A Student’s Guide to Nobel Explorer Badges

Hello, Nobel Explorers! You might have noticed some badges starting to pop up on your profiles. In case you wondered what they were and what they mean, check out this guide that will provide you with all the answers and explain just why are they’re so important.

Most of the Nobel Explorer badges are based on the World Economic Forum’s top 10 list of skills to have in 2020. These skills are supposed to make sure your future careers skyrocket and we’ve divided them into seven categories:

    1. Teamwork
    2. Complex Problem-Solving
    3. Creativity
    4. Critical Thinking
    5. Judgment and Decision-Making
    6. Handling Differences In Opinion
    7. Time Management

Teamwork

Heads-up Honcho

Student uses verbal and nonverbal cues to express active listening.

Showing that you’re not only paying attention to what’s being said but that you’re an active part of the conversation is a skill that is a vital aspect of teamwork. It conveys interest in what’s being said and helps you stay involved throughout the discussion.


Cordial Cruiser

Student is familiar with everyone’s names and roles

Getting friendly with everyone and remembering their names and roles is common courtesy 101. Furthermore, it’s important because it helps build cohesion, facilitates communication, and saves us from being on the receiving end of one or two facepalms when we’re trying to address each other in a group setting.


Focus Follower

Student is able to maintain focus throughout the meeting.

Sooner or later during a discussion, you’re going to get the chance to pitch in. When that happens, you need to be ready. Maintaining focus throughout a session will allow you to contribute to the conversation in a relevant and meaningful manner.


Vocal Explorer

Student lets teammates know if he/she understands them or not.

When someone is addressing you directly, it’s important to convey whether or not you’re able to follow their train of thought. If you are, then you’ll be encouraging them, but if you’re not, then they’ll need to know in order to adapt their presentation accordingly. In good teamwork, misunderstandings are dealt with immediately so that everyone can keep up.


Wordy Whiz

Student lets teammates know when he/she is done sharing.

As a rule, it’s good to end your sentences with a signal cue that would let others know that it’s time for them to pitch in. If this becomes a habit, it will encourage everyone else to listen for that cue and not jump in while the speaker is in the middle of a sentence or simply not finished speaking.


Savvy Scout

Student understands the difference between facts and opinions, and is able to qualify statements accordingly.

When opinions are misconstrued as facts and vice versa, the whole conversation can be derailed. Opinions are very useful in driving things forward, but facts have much higher validity and are what provides any scientific discussion with structure. That is why it’s important to highlight your statements and qualify them as either fact supported by evidence or as an opinion which doesn’t have to be.


Funky Flowmaster

Student openly asks clarifying questions about things that he/she doesn’t understand.

People are often afraid that they’ll ask the wrong question and they fear how others will react. Not asking questions when necessary will always be much worse, because a topic which isn’t well understood can be of consequence for everyone in the group. It’s often the case that an unasked question at one point has a tendency to turn into 10 new questions later.


Sharing Seeker

Student encourages his/her teammates to share ideas.

Ideas trigger other ideas. Not all of them are bound to be great, but even they can inspire others to think of better ones. By encouraging others to share theirs, we are making a proper context for learning. When we express and discuss ideas freely, we can analyze, adjust, and transform them into better ones, and everyone gets to learn something in the process.


Choosy Checker

Student checks to ensure the rest of the group is able to follow and understand him/her.

When speaking about a subject, it’s important to let people show you that they’re listening and whether or not they understand what’s being said. By doing so, you’re encouraging others to show that they are actively listening and allowing them the opportunity to get their Heads-Up Honcho or Vocal Explorer badges!


Mobile Missionaire

Student makes project feedback easily accessible to everyone by using Google Sheets.

Feedback needs to be recorded in a transparent manner so that everyone has a clear overview of the topic under discussion. Google Sheets are a great tool that everyone has access to and it provides a setting for driving the discussion further via chat and by leaving comments.


Group Guardian

Student asks for feedback on his/her ideas and work.

Feedback is the most important step in learning. Without it, we would never truly be able to know if what we’re doing makes sense or not. People often confuse feedback with criticism because each has the same component of essentially telling someone what was wrong about their work or actions. The difference is in the intention and the constructive suggestions that accompany feedback. This should not frighten a Nobel Explorer!


Proper Player

Student helps others learn and grow by providing them with constructive feedback.

This just means that giving and receiving feedback require a certain level of skill! Sharing direct information in a kind, yet encouraging manner is something that needs to be mastered but it’s also the most valuable asset in a teamworker’s toolkit.

Complex Problem-Solving

Discourse Driver

Student stays focused on the driving question throughout the discussion.

During a discussion, it’s easy for people to get more or less off track. This doesn’t mean that the topic emerging is not worth discussing, but rather that the main agenda needs to remain the focal point. The key is being able to recognize when the conversation is drifting and to act quickly to readdress the driving question.


Wandering Wonderer

Student uses WH- questions to understand the problem better and come up with appropriate ways for solving it.

Using questions that begin with who, what, when, where, and how is a powerful tool for getting familiar with all aspects of a specific challenge. These five types of questions will provide you with all the information you need and provide a better vantage point before tackling the issue.


Solution Finder

Student is able to come up with a quick fix for the problem at hand.

Coming up with quick-fix solutions isn’t applicable to all situations, but when it is, it can be quite rewarding for the entire team. Now all the time that would usually be spent on a lengthy discussion can be directed towards solving the more difficult challenges.


Mindful Mapper

Student utilizes mind maps to better understand different ideas and how they are connected to the central concept.

When presenting everyone with a complex topic, mind maps are a great way of making sure everyone understands the central concept and how exactly all relevant ideas are connected to it. If prepared correctly, everyone will be able to better understand the topic at hand and it will save the team from having to go over lots of different questions.

Creativity

Smart Spotter

Student records ideas about the project in their alone time.

Many of the greatest minds have made their famous scientific breakthroughs outside of their laboratories and offices while performing common everyday tasks and activities. When inspiration strikes and an idea about solving an issue raised in class emerges, writing it down so that you can discuss it at the next meeting is the proper way to go.


Buddy Brainiac

Student applies brainstorming to generate ideas.

Brainstorming is a useful tool to have at your disposal when a challenge requires a particularly creative resolution. The greater the number of different ideas, the wider the choice for reaching a better solution.

Critical Thinking

Early Examiner

Student dives deeper into the subject by using open-ended and follow-up questions.

Being thorough in the opening stages of resolving an issue can do wonders for the team in terms of time-saving and error-prevention. By asking questions that drive the discussion deeper, you will be establishing a firm base for upcoming areas of discussion and everyone will have a much clearer picture of the challenge at hand.


Thorough Thinker

Student spots the pros and cons of different ideas and solutions.

Getting to know both sides of the coin contributes to developing a full, unbiased picture of a subject or an idea that’s being discussed. When we take the good with the bad and vice versa, we’re creating the conditions for rational decision-making and properly informed judgment.

Judgment and Decision-Making

Smoother Solver

Student uses checklists to stay on top of his/her work.

Making a list of our assignments is an essential first step towards a job well done. Using checklists allows us to have a clear overview of our activity-schedule and keeps us from overlooking some important tasks.

Handling Differences In Opinion

Wise Observer

Student confirms if the team really has a disagreement on a specific topic.

If we’re not able to comprehend the opinions of people on the other side of the argument, we tend to misconstrue them, which only creates an illusion of a disagreement. The better you understand the topic, the more chance you have of figuring out if the team is actually on the same page or not.


Conflict Chronicler

Student is capable of getting to the bottom of a disagreement.

When engaged in a disagreement with your fellow Explorers, you need to focus on uncovering the roots of your conflict. Focusing on issues that appear on the surface would be the equivalent of a doctor treating symptoms and not the disease.


Roaming Runner

Student is able to identify if a problem should be resolved immediately or left for another day.

It’s usually a good thing to want to resolve issues the second you spot them. However, sometimes you’ll be trying to tackle several challenges at the same time, and you need to know how to prioritize them, focus on the ones that are most urgent as well as most important, and leave the rest for another time.

Time Management

Captain Prompt

Student shows up for meetings on time.

Attending meetings at the scheduled time is crucial for productivity but also a sign of respect to your fellow Explorers and their time.


Smooth Sailor

Student can identify tasks and organize them into a to-do list.

Creating to-do lists is a sure-fire way of increasing productivity even before the “real” work starts. Once you’ve understood your assignments, remember to organize them, create a list, and enjoy that little rush you get when you start checking them off!


Blake Timely

Student sets reminders for deadlines and important dates.

We’re usually so confident in our abilities that we don’t care about taking additional precautions in order to avoid any mistakes that might happen. Setting a reminder for an upcoming big event, meeting, or a deadline, takes minimal work but it’s also shown to be a proven insurance policy.


Tickling Traveler

Student can break down a job into smaller tasks and submit them on time.

You need to take responsibility for your assignments and an important aspect of that is being able to break them down into smaller components you can handle more easily and perform on time. Having these skills can also help your team’s overall planning process because you’ll be able to make better time assessments and design your deadlines accordingly.

Hey there!

You made it all the way to through! We don’t have a badge for this though, but a heartful “Great Job” should work just fine! Now that you’re all caught up with how the badge system works, it’s time to go out there and get as many as you can!

Have a look at some of our projects you can become a part of!

Become a Nobel Explorer Today!

Prepare yourself for the jobs of the future and

open up a world of amazing career opportunities!

6 Fields Where Coding Comes in Handy

Today’s society keeps on raving about the importance of coding. “It’s the future!”, they insist, but you rarely hear why it’s the future or what kind of job it’s preparing you for. Sure, you’re sitting at a computer and writing code – but what for?

That’s where we come in! We’d like to help everyone interested in coding learn about all the different areas in which coding can come in handy. If you’ve ever asked yourself, “How is coding even useful to me or anyone else and what can I do with it besides sit and type?”, this article is for you!

1. It’s All About the Design

Have you ever visited a website that was just a plain background with text on it? You weren’t really in awe of it and didn’t want to go back there unless you had to, right? To stop that from happening to your website – or some other you may simply be working on – you can use the magic (and science) of web design.

Any website, whether it be a cooking blog or Facebook itself, needs good design in order to be attractive – and highly functional – for its visitors. This is where coding meets art – you can combine and create endless versions of a single website until you’ve found the one that works and looks best.

If this is something your child might be interested in learning, enroll them in our online mini-project, “Coding & Web Design”. In only a week, they will learn how to build the entire website from scratch. They’ll be working in an international team from the comfort of their home, while creating a website that will go live at the end of the project!

2. Make Our Lives Easier with Robotics

You might have guessed this one already. The field of robotics would be impossible without the art of coding. Yes, I said art. Because, even though coding is a very exact science, if you find a fulfilling project in a field that interests you, you’re bound to become an artist. You need to always be coming up with creative ideas in order to make something that has not been done before – work. Today, we may think that inventing a phone is pure science, but Alexander Graham Bell probably thought of it in different terms.

Trial and error, and the joy of seeing your robot friend move and respond exactly the way you wanted it to once you get the code right – can you imagine anything better? Just take a look at what has already been accomplished in this field thanks to coding and the brilliant minds behind it:

3. Teach Artificial Intelligence to Think

Have you ever chatted with Cleverbot? Or Siri? Or Cortana? Those are all AI’sartificial intelligence programs. They are able to learn based on your answers, much like a child would when they are just starting to talk and ask questions.

However, they are still very basic in what they do – but AGI’s (Artificial General intelligences) are not. They are capable of what is referred to as deep learning and they are able to pass the coffee test. This is not a joke, I promise – it’s an interesting, yet very telling way of making sure your AGI is functioning at a human level.

4. Send People into Space

Yes, astronomy. NASA would have gone bankrupt decades ago if it didn’t have some of the brightest programmers in history working on its projects. Margaret Hamilton is one of them. She is a brilliant programmer, who created the software that put the first man on the Moon. [1] When Apollo 11 was reporting problems, her code was what made it possible for the Moon landing to happen. The software for this mission had thousands of lines of code – but don’t let that scare you! Margaret also had 400 people helping her with the software design, so she was never alone in it. [1]

Imagine being able to say one day that your code was the one that helped invent traveling through hyperspace! Why not? Once upon a time people thought that going to the Moon was impossible, too.

5. Help Psychologists with Their Numbers

This one might sound the weirdest of all. Aren’t psychologists supposed to be talking to people? They are, and they do! But to learn how best to help people, they need to have data that tells them what people are usually troubled by. The way they can do that is through giving them tests. However, they don’t just count the answers in their heads in order to acquire data – they mostly use a program called SPSS. SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences) is like a very cool Excel for psychologists; it contains all the necessary formulae for the types of measurements they need.

Not only did someone need to code that entire program, but from time to time, you need to be entering your own code into it to make it do exactly what you want it to. Who knew even social sciences relied on coding?

6. Learn All About the Human Code

Let’s finish this list with another surprising field. Biology is the science that studies living beings – which, as far as we know, do not have any code inside of them… Or do they? We are all, essentially, all made up of code. For example, our DNA consists of four nucleobases – adenine, cytosine, guanine, thymine, and uracil. These five little things are what makes you – you. They are at the basis of your genetic code. And that’s just the beginning! We are made up of millions upon millions of microscopic parts. Each of them is different from the other, and biologists keep finding out new ways in which they affect us.

In order to be sure of what they’ve discovered, they need to run tests. They used to use Excel sheets to help them look at data and come up with results. But looking manually through 15,000 data points is not only exhausting, but impossible as well – at least if we’re to eliminate any chance of making a mistake. [2] That’s where coding comes in: it helps biologists organize their data, go through different variations and simulations, and eventually gives them the result they were searching for so they can continue doing their amazing work. [2]

We hope this list (that can certainly be even longer) convinced you that whatever it is you wish to do in life, coding can be a great addition to it. If you’re interested in helping yourself or your child start learning, check out our upcoming projects.

References:

1. https://www.thevintagenews.com/2017/12/04/margaret-hamilton/

2. https://www.wired.com/2017/03/biologists-teaching-code-survive/

The Importance of STEM Education

STEM –  Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics  – is the field that helps children learn how to program, make codes, and understand technological devices. We at Nobel Explorers focus on these STEM activities in our projects.

Why the focus at NE and in today’s world in general on STEM, and why has it become so universally discussed?  Here we’ll list the most important reasons why STEM is so valuable and why STEM education for children should be in the forefront of the learning process.


We need more people in STEM

Statistics tell us there are currently more than a million job vacancies in the STEM industry, while at the same time only 16% of college students graduate in STEM fields or subjects [2].

Demand for STEM jobs increased three times between 2000 and 2010, and continues to grow [4], with many new fields and professions emerging each day. With advances in artificial intelligence, millions of jobs are now vacant [5]. So clearly, STEM is the key to the careers of the future and it needs many more participants.

But it must be noted that there is more to IT professions than just computer science and data mining. In this competitive labor market, people who know math and science have better employment chances – for example, this knowledge and skill set are necessary to win IT positions in Silicon Valley [1]. That is why we should not undervalue math or science and only focus on technology or engineering. We need to learn all STEM fields together and see them as equally important.


We need to better prepare children for college – and for the STEM field in general

Research show horrifying statistics – 78% of high-school graduates have been proven unprepared for college courses, including courses in mathematics, science, reading, and English [4].

Better STEM education before the college level will encourage students to enroll in these courses there, and perhaps decide to pursue a career in related fields. Moreover, they’ll be more confident about their studies in general and far less likely to drop out.

Keep in mind that there are some non-degree STEM jobs – pharmacy technicians, veterinary assistants, computer support specialists, registered nurse, air traffic controller, etc. The focus should not only be on students who plan on getting a Bachelor’s degree in STEM. It should be on all students who are interested in STEM and might pursue a career in it. [7]


STEM is vital for non-STEM jobs as well

We must remember that STEM education also reaches beyond the classroom and although it doesn’t necessarily mean someone will end up in a STEM-related profession, scientific, technological, and mathematical knowledge is integral in today’s world to many different careers, such as journalism, museum curation, and community outreach [3].

Every job includes a financial aspect – math education can help in this. We live more and more in the digital age, so technology is important in all jobs. Even if you end up in humanities and the arts, computer skills are something you should be familiar with.


STEM is vital to understanding the basics of the environment

Yet we don’t only need STEM in our careers. So much of STEM-related knowledge can help us learn about our environment and society. In today’s world, we can understand more phenomena if we understand STEM – from the weather to technology and electricity, even to politics [3].

So, a good STEM education is not just vital for tomorrow’s Ph.D. candidates in biology or Nobel prize winners. It is vital for everyone who wants to understand the world they live in.

Making everyone mathematically and technologically literate is the goal of technology and engineering education and is why it is being addressed not only at the state level but nationally as well [5]. Teachers should never focus solely on those who have prospects to “succeed” in the STEM field and who are gifted. Their goal should be to make all children technologically and mathematically literate [6].

Minorities are underrepresented

Not only do we have a lack of women in the STEM field, but numbers prove all minorities are underrepresented. There are just 2.2% of Latinos, 2.7% of African Americans, and 3.3% of Native Americans earning a college degree in STEM fields [4].

The fact that these minorities are not enrolling in STEM courses in college means they will have difficulty qualifying for STEM-related jobs. They will not be eligible for good positions and well-paying employment. If we continue to work on universal STEM education and provide a welcoming environment for all minorities, we will be enabling them to qualify for higher-ranking, well-paying jobs [4].

SCIENCE is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge. Its goal is to find out how the world works, to seek what regularities there may be, to penetrate to the connections of things—from subnuclear particles, which may be the constituents of all matter, to living organisms, the human social community, and thence to the cosmos as a whole.” – Carl Sagan


STEM sparks general creativity

Studying STEM-related subjects can broaden the horizons of the mind. If you learn to think in a scientific way, you will learn the techniques of trial and error. The key is solving problems creatively, of questioning things, seeking the truth, and always be eager to explore more about how things work. Children should learn these things.  That is why children should study science and its way of thinking.

In order to be a good scientist, you need to be creative and imaginative. And while the arts and imagination are often set aside as not that important for children, it is a great thing to know that by learning STEM, a child also practices these aspects of their thinking [6].

Good STEM education must not be boring, simplistic, and focused only on the pure facts of mathematics or science. It should be multidisciplinary, incorporating other skills and geared towards all children, so they can learn and enjoy.

[1] https://www.datanami.com/2018/09/17/improving-your-odds-with-data-science-hiring/
[2] https://coderacademy.edu.au/blog/people/why-is-STEM-education-important
[3] Neal, Homer A, Smith, Tobin L. and McCormick, Jennifer B. 2011. Beyond SPUTNIK – U.S. Science Policy in the Twenty-First Century. The University of Michigan Press: Michigan.
[4] https://ssec.si.edu/stem-imperative
[5] https://www.theverge.com/2017/12/5/16737224/global-ai-talent-shortfall-tencent-report
[6] Chesky, Nataly Z. and Wolfmeyer, Mark R. 2015. Philosophy of STEM Education: A Critical Investigation. Palgrave MacMillan: New York.
[7] https://stemjobs.com/dont-require-a-bachelors-degree/

Benefits of communication on the learning process

Communication with others is an essential part of every aspect of our entire life experienceour development, our personal lives, and in education. That’s why it’s important to teach children from an early age to communicate well, and for all of us to practice communicating with each other more effectively.

In this article, we’ll explore some of the ways in which the communication process – personal and professional – can affect our learning and teaching processes. Teaching is, at its core, communication, so building good soft skills is vital to the transfer of knowledge. Learning, on the other hand, involves listening and accepting information well.

What is communication?

In order to understand how to attain the most effective communication in the learning and teaching process, we’ll first explore the meaning of communication itself. We’ll do so using the simplified model and terms of Claude Shannon [1].

Scheme showing communication process explained in the text.

In the picture, we see a few components. The first one is the Sender, aka the information source – the person sending the message. If you’re the one teaching, you are the one sending the message and this is you.

The second one is the Channel. This is the physical system that is sending the signal or the message. What are you using to send the information? A picture or a film? A presentation? Are you talking and using body language? These mediums of communication are your channel, and you should use the best ones possible to transfer the information.

The Destination is the person receiving the message – student, child, partner. That is the one being taught (student) or the one in the process of learning. It is in the mutual interest of everyone involved in the process to get the best message possible.

Noise is the element which interferes with the communication, be it on the physical or psychological level. Noise impacts the message – changing it or erasing it. If you’re using video for teaching, maybe the quality isn’t the best, so the student’s learning process has been negatively impacted.

Maybe the student is from a different background and will translate the message into something different than the Sender intended. For example, in the field of STEM studies, stereotypes are the noise which distracts women from becoming involved in STEM careers.

Finally, Feedback is the process the communicators use to make sure the messages sent and received are as close in meaning to each other as is possible.

What communication means in the learning process

Whether you’re a teacher, an educator, or a parent helping your child with homework, your most important communication skill is the manner in which you present the material. For the child to understand and process a topic, it needs to be presented in an orderly fashion at a moderate pace. This gives the child time to hear and comprehend the material as it’s presented.

It’s important to remember is that communication is not only talking. Optimal communication always uses both verbal and visual communication tools. We don’t only mean using pictures and videos in class – although, this is always a good way to get the message across – but also non-verbal communication.

Your body language is a language in itself. The more dynamic it is, the better the effect. It’s been proven that educators who walk around and talk, and not just sit and read from the text, get better feedback from students. The best option is to combine dynamic, non-verbal presentation with expressive speech patterns, using repetition and emphasis in one’s voice to make important concepts stand out.

The key is finding the best possible way to communicate the message you want to get across. You’ll know if you’re doing a good job by getting feedback – it can be from the child themselves so the sender is confident they understood the message, or it can be from someone from outside, whom you asked to monitor your presentation and give you tips [2].

Effective communication in the learning environment

In order to have the message transmitted in the way you intended, you have to learn the most effective method of communication. This is a skill that can be learned and improved upon over time, and there are a few steps you can follow in order to practice and master it. In the teaching process, it’s incredibly important to send the message in the most effective and accurate way possible.

So, what counts as effective communication in the learning environment? No matter if it’s educator-student communication or communication between two students working on a project, what is needed for effective communication is the same [4]:

Illustration of a green compass.Listening to others – In order for a two-way conversation to happen, one party must listen to what others have to say, processing information and understanding it

Illustration of a green compass.Maintaining eye contact with speakers – Eye contact not only helps to keep focus and heighten the feeling of personal conversation, but is vital for keeping the communication flow going.

Illustration of a green compass.
Seeking opinions from others – Getting feedback is one of the best ways to see if the information has really been understood in the best way possible. This is especially important if you want to see if your partner, student, or child understands the message as clearly as you intend it.

Illustration of a green compass.Accepting ideas from others – This is vital, particularly if you’re working in a group – your partner’s ideas are as important as yours. Even educators need to remember this. Your student has ideas they can offer on how to make the learning process better. Be sure to listen to them and, if their idea is a good one, accept it.

Illustration of a green compass.Clear explanations– Things should be explained in an understandable manner in every form of communication involved in the learning process.

 

Why is mindful communication so important?

As teaching is basically communication, it’s important to incorporate all aspects of the communication process (seen on the scheme above) in an environment with as little distracting noise as possible. Also, the teaching/communication process will work best when you have good general communication rapport with a child or student.

For this to happen, the child must know you’re taking them seriously and that they can also tell you what they think and need. Power dynamics should be as felt as little as possible, so the communication can be open and frank. This also helps in getting good feedback from a child, in case the message isn’t getting across well.

In her Ted Talk, Kris Prochaska explains how to have good communication with children and why it’s important. She relates her real-life experience about how giving mindless answers to children gets no results, and doesn’t benefit anyone. On the contrary, when she explained reasonably to her child the options of when to do their homework – now, or at recess with the teacher – the child herself made the decision to do the homework. In this simple example, Prochaska shows how having a good, reasonable conversation with a child can benefit their school performance [5].

Child-child communication and gains for the learning process

 

Two boys are sitting on a grass, reading one book.

Children communicating among themselves is very important for development.

Your communication as an educator is not the only communication process that the child can benefit from while learning. It’s been shown that children communicating with other children can enhance their success in school.

 

Children’s earliest communication is usually developed within the family. These first contacts become the model for the later ones they’ll pick up during their school days. It has been noted that during the preschool period, a child becomes increasingly focused on interaction with other children, learning what they say and do with more interest.

This is why, in this phase of development, children acquire their first ‘social status’ – learning how to adapt and integrate into a group. If a child has a communication problem during this stage, it’s likely they will develop an adaptation problem later on, which, naturally, will affect their personal life, as well as their education [3].

A child who is not at ease in their environment or with their friends will have a hard time focusing in school. Therefore, they will achieve less than desirable results. So, as you communicate with children, remember it’s also important for them to learn to communicate with each other as well. You might even need to give them some guidance in this area.

Developing critical thinking

Remember that when teaching a child, it is not only important to get the message across. It’s important to be there for the child generally, and help them develop many crucial life skills. That’s why understanding that collaborative learning improves critical thinking is so important [6].

Helping a child or a student develop critical thinking is one of the most useful things you can do for them. This way children can develop the skills necessary to judge on their own. They will judge about what is important, what is right or wrong, what is adequate, etc. This will help in their personal lives to judge what’s best for them and for their environment. It’s also a crucial skill to master so as to get the best out of their education. A child who can think critically can discern the important components of a text to learn, decide the best way to learn it, and accurately reproduce the knowledge they’ve gained. This is important in studying for a test, as well as later for a job or in life.

[1] https://www.businesstopia.net/communication/shannon-and-weaver-model-communication
[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1705977/
[3]  Nærland, T. and  Martinsen, H. 2011, Child–child interactions and positive social focus among preschool children. Early Child Development and Care, 181 (3): 361-370,
[4]  Hurley, E. A, Allen, B. A. and Boykin, A. W. 2009. Culture and the Interaction of Student Ethnicity with Reward Structure in Group Learning. Cognition and Instruction. 27 (2): 121-146.
[5]  How to Get Your Kids to Listen and Engage – Kris Prochaska
[6]  Gokhale, A. A.1995.  Collaborative Learning Enhances Critical Thinking. Journal of Technology Education. 7 (1): 22-31 .

STEM for girls – more than a learning process

The old stereotype of girls being bad in science, technology, engineering, and math – that area known as STEM – is, unfortunately, as alive as ever. Research proves that someone doesn’t even have to personally believe this stereotype to be negatively affected by it. Just by being a commonly held notion, it influences women’s choices and the way they judge their work. For example, even women who perform as well as men in math think they’re doing worse than they actually are, undervaluing their own efforts [1].

When it comes to school-age children, this pattern is reflected in the fact that female students underestimate their grades in math, while their male classmates overestimate theirs. This tendency will likely result in fewer girls going on to pursue math-related careers, lacking the interest, motivation, and confidence to do so [1]. They eventually start believing that they can’t compete with boys and that their male classmates are inevitably better in STEM subjects.

Other stereotypes claim the problem is the fact that, biologically, women are better with social skills, while men are naturally better in math-related fields. A study done in over 65 countries around the world, with boys and girls doing the same science test, showed that in the majority of countries girls actually scored higher than boys – but not in the United States [6].  This outcome tells us that the notion of girls not doing well in the STEM field is not a biological fact – it is a cultural idea and a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Studies also show that it’s not really that boys outdo girls when it comes to math skills, but rather that boys tend to choose more math-oriented subjects, while girls have less interest and confidence in their math abilities as they begin middle and high school [2].

This can be partly blamed on the media – it’s been proven that women will show less interest in educational and professional options after being exposed to TV commercials showing them doing stereotypical, feminine tasks [1].

Therefore, if we’re to work on having more girls in STEM, the key is not to simply teach them STEM. We should interest girls in these subjects and give them confidence in their abilities. Here are some ways to do this.

Build up their confidence

Images children have about themselves are highly significant when it comes to their achievement in school. A confident child is ready to learn, cooperate with others, and behave as a responsible individual, especially with the guidance of a teacher and counselor [5] .

Confidence is particularly vital when it comes to girls and STEM education. By convincing girls that they can do well, their performance will improve [1]. And if they’re confident about their work, they’ll naturally feel more comfortable pursuing a career in the STEM field. If girls believe they can’t be as good at math and the sciences as boys, the first step is to build up their confidence – make them feel secure enough to ask questions, to show their abilities, and not to undermine their results.

In order to pursue careers in STEM in the future, girls need to be sure they’re good at what they do and capable of changing their mindset. Be sure to help them acknowledge their abilities when they’re young and continue to remind them that they are capable, often all the way through their formal education and into adulthood.

Keep unrealistic expectations at bay

It has also been noted that when girls learn that they are better in one area than boys, they seem to feel they’re expected to be better in all of them [1]. While girls who are better in math tend to have very good verbal skills, (hence so many women choosing careers that have a social element) [2] it is important to assure girls that it’s okay to be good at one thing, and not at another, and that learning is a process that takes time. They don’t necessarily have to be good in all STEM subjects if they’re doing well in only one.

Successful STEM programs are those that encourage girls to learn from their mistakes – since they will make mistakes in a process [2]. Making sure that girls in STEM programs know it’s okay to try, to make mistakes and to explore until they find their own particular interest, is one of the keys to having successful girls in the field. Also, make sure your expectations are not over the top. Perfectionism and making unreasonably high demands will likely backfire.

 

Introduce successful role models

Having a positive role model (such as a successful woman who has a career in a math-related field) has a “liberating effect” on girls and diminishes the stereotype. The presence of a positive icon proves to girls that it’s possible to achieve success in an area that is traditionally male-oriented [1].

First, you can talk about those women who, throughout history, have excelled in science and math fields. History books and school curricula don’t place much emphasis on the influence women had in the past, so learning about women who were important for science is a great start. From Hypatia (Hellenistic philosopher, mathematician, and astronomer), to Ada Lovelace (considered the first computer programmer) and Marie Curie (conducted pioneering research on radioactivity), history is actually full of women who were essential to the advancement of science.

However, don’t forget to include others to whom history hasn’t been so kind, such as minority women. Mae C. Jemison was the first African-American female astronaut, biochemist Ruby Sakae Hirose (American of Japanese background) did groundbreaking research on blood clotting and thrombin, and Chinese-American physicist, Sau Lan Wu, helped discover boson consistent with the Higgs Boson – just to name a few. It will help girls from different backgrounds to identify better and learn that there are remarkable women from their cultures who succeeded as well.

Make sure that girls meet one-on-one with women working in the STEM field. This provides an added benefit, especially when girls find that these role models have interesting lives outside their labs [2]. Influenced by the pervasive stereotype, even girls themselves sometimes have a negative image of women working in STEM career, describing them as “meticulously dressed” or “unkempt looking”, doubting the ability for these women to balance their work with spending time with their family [3]. In this case, it’s good to find out what kind of stereotypes girls hold, and find a role model that can break them.

Importance of the individual and communication

Most studies about girls and STEM show there is a huge benefit in gathering a diverse group of girls together, paying attention to each one of them, and keeping the activities fun. Educators must strike a balance between holding girls to high expectations and providing freedom, socialization, and engaging STEM activities. Girls in focus groups said that an important part of this is the teacher’s understanding of adolescents and their culture [2]. There is significantly more to learning than just transferring knowledge, and individual attention and communication with and among students is really important to a good learning process [4].

While the culture is part of the process, it’s clear that girls from the same background can have different ideas and expectations, role models, and images of what science actually is [4]. This is why approaching each girl individually is important, as well as building a rich environment for children, teaching them to find similarities with different cultures, as well as differences in their own.

If a girl was really shy and lacking confidence, persistence, caring, and encouraging more engagement was key to making progress [2]. It is possible to reach all kids but on their own terms. This is again why finding the best ways to communicate is of vital importance, and why STEM education can’t ever be separated from soft skills.

*

Girls and STEM education, therefore, is not just a learning process, but a process of communication, building confidence, working with a group as well as with the individual, and helping them see they are so much more than a stereotype. This journey can be fun for the girls and for you, too. Remember that by motivating and teaching girls in STEM you are not just giving someone a new skill, but helping build a diverse, better, and fairer future for all.

We practice what we preach – our hard skills specialist, Aniko, is a woman and so is a large part of our international team. Additionally, all our programs welcome girls to join them and share their invaluable input with their team members. That is why if you are a parent of a girl who wants to participate in the first ever global online STEM camp, we strongly advise you to look up and enrol into one (or more!) of our projects.

[1] Selimbegovic, L, Chatard, A. and Mugny, G. 2007. Can we encourage girls’ mobility towards science-related careers? Disconfirming stereotype belief through expert influence. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 22 (3), 275-290.
[2]  Mosatche, H. S, Matloff-Nieves, S, Kekelis, L. and Lawner, E.  K. 2013. Effective STEM Programs for Adolescent Girls: Three Approaches and Many Lessons Learned. Afterschool Matters, 17, 17-25.
[3] Yael M. Bamberger, Y. M.  2014. Encouraging Girls into Science and Technology with Feminine Role Model: Does This Work? Journal of Science Education and Technology,  23(4), 549–561.
[4] Wheaton, M. and Ash, D. 2008. Exploring Middle School Girls’ Ideas about Science at a Bilingual Marine Science Camp. The Journal of Museum Education, 33 (2),  131-141.
[5] Moon, M, and Wilson, D. 1970. Teacher-Counselor Cooperation: Building Self-Concepts and Confidence in Children. The School Counselor, 17 (5), 364-366.
[6] Sterling ,D. 2013. Inspiring the next generation of female engineers. TEDx Talk. Found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FEeTLopLkEo

Nobel Explorers’ Projects – Explained By Our Hard Skills Specialist

Yours truly had the pleasure of talking with Nobel Explorers’ hard-skills specialist a couple of days ago. I wanted to find out more and to give you, dear reader, an exclusive peek into Nobel Explorers’ story, programs, and all the benefits your child can get by signing up for them.

Aniko, Nobel Explorers' hard skills specialist.

Aniko, Nobel Explorers’ hard skills specialist.

Hey Aniko! Thank you for finding the time to talk to me. First of all, could you tell our readers what it is that you do in Nobel Explorers?

I am a hard-skills team lead, and I’m also the content creator and instructor of the Coding and Web Design project. Basically, this means that I am the person responsible for the content of the projects in the sense of all the technical skills, how much coding goes in, how the content will be organized, etc. Of course, for different projects we have different developers who tackle their specific area of expertise, and I oversee and coordinate to make sure everything is aligned with the way we do learning in Nobel Explorers, with the way we do PBL (project-based learning), and with our overall goals in the team. In terms of my work on the Coding and Web Design project, I am the person who does the content, chooses the materials, who works with the Explorers, who guides them on their journey to create their first website, to code it, design it, to make it come to life and share it with the world.

That’s quite a lot of work! I’m wondering, how did you get into STEM? Could you share a little bit about your educational background with us?

Well, this is a tough one. My background is quite versatile, and I strongly believe that in 2018 coding is no longer a life path on its own, but a required skill for any type of work that you do, and I don’t think coding skills are limited to coders and programmers anymore but that they can be utilized by many professions. One of the reasons I’m saying this is because my starting point and university education set off as linguistics, which is a social science. I got into coding by attending a program really young, but other things got in the way and I stopped pursuing that side of my interests.  Then, somewhere along the line, I realized that there’s a way to combine linguistics with the coding that I had been neglecting, and I started working in a field called computational linguistics or natural language processing. This basically meant that I was working with natural language data, but applying artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to work with these kind of things. So this was my entry point into coding. I realized there are so many things I can do, and I also had this visual side of my interests where I really liked to create beautiful things, so it was like – ‘Okay, I know Python already from artificial intelligence and there’s Python in web development, so what can I learn in web development further than this?’, and it became kind of a side interest, so now I have two parallel careers, or maybe even three! (laugh)

Quote by Aniko that says "I don't think coding skills are limited to coders and programmers anymore. They can be utilized by many professions, like biology, astronomy, or psychology."

Like a side career of a side career! (laugh) You’ve mentioned just now that you don’t think coding is limited to programmers only anymore. Which other professions do you think can benefit from coding?

We’ve seen a lot of professions advance from the automation that programing brings. You can automate everyday tasks and make your life easier in any profession. Some of the professions that I have seen coding bring huge benefits to are biology, astronomy, and many more. Oh, there’s psychology as well! There are programming languages developed for stats, for getting information out of data.

Good point – I remember working with those during my university years. In your opinion, why is it important to be knowledgeable about STEM? What makes STEM so crucial in today’s society?

I think there are several aspects to this. I think coding will become a tool to facilitate our work and enable us to do more things in the future and do them better, more precisely. There are some things computers are really good at, and some things humans are really good at, and I don’t think… There’s often this fear that computers will replace us because they do better math, but I still think that there’s a human component to whatever we do and that we will be dared to use coding skills and programing and automation to our benefit, to enable us to do more and do better.

Since you’ve touched on the topic of programming and math, I have to ask – Do we need some prerequisites in order to start coding? Do we need to know math, for example? Or can anyone learn how to code?

I don’t think there’s a set of requirements. Coding is a wide field, so if you’re not really good at math, you can probably find an area that relies more heavily on logic, functional programming… In that sense, you will use some concepts from math, but it won’t necessarily be calculus or algebra that’s needed for it. Even in areas like machine learning where algorithms rely heavily on some concepts from math, there are ways that the code is organized so that you can actually use it and do amazing stuff with it without an understanding of the high-level math concepts that are behind those algorithms.

That’s good to know! I’m wondering, what drew you to Nobel Explorers in particular?

Nobel Explorers was one of those things that felt right from the first moment. I loved the company story, I loved the motivation behind it, I could really resonate with the long-term vision. As time was passing by, I felt like I was discovering all these new layers of Nobel Explorers that I did not see initially or that have developed in the meantime, and it has always been a positive surprise. There are always new challenges ahead of us, but we have an amazing team with versatile backgrounds and experiences, and there is no way we don’t come up with a solution if we put our heads together.

Could you tell us a little bit about the programs?

NE programs are designed as a way to engage Explorers, and they are conceived around something called PBL (Project-Based Learning), which means that the way we learn and the way we teach in NE is a really hands on experience. So there is not a lot of theory, not a lot of teaching where everybody’s just listening to one person sharing the knowledge, but we have real-life tasks with real-life values, and everything our Explorers learn is focused towards achieving a certain goal. So you will never code just for the sake of coding, you will code to create a website, to solve a real-life problem, and the one thing we really make sure happens is that the project does not end with the Explorers’ time with us, but that they create something that is maintained in the real world. For example, once they create a website, that website is accessible to everyone, it’s spread to the community, and they can even work on it further if they wish to.

What is it that makes Nobel Explorers’ programs different from other projects you’ve worked on?

I think one thing that Nobel does in an excellent way is to try different approaches to education. We constantly go through testing and adapting to make sure that we’re giving and sharing the knowledge in a way that is fun, that is accessible, and that has real value. I’m not sure if all of these components are unique and if no one else does them, but definitely the combination of all the different aspects  is definitely unique to us. The fact that we integrate teamwork and collaboration in an international environment –  I think that’s the magic recipe and the secret sauce.

You are a hard-skills specialist, but I assume you work very closely with the other people in the team. Could you tell us what made you include soft skills as well in your program? What makes them so important?

As I said, coding and STEM are only tools. Coding is a skill you can acquire, but in order to create really good, unique things that are amazing, always takes the joint effort of a team. And soft skills enable us to collaborate and communicate and share ideas in a way that ensures  they are being heard which, in turn, ensures that we can bring our knowledge together and not just work as individuals. Because as a team, we can always achieve more.

So kind of like Steve Jobs didn’t start out alone but he had Steve Wozniak with him?

(laugh) Something like that.

What is your message for parents who are thinking about joining the NE programs but are not sure about it?

If you are thinking of NE vs. another program, apart from us having amazing content, the outcome is that in a really short time, we teach kids or anyone working on our projects a lot of things. For example, in the Coding and Web Design project, we manage to organize content that takes somebody who didn’t know how to code, and in 13 meetings, or 26 hours of time with us, they learn to code a website from scratch, organize it, make it visually appealing, and publish it on the web. If you ask me, that is pretty amazing.

Become a Nobel Explorer today or contact us if you have questions about our projects.

Conflict Can Be Good

What do you think of when you hear the word conflict?

Fighting? War?

Anger? Frustration?

Many people view conflict as bad, negative, and tend to avoid it. They believe that conflicts lead to “ugly” feelings, mistrust, damage to relationships, etc [1, 3]. True, there are indeed many possible negative consequences. Given this, can conflict be good? As with almost anything, conflict has advantages and disadvantages. So, the answer is yes – conflict can be good!

Conflict has the capacity not only to cause harm and pain, but also to create a positive change for us [1, 3]. A possible reason for its bad reputation is that conflicts are often poorly managed and handled in painful ways. Under appropriate conditions, conflict can provide important benefits.

10 Benefits of conflict

So, what are these beneficial effects? Here’s some of the advantages that well-managed conflict might include [1, 2, 3, 4]:

  1. Conflicts focus attention on problems that need to be solved, but which have previously been ignored or neglected.
  2. Creation of energy, focus, and the motivation needed for solving problems.
  3. Released negative emotions (anger, tension, anxiety, sadness…) and better control of emotions.
  4. Conflicts may prevent disagreement from becoming more intense or damaging.
  5. Enhanced quality of many decisions– the critique of someone’s ideas by others encourages a more thorough evaluation of them.
  6. Also, discussion of incompatible ideas may result in adoption of a more open-minded approach to issues and problems.
  7. Facilitation of understanding of other people’s perspectives on the problems.
  8. Increased closeness with each other and relationships clear of irritations. If the conflict is among groups, it leads to increased loyalty and cohesiveness. This further results in enhanced performance and productivity.
  9. Stimulation of curiosity, interest, and information search. Conflicts also encourage the consideration of new ideas and approaches and leads to facilitation of innovation and change.
  10. Growth– conflicts may promote cognitive, social, and moral development.

Conflict and emotions

So, under what conditions can conflict be beneficial? Let’s start with emotions. Conflict often creates the arousal of powerful negative emotions: anger, frustration, suspicion, etc. Also, it can cause stress and anxiety, which can lead to loss of sleep, decrease in productivity, and failure to be innovative or creative [2, 4].

At the same time, conflict situations often require the careful processing of complex information such as the opponents’ motives and intentions, their strategy, and the impact of their moves. This means that in order to solve the conflict constructively, you need to put in a great deal of cognitive effort. However, the likelihood of effective completion of these cognitive tasks is significantly reduced by the presence of powerful emotions [4]. So, what can we do about that?


A great way to master your skills in managing conflicts and making them constructive is to participate in Nobel Explorers, the first international STEM camp that focuses on soft skills as much as on the hard skills. In Nobel Explorers, we are aware of how powerful conflict can be and how important it is in negotiation. That’s why participants of all our projects work hard on mastering their conflict resolution skills with the help of our soft skills facilitators. And they earn cool badges like these below while doing that, so it is also fun!

Soft Skill Badge awarded to those who are able to identify if it's necessary to cool off or address the difference in opinion right awaySoft Skill Badge awarded to those are able to identify the point and nature of contention for participants in the conflict Soft Skill Badge awarded to those who are able to confirm with the other party if there is really a difference in opinion


How to deal with negative emotions

How can we maximize the probability that conflict will produce positive outcomes? In order for conflict to have benefits, it’s important either to avoid the arousal of negative emotions or to take active steps to reduce their presence [1].

Two foxes charging at each other.

It doesn’t have to look like this!

 

We can avoid arousal of strong feelings of anger and related emotions. That can be done in two ways:

  • Putting effort into inducing participants in the conflict to focus on the potential gains that may be obtained from a favorable resolution. In other words, try hard to show the participant(s) in conflict the advantages of choosing the resolution you think is best.
  • Providing participants with information as to why an opponent has adopted a particular stance. Here, you don’t need a third party – you can enumerate for the opponent arguments for the position you represent. This way, their reactions may be considerably more favorable and less emotional.

In many situations, it’s impossible to prevent the arousal of negative emotions among the persons in conflict. In such cases, there are two steps that can reduce such reactions:

  • Induction of positive affective states that are incompatible with anger or frustration. You can’t be happy and angry at the same time, right?
  • Exposing persons in a conflict situation to mild flattery, a small gift, etc. For example, lower your voice and tell them how good they are at managing conflict.

Now when you know how to handle negative emotions in conflicts, there’s one more thing –practice! The more you practice, the better you will be.

But why is this so important?

Conflict is inevitable

The reality is that conflict is part of all our relationships – at home, at school, at work… This being the case, it’s best to accept its inevitability, understand that it isn’t necessarily bad, and to practice managing it.


Other than learning how to handle differences in opinion, in Nobel Explorers you will also be able to practice a very cool skill that will help you turn every conflict into a constructive one and find a win-win solution for it.

Remember, The World Economic Forum listed soft skills as the skills you’ll need to thrive in the future since a lot of the jobs will be automated and taken by AI. One of those skills is negotiation and it has a lot to do with managing conflict! So, sign up for Nobel Explorers and master your future-ready skills!


Resources:

[1] Baron, R. A. (1991). Positive effects of conflict: A cognitive perspective. Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal,4(1), 25-36. doi:10.1007/bf01390436

[2] Johnson, D. W., & Johnson, F. P. (2013). Joining together: Group theory and group skills (12th ed.). Boston: Pearson.

[3] Rebroadcast: Discussing Conflict With Clair Canfield On Monday’s Access Utah [Audio blog interview]. (2016, December 6). Retrieved July 20, 2018, from http://www.upr.org/post/rebroadcast-discussing-conflict-clair-canfield-mondays-access-utah

[4] Zillmann, D. (1979). Hostility and Aggression. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Project-Based Learning Explained

Instead of endlessly memorizing facts and using pen and paper to take extensive notes, students learn about a subject by actively exploring real-world problems through project-based learning. This type of learning is becoming increasingly necessary in the global world, as it focuses on the individual and helps people learn while engaging in investigation and applying their knowledge to solve actual problems. But what is project-based learning exactly, why do we really need it and how does it work? Read on to find out!

Not an ordinary project

When you think of projects in an educational context, the first thing that comes to mind is probably the concept of “projects” solely based on facts in a unit. For example, in history class that could be a poster depicting certain historical events and in biology class students might get to give a lecture to their peers about human metabolism. Simply put, they would repeat facts that they have read about elsewhere, without analysis or deeper comprehension [3].

When faced with these types of projects, students often think “When will I ever need this in real life?”, and this is where project-based-learning (PBL) comes into the picture. Its content is predicated on real-world problems that need to be dealt with creatively [3]. So, instead of making a poster on women’s rights based on facts they have learned from a textbook, students can organize a campaign to promote them and talk about their significance or make a documentary interviewing people involved in the issue, or discuss the importance of suffrage with people they know.

Even though the entire concept of PBL sounds new and is often mentioned in the context of “honing 21st-century skills”, it actually stems from strategies that were used by classical Greek philosophers, who talked about “learning by doing” and focused on critical thinking and not just repetition of information. Later on, other philosophers also accentuated the importance of learning based on experience and not purely verbal information, and half a century ago PBL emerged as a practical teaching strategy that can be used in various disciplines [1]. In this form it involves, as we said, student is learning in order to overcome real-life problems, while educators serve only as coaches who relinquish control to students usually working in pairs or groups [6].

If this concept sounds a bit too fluid and perhaps not as efficient as good old-fashioned rote learning, you are not alone. It was often criticized for not being rigorous enough and there are still people who doubt that students can learn everything a curriculum may require this way. But, “proper” PBL actually has many rules that need to be followed in order for students to learn something successfully, so there is usually no space for skipping certain steps or accidentally avoiding a certain facet of a problem that is being taught [6]. By having these practical rules, PBL as a teaching strategy ensures that students learn what they are supposed to learn while being fully engaged in the process [7].

But why is it so much better? Benefits of PBL

Some benefits of PBL were mentioned earlier where we explained what it actually is, but there is more to this story. PBL is so talked about recently exactly because of its many advantages over the traditional type of learning:

  • PBL makes learning more grounded in real life and students have the feeling that they are learning something useful, and not merely facts they will never need in their future lives [2]. This knowledge of the relevance of the project usually engages them more in the entire process of learning and they “learn by doing” instead of just finishing yet another school assignment [7].
  • Research has shown that PBL also increases students’ motivation [3]. The contextualization of the studied material and the authenticity of this type of learning together with its student-centered approach and individualization of the entire process motivates students to learn for the sake of learning, and not just to get a good grade [6].
  • In order to solve complex problems posed by PBL, students have to engage higher-order thinking skills and problem-solving skills. These types of skills are necessary for almost all jobs and by practicing them in an educational environment, students not only prepare for their future careers, but also for tackling diverse issues throughout their lives [1].
  • Collaboration is one of the main characteristics of PBL, and in order to work on a project students also have to learn how to work in a group efficiently and overcome any problems they might have within the group. Working in a group and solving all kinds of interpersonal struggles, teaches students both people skills and project management skills that are more than necessary in order to work in today’s society [2].
  • It has been shown that PBL as a method affects students’ achievement in a positive manner. Students who learned by working on projects proposed by PBL usually learned better than students who used more traditional ways of learning. The reason for this could well be the fact that students generally achieve more when they have a greater desire to learn, and as we have seen, PBL usually increases this desire [4].
  • PBL is also thought to improve long-term retention of knowledge, meaning that students who learn using this method remember the things they learned longer than students who learned in the traditional manner [6].
  • PBL is an interdisciplinary method so it gives students a chance to use the knowledge they gained in many other classes while working on a project, and shows them how that knowledge can be relevant in real-life situations [5].
  • Today’s students are more than familiar with technology and its various uses, and PBL is a perfect opportunity to use it in an educational setting and think about its different benefits. Using technology also allows students to connect with many people around the world while working on a project which, of course, gives them an even wider knowledge of the subject they are working on [7].

When taken into consideration together, all of these benefits of PBL lead us to the conclusion that PBL is essential in developing something called 21st-century skills that we all need in order to succeed in the fast-paced global world [2]. It is no longer enough to have basic knowledge and skills; we need to be able to solve problems quickly and effectively, work in teams, adjust to changes, think critically, manage ourselves and communicate ideas – PBL helps in bettering all these skills [7].

How to make it work [8]

In order to make PBL work, it is not enough to just think of a fun, relevant project and let the students work on it. If that happens, it is more than likely PBL will become just another means to an end, the end being a grade. It is important to set learning goals, which would concentrate both on the skills that the project can help develop and also on the content that has to be learned by the end of the project.

It is easy for students to think of PBL as another school assignment, so it is important to choose a project that is firmly grounded in reality, with clear relevance to the students. Reminding the students from time to time of what the project can help them do later in life is also not a bad idea.

In PBL, asking questions and discussing the problem is half the work, so it is extremely important to encourage the discussion, without leading it. A teacher or a parent who has taken the task of PBL on her/himself should only serve as a guide and help students reflect on their progress and the learning process. Students are the ones who should be making decisions.

Setting an end goal that it is tangible or demonstrable is also a smart way to make PBL more effective. It is a good idea to have the students work on a product that they can later talk about in front of an audience or to make a presentation describing the problem they solved.

We are launching an online STEAM summer camp, Nobel Explorers, where students will be working on solving complex and engaging challenges through project-based learning. So, now’s the chance to find out hands-on how project-based learning really looks like! Join us! 

References:

  1. Boss, S. (2011, September 20). Project-Based Learning: A Short History. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/project-based-learning-history.
  2. Boss, S. (2011, September 20). Project-Based Learning: What Experts Say. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/project-based-learning-experts.
  3. Gonzales, J. (2016, June 26). Project Based Learning: Start Here. Retrieved from https://cultofpedagogy.com/project-based-learning/.
  4. Helle, L., Tynjälä, P., Olkinuora, E., & Lonka, K. (2007). “Ain”t nothin’ like the real thing’. Motivation and study processes on a work-based project course in information systems design. The British Journal of Educational Psychology, 77, 397–411. http://doi.org/10.1348/000709906X105986
  5. Karaçalli, S., & Korur, F. (2014). The effects of project-based learning on students’ academic achievement, attitude, and retention of knowledge: The subject of “Electricity in our lives.” School Science and Mathematics, 114(5), 224–235. http://doi.org/10.1111/ssm.12071
  6. Vega, V. (2012, December 3). Project-Based Learning Research Review. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/pbl-research-learning-outcomes.
  7. What is Project Based Learning (PBL). Retrieved from http://www.bie.org/about/what_pbl.
  8. Why Project Based Learning (PBL). Retrieved from http://www.bie.org/about/why_pbl.

Our new online summer STEM camp, Nobel Explorers, is starting soon! We prepared 11 cool projects for students aged 10 to 18 who want to meet international friends and get a head start on their future careers. It is worth checking out if you are interested in providing your child with a summer full of learning and fun.

The Benefits of Online Learning

Learning online is no longer a novelty and more and more students are opting to take online courses every day. The world’s top universities and colleges now offer online courses and it was recently noted that “The future of higher education lies with it.” (Tom Snyder, Huffington).

The popularity of online learning lies principally in its flexibility. Students do not have to be physically in a classroom but can learn remotely and frequently at their own pace. Naturally, this approach may present challenges. While learning online, students must also learn to prioritize their commitments. Good time-management and organization skills are essential for it to be effective, but those are skills which can be improved upon, and that usually do improve, along with self-discipline and responsibility, as students progress through their online courses.

Online learning can also help busy professionals get additional training and keep abreast of advances in their fields of expertise as they continue to work at their jobs.

Another great advantage of online learning is coverage. There will never be as many spots in universities as students who want to enroll in them, but with online courses, educators can reach many more students than would be possible in the traditional classroom. Moreover, everyone receives the same training, communicated in the same way to everyone participating in the course.

It is often thought that with flexibility comes a more laissez-faire approach to learning; that online courses aren’t as “serious” as more traditional ones, and that students simply can’t learn as much as they would if they were sitting in a classroom with a teacher in front of them. If you’ve ever taken an online course you’re probably aware that this criticism is unfounded. Many online courses make greater demands on students and assign more reading material than traditional ones in order to ensure students stay engaged and always have something to work on.

Online courses are designed so as to keep engagement high and help students retain the material taught in them longer. This is usually achieved through the use of media inherent in this type of learning, and also with gamification. Online teachers often find ways to make the course fun and more similar to a game than to what we usually think of when we imagine learning.

Last but not least, online learning usually means time and money savings. Students who opt for this type of learning remove the need for travel and its attendant costs. It reduces or eliminates time away from the workplace and opens a pathway to lifelong learning.

And let’s not forget our planet. The fact that we can now learn without dozens of handouts and paper-based materials does the environment a great favor that we shouldn’t take for granted.

IS ONLINE LEARNING FOR EVERYONE?

As with anything in education, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question as to whether you or your student should try online learning. It is designed on the assumption that the student has some interest in the subject already and will be motivated to learn more. It also requires instructors familiar with this approach who know how to engage students and present the material in an original way, tailored for the online environment. But it is definitely worth a try. The benefits are great and any drawbacks can be overcome if dealt with in a timely fashion and with solid support. We will offer just that this summer to all students interested in online learning, combined with the great project-based learning approach:

Our new online summer STEAM camp, Nobel Explorers, is starting soon! We prepared 11 cool projects for students aged 10 to 18 who want to get a head start on their future careers. It is worth checking out if you are interested in providing your child with a summer full of learning and fun.

by Anja Anđelković

The Case For Pomegranates: Embracing Different Cultures

by Anja Anđelković

Have you ever discovered you’ve been doing something wrong your whole life? For instance, you’d been picking the seeds out of a pomegranate one by one and swearing you’d never buy a pomegranate again, only to find yourself back in the grocery store getting another one because they’re just too tasty. And then one day you come across a YouTube video explaining how to peel a pomegranate and get the seeds out without the hassle and the usual red splatters everywhere. Who came up with such an ingenious idea? Well, most likely it was someone who grew up in a country where eating pomegranates is commonplace and who couldn’t imagine anyone peeling them any other way until they saw us making a mess. To put it simply, the person behind your “life-changing” video grew up in a different culture.

Now, imagine a world without such helpful videos, or far worse, a world where you would never come in contact with people from different cultures. Not only would you not know how to deseed a pomegranate properly (such a necessary skill!), but you’d miss out on all the wonders of diversity: you would know nothing about different peoples and their customs and much of the wealth of humanity’s artistic and literary endeavor would be denied you. And you and all your friends, confined to the same small cultural group, would live unaware of the enriching possibilities of the wider world.  Luckily, times have changed. The global world of today is a hodgepodge of people from many diverse cultures moving from country to country, interacting on many levels, and living side by side in the same places.

Living in such a world is a rewarding experience we should all cherish, but unfortunately, there are some people who aren’t prepared to embrace cultural differences and who discriminate against anyone whose traditions are unfamiliar to them. It would be simple to just dismiss such people as an uninformed minority, but the truth is that we all need to live in harmony, respecting each other and our differences. And in order to do so, we need to know a lot more about each other and also ourselves. Without a doubt, the key to living in this modern multicultural society is learning – learning as much as we can about the world we live in and its people throughout our lives… And the path to making life in a diverse society more harmonious for everyone starts with the individual, most effectively a child, ready to absorb a wealth of knowledge that will shape a new generation.

Learning About Other Cultures

When we just say “learn about cultures” it might sound a bit boring and make you think about the time you spent reading about different types of ancient Greek columns or different countries around the world, but the truth is that learning about other peoples and their way of life can be extremely fun and engaging.

Clearly, the most immersive way to becoming familiar with a different culture is to learn to speak another language, which entails far more than simply becoming proficient in its vocabulary and grammar. Most importantly, it necessitates learning about the society where the language is spoken. So if you want your child to become more informed and understanding of other cultures, encourage them to take some language classes or maybe learn a foreign language together with them.

  • Another fun and extremely rewarding way of embracing differences is through travel and experiencing an unfamiliar culture first hand. Of course, this isn’t so easy to achieve but if you get an opportunity, travel somewhere outside your own experience and immerse yourself in the culture with your child. If circumstances don’t allow this, traveling from your living room has never been as easy as it is now: watch shows about different people and parts of the world previously unknown to you, or watch movies originating in different countries. Ease into it by starting with movies in English but featuring characters from different backgrounds..,
  • Pick a book with a character from a different culture. Read it with your child. Discuss how the characters are similar and different from the people who live in your community.
  • Going to festivals and the celebrations of people who don’t observe the same holidays as you do with your child is another great way to get to know different cultures and ways of life and broaden your horizons. Try to find out about other groups who live in your community and make a point of learning about the artistic or scientific achievements their society has accomplished.
  • And most importantly, encourage your child to interact with as many “different” people as they can and try to explain how the unfamiliar isn’t anything to be scared of and especially not something you should make fun of, but how differences are what makes our society interesting and how important it is to accept and respect everybody. Tell them how much easier your life would have been if only you’d known an Iranian who could have shown you how to deseed a pomegranate properly.

The Johannesburg Declaration (2002) says that “our rich diversity … is our collective strength”.  When you read about all the benefits that embracing our diverse world can bring and when you think about everything our society has already achieved and the limitless potential it has, especially if we can overcome prejudice and discrimination, this powerful statement doesn’t only resonate with hope, it can also serve as a call to action to truly celebrate our diversity.