actor! Actor! . . . Author? Author?

Actor! Actor! . . . Author? Author?

by Kate Carroll

Actors turned singers, turned models, turned . . . authors? There are several names in Hollywood that have become associated with the world of literature, including well-known actors such as Steve Martin, Woody Allen, Carrie Fisher and, as a previous blog on this topic covered, Julie Andrews. Working at a bookstore has allowed me to discover a fair share of actor-authors, some presumably for PR purposes, but also many who actually work at the craft. Here are a few I was surprised to find have picked up a pen in between sets.

Viggo Mortensen: He’s played a horse whisperer, epically fought to protect a ring and is a published poet. Add artist, photographer and polyglot who is fluent in Spanish and Danish to his resume, and what can’t he do? Mortensen writes in all three languages and enjoys mixed media art, often combining his poetry with music. His book Coincidence of Memory, published in 2002, contains a mixture of nearly 25 years of his work.

Hugh Laurie: The world loves his bitter, sarcastic humor, so it should be no surprise that his 1996 novel The Gun Seller sold very well, resulting in even a few international printings. Fans long hoped for a sequel, which he finished over a decade later, but the title has yet to be released. Laurie has been praised for his ability to translate his on-screen comic genius into the novel format.

James Franco: I was very surprised when his short story collection, Palo Alto, came out in 2010. Some agree that this collection is a decent first try, but most believe Franco tries too hard to impress us with his stylistic choices, abandoning his characters along the way. Franco has also been published in Ploughshares, a literary magazine based at my alma mater, Emerson College. I read the entry “The Deer” at work one day; it wasn’t exactly my taste, but I respect someone who can bring to life both a trapped climber on screen and a troubled teen on page. Franco is currently pursuing his PhD in English from Yale.

Other names that might come as surprises when found on book covers include Chuck Norris, Julie Walters, Macaulay Culkin and John Travolta. Next time you’re in a bookstore, keep an eye out for some familiar names—odds are they’ll be set in larger text than the title.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Effects of Childhood Obesity on Academic Performance

Effects of Childhood Obesity on Academic Performance

by Emily Sinclair

While health problems have been the major concern of recent studies in childhood obesity, new issues have begun to surface. Several research teams have come to the general conclusion that obese students, particularly girls, are more likely to achieve lower test scores or be held back a grade and are less likely to go on to college than peers at a healthier weight. Sara Gable, PhD, took this correlation one step further and conducted a more focused, long-term study that followed 6,250 children from kindergarten through fifth grade. Her results, recently published in the medical journal Child Development, found that obese children scored consistently lower on math tests than nonobese children, even after researchers factored in outside variables that may have been affecting the children’s test scores, such as family income, race, mother’s education level/career status and parents’ expectations.

While the link between obesity and lower test scores may appear to be a straightforward cause-and-effect situation, childhood obesity experts think that it may be a more complicated case than it appears. In 2011, Rebecca London, PhD, focused on overall physical fitness by including body mass index (BMI), strength and endurance; Dr. London found that the combination was a much better indicator of academic performance than BMI alone. Self-perception also plays a role; those children who think themselves overweight or have low self-esteem due to their weight experience greater academic issues. Dr. London concluded that social skills and emotional well-being are part of the core issue of obese children performing poorly in school.

Whether it’s the effect of psychosocial issues caused by obesity or the myriad of health problems that can accompany it, childhood obesity clearly plays a negative role in certain students’ academic experiences. However, there certainly are options for schools to make healthy changes to deal with this issue. Dr. London suggests a change in mindset; academia and health need to be thought of as existing in the same realm, rather than as two separate entities. In recent years, schools have been trying to focus primarily on improving academic performance without looking at the larger picture.

Physical education and activity play a huge role in a child’s ability to learn and perform well, and if those areas are focused on, it’s easy to imagine that academic performance will improve as a result. Not only will increased attention towards exercise and physical education help with national test results, it will help overweight children learn how to be healthy again and eliminate the emotional and physical problems faced by obese children. In the end, that’s a goal worth striving for.