Learning from Mistakes

By Deborah Williams

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“It’s okay to make mistakes.  Just learn from them!”  The results of  a new study from researchers with the Baycrest Rotman Research Institute and the Department of Psychology at the University of Toronto reinforce that notion.  Andrée-Ann Cyr, led the study that reports benefits of making mistakes for both younger and older adults.

Cyr and her team studied two groups of participants—65 younger adults (average age: 22) and 64 older adults (average age:72).  Participants were given learning and memory tests.  Cyr shared the results in a report in the Journal of Experimental Psychology:  Learning, Memory, and Cognition.

The researchers found that making mistakes while learning may help memory.  All types of mistakes do not help, however.  Researchers found that random guesses do not enhance memory; trial-and-error learning helps memory if those mistakes “are meaningfully related to the answer.”   When they are not meaningfully related, those mistakes can actually hurt memory.   This was true for both groups.

College students can use this information to retain information better and to foster lifelong learning later in life.

Topics: Lifelong Learning | No Comments »

A College Degree, Still Worth It

By Deborah Williams

Conflicting reports about the value of a college education are confusing to prospective college students and their parents.  One editorial on the Brookings website suggests that a college education is still valuable despite some warnings to the contrary.  In his editorial, “College Is Not a Ludicrous Waste of Money,” Gary Burtless writes, “The economic reward from attending and completing college has probably never been higher.”

Burtless acknowledges two reasons that fuel the notion that college is not worth it anymore.  One reason is the steady cost increases.  After adjusting for inflation, the cost of college has risen much faster than other goods and services.  Another cause for the devaluation of a college education is that the income potential for recent college graduates has been disappointing or nonexistent since many of them have found it difficult to find employment.

Bartless sees more opportunity for college graduates.  Even though they may have to take jobs “for which they are over-qualified, that can be far preferable to the outlook facing a job applicant whose education ended in high school.”  When given a choice, employers will choose a college grad over a high school grad even if the job does not require a college degree.  As a matter of fact, “[T]he unemployment rate of high school graduates has been more than twice that of college graduates over the past two decades.”  Last year’s unemployment rate for high school graduates was 46 percent while the unemployment rate for college graduates was 27 percent.

Topics: College Preparation and Advice | No Comments »

Virtual Library Improves Reading Performance

By Deborah Williams

School officials in Brevard County, Florida have found that a virtual library reaps benefits for its low-income students.  Mackensie Ryan reports on the USA Today website that the myON program is improving  reading performance for elementary students.  The individualized program features interesting text that is augmented with digital audio if  desired.  Many reluctant readers enjoy this format and become more interested in reading.

According to its website, myON offers the following:

The myON program is so successful that Brevard County is making it available to 30 elementary schools and four specialty programs.

See how students at one Brevard school is benefitting:

Topics: Education Policies and News | No Comments »

Fostering a Love for Science in Your Children

By Deborah Williams

The prospect of gainful employment has moved the study of STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math) to the top of desired college majors for many prospective college students.  This emphasis on attracting students to STEM subjects begs the question, “How and when do we create students who will study in one of the STEM subjects?”  Alexandra Ossola recently penned an interesting  article on The Atlantic website that asserts that parents can foster the love of science in their preschool children.

Research led by Michael Mazzocco, child development professor at the Institute of Child Development at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, shows that preschool children enter pre-K science programs with cause-effect thinking; that is, “If they do x, then y will happen—the universe has an order and a logic to it.”  They also are drawn instinctively to early mathematics concepts at this time:  quantities, patterns, shapes, rhythms, symmetry, and ratios.  Even their spatial reasoning is evolving during this stage, one often enhanced by building with Legos!

Mazzocco suggests that parents can help to shape their children’s future proclivity to science.  Parents can introduce concepts “that connect the tangible to the abstract lay the foundation for scientific and mathematical thinking that later education can build upon.”  Here are some of Mazzocco’s ideas for parents:

Topics: Parenting | No Comments »

New College Financing Tool

By Deborah Williams

Financing a college education is the subject of many discussions and political wrangling within the country, but a new tool may become available to prospective college students.  A recent article by Beth Akers on the Brookings Institute website explains that Income Share Agreements (ISA) could improve students’ options for financing their college education.

ISAs are financial agreements that make funds available to students in exchange for a percentage of future payments for a prescribed period of time in the future.  This differs from current college loans in that the precise amount to be paid is not known; it depends on how much the student earns.  During the prescribed time period, a graduate will  pay back less than the funded amount if he or she earns less than expected.  Graduates who earn more will pay more than expected.  While not a new invention, this 1950s creation could offer more benefits than with traditional loans:

Although they are not widely used in the U.S., they offer a promising way for students to finance their college education.  Learn more about ISAs in this video clip:

Topics: College Preparation and Advice | No Comments »


By Deborah Williams

Adding to the confusion and anxiety of applying to college is the entrance exam.  A recent post on the Edweek College Bound blog reports, “Some students are opting for the SAT over the ACT because they mistakenly believe that the College Board’s exam is favored by colleges.”

A survey of Kaplan SAT students found that one-third thought that colleges accepted the College Board’s SAT exam results more than the American College Test (ACT).  Both tests help colleges to determine an applicant’s readiness for college, but the SAT is more popular in the eastern United States while the ACT is more popular in the western and southern parts of the country.

That probably explains the primary reason for the regional disparity in America: peer influence.  The survey shows that 24 percent of SAT test-prep participants admitted to taking that exam because their friends were taking it.  Paul Weeks, vice president of client relations for ACT, Inc. confirms this in an email:  “Test-taking patterns and behaviors are regional and can be impacted by different influencers ranging from peers to parents. There are still many myths and misrepresentations out there, but we’re glad to see them diminishing.”

The tide is changing because the ACT has surpassed the SAT in recent years and “is now the most popular college-entrance exam.”  The myth has been dispelled:  “…all four-year U.S. colleges equally accept results of an ACT or SAT exam for consideration in the admissions process.”

Topics: College Preparation and Advice | No Comments »

The Homework Dilemma

By Deborah Williams

Kate Solomon’s post, “My Child’s Homework—Do I Help or Not,” on the Huffington Post’s Education blog tackles the problem that many responsible parents wrestle with regularly:  How much homework help should I give my child?  Parents want to support their children, but they want their children to become independent learners.

Solomon submits that parents can take one of several approaches to this issue:

So, which approach is best.  Solomon admits that she switches among the three methods at various times, but she asserts that there are advantages to having homework beginning as a younger learner:

  1. It helps to establish a commitment and routine.
  2. It helps them  to be more engaged in learning.
  3. It helps parents to be more engaged in their education.

Ultimately, Solomon decided that it is best to use Method 1 when her children are in the early grades and to move to Method 2 as they get older.

Topics: Parenting | No Comments »

Drones at School

By Deborah Williams

The use of drones is being decided.  They are being used and/or considered for everything from package delivery to wedding photography.  Who knows how it will evolve?  Extreme Marketing Officer for Extreme Works, Vala Afshar, reports on the Huffington Post that drones have several uses in higher education.  In his article, he highlights ten uses for drones in higher education:

  1. Enable student projects exploring the intersection between art and technology and research, such as gathering data from sacred forests in Ethiopia, mapping lava flows in Ecuador, and surveying the forest canopy in Costa Rica.
  2. Loan drones to students for checkout and experimentation.
  3. Drones are used to capture unique footage of sporting events.
  4. Create promotional flybys of key campus buildings and features and virtual holiday greeting videos.
  5. Record footage of unique campus events, such as picnics or move-in weekend.
  6. Take unique photographs from hard to reach places.
  7. Facilitate inspections of buildings and monitor construction projects.
  8. Enhance field projects, such as studying wildlife from a distance, and detailed 3D archaeological mapping
  9. Monitor agricultural and environmental conditions
  10. Teach a course on designing and building drones

All current uses of drones on college campuses are novel, but three of them have direct educational impact.  The ability to gather data from great distances for student projects offers a tremendous educational value, and being able to check drones out through the institution is a pragmatic way to provide access to students.  Using drones to enhance field projects is a cost-saving measure that can only enrich the educational experience for students.  Certainly, courses on designing and building drones let students get involved in the evolution of this technology.

See this Fox News report about the use of drones at the University of South Florida:

Topics: Uncategorized | No Comments »

Deciding on a College Major

By Deborah Williams

Students and their parents often focus on choosing the college, but the results of The American Community Survey suggests that it’s more important to focus on the major.  Libby Nelson’s article, “13 Charts That Explain Why Your College Major Matters,” on the Vox website provides insights about this important decision.  Here are the best and worst majors in several categories:

Making the Most Money at the Start

Making the Most Money at Mid-Career

Low-Paying Majors at Mid-Career

Unemployment Rates by Major

Topics: College Preparation and Advice | No Comments »

Extra Benefit of More Physical Activity

By Deborah Williams

It’s common knowledge that regular physical activity is part of a healthy lifestyle, but there is another reason for parents to make sure that their children have physical activity:  “Just two hours of extra physical activity each week can improve school performance.”

This finding is the outcome of a study described on the Science Daily website.  Swedish scientists Lina Bunketorp Käll, Michael Nilsson and Thomas Linden, at the Centre for Brain Repair and Rehabilitation at the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg studied approximately 400 12-year-olds—some who received two extra hours each week of physical activity under the direction of a local sports club.  This extra activity is about twice the physical activity given through school.  The researchers compared these students’ achievement of the national learning goals four years before and five years after this extra activity.  Additionally, their data was compared with three control groups in three schools.  Those students did not receive extra physical activity.

Scientist and neurologist Thomas Linden at the Sahlgrenska Academy explains, “You can express it that two hours of extra physical education each week doubled the odds that a pupil achieves the national learning goals. We did not see a corresponding improvement in the control schools, where the pupils did not receive extra physical activity — rather the contrary, a deterioration.”  Most of the students who received the extra physical activity did meet the national goals in Swedish, English, and mathematics.

This study suggests that more physical activity may improve your child’s performance in school.

Topics: Child Development, Education Policies and News | No Comments »

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