Category : Education


Five reasons why you need language learning, not muscles, if you want to find love

There may be more to language learning than you first realised…

2018 brings the opportunity to make new resolutions and set personal goals and for many of us, finding romance is high on the list. However, if you have been trying to hit the gym in an effort to improve your appearance, get ready for some good news – making yourself attractive might be easier than you think. A new global study by language learning app Babbel and dating site EliteSingles, has found that 93% of Americans surveyed, would prefer to date a partner who has foreign language skills, than one who has a six pack.

With 61% of Americans willing to learn a language in order to improve their love lives, let’s see just why language skills can make you more attractive than muscles, when it comes to finding love:

Demonstrates intelligence
A reason given by 23% of those who were surveyed, as to why they would prefer a partner with language skills rather than a six-pack, is intelligence. Put simply, learning a language is sexy because it indicates to a potential partner that you are smart. The great thing about this is that they aren’t wrong; speaking a foreign language can actually improve your intelligence! Not only does it improve the functionality of your brain, but research from Northwestern University found that learning a new language can make you better at tuning out distractions, while research from Lund University, suggests that learning a language can actually lead to brain growth, as well as helping keep it in great condition.

Makes you better at decision-making
Speaking more than one language may also make you far more adept at decision-making, a quality valued by many when it comes to relationships. Couples often complain about their partner’s lack of decision-making skills and their indecisiveness over every day issues. According to a study by the University of Chicago, bilinguals tend be better decision makers than the rest of us. Not only is this a great skill to have for yourself, but it can be a positive one when it comes to dating, because you will be more likely to appear self-assured and confident in your own skin, much more impressive than possessing muscles!

Makes you a great communicator
As Julie Hansen, CEO US of Babbel says, “being able to communicate is fundamental to human interaction”. Speaking a second language not only opens up the opportunity for you to communicate with people you may not otherwise have been able to talk to, it can also make you a better communicator in your mother tongue. Learning the grammar and mechanics behind a second language can make you more aware of your first language and more skilled when it comes to using it. Your use of your first language can become more advanced and you might become more aware of the nuances of the language that you may not otherwise have noticed. This will likely provide you with the skills to be a better communicator, as you are equipped with a good understanding and use of vocabulary, which can be used to better express emotions and thoughts to your partner. This can be very important when it comes to dating, as Sophie Watson, spokesperson for EliteSingles, points out; “connection and great communication are vital parts of a first date – especially if you want to land a second one”.

It sets you apart from others
While many people possess muscles, the majority of the population in the US only speaks one language; English. This means that if you take the decision to learn a second language this year, you will be setting yourself apart from a large majority of your competition when it comes to finding love. It also provides you with the opportunity to land many jobs which are not accessible to others, such as a flight attendant, journalist, an English teacher abroad and many more. Not only could these jobs make you seem seriously impressive, but who knows who you might meet as a result of these opportunities.

Makes you more interesting
In an age where the majority of us have serious aspirations to travel and learn about other cultures, speaking more than one language makes you far more interesting than someone who has a six-pack. Whether you have lived in another country, or simply learnt another language out of curiosity, it adds a new layer to your personality, which is bound to be of interest to a potential partner. Of the 93% who said they would prefer to date a partner who has language skills rather than a six pack, 42% said this was because they find other cultures interesting, meaning that your language skills will likely provide you with a great topic of conversation, whether that is talking about the country you have lived in or visited, or the reasons why you decided to learn a certain language.

Christian Hillemeyer is director of communications at Babbel.

Seven reasons why you should learn a second language

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Education Work

All you really need to know to make your own podcasts

Podcasts are an incredibly flexible tool for students to plan, produce and publish projects that demonstrate their knowledge. This post is going to be a crash course, why and how to do a podcast, whether its to educate of entertain.

By the way, myself and my colleagues at IT Babble have a podcast of our own that you should check out on iTunes.


Pheww – why not?! OK, OK I can see you don’t have time for that. Podcasts are great for students of all ages. It can be as simple a an third grader talking about a country they have researched or as advanced as senior talking about the real reasons that World War II started and debating those theories. Students get to talk (not write, not posterize, not PowerPoint) about a subject they know about. It is fluid and a discussion. When you get a group project it can often be done by one or two people and the others are along for the ride. On a podcast, there is no place to hide. Now that can seem intimidating for some and that is certainly a valid point, so having an alternative in the wings would be a good choice. Also, if a member of a team is just being a pain, maybe that special student so go it on their own as well.


The biggest concerns for teacher not doing podcasts (or not doing them well) is the technology side of things. I get you, sometimes it is hard to know where to start. I’ll talk about that a little later in the post. Another concern is that teachers get too focused on the technical (not the technology) side of things. They get more focused with jingles, time length and transition sounds. Don’t worry about that. If you have an eager and technologically gifted kid, you can have him make a jingle for everyone or you can simply have no jingle or transition sounds at all. It’ll be fine as long as the students focus on the topics at hand. This goes for you IT teachers out there. Don’t focus on the technical side. Forget that! Focus on the content. If you focus on other areas, the podcast will suck. It will sound boring, the students will know it sounds boring and no one will care.

Another big concern is where and how to publish them. To make it short you can use Soundcloud (while it is still around) or my go to Podomatic. You get 500mb free of storage (that equates to about 15, 30 minute podcasts) and it helps you with getting the podcast on the iTunes directory, thus making it pretty universal and accessible from just about anywhere. If you don’t like either of those try Completely free, will let you store as much as you want but no RSS feed (I could be wrong about that). Either way, one of those three free solutions will probably be enough for you and your students.

Technology – You have space and some money

If you have nothing else and no budget, then have one or squeeze three kids around a laptop and have them record using its internal microphone. It will sound bad but it is doable. I wouldn’t do more than three, four means the laptop probably needs to be pushed back a little and even inches can severely diminish the quality of the recording.

If you have the room and the means set up a podcasting studio with an inexpensive mixing board. You don’t need a huge one, just one that can support up to 6 channels will probably be enough. You can often find those under $100 USD. Now You need microphones and microphone stands (desktop stands). Since you’re not recording a full orchestra, jazz ensemble or auditions for The Voice, you can get away with some pretty inexpensive microphones. I picked up a 3 pack of Behringer Ultravoice XM1800S for $50. At the time of this writing it is down to $40 (IT Babble receives no money from Amazon or any other advertiser). Now pick up some mic cables (whatever will plug into your mixing board).

Desktop microphone stands are pretty inexpensive as well. You can find a pretty high quality stand for $15. I would check and BH Photo (if you’re in the States. I do not know if they ship internationally). Don’t worry if you don’t know what you’re doing with the mixing board. You will figure it out. Just know those things are hard to break so fiddle away and try new things. You’ll pretty quickly realize how to increase the volume for a track.

Now have the whole thing plug into a computer. If it is an Apple, you’ve got GarageBand preinstalled which will work for capturing the recording. Just plug the mixing board into the computer, fire them both up and you’re ready to start recording.

If you have a Windows machine (or don’t like GarageBand) then try Audacity. It is open source, free, pretty refined and for basic recordings it should serve you well.

Technology – No extra space and some money

This is probably most teachers I can think of. They will probably be recording in their room or a study room (if your school has those) and so your recording rig must be light weight, portable and probably the cheaper the better. If you have money then go with a Zoom Handy recorder You don’t need a computer, they have a built in mic but some cheap mics and mic stands would be the way to go. Yes, this is a little pricey but these devices are built very well, will last a long time and just don’t fail. That is what we record with on the IT Babble podcast and in more than two years has never failed me once.

Now if you don’t have that type of scratch to throw around, then a laptop and a USB microphone is what I would suggest. You may not be able to get as many people around as possible. USB microphones vary in price. You can find some as cheap as $13 USD and some that are $300 USD or more! The bottom line here and I’ll write in caps and bold is …


It is the truth. You are able to get closer to the mic and it will be more directional cutting out more background noise and if it sounds better if will feel more professional – simple as that. If you’re looking for some good options then the Blue line of USB mics are great. You can almost find them cheaper than their website elsewhere so shop around. They are very sturdy sound pretty darn good, you won’t be disappointed. Their most popular mics (by far) is the Yeti and the Snowball.

Recording the podcast

For younger kids a script may be a good place to start. Definitely have them write it for themselves. It won’t sound as interesting to listen to, but it will get them (and you) time to get more comfortable with the equipment.

For older students (5th grade and up) I’d have them write talking points on an index card and make sure there is someone to moderate and keep the podcast on task. The moderator could be you the teacher or someone who is good at knowing when to listen and when to jump in and redirect a conversation. It takes practice.

One thing to have them keep in mind is not to stop if they make a mistake. Big mistakes (like someone farting or cursing) can be edited out after the recording. No stopping! Sometimes those mistakes allow others to point out the mistake and that little moment is someone learning captured right there and that is pretty cool.

Wrapping it up

You’ve got your gear and software now play around with it. Ideally all the kids should have to do is sit down, hit the record button and start talking. Don’t focus on the gear and technology too much with the kids. Let them focus on their content and you’ll often get honest, informative and entertaining podcasts. That is what will make or break the unit of podcasting initiative if you’re starting one in your school.

If you have a student who is really keen to learn the behind the scenes, then that is great! You know have an assistant (as long as you can teach them how to commit). There is a good chance they may be able to teach you a few things about your equipment that you didn’t know.

The last thing to keep in mind is that this is a process. Don’t expect perfection on your first recording. Take it as it is and as you listen to it, try and find ways to improve it. Maybe it needs better topics, maybe it needs one more or one less voice. As for feedback from your listening community and keep at it! This type of commitment sounds easy but it’s not. It is hard. Take it from someone who has fallen down more than once podcasting.

Six podcasts to make you better people in 2017

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Education Work

The app that helps students put down that mobile

Maths Mathisen, the CEO and Co-Founder of Hold explains how the app came about, and the benefits of using it and get students to put down that mobile.

Each year, we become increasingly reliant on our smartphones – from ordering our favourite take-out, to checking for news (true or fake) and, of course, looking for entertainment.

However, mobile phones aren’t great when for those in full-time education, those who need to concentrate – whether it be it during a lecture, or as in the scramble to finish an assignment on time. This is the gap that Hold is trying to fill.

Hold is a Norwegian app that rewards students for choosing to ignore their mobile phones while they are on campus. The free-to-use app allows students to collect points for every 20 minutes that their phone isn’t used, and once enough points are accumulated they can be exchanged for rewards, such as Amazon vouchers, scholarship prizes and cinema tickets. 

Evidence behind Hold

The idea for Hold came about during my time as a student, as I knew first-hand how difficult it is to concentrate on studying, when you have the option to text, Snap or play games on your phone. I also knew that for a student to give up their phone for any length of time, there needs to be a good motivation, which is why instead of penalising students for using their phones, Hold rewards them for choosing to ignore it.

Numerous studies have been conducted on the effect of smartphones and studying. For example, a 2017 study by the University of Texas, found that smartphones have a ‘brain drain’ effect, as they can affect intelligence and attention span, just by being on the student’s desk. Similarly, the University of California Irvine found that if we get distracted from a task by a mobile phone notification, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to fully regain our focus. All of which suggests that smartphones, while fundamental to day-to-day life, are detrimental when it comes to studying.

Norwegian success
We launched the Hold app in Norway in 2016 and accumulated 50,000 downloads in the first three months alone, with 40% of all Norwegian students onboarded currently. The average student will use Hold for 2 hours each day, ensuring that during those 2 hours their productivity is at its height, which in turn, leads to higher engagement and better grades. We have 120,000 users across Scandinavia and are partnered with major brands such as Coca Cola, Microsoft and Scandinavian Airlines, and aim to replicate the same success in the UK.

London pilot
As part of our launch strategy in the UK, we partnered with the School of Management at University College London, offering the students the chance to trial the app, boost their productivity and improve their grades.

At the start of the launch, Richard Pettinger, Principal Teaching Fellow at UCL School of Management said:

‘My initial interest in the app stems from my belief that technology is an essential part of daily life, as well as business, which can’t exist without it. By rewarding students for ignoring the distractions of social media notifications, Hold has been hugely successful in both Norway and Denmark, and I am very interested to see how the model will translate to the UK market. Phone addiction is a global issue, and using the phone to solve this issue is an innovative and unique way to combat this. I am looking forward to seeing how the UCL pilot will go, how much improvement the students will see in their work, and how Hold will develop and grow in the UK’.

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Education Work

Kickstarting kittens to teach coding

The team behind the coding game Erase All Kittens has launched a crowdfunding project on Kickstarter to raise funds for an expanded iPad version of the game that teaches children, especially girls, how to code.

Launched today, the aim is to support the creation of the first ever game that inspires girls to code and create. A game that makes code education meaningful — by allowing girls to apply practical skills in a creative way instead of just giving them instructions.

E.A.K are looking to raise £15,000 to fund a project with award-winning game developers Playerthree to develop E.A.K. for the iPad, building game levels to teach HTML, CSS and Javascript, so that the target audience of girls aged 8-13 can learn to design their own simple websites.

The Kickstarter project has a range of pledge levels from simple access to the iPad version of the game, through to donating licences for schools or organisations, to a corporate sponsor level donation.

E.A.K. ‘Chief Scribbler’ Dee Saigal said: ‘There’s plenty of research tells us that girls find coding boring and aimed too much at boys and we want to redress that balance. We’re making an extended version of our game that we already know that girls love and we want to bring it to as many as possible. If we can get the right level of support, we can really tackle the gender imbalance in tech at the very earliest stages.’

The game that saves kittens and teaches coding

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Education Work

Why the writing should be on the wall for the interactive whiteboard

It was my first international school and they were doing a quick tech presentations (setting up email, our electronic grade book, etc.) One of those presentations was with the school’s new Promethean Interactive Whiteboard.

At first blush I was impressed. I really was and wish I had one in my class. There appeared to be endless possibilities for student engagement. It seemed like a perfect marriage of technology and education. A great compliment to great lessons.

That’s the problem. The interactive whiteboards are not complimentary to lesson plans. In order for them to be effective, in my opinion, the interactive whiteboard has to be the center of the lesson and you have to use it all the time.


You may ask yourself Patrick, what’s the big deal? I am so glad you asked. Let’s start with the menus. Dear God the menus. There are way too many of them. Just to bring up that coordinate plane, it would take 3-5 clicks (or taps using the pen). You have to go from menu, to menu, to menu to find something and if you didn’t know where it was and had to looking forward then you have a few minutes of dead air in your classroom.

Then there is the alignment and calibration. Calibrating the pen for the boards is usually quite easy, but if the projector is not properly installed, sometimes calibrating the pen can be a real pain. The reason is, the software usually has places for you to tap with the pen in order to make sure when you place the pen on the board it lands true and makes the selection or annotation that you want to make.

You see good reader, if the projector is installed incorrectly or not set up well enough, then those calibration targets may be on the border of off the whiteboard all together making accurate calibration a pipe dream. Sometimes, this can be remedied with a quick adjustment on the projector, but there are other times, when the projector itself will have to be moved and remounted – a time consuming and depending on your interactive whiteboard provider could be an additional cost.


You can’t talk about a major addition to a classroom or school without considering cost. As we all know money does not fall from the sky and schools need to work within a budget (if they want to keep their doors open that is). So one needs to consider these costs:

  • Unit itself
  • Installation
  • Upkeep
  • Repairs

Now these costs differ from vendor to vendor and depending on your particular contract. I am going to say $5,000 per unit which includes a projector. If you pay more than this, please don’t go to your vendor, show them this piece and say Hey bub! What’s the dealio? I’ve known schools who pay muchmore just because of their location and services available.

Now, one thing that most schools don’t think about is the long term with these devices. Once it is installed and working properly it will take care of itself. Like a refrigerator or a stove. This is true . . . for a while. The very first time you turn on the projector, the picture will look great (at least I hope it does). However, if you compare day 1 to day 50 to day to day 365 you will notice that the picture will be dimmer each time. It’s just how light bulbs work and that is the heart of that projector. When that light bulb goes out, you need to replace it. These bulbs are not cheap and if you’re replacing 20% of your bulbs every year, then your costs go up. Be sure to tack that onto the original budgeted item. As you can see these costs can add up quickly.


So there are my problems, so what can schools do about this? What options do they have? Schools and teachers don’t want to not have an interactive display in their room. It looks good for parents and guests walking through the halls. There are some teachers who do use them.

There are alternatives out there. There are interactive displays (no projectors) that can replace your school’s interactive white board. The advantages to these boards are numerous.

  1. Dim much slower
  2. No bulbs to replace
  3. Easier and cheaper to mount
  4. No pen calibration or very easy pen calibration
  5. Lower costs over time
  6. Higher resolution (better picture)

Microsoft makes one called the Surface Hub which comes in two sizes – 55″ and an 84″ Their prices are $9,000 and *gulp* $22,000. Yeah that second price is a little hard to swallow. If your school is on Office 365 it might be worth considering and there may be a discount. It does some neat things too and would be great for Skype in the Classroom.

Google has the newly minted Jamboard (what a terrible name) made by Benq for $5000 which looks pretty promising.

This is more of what I am talking about and while 55″ isn’t as large as I would like and the rolling stand is an extra $1000 and of course what would an IT product be without licensing which you have to pay every year.  However, add all that up and I still think the Jamboard would win out over a traditional interactive whiteboard.

Bottom line is I don’t like them. They don’t deliver on their promise of really enhancing a classroom. They are too cumbersome to use and just not super effective.

If your tech choices aren’t student centered, then you’re doing it wrong

More from Tony DePrato here.

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How data is helping to create healthy chocolate

While chocolate isn’t typically thought of as a healthy food, the nutritional value of chocolate is often overlooked, especially in its rawest form. Store-bought chocolate can sometimes be packed with sugar and preservatives, which lowers its nutritional value. The best type of chocolate to indulge in is definitely dark chocolate. The reason for this is that dark chocolate has a higher percentage of cocoa, than milk or white chocolate, and cocoa is rich in antioxidants (polyphenols and flavanols), which helps improve concentration and mood, as well as preventing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

With this in mind, health app Lifesum decided to treat its New York-based users with a delicious (and healthy) treat. To do this, Lifesum’s nutritionist, Frida, analyzed anonymized data from 100,000 New Yorkers, to see which nutrients they were missing. The data showed that a New Yorkers’ diet was typically lacking calcium, potassium, vitamin E and zinc. Calcium is key to healthy and strong bones, potassium is essential for a feeling of calm, vitamin E promotes skin health, while zinc is key to a strong immune system. Once these nutrients have been identified, Lifesum set to work with NYC-based coffee culture chain FIKA, to come up with four unique chocolates, aimed at solving the dietary deficiencies of New Yorkers.

The following were created:

Calcium Colada, as the name suggests, is designed to boost calcium intake, which contributes to bone health and strength. Flavor-wise, it is reminiscent of a pina colada cocktail.

Ingredients: Matcha, Low fat yoghurt, Pineapple, Lime, Vanilla, Stevia, Dark chocolate 99%

The second chocolate, Raw Radiance, contains vitamin E, a fantastic antioxidant that helps to protect the body from free radicals. As well as working to prevent heart disease and to balance cholesterol, vitamin E offers a beauty boost by decreasing environmental damage to your hair, and can repair damaged skin.

Ingredients: Cashew nuts, Coconut, Salt, Dark chocolate 99%, Quinoa, Cinnamon

New Yorkers are constantly fast moving and on-the-go, which often contributes to stress. The analysis of Lifesum data revealed that residents were lacking in potassium, which is a known reliever of anxiety and stress. Cocoa Calm was created to offer a hit of potassium, and encourage relaxation.

Ingredients: Dates, Cashew nuts, Vanilla, Lime, Dark chocolate 99%

Finally, the Cleanse and Reboot chocolate is packed with zinc to support run-down immune systems, with added antioxidants from cayenne pepper and ancho chilli to elevate body temperature, which increases immune system activity.

Ingredients: Pumpkin, Low fat yogurt, Nutmeg, Cinnamon, Ancho chilli, Cayenne pepper, Dark chocolate 99%

Boxes of four chocolates will cost $10 + tax, and will be initially available to purchase online and at FIKA’s Tribeca café & chocolate factory.

Now New Yorkers can get healthy by eating chocolates, and also enjoy the wonderful Swedish concept of a fika, a short break that typically involves a coffee, pastry, and, most importantly, some time to relax and reflect…

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Five platforms that can help you move your interests from being a hobby into a successful career

Elsewhere on these pages, we have looked at ways to turn your hobby into a career. Here, in the follow-up post, we look at the platforms that can help you achieve that.

Skillshare  is an online learning community, with thousands of courses to teach you everything from design, to calligraphy, coding and cooking. Whether you want to hone your own skills or teach a growing audience of learners, then sign up to this platform.

YouTube is a video hosting platform that is perfect for anyone who enjoys vlogging, editing video and talking to and educating a massive audience. Whether you are interested in doing make-up tutorials, reviewing gadgets or simply vlogging about your life, all you need is an account and a camera.

Etsy is an e-commerce platform which allows you to showcase and sell items that you make yourself. Whether you are fantastic at creating wedding stationery, party accessories or jewellery, this platform allows you to sell your products and communicate directly with your customers.

Acast  is an audio platform and podcasting app which hosts thousands of podcasts on every topic – from pop culture and politics, through to travel, food and history. If you are interested in hosting your own show, getting your voice heard and producing engaging content, then podcasting is definitely a good option for you.

SoundCloud () is an online audio distribution platform, which allows budding musicians to record, upload and promote their original music. If performing is all you ever dreamt about, uploading your music to SoundCloud is a great way to grow your fan base and make sure your music gets heard.

Caitlin Thompson is US Director of Content at Podcasting platform, Acast

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How to turn your hobby into a career

Did you choose to pursue your career because it was something that sounded glamorous, or perhaps suited your degree, or had the promise of a healthy pay cheque every month? Perhaps, but have you ever thought about turning your interests into a business or a career? Following something you are passionate about is likely to bring you more job satisfaction and keep you motivated on a day-to-day basis, according to a 2016 study by the National University of Singapore, there are professional CV writing services that can help you get the perfect CV for your jobsearch and start working in what you truly love.

Two companies that have a lot of people who changed their careers to pursue their passions are audio platform and podcasting app Acast and online learning community Skillshare, who’s combined best advice this is:

Look for that ‘driving force’
When it comes to hobbies, it could be something that you simply enjoy doing once in a while, or it could be something that drives you to accomplish new things, discover more about yourself and speak to others who are passionate about the same things as you. Harriet, Emma and Natalie, hosts of Badass Women’s Hour podcast ( comment: ‘we decided to start our own podcast after running a Badass Women’s Hour event and we thought that if we recorded it and put it into a podcast, we could take the conversation to a bigger audience. It has never been easier to turn a side hustle into something which could start to pay your bills. And what you learn along the way are skills you can apply to any career move you might want to make during your lifetime. The hardest thing is often building the confidence to get started!’

Perfect, perfect, perfect
Sharpen your professional skills – whether your passion lies in business, tech, design, or photography these industries have one thing in common — they are ever-evolving. And it’s harder than ever to stay on top of industry trends, but if you’re looking turn your hobby into a career, staying up to date is crucial for your business. Skillshare, an online learning community with 17,000+ classes, has millions of members, many of whom are freelancers or creative professionals with side hustles. With their Skillshare membership they have access to a complete library of over 17,000 classes allowing them to continually improve their skills as the demand of their jobs change or new technology arises. The subscription also allows you to acquire skills across a variety of disciplines, which is especially important for entrepreneurs. “I’ve spent the last year building my own start-up,” says Skillshare student Tom, “and I used Skillshare to augment nearly every step of that process. We are officially launching in one week, and I couldn’t have done it without you.”

Find a platform
Once you have established that you want to make your hobby into a successful career, you should find a platform to help you promote yourself and your passion, advises Sophie Herdman, Content Manager UK at Acast. It could be as simple as making a website for your business, or it could be signing up to a podcasting platform to get your voice heard, or an online community to teach your skills to others. Whatever the best option is for you, make sure to research the platform thoroughly – you want to be in control of your creative output, but also for the platform to protect your interests and provide you with guidance whenever you need it. For example, at Acast, we could help podcasters to launch their podcast and earn money.

Join a community
Starting your own business or going it alone as a freelancer can be isolating!  Having a community of likeminded professionals to help answer your questions, share advice, and fine-tune your skills can be instrumental to your success. Unlike other online learning platforms, Skillshare is designed to foster collaboration between students and teachers. Who knows? You just might find your next mentor!

Spread the word
Once you have chosen the right platform for you, use your existing network to spread the word about your new venture – tell friends and family, previous business associates and all those you met while perfecting your craft and skill. Social media is also a great way to reach and widen your target audience – participate in discussions surrounding your new career, make new connections and respond to your followers. All of this will help solidify your reputation and bring in a steady stream of listeners, followers and perspective clients.

Caitlin Thompson, US Director of Content at Podcasting platform, Acast

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The best and worst states for language learning – and how you can learn wherever you are

A report published in June by the American Councils for International Education revealed the percentage of K-12 students enrolled in a foreign language learning classes in the United States. And the results vary widely from state to state, ranging from over half to less than 10% of the student population learning a language:

States With Highest Language Enrolment

5. Vermont
Foreign language enrolment: 35.03%
Top 3 languages: Spanish, French, Latin

4. Maryland
Foreign language enrolment: 35.23%
Top 3 languages: Spanish, French, Chinese

3. Wisconsin
Foreign language enrolment: 36.29%
Top 3 languages: Spanish, French, German

2. Washington, D.C.
Foreign language enrolment: 47.17%
Top 3 languages: Spanish, French, Chinese (but Russian was a close 4th)

1. New Jersey
Foreign language enrolment: 51.18%
Top 3 languages: Spanish, French, Chinese

States With Lowest Language Enrollment

46. Oregon
Foreign language enrolment: 10.83%
Top 3 languages: Spanish, French, Chinese

47. Montana
Foreign language enrolment: 10.11%
Top 3 languages: Spanish, French, Chinese

48. Arkansas
Foreign language enrolment: 9.09%
Top 3 languages: Spanish, French, German

49. Arizona
Foreign language enrolment: 9.08%
Top 3 languages: Spanish, French, Chinese

50. New Mexico
Foreign language enrolment: 8.50%
Top 3 languages: Spanish, French, Chinese

No matter where you live, language learning is a hugely valuable skill. So if you’re in a state where the provision isn’t so great – or even if it’s fabulous, the tips from the linguists at language learning app Babbel can help you get speaking a new language in weeks:

1. Make Learning A Daily Routine
Did you know you can form a new habit in as few as 21 days? Developing a daily routine of practicing your language helps you to more effectively build and retain that knowledge for the long term. And if you think you don’t have the time to pick up a new habit, think again. Having a language-learning app (like Babbel!) you can use for just 10-15 minutes each day means you can build your new habit into your current routine — learn on your commute, on your lunch break at work, or in any of these 50 situations, in which you’re likely wasting time.

2. Absorb The Culture
One of the most exciting parts about learning a new language is opening the door to a new universe of literature, film, and food. In addition to helping you practice your language skills and broaden your vocabulary, foreign books and films give you a deeper understanding of another culture. You can experience so much without buying a plane ticket — all you need is an internet connection to stream foreign language films, listen to music, or discover new book recommendations.

3. Infuse Language Learning Into Daily Life
Whatever it is that you like to do with your spare time, try incorporating your newfound language skills. If you enjoy cooking, learn all the ingredient names and cooking terms in your new language. When you’re out shopping or at a restaurant, narrate the transactions and conversations you’d need to know in your new language. The more you can contextualize the language in things you enjoy and already do — instead of memorizing useless expressions (like asking where the disco is) — the more likely you’ll retain it.

4. Personalize Your Learning
Why would you spend time reciting conjugations of a verb you already know? Or learning expressions you’ll never use? Personalizing your learning experience ensures you are learning effectively. Using an app like Babbel also means you can learn at your own pace — you can take as much or as little time as you need to master a concept before moving on to the next one.

5. Visualize Your Success
Success doesn’t happen by accident. Visualizing the reasons why you are learning a language in the first place will keep you motivated to learn. Maybe you’ll be using your newly acquired language skills on an upcoming trip, connecting with extended family from another country, or simply keeping your mind sharp — imagining the kind of person you’ll become and the experiences you’ll have with a new language can be a powerful tool to keep you motivated when the initial novelty of learning wears off.

6. Just Do It!
Sometimes, self-doubt or nerves can take over when you think about trying something new. If you promise yourself to spend just 5 minutes practicing each day, chances are high you’ll get through your entire 10-15 minute language lesson without even realizing it.

The Babbel app for web, iOS and Android makes it easy to learn 14 different languages from 7 display languages. Bite-sized lessons fit into everyday life and are split into useful real-world topics, from introducing oneself, to ordering food and making travel arrangements. The app’s effective game mechanics ensure that learners stay motivated to achieve their goals, with the average user continuing to learn with Babbel for more than 12 months. Uniquely, every course is created specifically for each language pair by a team of education experts, linguists and language teachers.

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Rethink your professional development with the 80/20 principle

A very significant part of Educational Technology Leadership is devoted to professional development, new systems implementation, and the long term planning of support.
Every year as the semester starts-up, administrators around the world are planning for professional development (PD). There is pressure during those initial weeks to try and rapidly develop the faculty within new areas, to help everyone review all current requirements, and to re-train in areas of concern. Many of these areas rely highly, or solely, upon technology; technology is often the center of the professional development process.
Year after year, group after group, and plan after plan, results tend to be the same. There is never enough time to meet everyone’s agenda, teachers feel rushed, and confidence among many is low but silenced. So why do organizations follow this same pattern?
After many years of asking this question, and proposing options, the answers seem to come down to:

  • This is the only fair way to expose EVERYONE to EVERYTHING.
  • The goal is not mastery; the goal is introduction; mastery comes later.
  • Large groups working together help to create future support groups; the process is team building.
  • Support and resources for PD are easier to manager in mass; the first week or two of the new year shift support to critical needs.

Everyone is 100% and 100% is Wrong
The Pareto principle (80/20) is taught in economics, business, marketing, etc., because when tested, it tests true.

The Pareto principle (also known as the 80/20 rule, the law of the vital few, or the principle of factor sparsity) states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. 

For example:

  • 20% of the customers create 80% of the revenue
  • 20% of the software bugs cause 80% of the crashes
  • 20% of the features cause 80% of the usage
  • 20% of users create 80% of the technology support tickets.

80/20 is often seen as a negative metric, when in fact, is a great opportunity to improve PD outcomes.
Following the 80/20 rule, any given PD item needs to be mastered by only 20% of the organization in order for the entire organization to benefit.
More from Tony dePrato here.

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