Archive for March, 2012

Five Key Principles of Active Learning

Friday, March 30th, 2012

A review of the research on active learning compiled for physiology faculty contains five “key findings” that author Joel Michael maintains ought “to be incorporated [into] our thinking as we make decisions about teaching physiology [I would say, name your discipline] at any educational level.” (p. 160) Here’s the list, along with a brief discussion of each.

1. Learning involves the active construction of meaning by the learner. This well-established principle involves the fact that students link new information with information that they already know. New and old information are assembled into mental models. If the old information is faulty, that compromises the learning of new information. “Learning can be thought about as a process of conceptual change in which faulty or incomplete models are repaired.” (p. 161) Fixing faulty mental models can be very difficult, as witnessed by research documenting that even after taking a course (physics is often used as an example), students still hold serious misconceptions.

2. Learning facts and learning to do something are two different processes. This explains why students can know a set of facts and still be unable to apply those facts to solve a problem. If students are to successfully use knowledge, they must have opportunities to practice and obtain feedback. A variety of other instructional advice follows from this principle, including the fact that students who are learning to solve problems need to know more than whether the answer is right or wrong. The sequence of problems from easy to hard is also important.

3. Some things that are learned are specific to the domain or context (subject matter or course) in which they are learned, whereas other things are more readily transferred to other domains. What’s at issue here is knowledge transfer and whether students can take what they know about one subject or topic and transfer that knowledge to another subject or topic. As many college teachers have observed, students often have great trouble with this. There are still a number of research controversies in this area, but there is growing recognition that transfer involves skills that students need to be taught.

4. Individuals are likely to learn more when they learn with others than when they learn alone. Many faculty are very independent learners and so struggle a bit with accepting this principle.

5. Meaningful learning is facilitated by articulating explanations, whether to one’s self, peers, or teachers. Students learn to speak the languages of disciplines when they practice speaking those languages.

by Maryellen Weimer, PhD.

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Difference between Ethics and Morality

Friday, March 30th, 2012

Morality and ethics are two words that seem closely interrelated and it is commonly observed that people incorrectly substitute them for each other. A common incidence where the two terms are thrown around is the business world or a business scenario. At the workplace a company may adopt certain practices which are ethical but can seem immoral to its employees. A certain company advocating or aggressively marketing its product that may not be exactly helpful for its customers. To understand the difference between the two terms in a better way it would be imperative that we first tried to understand what the two words mean and their basic interpretations.

What are Ethics

Ethics relates to the philosophy behind a moral outcome. In order to spotlight acceptable and unacceptable behavior within a specific situation, ethical behavior is defined. The term ‘ethics’ also refers to understanding and adopting moral values within the home or workplace that should be defined. It relates to values commonly adhered to and fundamentals or meta-ethics in the immediate surroundings. There are different types of ethics and the application of each differs from one situation to another. In the case of normative ethics, the notion behind what declares an action as ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ is derived and defined. In meta-ethics, judgmental properties within a situation are investigated. Issues relating to the sensitivity of ontology, semantics and epistemology are explored in this stream of ethics.

Descriptive ethics examines a situation as a choice made in the presence of the moral agents relevant. Here issues like preferred concepts of etiquette and aesthetics are considered. Relational ethics relate to personal interactions and responsibilities. Applied ethics on the other hand, investigates the success or failure of the application of ethical theory to everyday situations. Ethics are an integral part of social laws and politics. In any dichotomy situation, one where two choices are available, ethics steps in to identify the best action-choice. Ethical action is defined and questioned within our interactions with the terminally sick, animals aged citizens and in issues such as abortion.

What is Morality

Morality refers to an adopted code of conduct within an environment and a set of agreed upon rules for what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. Morals have formed the spine of modern society, religion and every individual’s conscience. The conceptions changed in time and take on a new meaning. For example, ‘murder is immoral’, but ‘on the battlefield murder is permissible’. In a way, morality is in sync with ethics. While one is abstract in understanding, the other is defined and in the form of written code. Morality addresses the ethical queries on the moral outcome of a specific situation. The code of conduct formulated probes prohibitions, controversial behavior, standards of belief systems and social conformity of morally ‘right’ behavior.

Moral codes define ‘appropriate’ and ‘expected’ activity. Community morality is usually defined via commentaries and codes of authority. Morality is better understood as an assimilation of beliefs about the essentials to lead a ‘good’ life. It is not to be confused with religious or fanatic or political perception. Moral codes are based on value systems that have been tried and tested. The best examples of moral codes include the Eightfold Path of Buddhism and the Ten commandments. It is believed that all of us, throughout our lives, act from a developing moral core.

Difference between Ethics and Morality

While morals define our character, ethics dictate the working of a social system. Ethics point towards the application of morality. In the wake of this understanding, national, social and workplace ethics are based on the abstract moral codes adopted and adhered to by each member of the group. Ethics lay down a set of codes that people must follow. Ethics are relative to peers, profession, community, society and nation. Morals are and are dependent on an individuals choice or beliefs or religion and can mean doing the right or wrong thing. An example to help you understand the difference would be: Abortion is legal and therefore medically ethical, while many people find it personally immoral. Ethics can be relatively simple to follow, while applying morals can be decidedly tougher. There can be a moral dilemma, but not an ethical one. While good morals represent correct and upright conduct, ethics act more as guidelines. Ethics are applicable or adhered to by a group or community or society, whereas morals relate to individuals.

by Gaynor Borade.

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Studying Poetry in the Classroom

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

More often than not, if you ask literature teachers how they feel about poetry, they will tell you that they don’t like teaching it because the students don’t like learning about it. While it is true that many students balk at the mention of poetry, this is usually because the teachers try to teach it just like a book, without explaining things like word choice, form, or even what is going on in the poem. Adding some fun activities to a unit on poetry can really help students come up with their own understanding of poetry, and then they can bring that personal connection to the poems you read in class.

Teaching the Form

One of the most important things to teach when you are teaching poetry is about the form of the poem you are reading. Even free verse poems that seemingly lack a form have an art to them. Poetry is different from prose in that there are lines, and when the poet writes a poem, he or she pays careful attention to those lines. Very often, important phrases end at the line, or poets include important words at the end of the line. This can help draw attention to the words and phrases that are used in the poem, and can help illuminate the meaning of the poem.

Most Important Word

By asking students what they think the most important word in the poem is, you are asking them to think about the poet’s word choice. This is actually a very difficult question for students to answer because usually they want to choose a whole phrase. By asking them to pick one word, you are forcing them to look at the whole poem through a critical eye. If they are stuck and need help, you can always give them hints. Important words can be repeated over and over within the poem. Repetition is always a signal of an important word. Other important words can embody the entire theme or message of the poem, or can be a word that the students like the sound or meaning of. Most importantly, remind the students that, as long as they can explain their choice, there are no wrong answers.

Coffeehouse Readings

Always read poetry aloud in class. This can help students understand the poem better. Poetry was also meant to be read aloud. You can make this fun, too, by setting up your classroom like a coffeehouse poetry reading. Have the students snap their fingers after each reading, instead of clapping their hands. Add some lamps to create a coffeehouse feel when the lights are turned off, and put a fake microphone at the front of the room for students to stand up and read into. This will get the students listening and enjoying poetry just for the sound of it, which can lead to really great discussions about the content and how the poem was read.

Found Poems

Found poems are a great way to have students dive into writing their own poetry. For some students, writing a poem can be daunting if anything goes. With found poems, have the students “find” words and phrases in magazines and newspapers. Have them cut out what they find and glue it on a piece of paper in the form of a poem. By giving students something to start with – in this case, words already printed in a magazine – you’ve taken away the fear of creating and sharing something new and personal.

by Buzzle Staff and Agencies.

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Managing People

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

The effective management of people in an organization requires an understanding of motivation, job design, reward systems, and group influence.

Behavior Modification

Operant conditioning is the learning that takes place when the learner recognizes the connection between a behavior and its consequences.

  • Positive reinforcement vs. punishment: rewarding desired behavior vs. punishing undesired behavior.
  • Negative reinforcement: removing negative consequences from workers who perform the desired behavior.
  • Extinction: removing whatever is currently reinforcing the undesirable behavior.
  • Reinforcement schedules: variable, erratic reinforcement schemes are more effective than steady reinforcement schedules.
  • Classical conditioning: if one gets sick after eating tacos, from that point forward one may get sick from the smell of tacos. People are genetically hard-wired to make certain associations. For example, sickness is associated with food.

Expectancy Theory

The expectancy theory of motivation models motivational force as the product of three factors perceived by the individual. There is research evidence to support the theory, and it has become relatively widely accepted.

Principal-Agent Problem

In a company, stockholders are principals and managers are agents. The goal of a compensation system is to align principals’ and agents’ interests.

Executives who are compensated based on financial performance may favor diversifying the company since it evens out their incomes. But shareholders can diversify their portfolios on their own if they want.

Promotion Tournaments

The purpose of high executive salaries is to motivate those at lower levels by giving them a goal or prize for which to strive. If eight people are competing for a position, only one of them has to be paid the big prize, but they all are motivated.

Job Design

Scientific management took all authority away from the workers – no thinking was needed. Skill variety, task identity, task significance, autonomy, and feedback all were missing.

Giving people choices provides more job satisfaction. One way of doing this is to propose an alternative or two that is inferior, and ask for the employee’s opinion. An exaggerated example that illustrates this point: in selecting the foundation of a building, the manager, knowing concrete is better, can propose wood. The employee proposes concrete and gains satisfaction from “convincing” the manager of the right decision.
Equity Theory

People care about fairness and are willing to give up money to avoid unfair treatment.

An example of this idea is a game in which one person is handed 100 dollars, and this person must propose to give part of the money to a second person. The first person must propose the amount that he or she will give to the second person, and the second person can accept or reject the offer. If the second person accepts the offer, then it stands as proposed. If the second person rejects the offer, neither of the two people get to keep any of the money. Assuming that the two people never will deal with each other again, the rational decision of the second person is to accept any amount that the first person offers. However, if the first person offers only one dollar, the second person may refuse this low offer simply to punish the first person who is not offering a “fair” split.

Reward Systems

Employees like performance rating distributions in which almost everyone is at the top, but in which a few really get punished. Employees hate systems in which only a few get top ratings.

When people are given higher rewards than what they deserve, at first their performance improves, but then they start reasoning that they really are worthy and begin to slack off.

Efficiency Wages

For lower-level workers, performance increases with increased wages. Efficiency wages are wages set at a higher-than-market clearing wage, set by employers to:

  • discourage shirking by raising the cost of being fired
  • encourage worker loyalty
  • raise group output norms
  • improve the applicant pool
  • raise morale

Rationalizing Behavior

Cognitive dissonance is the state of conflict that one faces when one’s attitudes are contradicted by the situation that one is experiencing. In this situation, people often rationalize anything that is inconsistent in their minds. For example, one may come to love the things for which he or she is poorly compensated in order to resolve the inconsistency of doing something that one does not want to do for below average pay.

Characteristics of Jobs and Work that Substitute for Formal Leadership

In flat organizations, there are fewer opportunities to formally manage the work of others. In this situation, people may become de-motivated because they feel that they are not advancing. However, some environments have characteristics that can substitute for more formal leadership opportunities. These characteristics are:

  • Professional orientation
  • Performance feedback provided by work itself
  • Cohesive, interdependent work groups and advisory panel
  • Written goals and rigid procedures

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Plan To Reduce Ratio Of Counselling Teachers To Students

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

KUALA LUMPUR:  A proposal to reduce the ratio of full-time counselling teachers to students in primary and secondary schools is being processed, the Dewan Rakyat was told today.

Deputy Education Minister Dr Puad Zarkashi said the proposal entailed having one counselling teacher to 300 pupils, instead of between 350 and 850 pupils, in primary schools and one teacher to 300 students, instead of 500 students, in secondary schools.

He said the proposal was submitted to the Human Resource Division of the Ministry of Education for consideration, but it had not yet been approved for it involved staffing and financial allocation.

Responding to a question from Datuk Mohd Nasir Ibrahim Fikri (BN-Kuala Nerus), Puad said in fact, there were no designated counsellors in schools, but rather ordinary teachers tasked with counselling duties besides doing normal teaching job.


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Never-ending chase for better grades

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

We need to ask if our education system is satisfying the more basic and vital needs of a larger segment of students.

FOR about nearly half a million people, March 20 was a momentous day in many ways – for their future hung in the balance, waiting to be decided by the results of the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examinations.

I can well imagine the tension that would have hovered around those poor students like a heavy, portent mist on that day, which would for most of them lift later in the light of day.

My own daughter could not eat breakfast that day and was famished by the time lunch came, which I am glad to say was a bubbly, celebratory one after she obtained her results.

But for many it was not, not because they did not do well but because they did not do well enough.

When I think of the kind of pressures that kids face these days, I must say the old days were better, at least with respect to this, even if I sound like some sad old man who took his SPM results over 40 years ago and who was thankful for his meagre As.

Those days, the best results were eight As – yes, we only took eight subjects, even the most kiasu of us, and 17As were not just unheard of but would have been considered, appropriately, some kind of madness to subject a child to.

In our Sentul school, not really noted for its academic excellence, we were proud to have produced just one student with eight As. That was considered good for a school at that time.

Now we have whole classes – I exaggerate but in better schools it could go up to as much as a quarter or more – get As in all the subjects they sat for, usually nine or 10 but oftentimes going up to as high as 12.

And you have students who get As in all 10 subjects who still cry, not with happiness but dejection and disappointment.

This time I am not exaggerating. Why? I asked the same question. The answer: They had one or two A-!

In case you are not aware of it, we have three grades of A: A+, A and A-. If you thought that was bad and reflects our examination system, be warned that the University of Cambridge A levels have two levels of A: A* and A.

The whole world’s gone a bit wonky and just As alone is not enough any more. Now the best students have to get A+s and A*s before they are taken seriously by the most serious of higher institutions of learning – think of how much stress it causes students.

To add to that, our Government assured those who got 10 A+ last year that they would get a scholarship, putting even more pressure on pupils but fortunately, they seem to have abandoned that this year although they do not seem to have given students adequate notice.

by P. Gunasegaram.

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Education NKRA reaping success

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

Education NKRA has raised the nation’s pre-school enrolment rate to 77.2% and Literacy and Numeracy rates to 97.5% and 98.6% respectively.

Education is at the core of a nation’s development.

It is the catalyst in preparing a generation of people for the globalised future.

As Malaysia aims to become a developed and high income nation by 2020, the Government Transfor­mation Programme’s (GTP) Education National Key Results Area (NKRA), under the guidance of the Education Ministry, has put into motion a plan of action to meet this objective – to ensure that the very foundation of education is established from the pre-school stage.

The objectives of the NKRA are to increase pre-school enrolment, ensure all children have acquired basic numeracy and literacy skills after three years of primary-level education, develop High Performing Schools and to significantly improve the performance of head teachers and principals via performance management.

The Education NKRA’s ambitious goal of raising the bar of excellence in the education system has been an arduous task but all the effort put in promises to reap bountiful gains.

Addressing the myriad of challenges faced at the pre-school, primary and secondary levels, and by providing equal opportunities to all Malaysians, the role of the NKRA is indeed a critical one.

Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Mohd Yassin, who is also the Education Minister, said: “We have been met with more than our fair share of challenges along the way, such as the disparity between rural and urban schools, in rolling out the programmes.

“The lessons we have learned have only made us more determined to push our transformational efforts forward to solidify our foundation and create a generation of people who are able compete effectively in the 21st century workplace.”

Two years on, the results have been encouraging and laudable.

Last year, 3,089 pre-school classes were built, with enrolment rates currently at 77.2%, as compared to 72.4% in 2010.

Literacy and numeracy rates among Year Two pupils reached 97.5% and 98.6% respectively while the number of High Performing Schools increased from 20 in 2010 to 52 last year.

The Education NKRA also rolled out new initiatives which improved the overall administrative function of the education system.

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Let’s give real attention to the English language

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

THERE is no doubt that our education system has always been a work in progress even if the basic fundamentals, premised on political and social realities, are not questioned.

At the primary level, the national schools co-exist alongside the national-type schools, before merging at the secondary level and beyond.

The primary language used within the system, Bahasa Malaysia, is never in doubt, but there continues to be strong, and often times, emotional arguments, for equal emphasis to be placed on other languages.

There are pressing needs in the vernacular schools system, be it Chinese or Tamil, in terms of teaching resources and infrastructure facilities.

Likewise, even in the national schools, there are weaknesses that need to be rectified.

While the recent vociferous calls by certain interest groups may be premised on legitimate concerns, we must not fuel the issues with emotion or allow them to be politically hijacked because of the impending general election.

Amidst the debate, let us also give real attention to equipping our students with a language skill that will truly take them places – a high proficiency in English.

The English language has taken a back seat for too long ever since English-medium schools were abolished in the early 1970s.

We have seen how the standard of English has gone down progressively through these three decades or so.

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Impact of Technology on Communication

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

The development of technology has considerably improved our lifestyles. It has made its impact felt on each and every aspect of life, also on the communication techniques. The development of communication has seen huge progress; from the symbols (oldest means of communication) to the latest swanky mobiles! Each century has seen a new addition to the ever-growing list of means of communication. The invention of the telephone by Alexander Graham Bell in the year 1875 was the first technological invention that impacted communication in humans to a massive extent. Other subsequent inventions like that of the Internet, cell phones, etc., further eased and changed the communication process.

Impact / Effects of Technology on Communication

Everything has both a positive and negative impact, and the impact of technology on the communication process also comes as mixed baggage. In this article, we would be discussing the impact of popular technological elements like emails, telephones, cell phones, etc., on our means of communication. Mobiles and the Internet are literally the basic necessities these days. A majority of us would feel something missing in life, if there were no mobiles or Internet (Agreed?).

Take the daily routine of a person in this tech-savvy world. The day begins with a “good morning message” on social networking sites and ends with a “goodnight” on the same website. The social networking sites are a world in themselves, like a virtual world! There is the incessant use of mobiles and the Internet for communication, the whole day. To ease the communication process, there are modes like emails, teleconferencing, video conferencing, networking sites, etc., among other tools. Mobiles, emails, and social networking sites are the most popular means of communication among the current generation. In the coming paragraphs, let’s discuss the impact of these technology-backed communication devices on our communication ways.

Positive Impact of Technology on Communication
Technology has transformed the once big and far world into a tiny global village. Thanks to technology, we now have the power to communicate with anybody on the other side of the world (see: benefits of technology). The points below summarize the positive effects of technology on communication.

  • No barriers: Communication is now easy; in case of situations when you want to convey something urgently to someone, mobiles and emails come in handy.
  • Strengthened relations: Communication has made it easy to keep in touch with old contacts, and has also helped strengthen relationships.
  • Better solutions: Communication has brought the world closer and promoted exchange of thoughts to find better solutions to any problem.
  • E-schools: Technological elements of communication like video-conferencing has made it possible to give best education to students via expert faculty on the web.
  • Impact on relations: Finding someone to date was never so easy, thanks to the dating and chatting websites! No one would disagree if I say – Technology is the rational behind the success of long distance relationships. Video chats and social networking sites have played a big role in keeping people in touch.
  • Development: Last but not least. Technological elements of communication have promoted faster decision-making, and led to the development and progress of the world. Video conferencing has played a considerate role in promoting faster decision-making. Most of the businesses depend on technology for communication.

Negative Impact of Technology on Communication
Most negative effect of technology – the charm of the good old world is missing. The letters, and lengthy face-to-face conversations have gone away, and have been replaced by texting or chatting. See the below given points for details.

  • Impact on interpersonal communication: The current generation lacks essential interpersonal skills (the ability to express the ideas and thoughts to others face-to-face). A major reason for this tendency is increased frequency of communication through texting and chatting on websites.
  • Effect on nonverbal communication: Technological means of communication has also affected nonverbal communication. Lack of face-to-face interaction has reduced the nonverbal grasping power of individuals.
  • Near yet far: Teenagers especially are always hooked to the social networking sites. They are more close to online friends, but the gap between parents and kids has increased considerably. The communication is missing, parents are not technology savvy and not used to the communication styles of their kids, and this has increased the generation gap.
  • Reduced social interactions: Consider the socializing among people. Life has changed a lot; there are no social meetings and get-togethers (the frequency has reduced). People are more bothered about their online life rather than the real social life.
  • Has led to many addictions: People have literally become addicted to the Internet and cell phones, and this addiction has led to many anxiety disorders. People addicted to the Internet feel lonely and isolated.
  • Malicious motives: Many people abuse the social networking sites and communicate to unsuspecting beings pretending someone else. This tendency of people has done more harm than good.

This was all about the impact of communication on technology. As you can see, the impact is both positive and negative.

by Hemangi Harankedkar.

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Benefits of Technology

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

Technology has progressed by leaps and bounds in the last few decades, and the benefits of technology are there for all to see. One of the biggest arguments against technology is its sometimes ridiculously high cost which limits its usage and places it out of reach of many people. But it is an undeniable fact that technology has helped us make many tasks easier, and it has also made the world a much smaller place. Benefits of RFID Technology will also be an interesting read.

The latest developments in technology can be seen and felt in many industries, but there are some areas that have been benefited more than others. Costs of production have fallen, networking has become easier, employment levels have risen (in some cases), and we have certainly become more efficient at many complex tasks and processes. With this in mind, let’s look at some of the most obvious benefits of technology that we live with today.

What are the Benefits of Technology

Benefits of Technology in Healthcare
Perhaps the single biggest beneficiary of advancing technology has been the healthcare sector. Medical research has led to the end of many diseases and ailments, and also to the discovery of many drugs and medications that have helped prevent many lethal diseases and disorders. Personal records are easier to study now, and medical research has advanced magnificently. Millions of lives have been saved as a result of this. Here are some of the benefits of technology in this industry in brief.

  • Communication between patients and doctors has become easier, more personal, more flexible and more sensitive.
  • Personal records of patients are maintained, which makes it easier to study symptoms and carry out diagnosis of previously unexplainable conditions.
  • Several medical aids have helped people overcome many medical conditions which they had to live with earlier.
  • New medicines have led to the demise of many illnesses and diseases.
  • Medical research has become supremely advanced, and every ailment seemingly has a cure, or at least a prevention.
  • Costs of medical procedures and operations have fallen dramatically over the decades. Here are some more positive effects of technology on society.

Benefits of Technology in Education
It is no surprise that the benefits of technology in the classroom and the benefits of technology in schools have opened up a whole new learning environment. Knowledge can be easily procured with the help of Internet technology now, and it is easier to help children with special needs as well. Here are some more benefits of assistive technology that the educational sector has witnessed.

  • Personalized learning has come to the fore. Students can pick their own curriculum with ease, and set their own personal targets.
  • Distance learning has become much easier, and this has led to a rise in the number of people who receive education.
  • E-learning and online education has made it very simple and systematic for an individual to receive personal attention, so that all his specific needs are fulfilled.
  • Immediate response to queries and tests have made the whole education process a lot faster.
  • The use of computers and technology in classrooms has opened up a whole new method of teaching and effective learning. Read more on how has technology changed education.

Benefits of Technology in Communication
The communication industry has witnessed a huge growth. Social networking and blogging has opened up a whole new world to people from remote locations, and the reach of the mass media has increased thousandfold. People can communicate with each other on the move, and there are no limitations anymore to the benefits of information technology. Here are some more benefits.

  • The speed of talking to one another is instantaneous.
  • The mode of talking has become more personalized and can be done from just about anywhere.
  • The world has become a smaller place, since no one is out of reach anymore.
  • The clarity of communication has also improved with improvements in audio quality and video quality.
  • Information and news broadcasting has become more personalized as well. Moreover, it can reach more people at a faster speed, and people’s response can also be felt immediately.

Benefits of Technology in Business
Companies have become more profitable with the help of various advanced machines and equipment, and this has led to a rise in the standard of living of people. The national income of countries has also expanded as a result of this.

by Rahul Thadani.

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