Kill ’em with kindness

Last week, the University of California opened the world’s first institute to study kindness. The idea would be to pool the knowledge gleaned from researchers and house all of their insight about kindness in one place.

A few topics the institute is looking to dive deeper into include:

  • Why does a person give up his or her seat on the train?
  • Why does somebody volunteer his or her time to help someone in need?
  • How does kindness spread, and does being kind impact our brains?

Researchers even agreed on an academic definition for kindness: an act that enhances the welfare of others as an end in itself.

But it’s not all philosophical. Data from UCLA scientists has already shown mindfulness and kindness alter the behavior of genes, turning down those that promote inflammation, which can lead to heart disease or certain cancers and turning up the activity of genes that protect against infections.

Why it’s hot
As student enrollment continues to decline and people opt for nontraditional career paths, public and private higher education institutions are adding programs and offerings with seemingly little strategy behind them. Since 2012, 41,446 degrees or certificate programs have been added across the country.

UConn offers a BFA, an MA, and an MFA in Puppet Arts. One can get a degree in bagpiping from Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh. Even Notre Dame offers an interdisciplinary academic field called Peace Studies.

Will these new offerings drive action and shift the “is college worth it” narrative that continues to be omnipresent? The verdict is still out.

Sources: National Center for Education Studies; NPR

Finland’s AI Ambitions

Finland has set an ambitious goal to train 1% of its population (55,000 people) in the basics of AI. Their hope is that widespread technological expertise can help boost their economy and help them stay competitive in international markets, especially in the wake of Nokia’s decline.

In order to achieve this, they created a free online course called the Elements of AI. The course is made up of six parts, covering everything from machine learning to neural networks, and has a focus on practical, problem-solving applications.

The initiative has support of both the government and local businesses, with 250 companies vowing to train part or all of their workforce. So far, more than 10,500 people have graduated from the course.

Why It’s Hot

At a time when so many are afraid of how new technology will impact the current career landscape and are struggling to keep up with the pace of change, Finland’s idea to promote a free educational resource to equip its workforce is a smart move.

Source: https://www.technologyreview.com/the-download/612762/a-countrys-ambitious-plan-to-teach-anyone-the-basics-of-ai/ 

Study shows participants recall information more in VR

A new study at the University of Maryland shows that people remembered information better when in VR versus on a desktop.

Participants were first handed a print out of faces. They they had 5 minutes to a explore a scene and remember where all the faces were located.

“Half the faces were positioned in different locations within the interior setting–Oprah Winfrey appeared at the top of a grand staircase; Stephen Hawking was a few steps down, followed by Shrek. On the ground floor, Napoleon Bonaparte’s face sat above majestic wooden table, while The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was positioned in the center of the room.”

After 5 minutes, the scene went dark for two minutes and then reappears. This time though, the faces were replaced with numbered boxes. The participants were then asked to recall what face was in each box.

After they finished answering, they were asked to remember new faces and explore another scene, but this time on a different platform. The 40 participants were split into two groups. One went that went through the study in VR first and then desktop, and another group that explored it on desktop first and then in VR. All but 2 participants said they were confident with their answers on both platforms, but preferred VR.

The results? There was an 8.8% improvement in recall accuracy when the participants used VR over desktop.

“Many of the participants said the immersive “presence” while using VR allowed them to focus better. This was reflected in the research results: 40 percent of the participants scored at least 10 percent higher in recall ability using VR over the desktop display.”

“By showing that virtual reality can help improve recall, it opens the door to further studies that look at the impact of VR-based training modules at all levels–from elementary school children learning astronomy to trauma residents acquiring the latest knowledge in lifesaving procedures. We believe the future of education and innovation will benefit greatly from the use of these new visual technologies.”

 

Why It’s Hot:

  • Shows more potential for VR as a platform for educating users

 

Links:

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-06/uom-pri061318.php

https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Virtual-Memory-Palaces%3A-Immersion-aids-Recall-Krokos-Varshney/a9b76f2f18f10e5305234cdc526ea13d803cbb6b

Assassin’s Creed Origins Releasing Zero-Combat Mode

Ubisoft announced the development of a zero-combat mode for Assassin’s Creed Origins, the soon-to-be-published tenth installment of the wildly popular Assassin’s Creed series of video games. While Assassin’s Creed games typically involve a hefty dose of violence along with their sprawling, historically accurate worldbuilding, the zero-combat mode will turn Ubisoft’s massive re-creation of Ancient Egypt into an interactive, living historical world.

The educational mode will feature dozens of guided tours that focus on subjects like the Great Pyramids, mummification, and the life of Cleopatra, among others. Players can also simply roam through the entire world without having to keep looking over their (virtual) shoulders, taking time to wander and explore the vast landscape that includes Alexandria, the Sand Sea, the Giza Plateau, and more.

The content is painstakingly vetted to ensure historical and cultural accuracy, thanks to the team of historians and Egyptologists who helped create the educational world. According to Jean Guesdon, the creative director for Assassin’s Creed Origins, “We spent years recreating Ancient Egypt, documenting ourselves, validating the content with historians, with consultants, and we feel that many more people than just the players can benefit from that.”

The update doesn’t land until 2018, but when it’s ready, it’ll be a free upgrade for everyone who’s already purchased the game.

Why it’s hot: The zero-combat mode is a significant play for Ubisoft, who may be trying to get into the education space with this release. Guesdon says, “I hope that teachers will seize this opportunity to present that to their students, so they can learn with this interactive medium.” Regardless of their broader intention, it represents an exciting (and fun!) new application of the Assassin’s Creed series’ worldbuilding technology and expertise.

Ubisoft blog | Engadget | Ars Technica

School Subjects Could Be A Thing Of The Past in Finland

Finland is rethinking how it teaches in the digital age – seeking to place skills, as much as subjects, at the heart of what it does in a framework called Project Based Learning (PBL)

VIDEO: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-39889523

WHY ITS HOT

Traditionally, learning has been defined as a list of subject matters and facts you need to acquire – such as arithmetic and grammar – with some decoration, like citizenship, built in around it.

When it comes to real life, our brain is not sliced into disciplines in that way; we are thinking in a very holistic way. And when you think about the problems in the world – global crises, migration, the economy, the post-truth era – we really haven’t given our children the tools to deal with this inter-cultural world.

It’s a major mistake if we lead children to believe the world is simple and that if they learn certain facts they are ready to go. So learning to think, learning to understand, these are important skills – and it also makes learning fun, which we think promotes wellbeing.

“We Are Good on Supplies” #SaidNoSchoolEver

Trash bag company Hefty and Havas Worldwide Chicago tackle a big issue—one that’s more powerful than smelly garbage or nondurable bags—for the brand’s new #SaidNoSchoolEver campaign.


The new work, which includes two 30-second online spots and a handful of playful memes, aims to raise awareness of the serious lack of funding many public schools and teachers face—but does so in a tongue-in-cheek manner.
The writing in the 30-second spots is both sarcastic and sharp, with teachers delivering lines like “We do not need any more art supplies,” and “This map—from 1913. Almost all of the states are there.”
“At no point was this supposed to be polarizing for the brand,” Havas group creative director Ecole Weinstein told Adweek. “We wanted to touch the surface of the issue and still do it with a bit of a smile and make [the campaign] culturally relevant and sharable.”

Havas also wanted to bring Hefty’s involvement with the Box Tops for Education program to light. Hefty, the only trash-bag brand currently supporting the initiative, has donated over $3.5 million to Box Tops over the years. The subject matter also hit close to home for some members of Havas’ creative team.
“Myself, as well as a couple members of the creative team, have deep ties to the education system,” Weinstein said. Weinstein, whose mother was an inner-city school teacher in Florida for 29 years, said she grew up knowing all about the challenges teachers and public schools face. She added that the dry, sarcastic humor would share well on social channels, especially among the teacher crowd searching for a little bit of humor.

Check out some of the memes from the campaign below.

Were-Good_meme_0 Budget-Cuts_meme_0

Taco Bell Foundation Launches Recognize Potential Campaign

taco

To drive awareness, inspiration and support towards earning a high school diploma, the Taco Bell Foundation has launched #RecognizePotential, its first and largest-ever marketing campaign aimed at inspiring more teens to ignite their full potential – beginning with earning a high school diploma. #RecognizePotential calls on teens to share and celebrate their potential online via the campaign hashtag, in their communities and in Taco Bell restaurants nationwide. The campaign includes a national fundraiser in all 6,000 Taco Bell locations through June 8th, driving awareness of unrecognized potential across its 42 million weekly customers.

Why It’s Hot

As the CEO of the Taco Bell Corp.,Brian Niccol says, “When teens don’t graduate, potential is lost. As a brand, we don’t come into neighborhoods and build restaurants; we build and empower communities to have an impact where people live, work and play. The #RecognizePotential campaign and helping the next generation of leaders tap into their potential and earn their diploma is a huge part of that.” To culminate Taco Bell’s celebration of teens and graduation season, Taco Bell Foundation partnered with Get Schooled, and invited teens to share their compelling testimonies, which will be featured in the annual Graduate for Más Times Square Yearbook. More than 600 teens will be spotlighted in the largest virtual yearbook on billboards in the middle of Times Square, NYC on June 10. Taco Bell Foundation and Get Schooled have a shared passion for igniting the next generation of leaders and helping teens stay on track to achieve their goals. Today, more than 350,000 teens have made the promise to graduate. Let’s celebrate these new graduates.

Oregon’s Bid To Attract Its ‘Next Class of Innovators’

There’s a lot of competition among colleges and universities to get on the consideration set of prospective students. They’ve got to break through the clutter, pique attention and connect with students in relevant and meaningful ways. Prospective students are looking for the full college experience and want to join an engaged community that provides a breadth of opportunities.

5-15-2015 9-24-39 AM

The University of Oregon has developed creative, engaging and (in some cases) sharable content to make the exploration, application and acceptance process more exciting for prospective students, with the end goals of earning their application and stimulating additional interest among circles of friends through word of mouth.

The content includes a mailed “answers” deck of cards which includes answers about the university in order to entice students to apply. Then, applicants were sent an Oregon poster and flag, with encouragement to engage in an online community just for prospective students, as well as “A Duck Like These” kits, which featured success stories of alumni who graduated as recently as last year to as long as 50 years ago.

Why it’s hot: The ideas aren’t groundbreaking, in general, but as students receive a flood of university brochures and emails during their junior and senior years of high school, these efforts will help the University of Oregon to stand apart. Not only is it clear to prospective students that the university is going the extra mile to earn their consideration, but the collateral really showcases the university’s personality and culture, which helps them to attract the type of students who will strengthen that culture. Last, by distributing loudly branded items and encouraging social interaction, they’re capitalizing on students’ excitement about the next chapter in their lives to get the word out to next year’s applicants. A little inspiration for those of us who work in education!

LinkedIn’s $1.5 Billion Lynda.com Purchase Is All About the Data

LinkedIn has acquired online education startup Lynda.com for approximately $1.5 billion, the company announced on 4/9.

The acquisition is LinkedIn’s biggest ever and gives the company a wealth of instructional videos on topics such as web development, photography and design. LinkedIn plans to promote these courses to its 350 million users, and the company’s brass is already theorizing about how LinkedIn’s wealth of corporate data can be used to suggest relevant classes. Here’s one such hypothetical from LinkedIn content head Ryan Roslansky:

Imagine being a job seeker and being able to instantly know what skills are needed for the available jobs in a desired city, like Denver, and then to be prompted to take the relevant and accredited course to help you acquire this skill.

LinkedIn is saying this acquisition is about “connecting people to opportunity.” That may be true, but it’s also strengthens the company’s data arsenal significantly, a smart move in today’s data driven digital economy.

Why It’s Hot

This is cool for a couple different reasons: From a data standpoint, it’s intriguing. But it may only be the start. As long as we’re imagining, consider the following two potential applications of Lynda data within LinkedIn’s core product:

  • LinkedIn recently launched a product that allows advertisers to buy ads across the web using its data. LinkedIn can now append Lynda’s valuable first party data to the offering should it so choose. Lynda’s data is goldmine for some advertisers — Adobe would probably love to get ads for its Creative Suite in front Lynda’s design students — and Lynda already seems to be using that data in some way. A visit to its Design section brought up 28 ad tags according to the browser extension Ghostery. Included among them were the ad exchange AppNexus and retargeter Criteo.
  • Much of LinkedIn’s revenue comes from its Talent Solutions platform, so it’s not a stretch to imagine recruiters getting notifications about people who complete courses for the skills they’re looking for. This could be a win for both parties. Recruiters get the people they need, and people in need get jobs. It would also make LinkedIn more indispensable, raising the bar for competitors to challenge it.

Source: http://adage.com/article/digital/linkedin-s-1-5-billion-lynda-purchase-data/297986/

Smarter people use iPhones – study

The musicphone

A new study conducted by online advertising network Chitika found that states with more college graduates tend to also have higher iPhone sales. Even though Apple’s iPhones are the largest source of smartphone Internet activity in the US, their study finds a relatively high degree of variation of iPhone usage rates on a state-by-state basis. Alaska (66%), Montana and Vermont have the largest percentage of iPhone users. New Mexico (41%), Iowa and Delaware have the lowest share of iPhone sales per capita.

Why It’s Hot

For the iPhone usage rate study, Chitika Insights analyzed a sample of hundreds of millions of U.S.-based iPhone ad impressions accessed via Chitika’s Cidewalk mobile ad platform. The data was collected from December 25 through December 31, 2014, including traffic from devices given as gifts. The data was then organized by state.

The data showed that iPhone usage is positively correlated with level of education and population density at the state-level. The more densely populated the state, the greater the chance that iPhone sales will be higher in that state. The relationship also held across median income as well, however the high correlation in median income and education level resulted in redundancy of this particular variable. iPhone usage rates were calculated based on the percentage of a given state’s total smartphone app traffic that originated from iPhones.

To let you know where the tri-state area falls among the states in iPhone usage: NY has 56.2%; NJ, 55.3%; and Pennsylvania, 49.5%.
Understanding the brand-based smartphone usage rates between different states can assist marketers when creating regional strategies. It can also be a variable in building a profile of the user more likely to use the iPhone to help advertisers define their target audience. Chitika admits that its results “are not comprehensive” and further study of other factors effecting iPhone usage rates will be tested.

More than 42% of U.S. smartphones are iPhones, according to comScore. Runner-up Samsung commands 28% of the U.S. market.
http://money.cnn.com/2015/01/22/technology/mobile/iphone-smart-study/index.html

Jamstik, “The World’s First Smart Guitar”

I’ve been watching a lot of Shark Tank lately, and I’ve noticed a growth in self-educational products, especially in music. Jamstik helps you learn and practice guitar easily with a very portable hardware that you can connect to your smartphone.

Why It’s Hot: This is another cool product for DIY education, and it’ll be interesting to see how it partners up with brands. With increased usage of platforms like Kahn Academy, wider accessibility is becoming more realistic everyday.

The Rise of Big Data in the Classroom

According to the Associated Press, about 1,700 schools nationwide can be deemed “dropout factories,” which essentially means their senior class has 60% or less of the students who started there as freshmen. And every 26 seconds, a student in America drops out of high school, or in other words, 7,000 a day.

Education technology companies are leveraging big data to improve classroom engagement and make learning more effective. They’re focusing on everything from online courses to personalized testing to standardized APIs for K-12 schools.

One example is Knewton, adaptive platform that collects real-time data based on students’ learning habits. It has received $105 million in investor funding to predict failure in subject areas and enable smarter, more dynamic learning that’s tailored to the ways in which students learn best.

According to a study conducted by The New America Foundation, more than 87% of teachers believe that analytics can be a powerful instruction tool in the classroom. Perhaps these new tools can help ensure success for our students, understand what they learn and how they learn best.

 

Why It’s Hot

American schools are under fire as US students fall further behind students in other countries in aptitude tests. If more teachers utilized big data to monitor student progress and meet students at their level, perhaps our dropout rates wouldn’t be so high.