Technology in the classroom

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Now with all the 2014 seniors settling into their college sweatshirts, trying not to sweat the future, it is time for the glitz and glamour of graduation presents. New laptops or tablets, even a new phone as well.

We all know what the technology will be used for, Netflix binging, video games, and Facebook (mainly), but now more than ever technology has become and essential part of learning. People download textbooks, upload and email homework to teachers, even work on group presentations through the wonderful world of Google Drive. A basic laptop has become the most important back to school item on anyone’s list.

It has even made note taking easier. Instead of carting around a backpack full of notebooks and textbooks, I can bring my laptop. I have everything I could need in one small package. No need for loose paper or pens, I can do everything digitally. My bag has gone from ~20 pounds to around 7 pounds. Because I can type fast, I can also basically transcribe lectures as well, making sure I do not miss  a word.

Unfortunately not all technology in the classroom is a good thing.

A couple of days ago, this Atlantic article came across my attention.

The article highlights a new study from the Psych department of Princeton. It found that people remember a lecture when they take notes by hand rather than on the computer.

This turn out to be because laptop note takers tend to transcribe what the teacher is saying. Because typing has become, in many ways, faster than actual hand writing to many students, people tend to copy the teacher word for word in hopes of not forgetting a thing. But this method lacks an important step in handwritten notes: being judicious, and having an inner conversation while you are taking notes.

Because most people do not have the ability to accurately and speedily transcribe a live event without a recording, note taking creates an inner dialog. You have to process what is being taught as well as write it down. The selectivity of your notes leads to long-term comprehension.

Long-term comprehension you don’t get with a laptop.

Even laptop note taking students who were encouraged to write in their own words and not verbatim did not remember as much as a pen and paper note taker. The study found that not only were computer using students did not perform as well academically, they were also less happy with their education.

The study did not examine the use of tablets as not taking. But, Pam Mueller, a student that help to lead the experiment said, “Tablets might be the best of both worlds—you have to choose what to write down, but then you have the electronic copy.” in the Atlantic article. 

So next time you consider pulling out your laptop, maybe think twice.

The woes of a sophomore (in the eyes of a senior)

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Right now, I am sitting in my kitchen watching my sister struggle with picking her classes next year. She is sing-songing “I’m so angry!” with a look in her eyes that can only be descried as Christian Bale in American Psycho. 

The art class she wanted to take needs teacher approval (and she has no idea she needed that), her back up has already been filled by current juniors. She is only left with classes she has no initial interest in.

She is now trying to figure out what to do without having an existential crisis.

Unlike me at this age, she already knows what she wants to do with her life. She wants to go to college with a double major of graphic design and marketing.  Months ago she made a list of all of her classes for the next two years to go along with her intended majors. Now, with the classes she wants out of her reach, she feels like she won’t get into the colleges she wants to get into. She feels that because she is not in a sport, or an after school club (only dedicated to After School Matters for over a year now) she has to have a AP heavy schedule that reflects what she wants to do in college.

All this stress and anxiety she is creating for herself is making me re-evaluate the whole school system more than my own education experiences have. How crazy is it that my little sister, who is a thousand times smarter than I will ever be, is stressing herself over some high school classes. In high school you should be able to pick from a range of classes to be able to figure out what you want in life. To take take classes you though you would like, but end up hatting. To take classes you though you would hate, but end up loving. The beautiful thing about Lane is the sense that it is a mini college in terms of electives, and unlike college, it is basically free. At Lane you have the opportunity to take these types of classes.

As of April 1st, reports from a range of news sources have flooded the internet expounding on how much harder it is to get into college. Stanford, for example, had an acceptance rate of 5 percent. This is largely in part because kids are just sending more applications out.

According to a New York Times article “For most of the past six decades, overall enrollment boomed, while the number of seats at elite colleges and universities grew much more slowly, making them steadily more selective.” This is partly in due because of the web based application the Common App that has almost double in college choices in the past ten years. Because college applications have become easier through the Common App “Students applying to seven or more colleges made up just 9 percent of the applicant pool in 1990, but accounted for 29 percent in 2011, according to surveys by the National Association for College Admission Counseling.”

Because there are so many high achieving students applying to colleges, each prospective has become indistinguishable from one another. Is there even a difference in kids that get accepted and rejected?

In the end, this knowledge is the stem of my sister’s problem. In order to get into the college of her dreams, how will she have to contort herself to be able to please admissions counselors?

A change in study habits

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Going into high school four years ago, I was a very dedicated student. I studied for tests, and did my homework right when I got home, and I always managed to get a good nights sleep.

I held onto this for as long as I could. No amount of Netflix or easily streamable TV shows could stop me from doing my homework.  I would get my homework done. I would go to bed and get a decent sleep. Then I would start the cycle all over again. I would minimize my TV time in the week and binge on the weekends to make sure I was getting everything done.

Then my junior year I started to get a lot more homework, but I still persisted. I still did all my work, I just went to bed latter.

Then senior year came along , and I was getting less homework, so I was getting more sleep.

Then second semester happened and now all I want to do is sleep. For about three weeks now, I have been hit hard with senioritis. The quality of my work has magically not gone down (in fact my grades are slightly better than last semester at the moment). I have been keeping up with my work too. In fact, I am more on top of my school work than I have been in years past.

But the senioritis has been dragging me down. So, to help myself get around this terrible disease, I have tried a new study method.  Before with school work, I would stay up until I finished all my homework. I would go to bed at awkward times, and wake up crankier and groggier than I should have. If an essay was due soon, of course I would stay up all night to write it in one sitting. It is a pure fact that I write my best the night before at one in the morning. There is a really interesting Atlantic article about this. There have also been studies that show that the brain is more creative when it is sleep deprived, thus the creation of better essays.

In my quest for more sleep, I have found a beautiful solution to my problems. Instead of staying up until midnight or one in the morning to finish all of my homework, I go to bed early, like 9pm early, and wake up early. I take into consideration  my sleep cycles and how much homework I still have to determine how early I have to get up. I found that waking up at 4am, giving me two extra hours of homework time, is the perfect time for me.

I have never felt more awake. Before I started this experiment, I would bring tea to school to keep me caffeinated and awake. Now when I do this study habit, I do not need to. I wake up with my sleep cycle so I am more attentive and awake. Then I find that the work I do turns the cogs in my brain and get me mentally prepared for the day.

I am not sure if this new haibit is good for me, or if it will continue to work, but I will continue to use it until it stops working. In fact, I have some english homework that I will be waking up at 4am tomorrow to finish.

Prom: Is it too early?

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When Jan. 1st rolled around, while I was soaking in the last days of winter break reading The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring one Lane senior was getting creative. She created Lane Tech Prom Dresses ( Girls ) a Facebook Group aimed to keep track of the dresses being worn to prom because “As girls, I know our worst nightmare would be if some other girl had the SAME dress as ours!” (from the about section of the page).

Apparently it is never to early to start dress shopping. 

For the month and a half that the page has been in operation, girls have been posting dresses and Peaches (A popular Chicago Boutique for Prom dresses) coupons. Everyone fawning over each other’s choices, answering each other’s questions, and feeling good about themselves.

As a group we have helped each other stay away from scam websites. We have given complements to insecure classmates. What has been created is a truly safe space. It is nice to look at the dresses girls are wearing. It is nice to gain inspiration for my own dress shopping.

But isn’t it a little early?

Now I won’t lie, I went dress shopping a couple of weeks ago.  My friends dragged me to Old Orchard after a morning of work in the freezing snow and cold.

It was uncomfortable to say the least. Department Store after Department Store we went into lacked a sizable formal/prom dress section. We were left to look at the left over Homecoming dresses and dresses only fit for a wedding party. If we were running into this problem at one of the biggest malls in the metro area, how are other girls not running into the same problem? Also, how are people affording their dresses?

Isn’t it a little early to think about prom if stores aren’t thinking about prom yet? Stores are known for advertising holidays months in advance, and prom should be no different. Prom is a money maker for department stores, for they sell everything a girl needs: makeup, shoes, accessories, and most importantly the dress. If stores are not yet treating prom like it is Christmas in October, it must be too early to start shopping.

The obvious (and very popular) respond to this is shopping online. Learning how to site fake sites, and putting all your hope into the belief that the dress will fit and that it will look good on you even though you may have never seen the dress in person.

What is the point of buying a dress without seeing it in person? what if it turns out ugly and you cannot return it?

Going along with this is : how are people affording their dresses? The dresses that girls are buying are $500-600. I don’t even remember the last time i had that much money in my bank account. The dress will be worn once, is it really worth all that money?

Maybe girls going to Prom should put that dress on hold and think about it for  a while. Prom isn’t for three more months anyways. Maybe the perfect dress is not the $600 designer dress found online, but the $200 dress you found in the department store (once they start supplying dresses anyways).

A Look At College Abroad

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In 2012, I spent 14 glorious days in England for a school trip sponsored by the English Department. I started up north in Manchester and worked my way down the glorious country, zig zagging from literary historical site to literary historical site. For the last three days of the trip, we visited London.

Ever since I first stepped off the Coach onto the grimy streets of London, I fell in love. For me, London felt more of a home to me than Chicago ever did (and probably ever will).

Since that trip two years ago, I could never stop thinking about when I could go back. Could I spend a semester of college in a London school? could I take a gap year before college and backpack across Europe (and spend a lot of time in England)? Could I somehow work in London  after college?

Then one day it hit me: why can’t I just go to college there? And I started to look into it.

Going to college abroad was a lot simpler than I thought it would be. There is a Common App like system called UCAS. A student simply submits their grades, one letter of recommendation and the ACT/SAT. Many schools also require the student to have AP classes tat are relevant to their field of study.

The cost of the application is also a lot cheaper than applying to American schools. Here schools can make you pay anywhere from $50 and up. In England you can apply to up to five schools for a flat fee of $37.

The school system works differently than in the US. In England, University is only three years long, compared to the four in the US. Students go to school with an intended major, and takes classes directly related to their major. For example, if I was to major in journalism, the classes I would take would be a law class, a foreign language, a radio and broadcast class and then classes on different aspects to journalism. No pesky math or science classes. No extraneous classes not related to my major.

The cost is also very reasonable. Depending on the school you go to tuition with room and board can be around  20,000 Pounds or $36,000. Considering you only go to school for three years compared to four, you can save a lot of money. Especially considering tuition alone to an out of state school can be around $27,000.

American students are also still eligible for US student loans. Many schools abroad also award scholarships to international students.

On the other hand, there are a couple of downsides. There is no such thing as double majoring as far as I can tell, and you cannot take classes that might interest you if it is outside your major. This is hard for me to consider, especially since I have started to think that I would like to double in anthropology and journalism.

Overall, I will still apply to the British schools. I may not get it. If I get in, I may not go (in fact the more months I think about it, the more I think I will not go). But I cannot give up the dream of living in London. I am doing it, because why not? why not try to take advantage of a system so many people do not even realize is out there.

Lane Raises Money for Philippines

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On Nov. 8, Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines.  The  National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council have confirmed  3,982 people dead. There are also at least 1,602 more people missing.  The  United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs  reports that 4 million people have been forced from their homes. 13 million people have been affected by Haiyan thus far.

With millions of people in need of help, there have been several campaigns in the city to help the people of the Philippines. This week, Lane has joined in on the cause.

The Balikbayan Project, supported by the Filipino Club and Tri- Music Honors Society, sets up donations to send over seas. The name of the project is a play off of Balikbayan boxes (boxes Filipinos send back home filled with goods that are hard to come across in the Philippines).

Starting 11/20, the Balikbayan Project is collecting canned goods, batteries, and sealed medical supplies. All donations will be shipped out to the Philippians to help people in need.

In conjunction with this drive, the Tri-M Music Honors Society put on the benefit concert: LT Rhythms for the Philippines on Thursday 11/21.  Along with performances by the Tri-M members, local Lane band Miss Demeanor  put on a live performance as part of the event. The entrance fee was $5 or two canned goods.

 

The Importance of BOINC

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Recently while perusing Reddit, I came across a computer program that is truly the coolest thing ever. An open source program that utilizes your idle computer time to help scientific research. This project is called BOINC.

This project, run by University of California–Berkeley is a platform for research projects to come online and find volunteers to donate their idle computers to help process data.  The original version was the SETI Project (a project that searches for radio signals in space to search for extra terrestrial life) that is still in operation today, and something you can still donate your time to.

Private research companies, scientist, and universities, all use the program to find people to support their work. There are currently around 50 projects to choose from. Projects in every field of science you can think of.

How the program works is, you choose the program(s) you want to support, download the BOINC software, and watch your computer help the scientific community.  It runs like this:

  1. Your PC gets a set of tasks from the project’s scheduling server. The tasks depend on your PC: for example, the server won’t give it tasks that requires more RAM than you have. Projects can support several applications, and the server may send you tasks from any of them.
  2. Your PC downloads executable and input files from the project’s data server. If the project releases new versions of its applications, the executable files are downloaded automatically to your PC.
  3. Your PC runs the application programs, producing output files.
  4. Your PC uploads the output files to the data server.
  5. Later your PC reports the completed tasks to the scheduling server, and gets new tasks.

This cycle goes for as long as you run the program.

It can be used on Windows, Mac OS, Linux, even Android smart phones.

Because of the importance of helping the scientific continuity, and just the general cool factor, I think Lane should install the program of the school computers.

There are several hundred Macs and PCs throughout the school. Many are only used for a couple of periods. With this much computing power, think about ll the help we could be for these programs. It would be so cool if one of Lane’s computers found extraterrestrial life with Cosmology@home or helped prevent Malaria with MalariaControl.

Granted, The programs use the CPU/GPU of a computer and therefor can use some electricity. But, the computers are always on, and are always plugged in. These computers are constantly using electricity.

Its free, safe, and effective. The real question is, why are we not already doing this?