Bookbyte Blog

Black Mortarboard and computer keyboardWhoever you are, whatever your SAT score and high school report card looks like, you could take a course at Harvard, Yale, MIT, Stanford, or Johns Hopkins right this minute. These elite schools, among many others, have begun to offer open, online, not-for-credit courses to anyone who wants to take them. These are casually referred to as MOOCs, massive open online courses.

You might assume that these classes consist only of video lectures, a collection of slides with a professor’s voiceover, the equivalent of watching some informative YouTube videos. In fact, the courses are as complete as any you’d take in college. There are assigned readings to accompany every class, a syllabus, homework, and essays. Many of them even have some form of grading.

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5 Things NOT to Bring to the Dorms

There are dorm room essentials…and then there’s this stuff.

The amount of dorm “necessities” seems to grow every year – at least that’s what companies want you to think. Here are a few of the most illogical items that the Sharper Image, Pottery Barn, and other interior design offenders have included in their dorm collections, in no particular order.

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Gamfication

Avatars, guilds, quests, XP — sounds like the newest installment of World of Warcraft, but for a growing number of classrooms it’s just another day at school.

Lee Sheldon, a video-game designer and Game Design teacher at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, came up with the idea of “gaming” his lesson plans after becoming bored with the traditional teaching format of: lecture, quiz, grade, repeat. Sheldon knew if he was boring himself, his college students were probably even worse off. That’s when it clicked: he needed to “gamify” the classroom.

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linkedin-logo

You know LinkedIn. It’s that social network you meticulously maintain but never look at, unless you’re applying for an internship or get an email because someone endorsed you. It’s the most useful and least fun way to spend your time on social media.

In a new, potentially trend-setting redesign, Cornell University’s graduate school of business management allows applicants to fill in most application information automatically. All the applicant needs to do is connect to his or her LinkedIn profile.

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Receiving some bad news

In terms of recent news that generated outrage, few stories in the past month can compete with the Facebook “Mood Manipulation” Experiment. If the story escaped your notice, here’s the basics: A study conducted by Facebook’s data team filtered 689,003 users’ News Feeds for positive or negative keywords. The test was to see what impact this had on the users’ subsequent posts. Needless to say, users with only positive Feeds were more likely to say something positive. Negative Feeds led to more negative posts.

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Yesterday, the US Education Department’s Twitter account for financial aid sent out a tweet saying “If this is you, you better fill out your FAFSA” followed by a link to their site and a screenshot from this scene from the movie Bridesmaids, complete with the caption “Help me, I’m poor.”

o-FAFSA-TWEET-570

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lilbrother_doctorowUntil recently, a Florida high school had a summer reading program that had everyone in the school, regardless of grade level, reading the same book. However, the school’s administration canned the program over the content of this year’s book, Little Brother by Cory Doctorow.

The reasoning is a bit odd. The school, or at least, the librarians and English teachers responsible for actually reading the book and writing discussion materials for the students, vetted it and found nothing inappropriate about it. The plug was pulled at the last minute by the school’s principal, who’s reasoning seems to be primarily based on online reviews. Those reviews mentioned that the book had a “positive view of questioning authority” and “lauding hacker culture.” The principal also said that he had received parent complaints about profanity, though the author insists the only profanity is one indirect reference.

(Even if the book was foul-mouthed, let’s all just admit that shielding 14- to 18-year-olds from naughty words is a losing battle. Personally, those were my peak cursing years.)

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