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/

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.

Styles of Conflict Management

We’ve already begun a discussion about conflict in our article Conflict Can Be Good, where we concluded that conflict is inevitable and part of all of our relationships. We discovered that conflict can be good and has many benefits when managed appropriately. Given this,  it’s best to embrace the inevitability of conflict and learn how to manage it.  Learning conflict management doesn’t mean subscribing to only one pattern. Clearly, everyone has their own styles of conflict management.

Uniqueness and patterns in managing conflicts

Each person has a unique style which reflects their own unique wants, needs, and values. However, there are specific global patterns in conflicts that can be identified based on how we deal with such challenges. The important thing to remember is that no one style is a pure typology and inherently better than any other.

You must be wondering, What are the benefits of being aware of my own style? Well, as you recognize your style you can better understand its strengths and weaknesses. Also, you can increase your ability to adopt different styles relative to the inevitable conflicts that arise in all interpersonal relationships as you learn when each style is best to employ.

Styles of Conflict Management and their Representative Animals

According to two researchers, Thomas and Kilmann, we can identify five conflict-handling styles: competing, collaborating, avoiding, accommodating, and compromising. To illustrate these styles, they selected specific animals, because various personality traits can be represented in a more balanced strengths-and-weaknesses framework this way.

The Competitive Shark

Do it my way or not at all!

This is the typical attitude of the shark. Sharks use a forcing or competing style to achieve their goals. They have a need to win – therefore, others must lose. When competing, an individual pursues his or her own concerns at the other person’s expense, using whatever power seems appropriate to win their position – even if it means being uncooperative, threatening, and intimidating. They strongly defend a position they believe is correct or simply try to win.

If the shark’s decision is truly correct, a better decision can result. However, it may result in hostility and resentment toward the shark, or damaged relationships.

This style may be appropriate for emergencies when you need quick, decisive action, and people are aware of and support the approach, or when unpopular decisions need to be implemented. 

The Collaborative Owl

My preference is … What’s your choice?

Owls use a collaborative or problem-confronting conflict management style. Owls value their goals and relationships. They gather information, look for alternatives, dialogue openly, and welcome disagreement. Owls view conflicts as problems to be solved and work to find solutions agreeable to all sides.

The advantage of this strategy is that relationships are maintained (because both sides get what they want) and negative feelings are eliminated. On the other hand, this takes a great deal of time and effort to synthesize everybody’s ideas.

The appropriate time to use an Owl style is when the issues and relationship are both important.

The Avoidant Turtle

Conflict? What conflict?

Turtles avoid, withdraw, deny, or delay conflicts. They would rather hide and ignore conflict than resolve it – this leads them to be uncooperative and unassertive. Turtles even tend to give up personal goals.

This may help to maintain relationships that would be hurt by conflict resolution, but conflicts  and negative feelings may linger, too.

This is often appropriate when the issue is trivial or the relationship is insignificant.   Sometimes it can be effective when the atmosphere is emotionally charged and you need to create some space.

The Accommodating Teddy Bear

Whatever you say.

Teddy bears use a soothing or accommodating conflict-management style with emphasis on human relationships. They agree and flatter because they have a need to please everyone involved. Therefore, teddy bears often neglect their own desired outcomes to satisfy those of the others. There is an element of self-sacrifice.

Sometimes accommodating maintains relationships, but the bear may be taken advantage of.

However, it’s good to use this when you really don’t care about the issue or when you realize you are wrong (and the other party has a better solution).

The Compromising Fox

I’ll give you this if you give me that.

Foxes use a compromising conflict-management style. Individuals who use this approach are concerned about goals and relationships. They have a strategy of a little something for everyone – they tend to find mutually acceptable solutions that partially satisfy both parties.

Foxes are willing to sacrifice some of their goals while persuading others to give up part of theirs. Compromise is assertive and cooperative.

This way it is possible to maintain relationships and find solutions, but compromise is not always ideal.

Compromising is suitable to use in situations when complex issues have no clear solutions or when people in conflict have equally important solutions.

How to use styles of conflict management?

Imagine that you’re going out with a friend. You want to go to the movies and relax. However, your friend wants to go shopping, because they’re attending an important event that evening and want to find a really nice outfit. How do you decide where you’re going?

You love your friend, you want them to be happy, so it’s okay if you please them and go to the shopping center with them.

But, let’s imagine the second scenario – everything’s the same except that today’s the last day that movie is playing! And you really want to see it… What would you do this time?

Would you choose to be a compromising fox? If I help you buy an outfit for that event, you go to the movie with me.
What do you think about these scenarios? How do you choose how to react? The fastest way is to consider your concern for goals and concern for relationships. Check out the graphic below.

Abraham Maslow said If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see each problem as a nail. Likewise, if you have only one predominant conflict resolution style, there are inherent limitations or blind spots, which is why we’ve sought here to help you expand your usual conflict style by introducing other styles and approaches.

 

In Nobel Explorers, we want everyone to learn how to manage conflicts in the most effective way. So, if you find this article useful and want to practice the skills significant for managing conflict – negotiation, check out which projects we offer.

 

Resources:

[1] Eckstein, D. (1998). Styles of conflict management. The Family Journal, 6(3), 240-243.

[2] Thomas, K.W. and Kilmann, R.H. (1974). Conflict Mode Instrument, Sterling Forest, New York.

8 Benefits of Working in International Teams

People are more connected today than ever before. Once upon a time, you had to travel for days to get from one place to another. And if your destination were on the other side of the ocean, it could take weeks! But today, all we need to do is type a message and click send. Even better, we can log onto Skype and speak face to face with someone who’s thousands of miles away from us.

And while chatting on social media and sending pictures to one another is a great way to spend time and connect, there’s another uniquely valuable use for it – creating digital international teams.

What Makes Digital International Teams So Great?

The list of benefits is endless,  so we’ll only mention some of the most important ones:

  • Productivity
  • Creativity
  • Problem solving
  • Communication
  • Understanding of other cultures
  • Offline time
  • Learning to think quickly
  • Future employment

And that’s just for starters! So let’s dive into them and learn how you can enhance your skills by becoming part of a digital international team.

Productivity

When you have an international team at your disposal, chances are the flow of ideas will be endless. Some of your coworkers will come up with ideas that would never have crossed your mind, and you’ll do the same! Thanks to your different experiences, you’ll all have completely different mindsets, which will allow for some incredibly interesting ideas.

And if you’re part of a digital international team, chances are you won’t be tied to the usual nine-to-five office routine. This will allow you to motivate yourself and work under your own conditions, which is a huge boost for productivity [4]. You’ll find it much easier to focus if you’re sitting in an old T-shirt drinking a cup of tea and listening to music, than if you’re sitting in an office chair in dead silence just praying for the clock to move faster.

Creativity

This is closely connected to productivity.  If you have all these people from, say, Europe, Asia, or Africa in your team, you’ll be constantly surprised by how differently they think about certain things. Now, imagine how important that can be when it comes to brainstorming! Why is that? Well, mostly because there’s no right or wrong when it comes to brainstorming. The more ideas you can think of, the better! Your coworkers will not only pitch in with their personal experiences, they’ll also teach you about what works in their own environment. Similarly, they’ll learn what works in yours, so you get the chance to try out lots of  new things together [4].

Problem Solving

In the nineties, a study done in Ireland connected an international team of exchange students who weren’t even all on the same continent, and teamed them up in a simulation-like game. They were supposed to agree on big decisions together and solve complex problems while competing against other teams. They were given the opportunity to practice real-life problems and situations in a safe environment –  something that’s called a “micro-world” [1].

And guess what happened?

They were able to develop decision-making, problem-solving, and teamwork skills while working across continents [1]. Through applied learning, or project-based learning, these students practiced incredibly important skills in a purposeful way – not just for learning itself, but for an actual outcome [1]. What’s more, they were more motivated to work, as the more they worked, the more they learned and the better results they were able to see! And they were able to learn much more since this kind of approach promoted further learning and was more interesting for them [1].

Both the organizers and the students in the simulation agreed that overcoming any technical difficulties was well worth the end result [1]. (And now in  2018, we don’t even need to worry about the technical issues so much!) As it turns out, this simulation (and such simulations and games in general) can predict the future success of a student very well [1].

Communication

According to Forbes, communication is one of the most important skills every Millennial should be able to use effectively in the workplace [5]. Communicating can be hard, especially if there’s a difference in opinion. You might ask yourself: How do I give proper feedback? How do I learn not to take things personally, but understand them as a way to better myself? This is a skill that, like any other skill, needs honing. And what better place to do that than as part of an international team? International team members will likely have completely different opinions, given that they all live in different environments.

If you have a good manager/facilitator, an international team can give you an enormous advantage when it comes to handling conflict, or communicating in general. If you practice and learn how to communicate with people from other parts of the globe, chances are that solving a conflict with your coworker who lives just down the street will be a piece of cake [3].

Understanding of Other Cultures

Our world is ever-changing and ever more connected. Anywhere you go, you can see people from other cultures working, living, or simply visiting. Being a part of an international team is an invaluable experience for anyone seeking to understand these cultures better. You’ll be able to hear first-hand about their thoughts, ideas, and way of life.

If you decide later on in life to go to another country or even a different continent to pursue your passion (or adventurous spirit!), you’ll find it much easier to adapt if you’ve already been in contact with more than just one culture [3]. And that’s especially important if you’re required to fit into the office culture of another place – the expectations, the social mores, the work ethic. You’ll be much more attuned to  all of these or at least more capable of learning quickly if you’ve already experienced something similar.

Offline Time

As we already mentioned, a digital team means you won’t be forced to be at your desk every day at 9:00 a.m. sharp and remain there for the next eight hours – yay! Instead, you’ll mostly get to work on your own time, and given that your team members may live in different timezones, they won’t be able to give you an answer as soon as you post something [2]. This means that you’ll get some offline time instead of checking your phone for messages every two minutes, and you’ll be allowed to work whenever you feel like it. Are you a night owl? Great news: you won’t have to start fueling yourself with coffee as soon as you get up!

Learning to Think Quickly

Entering a virtual room of people whose customs you’re not very familiar with is anything but comfortable. It’s exciting, sure – but it’s stressful to a certain degree, as well. What you’ll need to work on in order to succeed in such a new environment is becoming adept at picking  up social cues quickly. If you learn how to “read a (chat)room” [3] as soon as you enter it – voila! – you’ll become a much better team member and much more productive, and you’ll start feeling more and more comfortable with each new meeting or in any similar situation.

Future Employment

All of the above benefits will also help you get to this step –  the final, tangible benefit of landing a job [3]. But besides charming your future employer with your soft skills and a resume that says you have experience working in an international team, that same team will likely offer you a great chance to network.

Imagine you’re applying for a job in Norway, and it just so happens that one of your ex-coworkers is Norwegian! You can, for example, ask them about what is usually expected of the applicants for such a position. And even if you’re not actually applying, but simply thinking of finding a job there, why not ask them if they know anyone in that field? They’ll have no trouble recommending such a talented, versatile young person as yourself.

If this article has piqued your interest in becoming part of a digital international team, take a look at nobelexplorers.com and all the projects we offer. You may well find something you like!

References:

  1. Doyle, D., & Brown, F.W. (2000). Using a Business Simulation to Teach Applied Skills – the Benefits and the Challenges of Using Student Teams from Multiple Countries. Journal of European Industrial Training, 330-336
  2. https://medium.com/@Cityholic/advantages-of-working-in-a-global-team-780d5d10f277
  3. https://www.theinterngroup.com/our-blog/7-benefits-of-working-abroad/
  4. https://www.bmmagazine.co.uk/opinion/go-global-the-benefits-of-an-international-team/
  5. https://www.forbes.com/sites/katehayes/2017/09/05/the-soft-skills-that-matter-most-in-the-workplace/#618cdafd6c2e

 

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.

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