Change How You Learn With Genetic Engineering CRISPR

genetic engineering CRISPR studygate

Imagine you were alive back in the 1980s. You were told that computers would soon take over everything. Shopping, dating, the stock market, everything would be connected via a kind of web. You would also own a handheld device orders of magnitudes more powerful than supercomputers.

It would seem absurd. Right?

Instead, science fiction became our reality.

We’re at a similar point today with genetic engineering.

A very short and incomplete history of genetic modification

Humans have been engineering life for thousands of years, but a recent breakthrough will change how we live and alter what we perceive as normal forever.

James Watson and Francis Crick defined the structure of DNA in 1953. This code of life, Deoxyribonucleic Acid defines our very existence. This is a complex molecule that guides the growth, development, function, and reproduction of everything alive.

Information is encoded in the structure of the molecule. Four nucleotides are paired and make up a code that carries instructions. Change the instructions and you change the being carrying those instructions. As soon as DNA was discovered, people tried to tinker with it.

The past 50 years

In the 1960s, scientist bombarded plants with radiation to cause random mutations in the genetic code. The idea was to get a useful plant variation by pure chance. Sometimes it actually worked too.

In the 1970s, scientists inserted DNA snippets into bacteria, plants, and animals to study and modify them for research, medicine, and agriculture. The earliest genetically modified mouse was born in 1974, making this animal a standard tool for research and saving millions of lives.

In the 1980s, we got commercial. During this time, the first patent was given for a microbe engineered to absorb oil. Today we produce many chemicals by means of engineered life, like life-saving clotting agents, growth hormones, and insulin. Before, we had to harvest these products from the organs of animals.

The genetically modified food went on sale in 1994: the Flavr Savr tomato. It was a tomato with a much longer shelf life thanks to an extra gene that suppresses the build-up of a rotting enzyme. The 1990s also had a brief foray into human engineering. To treat maternal infertility, babies were made that carried genetic information from 3 humans. This made them the first humans ever to have 3 genetic parents.

Fast forward to today and you will find super-muscled pigs, fast-growing salmon, featherless chicken, and see-through frogs. On the fun side, we made things glow in the dark. Fluorescent zebrafish are available for as little as ten dollars. All of this is already very impressive, but until recently gene editing was extremely expensive, complicated, and took a long time to do.

The game changer

This has now changed with a revolutionary new technology now entering the stage—CRISPR. Overnight, the costs of engineering have shrunk by 99%! Instead of a year, it takes a few weeks to conduct experiments, and basically everybody with a lab can do it. It’s hard to get across how big a technical revolution CRISPR is. It literally has the potential to change humanity forever.

But why did this sudden revolution happen and how does it work?

The oldest war on earth

Bacteria and viruses have been fighting since the dawn of life. So-called bacteriophages or phages hunt bacteria. In the ocean, phages kill 40 % of bacteria every single day. Phages do this by inserting their own genetic code into the bacteria and taking them over to use them as factories. The bacteria try to resist but fail most the time because their protection tools are too weak.

However, bacteria sometimes survive an attack. Only if they do so can they activate their most effective antivirus system: they save a part of the virus DNA in their own genetic code in a DNA archive called CRISPR. Here it’s stored safely until it’s needed.

CAS9 is the game changer

When the virus attacks again, the bacterium quickly makes an RNA copy from the DNA archive and arms a secret weapon—a protein called CAS9. The protein now scans the bacterium’s insides for signs of the virus invader by comparing every bit of DNA it finds to the sample from the archive. When it finds a 100-percent perfect match, it’s activated and cuts out the virus DNA, making it useless. This protects the bacterium against the attack.

What’s special is that CAS9 is very precise, almost like a DNA surgeon. The revolution began when scientists figured out that the CRISPR system is programmable. You can just give it a copy of DNA you want to modify and put the system into a living cell. If the old techniques of genetic manipulation were like a map, CRISPR is like a GPS system. Aside from being precise, cheap, and easy, CRISPR offers the ability to edit live cells, to switch genes on and off, and target and study particular DNA sequences.

It also works for every type of cell: microorganisms, plants, animals, or humans. But despite the revolution CRISPR is for science, it’s still just a first generation tool. More precise tools are already being created and used as we speak.

The end of disease?

In 2015, scientists use CRISPR to cut the HIV virus out of living cells from patients in the lab, proving that it was possible. Only about a year later, they carried out a larger scale project with rats that had the HIV virus in basically all of their body cells. By simply injecting CRISPR into the rats tails, they were able to remove more than 50 % of the virus from cells all over the body. In a few decades, a CRISPR therapy might cure HIV and other retroviruses. Viruses that hide inside human DNA like Herpes could be eradicated this way.

CRISPR could also defeat one of our worst enemies—cancer. Cancer occurs when cells refuse to die and keep multiplying while concealing themselves from the immune system. CRISPR gives us the means to edit your immune cells and make them better cancer hunters. Getting rid of cancer might eventually mean getting just a couple of injections of a few thousand of your own cells that have been engineered in the lab to heal you for good.

The first clinical trial for a CRISPR cancer treatment on human patients was approved in early 2016 in the US. Not even a month later, Chinese scientists announced that they would treat lung cancer patients with immune cells modified with CRISPR in August 2016. Things are picking up pace quickly.

And then there are genetic diseases

There are thousands of them and they range from mildly annoying to deadly to entailing decades of suffering. With a powerful tool like CRISPR, we may be able to end this. Over 3,000 genetic diseases are caused by a single incorrect letter in your DNA. We are already building a modified version of CAS9 that is made to change just a single letter, fixing the disease in the cell. In a decade or two, we could possibly cure thousands of diseases forever. But all of these medical applications have one thing in common: they are limited to the individual and die with them, except if you use them on reproductive cells or very early embryos.

But CRISPR can and probably will be used for much more: the creation of modified humans—designer babies—and will mean gradual, but irreversible changes to the human gene pool.

Form follows instruction: Designer babies

The means to edit the genome of a human embryo already exists. The technology is still in its early stages, but it has already been attempted twice. In 2015 and 2016, Chinese scientists experimented with human embryos and were partially successful on their second attempt.

They showed the enormous challenges we still face in gene editing embryos, but also that scientists are working on solving them. This is like the computer in the 1970s. There will be better computers.

Regardless of your personal take on genetic engineering, it will affect you. Modified humans could alter the genome of our entire species, because their engineered traits will be passed on to their children and could spread over generations, slowly modifying the whole gene pool of humanity.

The revolution will start slowly

The first designer babies will not be overly designed. It’s most likely that they will be created to eliminate a deadly genetic disease running in a family. As the technology progresses and gets more refined, more and more people may argue that not using genetic modification is unethical, because it condemns children to preventable suffering and death and denies them the cure.

But as soon as the first engineered kid is born, a door is opened that can’t be closed anymore. Early on, vanity traits will mostly be left alone. But as genetic modification becomes more accepted and our knowledge of our genetic code enhances, the temptation will grow. If you make your offspring immune to Alzheimer, why not also give them an enhanced metabolism? Why not throw in perfect eyesight? How about height or muscular structure? Full hair? How about giving your child the gift of extraordinary intelligence? Huge changes are made as a result of the personal decisions of millions of individuals that accumulate.

This is a slippery slope—Modified humans could become the new standard

But as engineering becomes more normal and our knowledge improves, we could solve the single biggest mortality risk factor: aging. Two-thirds of the 150,000 people who died today will die of age-related causes. Currently we think aging is caused by the accumulation of damage to our cells, like DNA breaks and the systems responsible for fixing those wearing off over time. But there are also genes that directly affect aging. A combination of genetic engineering and other therapy could stop or slow down aging, maybe even reverse it.

We know from nature that there are animals immune to aging such as lobster. Maybe we could even borrow a few genes for ourselves. Some scientists even think biological aging could be something that eventually just stops being a thing.

We would still die at some point, but instead of doing so in hospitals at age 90, we might be able to spend a few thousand years with our loved ones. Research into this is in its infancy, and many scientists are rightly skeptical about the end of aging.

Dream big!

The challenges are enormous and maybe it is unachievable, but it is conceivable the people alive today might be the first to profit from effective anti-aging therapy. All we might need is for someone to convince a smart billionaire to make it their next problem to solve. On a bigger scale, we certainly could solve many problems by having a modified population. Engineered humans might be better equipped to cope with high-energy food, eliminating many diseases of civilization like obesity. In possession of a modified immune system, with a library of potential threats, we might become immune to most diseases that haunt us today.

Even further into the future, we could engineer humans to be equipped for extended space travel and to cope with different conditions on another planets, which would be extremely helpful in keeping us alive in our hostile universe.

Nothing wrong with progress, But.. a few grains of salt

Still, a few major challenges await us: some technological, some ethical. Many of you watching will feel uncomfortable and fear that we will create a world in which we will reject non-perfect humans and pre-select features and qualities based on our idea of what’s healthy.

We are already living in a genetically modified world

Tests for dozens of genetic diseases or complications have become standard for pregnant women in much of the world. Often the mere suspicion of a genetic defect can lead to the end of a pregnancy. Take Down syndrome for example, one of the most common genetic defects. In Europe, about 92 % of all pregnancies where it’s detected are terminated.

The decision to terminate pregnancy is incredibly personal, but it’s important to acknowledge the reality that we are pre-selecting humans based on medical conditions. There is also no use in pretending this will change, so we have to act carefully and respectfully as we advance the technology and can make more and more selections.

Powerful and imperfect solutions

But none of this will happen soon. As powerful as CRISPR is—and it is, it’s not infallible yet. Wrong edits still happen as well as unknown errors that can occur anywhere in the DNA and might go unnoticed. The gene edit might achieve the desired result—disabling a disease, but also might accidentally trigger unwanted changes.

We just don’t know enough yet about the complex interplay of our genes to avoid unpredictable consequences. Working on accuracy and monitoring methods is a major concern as the first human trials begin.

And since we’ve discussed a possible positive future, there are darker visions too. Imagine what a state like North Korea could do if they embraced genetic engineering. Could a state cement its rule forever by forcing gene editing on their subjects? What would stop a totalitarian regime from engineering an army of modified super soldiers? It is doable in theory. Scenarios like this one are far, far off into the future, if they ever become possible at all. But the basic proof of concept for genetic engineering like this already exists today.

The technology really is that powerful

While this might be a tempting reason to ban genetic editing and related research, that would certainly be a mistake. Banning human genetic engineering would only lead to the science wandering off to a place with jurisdiction and rules that we are uncomfortable with. Only by participating can we make sure that further research is guided by caution, reason, oversight, and transparency.

Let’s wrap this up: Conclusion

Do you feel uncomfortable now? Genetically speaking, most of us have something wrong with us. In the future that lies ahead, would we have been allowed to exist? The technology is certainly a bit scary, but we have a lot to gain. Genetic engineering might just be a step in the natural evolution of intelligent species in the universe. We might end disease. We could extend our life expectancy by centuries and travel to the stars. There’s no need to think small when it comes to this topic. Whatever your opinion on genetic engineering, the future is approaching no matter what. What has been insane science fiction is about to become our new reality, a reality full of opportunities and challenges.

Original content by Kurzgesagt – In A Nutshell

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Four Examples Of Great Educators And What We Can Learn From Them

When I think of all the teachers I’ve ever had, I am amazed at the many roles they have to play for their students’ success. In addition to being educators, they can be mentors, role models, knowledgeable experts, a sympathetic ear, even a fellow student! Whether you’re a tutor, a schoolteacher, or a university professor, you’ll find yourself playing these roles, and the very best educators play multiple roles seamlessly. Here are a few teachers I’ve had and the lessons that all educators can learn from them.

 

Mrs. Berens: 4th Grade

4th grade was arguably my greatest year of school, period. I’m not kidding. I had it all: good grades, popularity, an active social life, and so much more. I also developed a genuine love of learning, which I owe to the efforts of my teacher, Mrs. Berens.

Mrs. Berens seemed to know everything and was eager to share all that knowledge with you, ready or not. She was a real-life Ms. Frizzle! We covered a ton of subjects every day: Math, Science, History, English, and did a lot of group work in each of them. I remember when she gave us multiplication speed tests, and then instructed us to get with two to three other students to compare answers and correct our work. Everything was a collaborative process in her classroom, and I loved it. The classroom itself was FULL of resources we used during our free time. There was a huge bookshelf that I loved to pick from because she always had the best books that weren’t always available in the library. It was a space designed to maximize learning, but that wasn’t even the best part. Mrs. Berens not only encouraged excellence, she expected and demanded it.

And she rewarded excellence in the best ways: special field trips, lunches, computer privileges—once, when we achieved a reading goal she had set for us, she arranged for our class to attend a movie premiere in Hollywood! She had influence!

The Lesson: Passion

I loved Mrs. Berens because she played a strong leadership role in our learning journey. She set a high standard, expected us to achieve it, and allowed us to be curious and discover new things in the process. With her, learning was a true pleasure, and I understood that attending school was not my duty, it was my privilege.

 

 

Mrs. Rosemann: 6th Grade

As an unruly 10-year-old, I lacked the self-control to focus on my studies sometimes. Take an absentminded child, add a newfound access to video games, and you’ve got a kid who’s not always paying attention in the classroom. Mrs. Rosemann changed all that.

She seemed wonderfully odd to me when I first met her. She had fiery red hair that looked out of place paired with her usual dark blazers. As it turned out, her fashion sense was a perfect illustration of the kind of teacher she was. She struck a balance between stern and empathetic, serious and silly, kind and cold. When teaching math and science, she was all business. When we got to reading and art, however, she’d prance around the room, vibrant and animated. Mrs. Rosemann ran a structured classroom, and her expectations were clearly laid out from day one. She was a strict disciplinarian: if you were caught messing around, she would call you out in front of the whole class. But she was also a free spirit who encouraged creativity from all of us. In the middle of the year, our class wrote and performed our own Greek tragedy—we made our own costumes and everything!

The Lesson: Discipline

Mrs. Rosemann introduced structure at a pivotal time in our lives. At the start of our preteen years, other things were more important than school, and she taught us to remain studious, composed, and to take our own learning seriously. Most importantly, she held us accountable for our behavior, our assignments, and for understanding the lessons. Many of the best educators emphasize that learning is also YOUR responsibility.

 

 

Ms. Bullard: 9th Grade English

Following my middle school years—where I had been puffed up and praised for doing well with relatively easy work—Ms. Bullard shattered my idea of what good academic writing was and forced me to improve my skills—or suffer the consequences…

I’ll never forget that first day: We were a bunch of arrogant freshmen, straight out of junior high, sitting at our desks, waiting to receive a worksheet to fill out for 45 minutes. But it never came.

Instead, Ms. Bullard told us to write an essay about our summer reading. With a thesis, supporting evidence, specific details, a conclusion, and everything. Without the book. Using memory alone. It was a bloodbath.

After that, the real work began. She taught us two important things about academic writing and communication in general: how you say something is as important as what you’re saying, and if you’re going to take a position, you’d better be able to back it up. Her class was rigorous. It was frustrating. It felt impossible. If you managed to break into the “A” range, you felt like a champion because you fought for it.

The Lesson: Humility

With knowledge comes pride. The best teachers give you a good kick in the shins and make you forget everything you think you know so you can start learning from a new perceptive, which ultimately makes you smarter. Even though it was a freshman English class, Ms. Bullard treated us like seniors. She expected nothing but clear, excellent writing from us, and that’s what we had to deliver if we wanted to survive. She was a relentless, unforgiving coach—just what we needed.

 

 

Mrs. Haus: 9th, 10th, and 11th Grade Biology (AND Chemistry)

Science was one of my favorite subjects in high school, and it’s all thanks to Mrs. Haus. A lot of students complained about her because she gave a lot of homework, although I later realized the reason why. Much of the learning process is repetition, and her classes were all repetition, all the time! In high school, test preparation slowly takes precedence over actual learning, but not in Mrs. Haus’ class. She taught for understanding.

In my freshman year, she gave us packets filled with a list of that week’s science terms for us to define, as well as a ton of short answer questions that we had to complete with thorough explanations. One week, we had to explain the process of Meiosis, and if we left out a single part, we could expect corrective red marks all over the page.

The devil was in the details.

Her pickiness followed me on to 10th grade, her 6 week summer Chemistry course (which was brutal), and ESPECIALLY to AP Biology, where I wrote, reviewed, and rewrote answers for her all year.

But here’s the thing: her obsession with detail was only half of her winning teaching style. She also focused on getting to know each student and our weaknesses so she could help us learn in our own ways. She knew that I’d skip over the smallest details, so she made me revise assignments again and again until I learned to be thorough.

And it worked! I scored high on the AP test!

The Lesson: Perseverance

Even though she was incredibly nit-picky, Mrs. Haus taught me that anything worth doing is worth doing correctly. Excellence is all about the small things that can make or break you, and my time with her was a testament to that fact.

 

 

The great educators in our lives have all played roles besides that of “teacher” in order to teach those core values that help us succeed. Good teachers stick to the material, amazing teachers go beyond it. The best thing about that is, every teacher has the opportunity to be a great educator if they’re willing to walk the extra mile.

For more stories like this one, study tips, homework help, and one-on-one live tutoring, check out StudyGate.com!

 

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People Come Before Things: A Learning Strategy For A Digital World

Learning Strategy Digital World

by Jacob Hallman

The way students learn is changing in a world of constant connectivity, but that doesn’t mean standards for learning should follow suit. Critical thinking ability, 1:1 investment in students, and time management skills should continue to be the keys for success in education. What we learn should change with the times. How we learn should change with new technology. Our learning habits should never change as they will forever be rooted in discipline, adequate rest, healthy food, and social support. 150 years ago, Harvard founder Charles Eliot realized that US students needed training to act as considerate observers, explore changes happening in the world, and embrace quick decision making to fill new positions in previously undefined careers. This attitude of openness is the key to how humans learn, and Eliot built a new system for a new age rocked by the Industrial Revolution. As for Aristotle, he was a guide on the side helping students apply reason, develop skills in logic, and communicate convincing arguments. Those values still matter today, 100%. Part of the challenge for educating the next generation lies in how to cultivate those sensibilities at scale with new technology. Before technology, the key to success in future educational systems will start with embracing the standards of the past in preparation for the unknown. Comprehension comes before performance on any test score, every day. This is true across industries as well. In music, Grammy award winning producer Quincy Jones wants to work with producers aware of historical context, but standards are devolving:

“…producers now are ignoring all the musical principles of the previous generations. It’s a joke. That’s not the way it works: You’re supposed to use everything from the past. If you know where you come from, it’s easier to get where you’re going.”

If we want to innovate in science, mathematics, engineering, or any other subject, we must learn the best practices of those who came before us. Entrepreneur Mark Cuban had it right when he publicly commented in 2017 about a world where education in the liberal arts will be the preferred field of study in a volatile job market. Students of liberal arts critically examine the past. Pundits, scholars, and think tanks can theorize on the future all they want, but just like in Eliot’s time, young people will have new positions to fill in previously undefined careers. To embrace the future, we must remain committed to classical development and study of acquired knowledge, especially since technical abilities developed today will become obsolete tomorrow. We have an unprecedented array of tools with the emergence of the Internet, and it is critical that students learn how to use them. Strong online learning habits will precede knowledge. The parents and teachers of successful students will stand on the front lines for communicating these values:

Students will learn how to think for themselves.

Critical thinking skills are compulsory. On the Internet, information and misinformation will continue to coexist on the same channels. Students must learn how to evaluate incoming information, consider the origin of the report, and filter out erroneous or fallacious material regardless of whether the insight is convenient or not. Otherwise, learning devolves into a race to the bottom where the loudest voice and most compelling story becomes the truth.

Students will apply discipline in their time online.

Life on the Internet is incessant click bait. Ads and entertainment are synonymously packaged through social media and video content, which are addictive. To learn, students should engage the Internet to learn new languages, to enroll in online courses, to access books, movies, and music, and to conduct research to see what scholars have to say on subjects of study. When engaged in these activities, parents and teachers must train students to stay focused. This starts with avoiding rapid shifts in attention as much as possible.

Students will identify where they spend most of their time.

Ability starts with cultivating a strong sense of self-awareness in young people. Only afterwards can students build on skill sets through Internet connectivity. Furthermore, career choices aren’t a question of passion and following dreams. Teachers and parents owe it to the next generation to help students define and build on what they are good at before giving them resources and access to experts that will stimulate growth. Otherwise, Internet access will provide little guidance to the undirected mind.   These three ingredients form the foundation for meaningful learning. Once complete, solutions to build on a clean and clear mind are in place. Fortunately, there’s plenty of help available! CEO Patrick Brothers leads Navitas on a mission to accelerate innovation in education. He suggests that ‘one size fits one’ as the new way to learn and that this is a distinct shift from the current education system emboldened by Charles Eliot in the 19th century. Eliot would disagree. He saw a world where:

“The natural bent and peculiar quality of every [child’s] mind should be sacredly regarded in [their] education”.

Eliot sensed the power of a child’s unique outlook as something to build on. He was the one who invented the undergraduate major and minor to fit individual learning interests. He just didn’t have the tools to make personalization exist at scale via 1:1 learning. 1:1 learning is the future, and Eliot looked at student development as a matter of faith and God-given ability. The knowledge economy championed by Brothers looks at student development as a market opportunity. Regardless of the point of view, both Eliot and Brothers could recognize the cultivating of the individual mind as an individual process.

The upper class has always invested heavily in the education of their children, but the market opportunity of 1:1 learning combined with the cost savings of scale will make this service available to increasingly large sectors of the population. 1:1 learning will be especially important as families trend toward dual-income middle-class homes with little time to drive their child to the nearest tutoring center. 1:1 learning will be especially important as digital natives grow up in a world of constant connectivity. Getting caring and competent adults as a service for 1:1 learning has been traditionally hard to scale, but prices are coming down quickly. 1:1 learning can affordably accelerate personalization, and there are tremendous advantages to finding a tutor on the Internet.

As technology continues to improve with the eventual arrival of singularity, there will always be an added benefit to working with a teacher tangibly invested in a student’s learning process. Even if an entire human being was successfully replicated and digitized, the difference between a computer and a person will always have an emotional distinction. A human cares about my learning progress. A bot tweets my milestone on my MOOC. Secondly, learning requires that a student fundamentally admits that they have not mastered the content. The embarrassment of that admission can be reduced by finding a tutor online, an individual disconnected from the social stigma of someone in real life that a student might feel judged by. Besides reducing travel time, a third reason for online learning is that it increases efficiency by adding focus to learning sessions via a medium where tutors are literally on the clock. The tutor’s future work opportunity depends on their ability to provide timely input and avoid unrelated tangents. Finally, students can use online learning sessions to freely connect remotely with classmates who can empathize with their learning challenge and help explain subject material directly.

The bottom line is that 1:1 learning with teachers and classmates offers a pragmatic and effective 1-2 punch available within clicks. Having worked in education for 10 years, I see a world where the quality of learning is diminishing because of digital solutions that separate humans from each other and simplify the complex to the point of irrelevancy. This is accented by an ineffective test-bound system teaching a generation of students that the answer matters more than the process of getting to that answer and appreciating the meaning of that answer. As a result, the quantity of knowledge students bring to established college programs is diminishing on an annual basis.

The systems of higher education aren’t changing, but our ability to think independently, stay focused, and increase self-awareness is trending down. It is time for that to change. It is time to make technology a part of the solution by efficiently connecting students with talented tutors. At home, students need adults that can help build effective learning habits. Online, students do not need scalable learning management systems and multimedia interactive curriculums. This is a recipe for diluted learning because knowledge starts with engagement with people first, not technology. Ultimately, successful learning is impossible without the core needs of a student being taken care of in their home.

From the Carter to the Trump administrations, politicians have been sensitive to these changes in society. There is a general sense that it is harder to provide adequate sleep, good food, discipline, and social support to children than it used to be. Some single-parent homes might pull it off with the help of extended family, but there is enough racial and social inequality that not every family could effectively overcome these basic needs for learning. Tomorrow’s leaders need support and development opportunities. They benefit when we provide a strong foundation for them to build on. No matter what learning tools are in place, only when we learn how to take care of our young people can they truly embrace the opportunities around them to excel.

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Fighting The System: Good Students Vs. Academic Dishonesty

Academic Honesty

Students are blurring the lines between academic honesty and legitimate study more and more as time goes on. While the nature of cheating is still clearly defined, students can now find help online in a multitude of ways. It can be difficult to determine what is dishonest and what isn’t.

For example, is it cheating if a tutor works out a math related homework problem for a student to study later? The student did not technically do the work, but the student does not turn it is as his or her own work. The distinction is becoming more and more unclear.

As students go further in their academic careers, there is a greater urge to be academically dishonest. The students who have cheated in the past will continue to do so. But what about everyone else? What about the students who normally perform well, but find the need to find extra help elsewhere? There are many reasons why students cheat, but the most consequential reasons come from the fact that students in higher education are often pitted against an unforgiving system that gives very few second chances.

 

Numbers Matter

Many rigorous college courses weigh some assignments more heavily than others. It’s very common for a teacher to instruct a course in which there are two important assignments—a midterm and a final, or a final and a research project. The homework has little, if any, influence on the final grade. Students understand that they’ve got to learn strategy if they want to succeed in higher education. It’s not enough to just show up, listen, and do the assignments. You’ve got to know how to work the numbers and figure out what hits you can and cannot afford to take. If both your tests are each 40% of your final grade, and you don’t do so well on the first one, you know you’re performing damage control for the rest of the semester. This is part of the problem. Students will do anything to boost or stabilize that grade percentage. Sometimes, they run into situations that are less about ethics and more about survival.

 

Full Speed Ahead

The pace of the course is also a contributing factor to why students cheat. You’ve got to be absolutely ready for a midterm in a ten-week course because, again, doing poorly will cost you for the rest of the term. It’s one thing to have difficulty learning at such a rapid pace. Being penalized for it is another matter entirely! Yes, that’s just part of the challenges students face in higher education and they should learn to adjust. But the breakneck pace leads to a lot of anxiety among students who have a lot depending on the outcome of a course. A low or average grade could cause a student to miss out on an internship, university admission, or scholarship. The challenge itself is not what causes academic dishonesty. The outcome and subsequent effect on a student’s life is enough for even the most ethical student to weigh their options more closely.

 

Learning Factory

Many universities around the country offer courses with an enrollment size of 100 or more students total. Professors often do not have time to get to know each student individually, much less learn their handwriting, work ethic, and learning style. Academic dishonesty becomes much more attractive knowing that the instructor may not know that the student is cheating in the first place. It’s much harder to do in community colleges or schools with smaller class sizes, but is relatively easy in larger university courses.

 

So What’s The Takeaway?

I don’t believe new technology has any influence over a student’s decision to cheat. The way we cheat today is the same way we’ve cheated 30 years ago, those methods have just moved to an online format. However, today’s students are aware that they have to understand the system they’re engaged in if they want to survive. Every course syllabus explains the weight of various assignments. The student decides what to focus on. If they slip up on a certain assignment, or perform poorly on a test, they understand that it’s not enough just to do well on the next one. Academic dishonesty isn’t necessarily a route for lazy students to avoid applying themselves. It’s also a way for students to stack the odds in their favor. If we want to address the growing threat of academic dishonesty, we first need to understand the situation students all over the country contend with. It’s so much more than just studying and taking tests. It’s strategy, too.

 

For homework help, one-on-one tutoring, and more articles like these, visit StudyGate.com!

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Four Reasons Why Vocational Classes Will Make AP Students Successful

AP Students

Harvard president Charles Eliot expresses how difficult it is to provide an  education that leaves students prepared for the workforce in his 1869 article, The New Education. On one hand, he champions trade schools. He cites their usefulness in producing effective workers with a strong sense of practicality. On the other hand, he recognizes the need to develop the American educational system to cultivate strong thinkers and educators. His difficulty in finding a comprehensive education presented a problem that still exists today.

About forty years ago, lifestyle courses such as home economics and wood shop were serious elective classes. They taught important skill sets for everyday life. As schools slightly shifted their focus to boosting academic test scores, these classes have taken a backseat and gained a reputation for being “easy A” courses. They are basically where unmotivated students can gain extra credits toward graduation.

In recent years, however, schools like Tesla STEM High School in Redmond, Washington are starting to combine Advanced Placement courses with vocational classes to provide much needed hands-on experience and better prepare students for life after high school, according to a recent PBS article. It’s a move that could potentially lead us to emphasize that pragmatism and scholarship go hand in hand. Here are a few reasons why this improvement is a step toward Eliot’s vision that will give students the tools to be more productive and successful in the future.

 

Practice Over Theory

Typically, high schools separate hands-on experiences from textbook learning as students get older. Yes, many courses incorporate effective learning exercises into their curriculum, but at the end of the day, there is a greater emphasis on standardized testing and sprucing up that all-important college transcript. Students mostly apply their knowledge to hypothetical situations. While this may do wonders for test scores, abstract theories do not completely prepare students for the future. In short, students learn by doing things. The more things they do, the more they think about their skills and work they want to pursue in the future.

 

Practical Skills Are Essential For Survival

Home economics, wood shop, auto repair, and other vocational courses teach valuable skills that adults use every day. While it is important to learn advanced science and math concepts, learning to cook a complete meal is equally important. Students need to learn basic survival skills, such as how to change a tire, change oil, sewing, tax preparation, and so much more. As students transition into college life, these skills will give them a sense of independence.

 

More Application, Less Memorization

In most AP courses, students rapidly move through difficult concepts and lessons throughout the year, taking tests regularly. Then, over the months of March and April, students and teachers shift into test preparation mode. They study the AP test format, nailing down all the definitions and possible questions and preparing students for the big test in May. These courses are useful for teaching students advanced concepts and how to take on challenges, but they are ultimately test centered. The knowledge gained is quickly lost. Students at Tesla STEM High School agree that applying knowledge to real-world situations helps them understand the material. One student links behavioral sciences to a career in forensics, saying that, “The lab work really puts things in perspective and makes them easier to understand when we take tests.”

 

Mixing Students Of Different Academic Levels Could Be Beneficial

In our current academic culture, the gifted and talented students are slowly separated from everyone else. In high school, there is a clear distinction. Mixing students of various skill has the potential to increase learning by removing status as a factor in academic success. The students normally suited to AP courses can apply their knowledge with other students and learn to become problem solvers. They learn how to work in a team of people will different backgrounds and skill sets. Students who lack the skills to succeed in college and beyond would face greater challenges and demand excellence from themselves. A learning environment plays a significant role in a student’s success and there is a lot that they can do to support each other.

 

 

A man cannot run an organization or company without having first performed the organization’s basic services, according to Eliot. A doctor cannot become the head of a major medical institution without having spent time with actual patients. The same concept applies here. Students will be better off if they apply their advanced lessons to real situations. Knowledge coupled with experience yields longer lasting success, and it is time that our educational system reflected this principle.

For more articles about education, homework help, study tips, and one-on-one tutoring, visit StudyGate.com!

 

 

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What’s The Point Of Going To College: A Look At What We Believe Education Should Do For Us

What's The Point Of College?

What is the point of going to college? Is it only supposed to prepare you for the workforce? Or should it broaden the mind and expand one’s ability for developing and understanding new ideas? This question has plagued the minds, the lives, and the relationships between students and parents all over the country for decades.

It’s deeply troubling. But it doesn’t need to be.

 

 

A Matter Of Finances

As it turns out, the perceived purpose of college has been in debate for quite some time. On February 28th, 1967, the national conversation took a turn into territory that informs the way many people, students and parents alike, think about college in the present day.

On the day in question, Ronald Reagan held a press conference on the topic of the 1968 presidential election. He was the newly elected governor of the state of California at the time. The reporter’s line of questioning turned to the state budget. That’s when Reagan shifted his focus to education. When asked whether cuts in education were necessary, Reagan’s initial response was:

“…there’s no one in this administration that intends to do anything that will be harmful to education. But we do believe that there are certain intellectual luxuries that perhaps we co do without a year or two without hurting the cause of education. And we’ve asked for their cooperation both at the college and university level, in finding those things that can be done without getting into the real meat.”

 

 

Useful vs. Useless Majors

These “intellectual luxuries” Reagan referred to are liberal arts courses. The then-governor cites courses where students learn to organize political demonstrations and repair band instruments as examples, but we can safely extend his point to include many of the more arts-centered subjects as well as the humanities.

This idea—that some courses are less valuable than others and are therefore not considered part of a good education—is one that is alive and well today. If you ask a college student who is still undecided why they have not yet chosen an area of study, most students will say they do not know what kind of career they want to pursue. That seems to be the prime reason why undecided college students cannot choose an option. It is not because they are dazzled by the number of courses available for study. It is because they are preoccupied with finding the right subject that ultimately yields the greatest career and financial opportunities.

Parents all over the country urge their children to earn a degree they’ll be able to “use” in the future. That does nothing but confuse them. Every student thinks: “I want to major in _____, but if I do, will I be able to find a job? Are there even jobs available for this subject area? Will I make enough money to support myself?” It’s a harrowing, ultimately unnecessary thought that only holds the student back and dampens their ambition. The student places all their focus on one aspect of their future—earning a living. It neglects all other aspects that can potentially boost their ability to do so. Here’s what I mean:

 

 

Yes, College Should Absolutely Prepare A Student For The Workforce…

There is no denying that a college education is an invaluable resource for everyone. Nurses, doctors, and other medical professionals need to have a thorough understanding of medicine before they can even think about practicing in the real world. Business professionals need to learn about economics, finance, management, and a host of other concepts before they enter the working world. These things are non-negotiable. College can give a student the knowledge necessary to direct their natural gifts and earn a living to support themselves. However, it’s not exactly that simple.

 

 

…But It Should Also Refine Critical Thinking Skills And Fuel A Sense Of Curiosity…

Think back to any graduation ceremony you’ve ever attended. Celebrating a group of students who have the intellect and curiosity to someday change the world is the thesis of just about every speech you’ve ever heard. Why? Because good educators strongly believe in equipping students with the tools necessary to create, innovate, and solve major problems in our world. Yes, they want to you make a living, but education is ultimately about progress. Progress for you and your family. Also, progress for the children in our schools. Advancement matters for our society at large and for our world.

Progress takes a great deal of effort and thought. A college education should provide the tools to bring change.

 

 

…While Also Transmitting Culture Throughout Generations…

These days, students receive their civic and historical education largely though college. Think about it. In college, students (should) learn the importance of voting, the political process and the lasting impact our lawmakers’ decisions can have on us and our families, the history of many foreign countries and peoples, and so much more. Sure, much of this stuff is touched on in high school, but college is supposed to truly expand a student’s worldview. It is here that we learn about our role in society. These things are a crucial part of education because they ultimately decide our trajectory as a nation. Yesterday’s problems give rise to tomorrow’s solutions, which bring about more problems that need solving. College integrates students into a learning tradition in which old ideas are improved, built upon, or dispelled as per the current social dynamic.

 

 

…And Molding Students Into Functioning Adults.

There’s a reason why students leave home when they begin college. Being responsible for a certain number of classes per day, a certain amount of homework per week, and a bunch of extracurricular activities prepares students for the responsibilities of the real world. If you don’t show up to class, you could fail your course in the same way that you’ll be eating dinner in the dark if you don’t pay your electricity bill. Where do we learn to manage our time and commitments? Where do we truly feel the impact of our financial decisions and develop our social skills as adults? College.

 

 

Okay? So What?

Governor Reagan’s comments and the short-sighted attitudes that have survived over the years through our limited perception of college should not dictate how our students approach college and their future careers. Yes, of course college should prepare students for the workforce. That’s obvious, especially in our age of hyper-competitive job markets.

But we’re kidding ourselves if we want to pretend that’s all college is for.

Learning is a lifelong process. A professional in any field needs to know how to take a problem and come up with an effective solution, wonder how to change things for the better, and ultimately work well with others to create wonderful things.

While Reagan was absolutely right to emphasize job preparation, we must now include a proviso. Instead of encouraging students to pursue degrees that are directly applicable to certain industries, such as medicine and law, we must motivate them to cultivate their strengths so they will choose a major where they feel can achieve the most success.  Students will find more success in this, because it allows them to rely on their own ambition and work ethic rather than the agonizing luck-of-the-draw approach we currently rely on.

College is so much more than a place to find the best way to squeeze a good living out of our education.  It’s where we grow, mature, and where many of us discover what we think is important in life. Treating it as such will remove much of the stress and uncertainty from the college experience. It will enable our students, now and in the future, to decide on and commit to a path worth taking.

And that is a much better use of all of our time and effort.

 

 

For more thoughts on the state of education, homework help, and study tips, visit StudyGate.com.

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History of Education: From One-Room Schoolhouse to 2017

public education history

The history of public education in the U.S. isn’t very public. People can point to the first public school in the United States (Boston Latin School, 1635)  and say the little red schoolhouse built up from there. But the US education system is more than just an increase in student bodies and rules. As John Taylor Gatto’sThe Underground History of American Education argues, the system of education has grown amok, where bureaucracy and big business conspire to keep an underclass of children uneducated and confined to careers as cheap laborer. Teachers, administrators, and social workers are well-meaning in their desire to elevate all children, but they face the odds of a monolithic, unchanging system that forces kids into standardized compartments.public education history_first school in US

It wasn’t always this way.

Education in the United States was a slow evolution, tied into the changing notions of adulthood and the changing expectations for American workers. States, counties, and cities had different moments on when they made schooling mandatory (in 1647, MassachusettsBay colony required all townships with over fifty households to make schooling compulsory to escape “the old deluder Satan”), but all educators came to believe that children were “blank slates,” needing guidance and tutoring to achieve their full potential as citizens.

public education history_old deluder satan act

Not much has changed in terms of children as tabula rasas. In the 1890s, educator and philosopher John Dewey argued, “Education is a regulation of the process of coming to share in the social consciousness; and that the adjustment of individual activity on the basis of this social consciousness is the only sure method of social reconstruction.”He meant that children needed progressive education, defined as hands-on learning, problem-solving in real life scenarios, and guidance from professional, trained teachers.

As American labor laws and manufacturing technology eliminated the need for child laborers, school systems expanded. Young adults were now called “adolescents” and were encouraged to use their teens to explore their interests, not find work. Schooling expanded, partially to assimilate new waves of immigrants from Europe, and also to keep children from loitering on dirty street corners with criminals and prostitutes.

But the system has changed. Big business entered school houses in the form of vendors who placed Coke dispensers and IBM computers on campus. Private schools of all types sprang up that promised exceptional schooling if parents were willing to pay for it. Little red school houses also bulged with politicians—in the 1950s, McCarthyites accused teachers of being subversive commies—and education specialists who argued that all children should conform to the same standards or be shuttled into “special education.” The most notable of these programs was No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, under President George W. Bush, which placed special emphasis on testing and teacher accountability.

public education history_no child left behind

We all know that educating kids is more than just filling in multiple choice bubbles on a Scantron. Educators and reformers duke it out over the definition of the words “quality education.” But everyone agrees that many kids need helping hands—resources that can cut through the layers of fighting and politicking. Statistics vary year to year and with different emphasis, but it is clear the U.S. educational system is not as competitive as it once was. They system itself is being “left behind.”

Our kids aren’t geniuses, but they aren’t dumb, either. They thrive on challenges and they don’t quit easily. But they can be discouraged. On the tabula rasa of life, a little penmanship can go a long way.

Who’s there for them?

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The Future of Jobs: How Technological Innovation will Affect the Future of Work

the future of jobs

The robots are not coming; they’re already here. And they are changing the future of jobs market for your kids in ways you may not necessarily expect. Some analysts envision apocalypse where others see salvation, but artificial intelligence and technological innovation will likely affect the future of work somewhere in between. While not all the experts agree, there are some common themes that suggest that the best jobs and ways to make money in the future are counter-intuitive.

Nothing is more widely agreed upon than the accelerated pace of technological change that shows no signs of slowing down. Billionaire investor Mark Cuban observed that, “what took 20 years before, and then became 10, could be 5 or 3” in the near future.[1] Young people entering the workforce today will likely have multiple careers, engage in more freelance work, and will not have the job security their grandparents or even you have experienced.[2]future of jobs-effect of automationAutomation is also routinely recognized as a major catalyst of job market change. While the loss of manufacturing jobs is currently the most observable effect, today’s top jobs may be equally under threat in the future. Industries such as programming, finance, and engineering look like attractive career directions for your child now, but in 5-15 years, these fields will also experience major job losses due to automation.[3]

The accelerated pace of innovation and automation do not need to foreshadow future unemployment for your children, however. Their thinking about what job skills are valuable may just need to change. Harvard education expert Dr. Tony Wagner outlines seven “survival skills of the future”: critical thinking & problem solving, collaboration & influencing, agility & adaptability, initiative & entrepreneurship, oral & written communication, assessing & analyzing information, and curiosity & imagination.[4] Rather than competing with technology, students should be seeking jobs in areas where humans have a genuine competitive advantage with these types of skills.

future of jobs_critical thinking

With terms like data analytics, the Internet of Things, and blockchain technology regularly surfacing in the media, it can be tempting to drive students toward only technical or “practical” fields where parents imagine more promising job offers pouring in. But the jobs of the future will favor people with soft skills, critical thinking ability, creativity, and adaptability over those with narrow, technical expertise. In 2017, a philosophy major may be a more prescient, “robot-proof” choice than a finance major. Only time will tell.

[1]https://youtu.be/CxD4F3MQRDI?t=13m

[2]https://psmag.com/economics/the-future-of-work-we-have-been-here-before

[3]https://youtu.be/CxD4F3MQRDI?t=13m

[4]https://singularityhub.com/2017/07/04/7-critical-skills-for-the-jobs-of-the-future/

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