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North Carolina State University Wants Your Ants

On this blog, we usually write about people at universities. Today, we’re talking about ants … for science.

Allow me to clarify: the School of Ants project wants students, teachers or anybody to send in their ants (via Scientific American’s60-Second Science“). All you need to do is contact them to get the collection kit (which includes 9 cookie-crumb-rich vials), then leave them out at your home, school, office, etc. Once collected, send your ants back to the NCSU Department of Biology. The collective USA results get posted on an interactive web-based map, allowing you to learn much more about the spread and diversity of ants than you ever thought possible.

What if you live outside of the USA? You may be in luck. According to the project’s website, “Insect specimens cannot be sent through international mail without proper permits,” but the team is coordinating with global ant experts to try to make it happen, and says to check back to the website for a future list of participating countries.

The next collection (and kit request period) begins on September 1st, so mark your calendar to get a piece of the action.

Happy collecting!


Photo courtesy of Sancho McCann via Flickr.

Category: Higher Education, STEM

Mad Skills Watch: Adult-Job-Skills-Training-Isn’t-Enough Edition

In a recent NPR “Planet Money” show on 3 main problems facing the country (July 29), hosts Adam Davidson and Alex Bloomberg cited an economist, James Heckman,who made clear that adult job training programs are not just inadequate today–they’ve always been inadequate. And the worse news, according to him, is that there’s nothing we can do (economically speaking) to fundamentally change the job skills disadvantage faced by today’s lesser-educated youths/young adults.

In fact, the only way to change the situation, Heckman argues, is to focus on tomorrow. What does that mean? The hosts cited landmark studies that show the only cost-effective way for low-income people to get these basic, integral job skills–communication, collaboration, problem-solving–is to go to preschool. That’s right, preschool. Sounds like a joke, but the studies are dead serious. In one (the Perry Preschool Project), the randomly selected control group that didn’t go to preschool fared much worse as adults than the randomly selected “treatment” group of preschool attendees, who got 2 hours a day of it. Here’s highlights of the damage:

As Heckman points out (via the hosts), these results indicate that the return-on-investment (ROI) of preschool is greater than any other form of education.

Other implications
Naturally, there’s a risk involved in making such conclusions: fatalism. If you didn’t get preschool before age 6, it’s too late, some might say. Good luck with your life, we’ll see you later (in jail). What can we do to help disadvantaged adults today? What should we do? Obviously, we’re not sending them to preschool, but maybe we need to tweak job-training programs so that they actually focus more on the most-needed people skills, or the “soft skills,” as Heckman referred to them. At the same time, let’s make sure raising the $14 billion one of the hosts says is the collective amount it takes to make preschool available to all underprivileged kids is a priority.

The ROI is incontrovertible on that.

Job Interview Tips [Part 3: What are your weaknesses?]

In part three of what was never officially a series until just now, we’re going to talk about one of the old standard interview questions:

‘What are your weaknesses?’

What an awful, awful thing to ask someone.

Read more

Category: Job Skills

Summer Internships You can Apply for Now

If you haven’t started looking for a summer internship, it’s not too late (but it will be soon). SummerInternships.com has a pretty large catalog of available summer internships in cities across the country.

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High Tech = Higher Costs in Higher Ed?

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the expression “high- tech” in the context of higher education? iPads? Blackboard? Notebook computers? Online classes? Course lectures on iTunes?

How about waste? When innovative technology is implemented correctly, it can save money. Simple enough, right? When it’s not, you get excessive waste and cost burdens, as CCAP’s Andrew Gillen stated earlier this week in a post tweaking colleges and universities for always trying to cultivate their own versions of existing technologies in-house as opposed to adapting the (cost-effective) ones that already work.

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Who Comes Up with These? [Interview Questions by The Oatmeal]

Job interviews aren’t what I’d call enjoyable, but they are unavoidable for most of us. They aren’t all bad of course; there are your pleasant interviews, which are more conversation than interrogation, and then there are the other ones.

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Category: Job Skills

Piazza Brings Speedy Answers to Student Questions

Imagine an education social-networking website that is so engaging that its average user spends 2–3 hours a day on it. It’s a reality, and it’s called Piazza. Yes, piazza, as in public square. A fitting term: the Silicon Valley start-up, founded by an Indian immigrant (Pooja Nath), brings students and teachers together across more than 330 schools to a shared public space at no charge.

But it’s more than just a cool, fast way for teachers to communicate course information or students to get answers to their questions (avg. response: 14 min.), at least according to one of its investors in a NY Times article earlier this week. Aydin Senkut is quoted talking about how the site represents fundamental shifts in education, much like proponents of the Khan Academy, the founders of SuperCool School, and teachers who use Twitter as a backchannel in the classroom talk. Senkut even ties what the site does into the mega-hot business/marketing trend of data mining:

“With Piazza, it’s about turning data into actionable intelligence. We want to empower people to ask and answer questions, and we’re going to measure every aspect of it.”

Here’s hoping this hard-core data analysis leads to better ways to help educate people the world over.


Photo courtesy of Robert Montgomery via Flickr.

YouShouldGoToSchool Word Cloud

I recently found this cool word cloud tool at Wordle.com. You can enter a group or words or a website, and Wordle will arrange the most frequently used words in a word cloud. Larger words are used most often.

Check out our current favorite words:

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Category: Site news

3 Powerful Rules for Continued Learning

Before the Internet era, continuing education used to conjure images of  adult-only classes, community colleges, and formal professional development seminars.

These days, continuing education can mean so much more: that you’re willing to learn on the job, off-the-job, and at whatever chance you get. And if you’re serious about your career prospects in a knowledge economy, you’d better recognize the advantage those chances give you.

Rule #1: Recognize.

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The Kahn Academy | Colbert Report

You may remember a post we featured a while back on Salman Kahn, creater of the Kahn Academy. Recently, Mr. Kahn was featured on the Colbert Report … take a look:

Mr. Kahn has recieved funding from Google, as well as the Gates Foundation. He’s posted thousands of lessons on everything from the French Revolution to macroeconomics.

Sites like the Kahn Academy continue to redefine the way we think about education.

Have you taken any of the lessons? If so, what did you think? Let us know in the comments section.

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