Tips from a student who has trouble resisting Apple
Then you remember all of your required courses, you notice that you don’t have any of the prerequisites for that cool Psyc. class, and that interesting microbiology course is only available at 8:00 a.m., rendering it suddenly less interesting.
So you compromise. You take that histology lab that’s more boring than the first two hours of Titanic, but hey, at least you’ve crossed a required course off the list.
If you’re looking for the perfect laptop, computer or tablet for the new school year, similar compromises are required. Here are a few tips for getting the device that best fits your needs:
1. Don’t compare Apples to Apples. Compare them to PCs.
Drifting in class? Forgetting homework? Try these.
It’s exactly what it sounds like. Make sure to treat it like it’s big brother Wikipedia, which means background research but no direct citations. Or, if you don’t have Tetris on your phone, you can use it to play the ‘random article’ game. (It’s like a drinking game, except it’s mostly played by people like me, who spend time wondering whether the Millenium Falcon could beat the Enterprise.)
Have you ever wanted a less-annoying digital version of the naggy parent who reminds you about all your homework? myHomework is perfect for students who want to get more organized, or for students who like fiddling with their cellphones instead of working under the pretense of getting organized. Download this app and never forget another essay, reading, or upcoming test.
More fun than a guidance counsellor?
Trouble choosing a major? Luckily for you, there’s a new app to help students choose careers and it’s a lot more fun than a guidance counsellor.
This September, students at two U.S. universities will take virtual inkblot tests that will match them with potential fields of study and careers. (In case you didn’t know, inkblots are those blobby images that psychologists hold up for people in movies.)
The test is a series of images and associated words, such as a picture of a tent and the word “camping.” Students click either “Me” or “Not Me.” Based on the results, the application presents a list of seven personality categories and an algorithm matches them with potential careers.
Google’s new glasses will translate on screen
A developer in the U.K. says that new technology could make foreign language classes obsolete.
He’s talking about Project Glass, Google’s upcoming augmented reality glasses. While wearing the glasses, an interface hovers in your field of view and interacts with the world around you while also performing the kinds of tasks that smart phones handle.
In other words, the glasses will give you a viewpoint that’s much like what a T-800 from Terminator would see (but hopefully with better app. support).
Archery is hard, geese are mean and Marmite is gross
Everyone says that university is a place where you can “discover yourself” and “define who you are.” That makes it sound like you spend all your free time meditating and memorizing Confucius quotes instead of getting tagged in drunken pictures on Facebook and setting stuff on fire during St. Patrick’s Day, which is what really happens.
That said, you do learn plenty. Here are three unexpected things that I learned during my recently completed undergraduate education.
1) Shooting a bow and arrow is hard.
I briefly joined the archery club at my school. And by “briefly joined,” I mean I accidentally shot an arrow into the ceiling and then quietly backed out of the room and never returned.
Could technology really out boring teachers?
What do you get when you combine teacher evaluations, lame mood rings from the 1970s and one of the world’s richest foundations?
The answer: a $1.1-million project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to fit students with mood bracelets to measure how well their teachers are engaging them in the classroom.
The bracelets work through “galvanic skin response.” In theory, sweat glands are controlled by the nervous system, so skin conductance may help measure emotional responses.
Good news for arts majors interested in medicine
Students planning on applying to medical school might want to take some sociology and psychology courses along with their organic chemistry.
A new and improved Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) is on the way, with changes to better assess whether applicants are “well-rounded.”
The biggest changes are coming in 2015 when a new section will be introduced that tests behavioural and social sciences principles.
The MCAT is supposed to serve as a ‘litmus test’ to show which applicants have the most potential as physicians. Considering it was originally introduced in 1928 and last revised in 1991, many believe that an update is overdue.
Dr. Darrell Kirch, president and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), says that the future will require a “different kind of physician,” who is more “culturally competent.”
But will it really reduce stress?
The only thing worse than stressing out about upcoming exams is when you’re done writing them and you stress out about the marks you’ll get.
The University of Toronto Law faculty knows this and they want to make students focus less on marks and more on “intellectual engagement.”
After two years of studying how to reduce stress about marks and help students enjoy their studies, the law faculty is considering dropping letter grades (A, B+, B, C+, C, D, F). Several law schools in the United States use the pass/fail system, including Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley, and Yale, they note. A pass/fail system can help reduce students’ anxiety over marks, they say.
Except, uh, U of T’s news system won’t be pass/fail. Instead, five categories of marks will be used: High Honours, Honours, Pass, Low Pass, and Fail. In other words, the letter grade system isn’t being dropped, it’s just getting a face-lift. It’s like making a director’s cut and calling it a new movie.
I’m not exactly sure how renaming the letter grades is supposed to reduce anxiety over marks. Instead of stressing about getting A’s, students can stress about getting ‘high honours.’
Here’s an idea: instead of assigning them grades, why not rank students on a superheroes scale, Batman, Spider-Man, Wolverine, and Green Lantern…
Then again, that might not work. Students would still fear getting an ‘Aquaman.’
Scott Dobson-Mitchell is a Biomedical Sciences student at Waterloo. Follow @ScottyDobson
Pebble smartwatch creator plans to hire co-op students
That won’t be necessary for Eric Migicovsky, a 2008 University of Waterloo systems design engineering graduate and entrepreneur, who has raised more than $4.4 million for his “smartwatch.”
The idea behind the Pebble is simple: it alerts users when a new call, email or message is coming through on their iPhone or Android phones and displays it on the electronic paper screen. It’s especially useful if you don’t have easy access to your phone, which means the Pebble is the perfect solution for cyclists, joggers, or lazy people who want to stay connected while only having to move their wrist.
Young directors are using Twitter to fund their films
Most filmmakers aren’t like Transformers director Michael Bay. They don’t have millions of dollars, huge advertising budgets, or the ability to ruin childhood memories with expensive CGI robots.
So young directors have found a new way to raise funds. Cathy Beasley, a graduate of the New York Film Academy, is making an ambitious film called The Scapegoat. She doesn’t have Hollywood backing, but the film about jewel thieves hiding out in Venice will be shot on location in Italy nonetheless. The 2,000 followers of @KitCatFilms have helped her raise more than $10,000 already.
iPads: coming soon to a school (or zoo) near you
All incoming first-years enrolled in full-time post-secondary programs at Collège Boréal in Sudbury, Ont will receive iPads for the start of the 2012 school year. The Northern Ontario School of Medicine, also in Sudbury, handed out iPads to each student starting in September 2010.
It’s easy to see the appeal. Writing notes by hand is a pain. You have to print lecture slides out ahead of time, transport them, and then (if your penmanship is anything like mine) scribble all over them. That’s why many of us bring laptops.
But laptops have drawbacks too. Unlike a good-old-fashioned spiral bound notebook, you have to worry about the battery life. Tablets like the iPad are—in the words of Hannah Montana—the best of both worlds. They’re small, easy to transport, and have longer-lasting batteries.
It defecates, blocks traffic and has 1,000 Twitter followers
Mascots are generally thought of as the personification of a collective identity, a symbol of a brand, or an annoying guy dressed up in a dumb-looking costume at a sporting event.
Some mascots, such as the Coca-Cola polar bear, are beloved symbols—even though real polar bears are less likely to wear scarves and drink Coke, and much more likely to rip your face off.
Other mascots, like the Six Flags guy, are annoying as hell and should be stoned to death.
But the University of Waterloo, my school, should win a prize for the Most Bizarre New Mascot of 2012. Yes, it’s even more bizarre than a large predatory animal who enjoys carbonated drinks.
Common chemical may cause obesity
French fries and pizza might not be the only culprits behind the infamous ‘Freshman 15.’
A new study in PLoS ONE has strengthened the link between bisphenol A (BPA) and weight gain.
It showed that exposure to the chemical results in significantly heightened insulin levels. Over time, increased insulin levels can lead to weight gain and Type 2 diabetes, as the body becomes desensitized to the persistently high concentrations of the hormone.
Modern chemicals with potentially adverse health effects are nothing new—it seems like researchers are warning us about yet another carcinogen every day. But BPA is an especially serious threat for two reasons: it’s nearly everywhere, and even minuscule amounts may impact on your health.
Think they’ll both take engineering? Wrong.
The two grade 12 students from Toronto constructed a helium-filled weather balloon and launched a LEGO man holding a Canadian flag into space, more than 24 kilometers up.
The LEGO man’s space adventure was recorded and a GPS device allowed Ho and Muhammad to relocate their plastic astronaut.
In fact, you probably already know this. Their video has more than 2.6 million views on YouTube.
What Scott Dobson-Mitchell would tell his Freshman Self
Assuming I couldn’t accidentally cause some sort of butterfly effect that would prevent me being born, I wish I could travel back in time and tell my Freshman Self a few things about university. Considering I’ve already forgotten the answers to every exam, this is what I’d tell the younger me.
1) Plan ahead. WAY ahead.
It happens to every semester. Searching through the course calendar, I find the perfect class. It sounds interesting, it fits perfectly into my schedule and it fulfills my upper-year science requirement. The prof has checks out on RateMyProfessors and the course has a high score on Bird Courses. But I don’t have one of the prerequisites! If I’d been smart enough to plan, I would have that first year zoology credit that’s mandatory for nearly everything. Instead, I’m stuck with Phytochemical Biosystems.
2) You’re richer than you think.
Or at least, you’re less broke than you think. There are plenty of ways to get money beyond student loans—scholarships, bursaries, and work study programs that not only get you some cash, but also valuable work experience. The Ontario Work Study Program is one example. If you’re receiving student loans, then you’re probably eligible. Also be sure to check out the Maclean’s Scholarship finder.
Why am I the only one made uncomfortable by this?
I haven’t had many lectures where terms like necrophilia or bestiality came up. That’s why, among all the classes I’ve taken over the past four years, the sociology course I’m taking this semester, Sexuality and the Law, stand outs.
It wasn’t until the second class that the professor really delved into the ‘makes you feel uncomfortable and avoid eye contact with the other students’ material. Penis rings, polygamy, chastity belts, the Kama Sutra, and the lack of a female counterpart to Viagra were all discussed, in no particular order of uncomfortableness.
And it’s a haven for racist, sexist trolls
Facebook. Twitter. MSN. Google Plus. There’s no shortage of places for students to chat, opine, or procrastinate during finals. Yet there’s a new digital obsession spreading across Canadian campuses. It’s called OMG and it’s simple. Students submit short “Oh My Gods” about anything. Then, they’re posted to the site.
As a Waterloo student who found myself distracted by OMGUW far too often in December, I got thinking about what makes it so hard to look away. I wanted to know what makes it so enticing that it has spread from Waterloo to Guelph, Saskatchewan and Toronto, with tens of thousands of views.
It encourages research, citation, revision…
Wikipedia is an outcast on most university campuses. At the beginning of the semester, most professors mention that it’s banished from essays and assignments. If you dare to include a Wikipedia article on your reference list, you’re practically asking for a zero on your bibliography. In extreme cases, your professor might set your essay on fire and scatter the ashes across the Pacific Ocean. That’s because most profs regard Wikipedia’s crowdsourced articles as unreliable.
Despite the website’s reputation, some professors at schools like the University of Alberta are using Wikipedia as a teaching resource. Never mind using Wikipedia as a reference: these profs are actually replacing traditional essays with assignments where students write Wikipedia entries.
It’s not the size that counts, it’s how you use it.
Having trouble with a difficult calculus problem? Trying to figure out how to draw a resonance structure for your lab report? If you’re a student at the University of Toronto, chances are you’re out of luck. With labs and tutorials packed with more students than the teaching assistants can handle, getting one-on-one time is virtually impossible.
When you’re sitting in a classroom with hundreds of other students, it’s hard to have in-depth discussions about the material—you’re pretty much just showing up to take notes. That’s the whole point of tutorials and labs: filling in the gaps and supplementing the lecture material. The problem is, after a certain number of students it’s not even a tutorial anymore.
CUPE 3902 (which voted 91 per cent in favour of striking on Nov. 30) says 42 per cent of labs and tutorials at U of T have more than 50 students, more than 100 sections have over a 100 students. Additional statistics that paint the same picture: student-to-instructor ratios are terrible, and they’re getting worse.
Meet JoVE. It’s peer-reviewed. It’s indexed. And it’s fun.
Are you tired of reading textbooks and journal articles? Imagine if you could research your lab report or learn an experimental technique by watching a YouTube video.
I just learned that you basically can, thanks to the Journal of Visualized Experiments. It’s like YouTube, except you’re not watching videos of kittens playing patty cake or people doing stupid stuff with trampolines. JoVE publishes peer-reviewed research just like any other academic journal, but in video format. It’s even indexed in PubMed Central, which is the Google of biochemical and life sciences research. At five-years old, JoVE may be the only journal of its kind. But one can imagine there will soon be more like it.