Archive for March, 2012

Understanding the Online Learning Experience

Monday, March 26th, 2012

Barbara Zuck, assistant professor of business at Montana State University–Northern, was teaching a 100-level online course in business leadership and wanted to understand her students’ experiences in the course. So at the end of the course she asked students three open-ended questions:

  • What are the two greatest difficulties you had taking this course in an online environment?
  • What three things surprised you most by taking this course in an online learning environment?
  • What three things would you change about this course, assuming it were also taught in an online learning environment?

Despite the small sample size (19), Zuck has gleaned some useful information that has influenced how she teaches the course. (She continues to ask students these questions to get a larger sample and more useful insights.)

Many of the students were first-time online learners, and their comments reflected this. The following themes emerged from the students’ comments:

  • Time management is important.
  • The course required more work than expected.
  • Some students missed being in the classroom.
  • Some students wanted more peer interaction.
  • Some students felt disconnected.
  • The course required commitment and motivation.
  • Some students wanted more input from the instructor.
  • Some found the course interesting and easy to navigate.

“I was somewhat surprised by their responses. One of the comments that came out pretty strongly was, ‘This is so much more work that I thought it would be,’” Zuck says.

by Rob Kelly.

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Tips to Raise Your IQ

Monday, March 26th, 2012

I would say that IQ is the strongest predictor of which field you can get into and hold a job in, whether you can be an accountant, lawyer or nurse, for example. ~ Daniel Goleman

Intelligence Quotient (IQ) is one of the measures for calculating a person’s intellectual capability. This term was coined in 1912 by a German psychologist, William Stern to analyze one’s intelligence. According to the Webster dictionary, intelligence quotient is defined as – “a measure of a person’s intelligence as indicated by an intelligence test; the ratio of a person’s mental age to their chronological age (multiplied by 100)”. The average score is 100 and, above 130 is a superior high score and those who score 130+ are considered to be intellectually gifted.

Pointers to Enhance Your IQ

In this section, I am going to provide you with some tips that you can make use of to increase you intelligence levels. They are as follows:

Learn and Practice Aptitude Problems
Solving quantitative maths problems like probability, permutations and combinations, mixtures and allegations, distance-time problems, etc., associates mathematics with our daily life and improves our mental mathematical ability. Data interpretation and problem solving improve your analytical skills. These conceptual problems help us to increase IQ levels and aptitude skills. Solving such problems can surely enhance your logical and reasoning ability thereby, increasing your IQ.

Practice Reading and Verbal Comprehension
When you read comprehensions, your understanding ability and knowledge increases. Verbal passages improve your vocabulary skill and work power, which helps you to get a good IQ score. Try to inculcate the habit of reading good books like classic novels, etc.

Play Games
Playing games such as tennis, basketball, table tennis, badminton, etc., stimulates mental acuteness and sharpness. Rapid movements while playing enhances blood flow to the brain and focused eye-hand coordination helps to improve concentration. Playing chess improves your IQ level by making you a logical thinker and an intellect. It makes you stay concentrated for a longer period of time and shapes you to become a good problem solver.

Try Solving Rubik’s Cube and Crossword Puzzle
Rubik’s cube and crosswords are mental stimulating puzzles that can surely boost your IQ level. The puzzles improve your memory level and help to maintain short-term memory and concentration power. These activities are proved to ward off dementia that usually occur at an old age. Scientific studies reveal that mind stimulating and challenging exercises such as solving crosswords, Rubik’s cube, etc., generates new cells and keeps neutrons alive for a longer period of time in our body. Apart from improving your IQ level, solving these puzzles can be a good pass time activity also. Solving crossword puzzles can improve your general knowledge as well.

Eat Nutritious Food
It is a scientific fact that continuous and regular consumption of junk food causes damage to the brain cells, so avoid such food items. Eat food that is rich in vitamins such as citrus fruits, green vegetables, walnuts, etc. It has also been proven that inositol improves mental concentration and increases physical activity.

Techniques Used to Increase IQ

Now that we have gone through some tips to raise IQ levels, let’s glance through a couple of techniques to help you enhance your IQ.

by Suganya Sukamar.

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Maths, English are ‘killer subjects’

Sunday, March 25th, 2012

KOTA KINABALU: English and Mathematics are killer subjects among students in the rural areas, according to Assistant Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Bolkiah Ismail, especially in Pitas and other nearby districts.

Referring to a research conducted by researchers from Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) last year, he said only about 40 to 50 per cent of students passed in the subjects yearly.

He described this as a very serious problem in the education system as students would not be able to compete at the higher level.

“According to the research, the shortage of qualified teachers is one of reasons why English and Mathematics have been identified as killer subjects.

“Apart from that, most parents in rural areas had no proper English education and they don’t make English conversation as culture at home,” said Bolkiah when launching the closing of Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) English Tuition 2011 sponsored by CIMB Foundation with cooperation of State Education Department and the department’s women association (Pewanis) at Sekolah Kebangsaan (SK) Sri Gaya near here yesterday.

He said the CIMB Foundation, as a non-profit organisation which was set up to implement CIMB Group’s corporate social responsibility and philanthropic initiatives has done its part successfully in promoting the importance of English to the students in rural areas.

Last year, the CIMB Foundation allocated a total of RM135,360 for the particular programme to assist 720 students from 60 schools in Kota Kinabalu, Kota Belud, Ranau and Tuaran to obtain Grade A in their English subject.

The programme had assisted 129 students to obtain Grade A, 275 with Grade B and 245 with Grade C.

State Education Director Datuk Dr Haji Muhiddin Yusin said the Education Department welcomed any non-profit organisations to work closely with them in improving educational standard especially in English and Mathematics in Sabah particularly in the rural areas.

“Having problem with English and Mathematics in examinations is not only in Pitas but also in other districts, namely Kudat, Kota Marudu, Telupid, Kinabatangan and many other districts in the interior. We have shortage of English teachers problem.

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Thinking out of the box

Sunday, March 25th, 2012

Examiners should allow students to think and answer questions in an unconventional way instead of expecting them to stick to techniques that they have deemed correct.

ALTHOUGH Dilla never fails to reassure me of her inherent non-confrontational, ‘let sleeping dogs lie’ approach to life, over the years, I have learnt that nothing could be further from the truth at least as far as Dilla’s so-called ‘peace-loving’ attributes are concerned.

So when she called last week asking if she could come over to discuss some “exam” related stuff, my internal radar picked up weird, crackling signals, which in retrospect I really should have paid more attention to.

I had hardly finished mumbling a faint “Yes, well … see you”, when she was at the doorstep with a folder-bag bulging with bundles of students’ examination scripts.

After informing me that my living room curtains didn’t match my cushion covers, she settled down comfortably on my sofa and whipped out a creased and crumpled sheet of paper scattered with red ink marks.

“In the Midst of Hardship,” she said in true Academy Award announcement fashion. “ Latiff Mohidin”

“Is this where I applaud?” I asked her, but Dilla was not amused.

I knew she was referring to the poem In the Midst of Hardship, by Latiff Mohidin which was part of the literature component of the English language subject for Malaysian upper secondary school students.

The poem was about villagers returning home after an arduous but unsuccessful all day-all night search for a missing buffalo. It portrayed also their acceptance of life’s adversities with equanimity and a spirit of stoicism. The following are the first few lines of the poem:

At dawn they returned home

their soaky clothes torn

and approached the stove

“Section C, question 1,” said Dilla, clearing her throat. “And do take note of the correct answer in the marking scheme. Why did the people in the poem approach the stove?”

I must have appeared a little doubtful, so she thrust the paper into my hands.

“Here read it yourself. This is a “one mark” question. Defined as lower-order question. Ever heard of Bloom? Lower order, higher order thinking skills?”

“Ok,” I said, trying very hard to recall what I could of the different thinking skills in the taxonomy.

At that moment Bloom seemed to me very far away in another country.

“So they approached the stove,” Dilla went on, in a serious tone.

“They were drenched in flood water, wet, cold, hungry, probably disappointed even if they didn’t show it, and a whole host of things. So why did they approach the stove?”

by Mallika Vasugi.

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Where are we heading in research?

Sunday, March 25th, 2012

HIGHER Education Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin recently said that the number of Science stream students dropped by 29% since 2007 and the trend continues even at university. But it is only with Science that we can progress as a nation.

Hence we need to do something more in manner and in matter to push our nation into science and research. The United States and the United Kingdom (UK) are ahead of us as they produce more research papers than the rest of the world.

In the same vein, history has taught us that the West developed much faster than the East in the later centuries partly due to their research.

Learning from this, China strategised in such a way that in 2006, the country had 1.5 million graduates in Science and Engineering.

In this scenario where does Malaysia stand? It looks like we are lagging behind both in the Asean region and globally. Over the last decade, Singapore produced some 85,000 research papers, Thailand 49,000 while Malaysia managed 44,000.

All academics know that the true quality of research is measured by the number of citations per paper.

Citation is a form of recognition by a scientist of his or her fellow scientist’s good work. Overall, Switzerland is ranked first in the world with a rating of 20 citations per document while Malaysia is ranked at 40.

But why are we still behind despite having 20 public universities and around 600 higher learning institutions (private universities, university colleges, foreign university branch campuses, community colleges and polytechnics)?

To increase the citations of our documents, education entities of the nation have to work in unison. Granted, size does not favour us with luxury of populace as it has India and Indonesia. Hence to make good in a small country we have to work together at all levels.

Competition can be instrumental for pushing standards but unhealthy competition can be ruinous. In this light, our institutions of higher learning have to adopt a reasonable give-and-take approach to work much more closely with each other; and reduce competition among individual academics and universities.

There is a good intention in branding the universities: Apex Universities, Research Universities or non-Research Universities but there also lies hidden competition, feelings of superiority and inferiority, scepticism and cynicism which would spurn collaboration.

Competition also occurs in the rush to be amongst the top in university ranking. Likewise, competition also arises even within a university: among faculties, academics, and so forth.

There are academics writing research as they are pushed to only to fulfil a KPI (Key Performance Indicator). Publishing in this manner may affect quality. These competitions may have derailed academics into a quagmire of a struggle which, in the long run, other than affecting the body of knowledge, could also hold up the development of the nation.

by Dr. Megawati Omar and Dr. Abu Bakar Abu Majeed.

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Common mistakes

Sunday, March 25th, 2012

There are some common errors that English language speakers make both in speaking and in writing.

Gaining confidence and competence in the English language takes persistence and perseverance but the outcome is extremely worthwhile. In today’s global society, English is the additional language path to pursue as it can open a myriad of “doors” for any person who is a superior communicator in what is now the International Language of Communication.

An educator who was working in the jungles of Cambodia, related at a seminar of how teenagers at orphanages in the country had “no value” in the village.

However, once they learnt English, they were in demand — the Government, the military, and even the tourism, timber, mining and hospitality industries were to keen to employ them.

Once an orphan learnt English, he or she was raised and treated with importance, sometimes given the respect of a village chieftain.

Common Grammatical Speech Errors

·Alternate — alternative

The word, alternate, is commonly used as both an adjective and a verb form to mean “arranged to follow one after the other”, i.e. “in succession”.

e.g. The Council by-laws require residents with odd and even numbered addresses to water their gardens on alternate days.(Adj).

When alternate is used as a verb form, the pronunciation changes by stressing the first syllable instead of the second one – The word, alternative, is used as either an adjective or as a noun and usually means “a choice between two or more options or things”.

e.g. Rather than retreat, the general’s alternative strategy was to call for more reinforcements.

·Among — between

When there are two people or things, between is used. When there are more than two, among is used.

e.g. Stand between those two marble columns. Sitting among the audience was a clown. (See illustration below.)

Memory jogger: “Both between and two have tw.”

It is a common error to use “between” for more than “two”.

It is incorrect to say:The referee rushed between all the football players as they began to fight. (among).

·Amount — number

The word, amount, is usually used for a quantity or volume that cannot be counted or measured precisely, while number refers to a quantity that can be counted.

e.g. No amount of money can compensate for the suffering she has experienced. There have been a number of accidents at that new intersection.

by Keith Wright, the author and creator of the 4S Approach To Literacy and Language (4S).

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Effective leadership

Sunday, March 25th, 2012

There are strengths and weaknesses that one needs to to identify and work on, in order to be a good leader.

I ended my previous article on “leadership” with a quote from the Chinese sage Laozi. I would like to start this article on leadership with a quote from the Chinese sage Laozi.

Knowing others is intelligence;

Knowing yourself is true wisdom;

Mastering others is strength;

Mastering yourself is true power”

SELF AWARENESS is fundamental to achieving that “true wisdom” and “true power” which are the hallmarks of effective leadership.

Knowing your capabilities and preferences will help you leverage strengths to compensate for weaknesses and seek opportunities to improve, reduce or bypass those tasks which come hard in one of the three broad leadership “dimensions”.

These “dimensions” are: the “autocratic”, “participative” and “laissez-faire” (free rein). Each suits a different business and/or wider environmental challenge, with the most successful and long-term default dimension being the “participative”.

The “autocratic” style, I suggested, was most effective in crisis; and the “laissez-faire” better for smaller organisations of mature, experienced experts fully signed up to collective goals.

Being able to communicate persuasively — through words and actions — a rationale for your leadership style and your vision for the long-term, collectively beneficial success of the organisation is critical.

A management tool called the “Johari window” is a useful way of exploring strengths and weaknesses. A square is divided into quadrants called “open”,” hidden”, “blind” and “unknown”.

The “open” top left hand quadrant contains characteristics and qualities like life-style, attitudes, behaviour, motivation that you are aware of and share openly with others.

The “hidden” bottom left quadrant has things like priorities, values and your decision-making style known mainly to you.

The “blind” top right quadrant contains attributes you are not aware of but which others see.

Finally, the bottom right hand “unknown” square is blank: “full” of potential, of maybes, good and bad, waiting to be actualised but currently unconscious.

by Alex Cummins.

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Standardized Testing

Saturday, March 24th, 2012

High school students take the first-ever National Merit Scholarship Program exam


Throughout the U.S., students are getting out their No. 2 pencils, ready to endure a stress-packed four hours of bubbling in answers in the Dec. 12 administration of the ACT. Some 1.5 million students are expected to take the test this school year. Standardized tests have been a scourge of student life in America for more than 50 years, but it’s fair to say they’re more pressure-packed and ubiquitous than ever before. The ACT and its counterpart, the SAT, have become one of the largest determining factors in the college-admissions process, particularly for élite schools. At least this year’s applicants should be familiar with the format by now: students in the U.S. are taking more standardized tests than ever before, and at ages long before college beckons. (See pictures of the evolution of the college dorm.)

The earliest record of standardized testing comes from China, where hopefuls for government jobs had to fill out examinations testing their knowledge of Confucian philosophy and poetry. In the Western world, examiners usually favored giving essays, a tradition stemming from the ancient Greeks’ affinity for the Socratic method. But as the Industrial Revolution (and the progressive movement of the early 1800s that followed) took school-age kids out of the farms and factories and put them behind desks, standardized examinations emerged as an easy way to test large numbers of students quickly.

In 1905 French psychologist Alfred Binet began developing a standardized test of intelligence, work that would eventually be incorporated into a version of the modern IQ test, dubbed the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Test. By World War I, standardized testing was standard practice: aptitude quizzes called Army Mental Tests were conducted to assign U.S. servicemen jobs during the war effort. But grading was at first done manually, an arduous task that undermined standardized testing’s goal of speedy mass assessment. It would take until 1936 to develop the first automatic test scanner, a rudimentary computer called the IBM 805. It used electrical current to detect marks made by special pencils on tests, giving rise to the now ubiquitous bubbling-in of answers. (Modern optical scanners opt to use simple No. 2 pencils, as their darker lead is most scanner-friendly.)

The SAT and the ACT are by far the most famous standardized tests today. The SAT came first, founded in 1926 as the Scholastic Aptitude Test by the College Board, a nonprofit group of universities and other educational organizations. The original test lasted 90 minutes and consisted of 315 questions testing knowledge of vocabulary and basic math and even including an early iteration of the famed fill-in-the-blank analogies (e.g., blue:sky::____:grass). The test grew and by 1930 assumed its now familiar form, with separate verbal and math tests. By the end of World War II, the test was accepted by enough universities that it became a standard rite of passage for college-bound high school seniors. It remained largely unchanged (save the occasional tweak) until 2005, when the analogies were done away with and a writing section was added. (That section is graded separately from the verbal test, boosting the elusive perfect SAT score from 1600 to 2400.) (See more about the SAT revisions.)

by Dan Fletcher.

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Study: Parents Are Terrible Financial Role Models

Saturday, March 24th, 2012


Getty Images

Talking to your kids about money shouldn’t be so difficult. They are generally eager to understand what it takes to earn and save, and how to set and achieve money goals. Yet parents are more comfortable discussing bullying and drugs than spending and saving, a new study shows.

That’s not all that surprising because many parents do not feel qualified to hand out financial advise, even to children. Which is a shame because no matter how little you think you know or no matter how much trouble you’ve had with debt and saving for retirement, your experience gives you practical knowledge that would benefit young people—even if the example is a negative one. But you have to have the talk for the lessons to take root.

(MORE: Why America’s Rebound is Slow, Spotty and Anemic)

The kids won’t question your authority. In the Parents, Kids and Money survey from mutual fund company T. Rowe Price, children ages eight to 14 gave their parents a B-plus as financial role models. That’s a way higher grade than Mom and Dad deserve. Only half of parents regularly set aside money to save; only 43% set financial goals; and only 24% take specific steps to diversify their investments, according to the study. That’s hardly role model material.

Most parents (77%) say they are not always honest with their kids about money; 15% lie weekly. Half are willing to discuss saving and spending issues but almost no one talks about tougher concepts like inflation (19%), investing (16%), diversification (11%), and asset allocation (8%). A third avoid talking about the family’s finances altogether.

(MORE: Would You Bank With Apple?)

A lot of parents are in downright despair: 59% believe it is more likely that life exists on other planets than that Social Security will be around in its current form when their kids retire or that their children will become millionaires. All the more reason to open the money discussion with them. Stuart Ritter, a T. Rowe Price senior financial planner who specializes in kids and money issues, offers five strategies:

  • Take advantage of teachable moments Trips to the grocery store, attending a sporting event, getting money from the ATM, and planning family vacations are just a few examples of opportunities to discuss financial choices and lessons.
  • Set an example Demonstrate good financial habits through your own behavior. Try to avoid impulse spending and pay your credit cards in full each month.
  • Set specific savings goals Help your kids set short- and long-term goals that provide an incentive to save. This will also help them make smarter spending decisions.
  • Don’t be afraid to talk about money

by Dan Kadlec.

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Teaching youth real meaning of volunteerism

Saturday, March 24th, 2012

Promoting true grit: It may be offered by varsities as an elective course, says foundation chairman.

KUALA LUMPUR: BEING a volunteer is not all about going to a flood-hit area and posting photographs on one’s Facebook  account as proof.

Volunteer Student Foundation chairman Datuk Zuraidah Atan said the true spirit of volunteerism was about displaying grit and sincerity in helping others in times of need.

She said the foundation, launched by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak on Wednesday, was aimed at inspiring the youth to serve the community by joining its Youth Peace Corps.

“It is important to teach them about being selfless as many do not really understand the real meaning of volunteerism.”

She said the foundation planned to draw its membership from the large pool of students from higher learning institutions.

“We are working with these learning institutions in order to gain more support for the movement.

“We are discussing with the universities the idea of introducing volunteerism as an elective course.”

Although local universities often had their own volunteer programmes, she said the foundation would assist the institutions in its role as the apex body.

by Yiswaree Palansamy.

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