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Why You Should Learn a New Language

Why is is that so many people say they want to learn a new language, but never actually follow through? It’s a process that people abandon at an alarming rate, especially Americans who have little need to speak another language outside of a yearly 2-week vacation from the daily grind. But having an understanding of another language, even if you are not fluent, can help you become a better overall communicator and even make more money professionally.

If those reasons aren’t enough to get you to head to the bookstore and buy a new foreign dictionary, here are of a few more reasons you need to get serious about learning a new language.

Increased Confidence

When you’re learning a language, it tests your patience and grit. You learn to fail spectacularly. You embarrass yourself and learn to laugh it all off.In this sense, practicing a new language is similar to participating in an improv comedy group – you do whatever you can to communicate your point in the best way possible. As a result of these experiences, you escape your comfort zone, learn quickly and gain confidence.

Improved Decision-Making Skills

Advanced foreign language skills help people make better decisions. When operating in a second language, less of our emotions are involved in the conversation because our brain is working extra. This keeps us from making decisions out of emotional excitement.

Learning a Second Language Alters Your Grey Matter

Learning a language changes and builds your brain to make it stronger. This seems like common sense, but it is much deeper than that.The structure of your brain is physically changing, adapting, and becoming smarter while learning a new language.

Improves Your Job Prospects

There are many jobs in which foreign language fluency is a requirement. Examples of this are international commerce, government positions, journalism, telecommunications and many hospitality positions. Not only would these job options be open to you, but you will be set apart from the crowd in competition for other positions by your bilingualism. There are many benefits to knowing a second language in a business setting, including higher pay.

Stave off Dementia

At this point in your life, you’re probably not too worried about dementia, but it’s worth mentioning. While health checkups and saving for retirement prepare you for old age in a proactive way, you can prevent your mental decay now in a proactive way that also involves a lot of other benefits. Studies show that bilingual people have a slower onset of dementia.

Be a Better Community Member

In many places in the USA – especially big cities – there are whole families that speak languages other than English. These families make up communities within a larger community. For example, 24% of households in San Jose speak Spanish. That said, someone living in San Jose who doesn’t speak Spanish would be put at a disadvantage when trying to communicate with people in their community. And it’s not just limited to Spanish; in San Francisco, 11% of the population speaks Mandarin. In order to contribute to your local community, you have to be able to communicate with them members of that community.

So, what are you waiting for? In order to reap the rewards of speaking a second language, you have to put your efforts into learning it. The only way to get there is through habitual practice. There are plenty of hacks to language learning, and some of them work, but in the end it’s up to you to put in the effort.

Posted by on April 1, 2015
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7 High Paying Jobs Without a Degree

Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Oracle mastermind Larry Ellison and record mogul David Geffen have at least three things in common: unfathomable wealth, world-renowned success, and no student loans. Although these gentlemen make up a very slim percentage of the population, more people in today’s business world, including a growing number of industry leaders, do not have college degrees. While a 4-year degree certainly has its advantages in the job pool, it’s not the only pathway to a successful, and lucrative, career.

Here are 7 of the highest paying jobs with no degree required. These jobs are often commission-based to get the big bucks, but even the base salaries will keep you living comfortably.

Real Estate Agent

A real estate agent does require a broker’s license, but applicants only need a high school diploma to apply. Real estate agents are usually on call and work nights, weekends, and holidays, but the commission for selling a million-dollar dream home is a nice one. And, real estate agents made our happiest jobs in America list! Depending on how hard you work at it, estimated annual incomes range from $20-73k.

Note: The housing market is not what it used to be, and although big home sales do still exist, competition to land these listings is becoming more difficult. Be prepared to have some long stretches in between sales, especially in certain parts of the country.

Executive Assistant

Executive assistants keep executive’s lives running smooth. They play a key role in carrying out the decision-making and policy setting of an executive through communication and procedures. Executive assistants also act as the temple dog; scheduling and monitoring where and with whom an executive spends their time. Although most executive assistants are at the beck and call of their boss, if you get in with the right executive, your job can be well rewarded; it’s been said that Oprah gives bonuses to her executive assistants in the form of new cars and Caribbean vacations. Typically, an executive assistant makes $40-56k a year.

Paralegal

Also known as legal assistants, paralegals do everything a lawyer does, except practice law; i.e. give legal advice to clients or act as counsel in the courtroom. Other than that, paralegals track down all case information and prepare documents for hearings, trials, depositions, etc. Most paralegals work in law firms and are trained in paralegal studies (some certification required). Depending on the law firm, or the case, paralegals have one of the highest ranging salaries; from $26-83k annually.

Sales Manager

Although some sales managers are other managers transferred from internal departments, the majority are born of hardworking, high-quota salespeople who got promoted. Sales managers are responsible for managing the sales floor, setting quotas, developing sales strategies, and are held accountable for profits and losses in their department. Depending on the commission structure of the company, sales managers can do quite well if the team working under them sets, and meets, high quotas. Salaries are high ranging—from $30-86k typically, but sales managers at uber-companies can reach salaries into the millions.

Systems Administrator

All office workers know their company’s system administrator. When computers crash and all hope for the future seems lost, this is the person called upon to produce a miracle. And usually, they do. System administrators are responsible for maintaining a LAN (Local-Area Network), configuring workstations, performing system-wide updates, and fixing email glitches and other system bugs. A strong programming background is required, but a degree is not. Typical annual income: $54-71k.

Social Media Manager

A social media manager manages a company’s social media marketing (SMM)–this refers to boosting website traffic and online exposure through social media sites. Social media managers tend to be comprised of a younger demographic; as millennials are often plucked by companies for their social media skills. If you’re familiar with the workings of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Delicious & Digg, and have some marketing and SEO know-how, this career could be a great fit. Salaries range from $30-87k annually.

Copywriter

A copywriter’s job is a varied one, and can include everything from creating web page content, email campaigns, and blog and social media posts, to more traditional print work such as catalogues, billboards, brochures and magazines—even television scripts. Copywriters can be found at advertising agencies, publishing companies and in broadcast, but are also on the rise as independent contractors working for a variety of clients. Salaries range from $37-75k.

Landing a successful career without a college degree requires determination and hard work, but the opportunities are definitely out there. Start at the ground floor and work your way up. As with any job, perseverance and a solid work ethic will rise you to the top.

Reyna Ramli is a writer for CareerBliss, an online community dedicated to helping people find happiness in the workplace. Reyna loves writing on various topics, especially those related to careers, social media, and technology.

Posted by on March 25, 2015
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Do you have something to contribute to the UnCollege community?

UnCollege is, above all else, a global community of experiential learners.

We’re innovative.

We’re open to new ideas.

We’re passionate.

Our blog strives to provide quality tips, techniques and advice for proactive learners. But the members of the UnCollege staff aren’t the only experts in experiential learning. Do you have tips? Do you have something that will benefit other experiential learners?

Right now, we are accepting contributions to the UnCollege blog from you, the readers and self-directed learners we serve. If you have something you would like to see on our blog that hasn’t been addressed or something you’ve been dying to contribute, now is the time to write it. Do you have methods or learning resources to share? Techniques? Opinions? News? Do you have something you want to share with the world and the global UnCollege community? Well, now is your chance.

How?

Send me an email at chris(at)uncollege.org, with your ideas. When you email, please include a writing sample  and a short description of why you want to contribute.

All contributors have a great opportunity to build a writing portfolio, use UnCollege’s network to chase interesting stories and gain exposure online.

Posted by on March 24, 2015
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Why Leaving Home Helped Me Discover Who I Am

For most of my teenage years, I couldn’t wait to get the hell out of the United States. The idea of traveling anywhere — especially throughout Europe — was big and exciting, and if someone asked I would have told them that I wanted to travel as much as possible as soon as possible. That in itself is still true; I’d like to travel as much as I possibly can while I’m still young. What I didn’t realize when I was preparing to head off on my voyage was what an enormous and immediate impact it would have on me. Sure, my parents or mentors could have told me this, but their words couldn’t prepare me for what I would experience.

My first experience abroad came during my Gap Year with UnCollege. Being five thousand miles from any semblance of familiarity, completely alone in a place where I couldn’t speak the language or read road signs, hit me hard and without any mercy. The first two days in Europe left me feeling like I had been completely flattened by the weight of the world and the realization that it was a bigger place than I ever could have imagined. It wasn’t necessarily the physical distance that bothered me; it was the distance I felt from any meaningful human contact, and the realization that I had been living a life in which I was far from understanding myself.

When I boarded my flight to Bucharest, I wasn’t nervous at all. I couldn’t wait to travel throughout eastern Europe, make friends, have fun, and experience life outside the one I had always known. Right before I left I remember a good friend of mine telling me that it doesn’t always feel good to be humbled by the world. I disregarded the statement, and told him I was excited to be humbled — that I couldn’t wait to be on my own in a completely different place. Looking back on it, that feels like a pretty ignorant thing to say. I don’t think anything or anyone could have prepared me for how small I would feel and how alone I would be. No matter how many people I met and friends I made, at the end of the day I was five thousand miles from home by myself, unsure what I was doing or where I was going.

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Within the first week of arriving in Bucharest, where I began my Voyage volunteering at a hostel, I realized that I had been lying to myself about a lot of things: why I hadn’t gone to college, what I really wanted to do with the rest of my life, where I wanted to end up when my Gap Year was over. I started to understand that when it came to asking myself hard questions, I usually picked the answers that were easiest instead of the ones that would allow me to truly grow on a personal level. Anything I could do to avoid conflict in my own mind, I had done. Even in regard to more personal matters, anything I could do to avoid pain, I would do. I also began to understand the sense of entitlement that pervades my entire generation, including myself.

If you had asked me before I started my UnCollege Gap year if I was grateful for the life I was able to lead, I would have said yes. Ask me now, and I’ll tell you that I’ve been taking my privilege for granted since birth, just like so many other American teenagers. The large majority of us have had our education handed to us, and rather than being grateful for the fact that we have access to one and taking control of it, we let it pass us by without ever truly learning from it. Looking back on my adolescence, I recognize now that I’ve never really felt what it’s like to be grateful, and that realization was humbling in ways that I can hardly explain to myself. On the bright side, UnCollege has helped me to take control of my own education despite not taking advantage of that opportunity in high school, and I am more grateful for what I’ve learned during my Gap Year than I ever was for the education I received as a child.

I’m not a hundred percent sure why going to Europe is what it took for me to understand all of this. Maybe I just needed to learn what it feels like to be truly isolated in order to start being honest with myself. To say the least, my voyage wasn’t at all what I expected. But would I change it? Not even if I could. It was painful to open my eyes to the fact that I had been lying to myself for so long — to understand that the life I was living wasn’t one that I had ever intended for myself. But I wouldn’t go back to being blind to all of it even if I was given the chance. In a lot of ways, my time here really wasn’t that enjoyable. I spent a lot of time being introspective, which took its toll on me as a pretty extroverted person. But I am so grateful for the fact that coming here forced me to take that time. I’ve grown more in the last couple months than I ever could’ve imaged, and for what seems like the first time in a long time, I’m making decisions based on what’s right for me, and I actually feel really good about that. I’ve also been feeling a new kind of excitement for the future — for the internship that I’m going to take part in next month, my next travel experience, and my plans beyond UnCollege. I’m beyond excited to see what the next several months have in store, and I’m starting to become a lot more prepared for any adversity that may come my way.

Posted by on March 21, 2015
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Why All Those Opportunities Are Making You Miserable

The following is a guest post by Michael Thomas.

Choice is a terrible thing. Or so it can be. I’ve seen people quit their jobs because of it. I’ve been paralyzed by it for months on end — metaphorically speaking of course. And my guess is that if you’re reading the Uncollege blog it’s probably one of the biggest challenges you face every day. But I’m here to free you from Choice’s death grip.

A friend of mine called me today. He’s smart, curious and passionate. but he’s got a problem. He’s graduating college in 45 days and he has a ton of job offers. And no that’s not a typo – a ton of job offers is his problem.

When you think of the typical senior in college, a string of job offers doesn’t make the top 10 list of his or her problems. In fact, most college students have the opposite issue. 20% of graduates go on to work minimum wage jobs after college. But for those who are blessed with opportunity and a good work ethic, unemployment isn’t the concern; choice is.

Trying to make the right choice when you have many is an extremely difficult task. And if you work hard, the burden of choice only gets worse. That’s because the harder you work the better you get and the more people around you notice.

So why is opportunity such a burden? It all comes down to Cheerios really.

When ambitious people leave the safety net of college, they enter a world I’d liken to the cereal aisle of the supermarket. This aisle is full of every cereal they might imagine — Lucky Charms, Honeycomb, you name it, this aisle has it. Some might say the world is your oyster in this way. But it’s in this aisle that the real problems begin.

After college a world of choices is revealed to the hungry ones. Job offers come in — from companies big and small; in New York and San Francisco; and just about every option and location in between. And at first it’s a thrill. “I can do anything I want,” you may think to yourself. But by the tenth opportunity, you’ll be a wreck. Why? Because every opportunity to say yes means saying no to another potential great one.

Post-college life is one part liberating and two parts daunting. The reason is because no one tells you what kind of cereal to eat. And for people like my friend, that means walking an aisle of unlimited choice. You can choose to eat Lucky Charms, Honeycomb or any number of sugary snacks. But there’s one rule: you can only eat one at a time. You can’t have Lucky Charms and Honeycomb — not at the same time at least.

In your dreams, a world of unlimited choice may seem like a chapter out of a fairy tale. In this dream land you imagine the 100 ways that you can live your life. And your imagination is unbound by reality. But living in a world of unlimited choice is a stark contrast to the dream you might envision.

100 opportunities means saying no 99 times. And for the young and opportunistic that is incredibly difficult. It causes anxiety before the decision, stress whilst making the decision, and regret after doing so. None of these problems existed when you were eating Cheerios at home because you knew no alternative.

There is a framework for entering the aisle of unlimited choice, however. You must throw those 10 job offers out the door. That’s right. Toss ‘em (for now at least).

Tomorrow I encourage you to go to a coffee shop with a notebook and a pen. Leave your phone and laptop at home. And after your stomach is full of caffeine and sweet pastries, write down 10 dream jobs. If you want to be a designer, maybe your dream job is working on Jony Ive’s Industrial Design team at Apple. If you’re an aspiring journalist maybe your dream job is to be the next Michael Lewis. In any case, these dream jobs are point B and the coffee shop is point A. Now it’s your job to draw the path from A to B.

What do you need to do right now if you want to become a designer at Apple? What skills and stepping stone jobs do you need in order to be the next Michael Lewis? These are the questions you need to answer.

Sound too simplistic? It shouldn’t. The reality is that many of life’s hardest questions come down to asking yourself two questions: what do I want, and how can I get there?

In order to break free of Choice’s death grip you must evaluate what you want, or in this case, where you want to go in your life. Once you have the problem defined all you have to do is solve it, or as your Math professor might say, solve for X. It should be easy from there. After all, that’s what you’ve been doing for the last four years.

Michael Thomas is on the marketing team at Highfive, a startup backed by Google Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz and Lightspeed Venture Partners. Previously he was the Founder and CEO of SkyRocket. He writes about startups and a life outside the box on his personal blog.

Posted by on March 19, 2015
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So You’ve Gotten Into College, Now What?

photo credit: Joe Shlabotnik

This week, students around the world received the modern-day equivalent of the “thick envelope” – college acceptance emails! If you’re one of them, it’s time to take one big breath in and one long exhale out:

You’ve made it.

Well, you’ve made it into college. And right now, that feels like a huge accomplishment; in many ways it’s what you’ve been working toward for the past, say, decade and a half. So yes: breathe in, breathe out, and pat yourself on the back.

Then, move on. Yes, you’ve gotten into college. Yes, it’s time to enjoy your senior spring without the burden of ever thinking about another standardized test or personal statement or letter of recommendations (well, at least for four more years). But it’s also prime time for doing the kind of soul-searching, relationship-building, and self-teaching that will allow you to take full advantage of the opportunities to come. These shouldn’t be stressful “to-do” items; instead, think of this as one of the rare times in your life where the future is fairly certain, allowing you to more intentionally approach your present.

Consider a gap year

Getting into college can be so exciting that the idea of postponing those golden years can seem ridiculous. But students who take a gap year–whether to travel, volunteer, or just to avoid burnout–have higher graduation rates, GPAs, and levels of satisfaction once they do step onto campus. Now that you have an acceptance or two under your belt, you can seriously consider the option of postponing enrollment by a year. Whether or not you ultimately decide to take time off, you’ll be glad that you at least weighed your options. There are a lot of different options out there. Take some time to research those that might be right for you.

Craft your mission statement

The process of applying to college demands a certain amount of self-reduction: you boil your experiences, your achievements, and your dreams into 1000 words, all with the aim of impressing distant admissions and financial aid officers. By the end of the process, some of us are closer to understanding ourselves and our goals; but many of us are worn down by the mandatory posturing. It can be liberating, post-acceptance, to sit down and write out what you really, truly care about and what sort of difference you want to make in the world. This is just for you, this time. The grammar needn’t be perfect, and you don’t need to impress anyone. Take the time to reflect on where you’ve come from and where you’re going, and write out a clear mission statement for yourself. Your choices will vary from year to year, but your mission statement can serve as something to return to every so often as a reminder of what your end goal is, who you really are, and who you want to become.

Reach out to teachers

They’re not just recommenders.They’re your mentors, your friends, and the ones you’ll really miss the most once you leave school. Trust me: you’ll keep in touch with the classmates who matter to you. But keeping in touch with teachers is much tricker. Spend time and energy on your relationships with teachers and adults who have helped during your high school years, now that college worries are mostly off your plate. According to Chris Kelly of UnCollege, learning how to maintain these types of relationships is a skill you need to start learning at a young age. “Learning how to develop and maintain relationships over time is not just a trait of a social person; it’s one that is essential to the success of all people in the professional world.” So don’t wait until you are a senior in college to reach back out to these people – start now!

Read, for goodness sake!

You know how there are people who say “I wish I had more time to read”? Well, if you don’t, when you get to college you’ll know plenty. Lots of folks lament the fact that they don’t have time to read books “for pleasure.” Well, now is your opportunity to build the reading habit–which, in case you need convincing, will not only make you a more empathetic person but also build your intelligence and your decision-making abilities. If you’re looking for a great list, here’s a great place to start.

Sort out your finances

It may not seem like a fun way to spend your senior spring, but you’ll thank us later. Sign up for a debit card and open a savings account with a bank that has branches near your university. Have frank conversations with your family about what they can and cannot help you with once you move out, and try to take on responsibility where you can. Figure out your financial aid package: don’t give up if you haven’t received what you need! Many universities will acquiesce and give you additional funding if you make your case to the financial aid officer. If yours doesn’t, seek out other sources of support: local scholarships, national awards, and essay prizes can all help contribute to your tuition. If you are going to take on student loans, start thinking seriously about your plans for repayment. Be open-eyed and honest with yourself about the decisions you make now: they will impact you in the future.

Focus on your health

Start doing yoga. Make sure you get your cardio exercise. Eat substantial, proper meals each day. These seem like basic suggestions, but if you can build the habits of healthy eating and exercise now, you can avoid things like the freshman fifteen and the sophomore slump. And make sure you see your doctor for a physical, get all your documents in order, and figure out what sort of health care plan your school will provide.

Enjoy yourself

You’ve gotten into college. That’s fantastic. You’re clearly doing something right! Now go and enjoy yourself (in responsible ways, of course). Enjoy your friendships, your relationships, your hometown, your family. Soak in everything around you and live each day with intention and joy. If you’re up for a summer internship, seek one out in a field you really love (not one that “will look good on your college application”). If you’re tired, rest. You can take a breather. You deserve it.

About the author: Jennifer is a writer and editor living in New York. She once broke her ankle while traveling alone in Latvia, and survived. Her great loves are literature, linguine, and shelter dogs.

Posted by on March 17, 2015
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4 Ways to Avoid Going Broke While Traveling

Traveling is the single greatest recreational action you can take in life. The sights, the sounds, the people, the food – how does one sum up the excitement and the sensation of being completely out of your element in a foreign land!?

More importantly, how do you ensure that you’ve budgeted well enough to afford to do everything you wanted to do while on the road?

At UnCollege, we work with a lot of thrill-seeking young adults. Some take part in our gap year program and others turn to us for travel advice before they brave this wonderful, yet crazy world on their own. They all have different travel ideas and ambitions, but when they finally fill up their backpacks and journey to a far off place, the majority have the same complaint – their money didn’t stretch as far as they would have liked. For some people, this means coming home early. For others, it means changing their plans entirely to try and salvage what’s left in the travel fund.

So where did they go wrong? And what can you do to avoid the same problem?

Here are 4 common travel budget mistakes they made and how you can avoid them all together:

1) They Paid for Flights.

Flights are the most expensive element to your travels. I once spent a summer in Central America and spent more money on my flight than the rest of the trip combined.

What to do:

If you don’t already have frequent flyer miles saved up, open a credit card account during a points promotion that doesn’t have a high annual fee. I can’t encourage you to open a new credit card every time you want to go on a trip, but if it’s a big one like an international trip you’ve been planning for a while, a credit card is an easy way to fly for free almost immediately. This summer, for example, I will be traveling to London for my brother’s wedding. Instead of buying the flight, I opened a new card with British Airlines during a 50,000 points promotion. With these points I was able to buy the flight after meeting the promotion requirement – spending $1,000 over a 3-month period on the card. To accomplish this task, I sent my brother $1,000 via Amazon payments. He then used Venmo to send the money back to my checking account. What was the price of this transaction? Zero dollars.

If you can’t open a credit card on your own, ask you parents if they will open a joint account card. Chances are they will be open to the idea. Learning how to build amazing credit is a useful life skill. (note: it’s also useful to look for free airfare promotions like the one UnCollege is offering right now! It ends 3/17/15.

2) They Didn’t Make the Right Sacrifices.

There are times when you are traveling when you need to make tough financial decisions. If you plan on participating in an expensive activity, you need to plan how to budget for it appropriately during the days leading up and even after the event. I once spent a week spending less than $8.50 for accommodation and food a day, but that same week I spent over $100 to go paragliding in the Andes. I lived cheaply so that I could splurge on the event that would make it all worthwhile. In this case, I took the adventure experience over, say trying out the great, expensive local restaurants. It was a sacrifice that I chose to make. I couldn’t afford to dine like a king and fly like one.

What to do:

– Make a list of your priorities and the comforts you can’t live without and decide when to splurge and when you must be frugal.

3) They Got Duped on Exchange Rates.

If you are traveling for the fist time, your instinct is going to be to go to your local bank and make a large exchange in currency. There are a few reasons why this is not a good idea. The most important is that your bank’s exchange rate is never great. If you’re on a tight budget, make sure to exchange the bare minimum you’ll need to get through customs, catch a bus or cab and get to your destination. At that point, you can use an ATM or Debit card to pull out money from a local bank. Be sure to take out enough to last a week or two (taking out more money ensures that you make the most of the transaction tax) and distribute it into 3 different areas in your belongings for safe keeping. I once had to take out money three times in a day while in Patagonia. The bank charges totaled $42.50

What else can you do?

– Never exchange money at an airport.

– Find out your bank’s foreign transaction fees. It might be worth opening a whole new bank account if you plan on traveling quite a lot.

4) They Spent All Their Time with Other Americans.

It’s great to meet fellow travelers on the road that come from some place that you can relate to. They usually have the same agenda and they often turn into life-long friends. The problem is sometimes you end up with a travel partner who has a bigger budget than you and on a shorter trip, which can completely derail your strategic budget.

What to do:

– Meet a few locals. Find out their favorite places to eat and a few hidden gems you should visit during your stay.

– Be upfront about your budgetary constraints if you do end up exploring with a fellow American.

Looking for more travel tips? Check out our other travel posts

Posted by on March 16, 2015
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Open Educational Resources? Yes please.

How can one go about sourcing, adapting, reusing, modifying, sharing, and acquiring more knowledge? Well… lifelong learners recognize, rejoice, and relish in open educational resources! The OER movement is upon us to attend to every one of our ceaseless learning needs. With the proliferation of open educational resources (OER) and their creatively disruptive role in the education space, you – the committed learner – are the primary stakeholder.

Everything from course materials, study guides, modules, research articles, multimedia, lesson plans, tests, assessment tools, software, databases, repositories, simulations, mobile apps – you name it – OERs are inclusive of it. This is because OERs have legally recognized open licenses and alternative licensing schemas that reside within the public domain. This open licensing allows for the accessing, use, reuse, repurposing, and redistribution of these freely digitized materials. Resources such as the Creative Commons, permit you to select, augment, license, and remix the published works of others. YouTube, Wikipedia, flickr, and Scribd are just a few of the 9 million websites currently using creative common licenses. Before you begin creating or curating your own, I highly suggest you gain insight on licensing and copyright limitations. In 2014 alone, there were 882 million CC-licensed works and that figure continues to grow due to the widespread adoption of social computing tools. So whether you’re pursuing your undergraduate or doctoral degrees, traveling abroad and exploring the world or simply striving to broaden your knowledge base closer to home, OERs permit learning to be flexible and continuous.

Back in 2002, the term OER was initially coined by the Hewlett Foundation. Though quite some time has passed, OERs have remained of relevance due to the continued digitization of information as well as the growing need for ubiquitous learning within a global economy. Open education essentially refers to the equitable access to knowledge. The most effective learning outcomes can come as an immediate result of actively utilizing OERs.  And according to the recently published, NMC Horizion Report: 2015 Higher Education Edition, this movement does not seem to be fleeting anytime soon. For the next 3 to 5 years, independent adult learners and those in higher education should expect only further widespread adoption of OERs in higher education.

14 countries including India, China, Australia, South Africa, Netherlands, USA, etc. have all made national commitments to open education. Because of these legislation and projects, learners can now be simultaneously interconnected with the global community. Possessing the opportunity to seek out free teaching and learning content from across the globe is a model of next, best practices for higher access learning never quite seen in this context previously. Due to the wide array of open educational resources available, dynamic knowledge creation can now be attained by both the formal student and lifelong learner, accommodating the growing diversity of both of these demographics. But, who is ensuring that these fantastic resources will grow and thrive?

The future of OERs are dependent upon the adoption of this transformative model through a continued investment in their freely systematic production, adaption, and implementation. Collaboratively, we can bring policy makers to the forefront of this movement! Equitable access and the sharing of virtual high quality content should be considered a standard of learning worldwide. The present is the most opportune time to be supportive for further distribution of OER networks. Who isn’t in favor of improving the quality of learning content? Or combating the ever increasing costs of higher education? It is our inherent duty to advocate for extending the boundaries of traditional scholarship by utilizing OERs. That being said, this week (3/9 – 3/13) Open Education Week 2015 will be in full effect. I encourage you to find out more by visiting  http://www.openeducationweek.org and continue the conversation, #openeducationwk. Collectively, we can propel this open learning movement for all!

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Participate

Investigate

Used Reference in Addition to the References Noted Above

Atkins, D.E., Brown, J.S., & Hammond, A.L. (2007). A review of the open educational resources (OER) movement: Achievements, challenges, and new opportunities. Retrieved from http://www.hewlett.org/uploads/files/ReviewoftheOERMovement.pdf

https://www.oercommons.org

About the Author: Monica Vincent is a graduate candidate in pursuit of a Master of Arts degree in Digital Technologies for Teaching and Learning from the University of San Francisco’s School of Education. She has had ample experience interning and instructing specifically in the areas of early childhood education and elementary education. Her current professional aspirations include obtaining a position in EdTech from which she can cater to schools and their presiding districts, promote innovation, and empower the wide spectrum of students committed to learning at all educational levels.

Posted by on March 12, 2015
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The University of Everywhere: Reviewing Kevin Carey’s “The End of College”

What will the future of education look like? Is the foundation of our current system stable?

Kevin Carey’s new book, The End of College, marvellously depicts the history of the modern American university. He shows readers that the hybrid of liberal arts, career training, and research institutions is floundering at best and possibly even detrimental to student learning.

In a page-turning, yet research-fueled style, Carey deconstructs the American university and its history to highlight that our idea of the benefits associated with higher education and the reality of those benefits are far removed from one another. He discusses the real problems in higher education including tuition costs, student loan debt and our country’s dramatic dropout rate. Carey pinpoints both what matters to parents and students, and the hidden history and sources of these problems.

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Carey paints a grim history of higher education, but his views for the future are bright. Carey showcases the new alternatives that are beginning to appear on the horizon and free of the gatekeepers that make our current system inaccessible to many. He chronicles his own experience with MOOCs, while using it as anecdotal evidence of the ways education is changing, and where it is lacking and still needs to change. For example, he found that while the lessons, problems sets, and resources that he was using as a part of the MOOC were top-grade, the interactive resources still weren’t individualized enough to help him know how he could improve. Clearly, the edtech world still has a ways to go, but it can be argued that less improvement is needed there than in the college world.

Learning is more accessible today than ever, and Carey goes into great detail discussing what he calls “the University of Everywhere,” which highlights the competitive alternatives popping up all over the world. He doesn’t leave any educational competitor out of the mix, speaking to the advantages of programs like Dev Bootcamp’s career training approach, the highly individualized UnCollege Gap Year Program, and even the elite 4-year college alternative, Minerva.

Yet, in this educational climate, more students than ever are going to college, getting degrees and going into debt for it. And, as Carey points out in his book, not always learning much from the four years they spend in university. But still, employers seek these under-educated and over-decorated college graduates to fill positions in the workforce, and pay them more and more as time goes on.

Carey suggests that the system has already changed andx that it will change even more in the coming years. He also believes that the new higher education isn’t based at a specific location and is tailored to the individual. Instead of one learning path trying to be all-inclusive to student needs (liberal arts), professor needs (research) and parent concerns (job training) at once, this new world of higher education includes many learning paths that can be traversed in tandem or separate.

At its core, The End of College is about the transformation and birth of a new higher education; a better higher education that will be available to more people in more places for less. It illustrates a future of education that we can all get on board with, that is on its way, and coming fast.

Posted by on March 11, 2015
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Helping Others: The Power of Gift Giving

Despite how grim our world can look on the nightly news, there are people out there everyday making a positive impact on the life of others. Sometimes it’s volunteering, but sometimes it’s as simple and quick as gifting an unexpected item. Don’t believe us? Here are some things that people in our local San Francisco community have received with no strings attached. Give it a read; you might be surprised by what you find.

What is the best thing you’ve ever gotten for free?

Here are some of our favorite answers:

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Katie (right): A few pieces of used furniture from friends. (table, couch)

Overall monetary value: probably about $400-$600

Katrina (left): An iPod.

Overall monetary value: $300

 

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Gabe: I Recieved a bike from friends.

Overall monetary value: $200

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Jon: I recieved a Pendleton blanket as a gift from the Cree nation.

Overall monetary value: $150

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Ashley: Recieved a car as a gift from family.

Overall monetary value: a lot

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James: A pitcher of beer. Delicious.

Overall monetary value: $19

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Brian: Home-cooked meal

Overall monetary value: $10-$15

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Cody: Recieved an iPad as a gift from a work community

Overall monetary value: $400

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Morgan: Recieved a one-way plane ticket to San Francisco (where I proceeded to get free healthcare)

Overall monetary value: $400-$500

What’s the Best Thing You’ve Ever Given Away for Free?

For the next week, we are giving away free airfare for fellows who apply to our summer cohort. If you want to participate in a gap year this summer and are interested in free airfare, apply now! *Offer ends March 17, 2015.

 

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Posted by on March 10, 2015
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