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/

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.

Using AI in Learning and Education

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is something we frequently use in our daily lives, often without being aware of it. Have you ever heard of Akinator, for example? It’s an online game featuring a magic genie. He will ask you to think of a character – any character – and through a series of questions, he’ll try to guess who the character is. It ’s like playing 20 questions, only with your computer. Well, Akinator is an AI software: it decides which questions to ask based on your previous answers by imitating the human thought process. This game and many others use near-human intelligence in order to predict and answer your thoughts.

Therefore, AI can be defined as the branch of computer science dealing with the simulation of intelligent behavior in computers. In other words, the goal of developing AI is to create computer systems that can perform tasks that require human intelligence.

Still, when we think of artificial intelligence, most of us tend to think Terminator or Westworld. But in reality, we’re surrounded by AI without really knowing it, because an AI doesn’t need to be a robot – it can simply be a software.

The good news is, we’ve been working on AI’s to aid us in education ever since the 1970s, when Dr. Allan M. Collins created SCHOLAR CAI (Computer-Assisted Instruction). Let’s take a look at how AI’s can be helpful in education and check out some already existing examples.

Tutoring Assistance

Now hold on for a second – this doesn’t mean that your English teacher might turn out to be C3PO! AI’s can be a great help when it comes to tutoring, but they can hardly replace teachers completely. There are a couple of ICAI’s (Intelligent Computer-Assisted Instruction) out there, but none of them have been able to master natural language and tutoring techniques completely.

However, they do possess expert knowledge in a certain area and are equipped with the ability to implement that knowledge in certain problem-solving situations, giving students an excellent chance to practice their school materials outside the classroom.

Among AI’s, there are experts for mathematics, geography, physics, etc., – and all of them can be very helpful to a student who’s struggling with one of these subjects. Such systems can detect (some better than others) what the student’s misconceptions are and through questions and tasks, it can work on solving them. For example, there’s an AI called BUGGY. BUGGY is able to identify student misconceptions when it comes to arithmetic; in other words, it can find bugs in the code of our arithmetic knowledge.

Student-Initiated Learning

Besides tutoring a child directly, ICAI’s can also provide a positive learning environment which allows the child to learn by themselves, usually through solving problems and playing games. The most famous example (and probably the most famous ICAI to date) is Papert’s LOGO. This system guides the child to learn spontaneously, much like we do while learning to walk or talk. LOGO is based on two ideas: 1) That learning something completely new can only be done based on already existing knowledge, and 2) That the learner learns best if they make the ideas their own by understanding and applying concepts, instead of learning them by rote memorization.

LOGO lets the user create programs and simulations in a lot of different areas: they can write poetry, make movies, learn geometry… But nothing is simply handed to them on a silver platter. They have all the necessary tools and guidance, but they need to make their own simulations based on their own way of understanding the material.

When talking about SIL (Student-Initiated Learning), it’s important to mention SOPHIE as well. SOPHIE acts as a guide to solving problems related to electronic equipment. The student is presented with a problem, after which they try to solve it by asking questions and making hypotheses. After they’ve formed the hypotheses, SOPHIE helps them to test it out and, if necessary, debug it.

Helping out with Administrative Tasks

This already makes a lot of professors’ lives easier! There already exist some ICAI’s which are being used to evaluate tests and grade them – automatically. However, ICAI’s are also being developed to grade essays. We’ll probably have to wait a little bit longer on those, but just imagine the amount of extra time it’ll give teachers! It would mean that they’d have more time to prepare material for the next class and that they’d get to use more of their energy to motivate students, instead of downing coffee after coffee while reading hundreds of pages written by their students.

Diagnosis of Learning Challenges

This is one of the most exciting areas when it comes to AI’s. Besides having to teach, grade, and motivate students, teachers sometimes have to help diagnose their students’ learning challenges as well – and that can turn out to be a long and complicated process. Although teachers need to possess a certain knowledge of psychology, that knowledge does not make them a psychologist! It means that they still need to bring in an expert to help, and getting to them can take a lot of time.

But with an ICAI, the whole process could go a lot more smoothly. An AI would be able to ask a series of questions and based on student’s answers, either determine which difficulty is creating the problem (dyslexia, ADHD, etc.) or tell the educator to call for an expert, if it cannot determine it by itself. Alternatively, the AI could be able to call the expert themselves, which means that the educator would only need to supervise the whole process. This could be useful when the educator is overwhelmed with tasks – it’s better to employ an AI to do it quickly and precisely, rather than make a mistake somewhere along the line due to rushing to all the other tasks/students they need to evaluate. With the help of an AI that asks the right questions and comes to the right conclusions, teachers will be able to help out their students much faster and with much more precision.

 

Remember, behind every AI, there was a team of people developing the science and technology used. Check out Nobel Explorers to see how you can learn and practice many STEM-related concepts that could continue improving upon artificial intelligence.

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.