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Dartmouth’s New Metadata Game Makes Tagging Archives Fun

by Alexis Mattera

If you have a Facebook account, you have probably been tagged in at least one photo. It could be an image of you participating in an extracurricular activity, attending a sporting event with friends or maybe even elementary school you sporting bangs that Mom cut with kitchen scissors but people looking at the picture will know who it is they are looking at. Many universities, however, haven’t had that same luxury in tagging their archives but a Dartmouth College professor is aiming to change that in order to make years of information more accessible to all.

Mary Flanagan, a professor of digital humanities who’s also an artist and designer, has created Metadata Games, an experiment in harnessing the power of the crowd to create archival metadata. Since many schools don’t have the resources to tag their archives as thoroughly as possible, Flanagan’s program turns what could be a tedious process into a game that invites players to tag images. Interesting, right? What’s more exciting is that this tagging process is working: During the pilot phase, players generated 6,250 tags and more than 90 percent of the metadata was useful. “Games are becoming more and more part of what people want to do,” Flanagan said. “What you’re doing in games matters. Games are meaning-making machines.” Plus, it’s a lot of fun!

You can learn more about Metadata Games here but based on what you’ve read so far, do you think this program is a useful one?


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Can You Dig This Scholarship of the Week?

Big Dig Scholarship Deadline is June 1st

May 23, 2011

Can You Dig This Scholarship of the Week?

by Alexis Mattera

We’ve seen it in movies and read about it in books: Someone unearths a time capsule buried long ago and learns something vital from its contents. Does it happen in real life? Sure but for this Scholarship of the Week – the Big Dig Scholarship – you’ll only need a metaphorical shovel and a way with words.

The Big Dig Scholarship asks students to find an item currently available for purchase for under $500 that will have immense value in the future. Applicants must then write a 500- to 1,000-word essay detailing their decision to be in the running to win a $3,000 scholarship for college. Interested? Here are the questions each essay must answer:

  • What is the item you are going to bury?
  • Where could you purchase this item today?
  • How much does this item cost?
  • What made you choose the item?
  • Why do you believe that the item will have immense value 200 years from now?

Essays will be graded primarily on originality and depth of content but grammar, punctuation and spelling will also be taken into consideration. Applications are due June 1st and the winner will be selected and notified by July 15th.

For more information about this award, complete a free scholarship search today!


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The Unique Challenges Facing Online Students

by Alexis Mattera

For the past two years, I have attended college entirely online. For some people, the idea of going to school online is like wading into a swamp – terrifying even to contemplate – but for me, online learning has been a dream.

This doesn't mean, however, that online classes are for everyone. Quite frankly, those of us who are not self-starters are not suited for online schooling. E-learning has deadlines, exams and papers just like traditional learning but teachers don't always remind students when assignments are due as they would in a traditional classroom, since they assume students who choose to take classes online are responsible enough to keep up with the coursework. In addition, e-learning is difficult for students who learn by listening to lectures; for online classes, lectures are provided in a visual format and some people find the fairly lengthy notes difficult to read through. Finally, although most teachers are willing and able to address any concerns online students have, students are largely expected to overcome obstacles themselves. Consequently, online students are encouraged to be much more independent than traditional students.

For me, this sense of independence is both liberating and empowering. I have been forced to adapt to an environment where I have minimal supervision and am required to make my own decisions. My achievements as a self-motivated individual have transcended to other areas of my life, such as my interpersonal relationships. I have grown as a person and as a thinker as a result of being an online student and I am proud to say I have completed my entire associate degree online. Although online learning may not be for everyone, the rewards of being a self-motivated individual have far exceeded the costs of online learning for me.

Lisa Lowdermilk is a soon-to-be published author, an avid video gamer and an artist. Her first novel is a murder mystery for young adults set in the future. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa completed her Associate of Arts degree entirely online and is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.


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All Media Are Not Created Equal

Tablet, Smartphone Interest Soars While E-books Fail to Gain Traction

May 13, 2011

All Media Are Not Created Equal

by Alexis Mattera

With the popularity of wireless computing devices among college students, it would seem that e-textbooks would be just as attractive for this tech-savvy generation. Not so, according to a new survey: The printed textbook is still the big man on campus.

Student Monitor’s survey of 1,200 full-time students at four-year institutions revealed that although 54 percent of respondents owned smartphones, 87 percent owned laptops and nearly 50 percent reported interest in purchasing a wireless reading device, only 5 percent of respondents purchased access to an e-textbook this spring – and usually only because professors required them to. The proportion of students who rented at least one printed textbook, however, doubled to 24 percent from last spring. With campus bookstores and independent sites like Chegg.com making book rental easier and more available, the trend is only expected to grow: Thirty-six percent of underclassmen said they are either likely or very likely to rent at least one textbook next semester.

The main reason students are renting textbooks instead of buying the electronic versions? The savings, which were reported as about $127. With that kind of money back in the bank, students could splurge on their other "likes" the survey revealed...or maybe get a head start paying off some of those student loans. Which side are you on in the textbook debate – Team E-book or Team Rental – and why?


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Full Internet Access During Exams? Ja, in Denmark

Danish University Hopes Strategy Will Quell Cheating

May 12, 2011

Full Internet Access During Exams? Ja, in Denmark

by Alexis Mattera

Here in the U.S., surfing the Internet during class is usually frowned upon and accessing the web during an exam could warrant an automatic failing grade. Overseas, however, Internet usage in these situations will not only be allowed but encouraged to – among other things – inhibit cheating.

The University of Southern Denmark has announced that by January 2012, all exams will be transferred to a digital platform and administered via Internet software. In addition to making it possible for faculty to create tests aligned with course content that would better assess students’ problem solving prowess, analytical skills and ability to discuss particular topics, e-learning project coordinator Lise Petersen said this program presented an innovative solution to academic dishonesty. "One way of preventing cheating is by saying nothing is allowed and giving students a piece of paper and a pen," she said. "The other way is to say everything is allowed except plagiarism. So if you allow communication, discussions, searches and so on, you eliminate cheating because it’s not cheating anymore. That is the way we should think."

Do you think Southern Denmark’s plan is an effective one or an approach that will breed more academic dishonesty? What’s your school’s stance on Internet usage in class?


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What’s So Special About Specialized Majors?

Narrowing Your Focus is Both Risky and Rewarding

May 11, 2011

What’s So Special About Specialized Majors?

by Alexis Mattera

Starting college with a specific idea what you want to do with your life can make choosing a major, selecting classes and finding internships much easier than the decisions facing your undecided roommate. But is that specificity better? The answer is yes...and no. Well, actually, it’s a maybe.

With the increasing demand for expertise in narrow fields, some schools are putting programs in place to produce candidates perfectly suited for these niche jobs. SUNY at Albany, for example, has opened a College of Nanoscale Science to meet what The National Science Foundation estimates will be about 2 million workers with nanotechnology-centric backgrounds needed by 2014. The results so far are promising – even first-year students have already been offered summer internships with companies like Intel and IBM – but is this kind of specialization always wise?

To an extent, but career counselors, hiring consultants and academic officials think it’s more important for students to diversify their undergraduate years. Industry-specific skill sets may get a graduate into their chosen field faster but may severely limit career flexibility down the line. You may think you know your ideal career path but wait until you’ve taken a wide enough variety of classes to be sure...especially when employers report they value soft skills like effective communication, critical thinking and problem solving over precise training.

What do you think? Should you specialize right away or sample what your school has to offer before making a potentially life-changing decision?


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Oregon Students’ Nutty (and Delicious) Idea

Non-Business Majors Find Success with Peanut Butter Start-Up

May 10, 2011

Oregon Students’ Nutty (and Delicious) Idea

by Alexis Mattera

When dining halls are closed and hunger strikes, college students with limited funds find some pretty creative ways to prevent their stomach growls from waking their roommates. However, this is the most interesting way I’ve heard yet...not to mention the most lucrative and delicious.

University of Oregon students Keeley Tillotson and Erika Welsh found themselves in a quandary this past January when they ran out of peanut butter but instead of heading to the store for a jar, the pair threw some whole peanuts and other pantry items (raisins, chocolate and cinnamon) into their food processor. When the mixture elicited mmmmmmms instead of ewwwwwwws from friends, Tillotson and Welsh launched Flying Squirrel Peanut Butter into the universe. And it looks like it’s sticking around.

Tillotson, a journalism major, and Welsh, an environmental studies and Spanish major, claim they didn’t set out to create a business – “We’re filling a niche we didn’t know existed,” Tillotson said; adds Welsh, “We have so much faith in our product.” – but now their plans include full-fledged careers after college filled with cafés, ice creams and additional flavors of their signature product.

Have an equally creative idea that’s yet to take flight? Let Tillotson and Welsh be your inspiration! Learn more about Flying Squirrel here, here and here; just try not to drool on your keyboard.

P.S. I’m totally ordering some.


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Social Media and the Job Market

Online Identity Matters to Potential Employers

May 9, 2011

Social Media and the Job Market

by Alexis Mattera

It’s that time of year again when the inboxes of hiring managers are overflowing with applications from recent college graduates looking to score that coveted first job. But today, in addition to reviewing resumes, cover letters and references, employers are taking candidates’ online identities into account when deciding who will receive an offer letter.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers’ most recent report on job studies, of the 46 percent of companies surveyed by CareerBuilder that are looking to hire recently graduated workers, 16 percent of them are seeking candidates who are adept at using social media. But there's a catch: While a candidate that's active on Facebook and Twitter is good, the one with proficiency in Google Analytics and knowledge about new industry developments is more likely to get an interview.

To make the best virtual impression, less is more says Steve Schwartz, executive vice president of consumer services at risk management company Intersections – not only will untagging unsavory photos and eliminating excessive personal information help boost your online image but it could also prevent identity theft – and Monica Wilson, acting co-director of career services at Dartmouth College suggests being more cognizant of what you post and when you post it. (This advice also translates to students applying to college.)

Recent or soon-to-be college grads, does your online presence require a little spring cleaning before you enter the job market?


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Want This Scholarship of the Week? Grab Some Duct Tape

Duck Brand Stuck at Prom Scholarship Worth $5,000

May 9, 2011

Want This Scholarship of the Week? Grab Some Duct Tape

by Alexis Mattera

Ah, prom. A night of flowers, dancing and...duct tape? If you want a $5,000 scholarship, that last item is a must to win the Duck Brand Duct Tape Stuck at Prom Scholarship Contest!

The Duck Brand Duct Tape Stuck at Prom Scholarship Contest is open to legal residents of the United States and Canada, including the District of Columbia, but excluding Puerto Rico and the Province of Quebec. This contest rewards individuals for creating prom attire made completely out of duct tape. To be eligible for the award, each couple must submit the following:

  • One color photograph (professional or amateur) of the couple together in prom attire.
  • Each individual's full name, address, telephone number, email address (if applicable) and age/grade level, and the name of the closest major city to the individual's hometown.
  • A release form signed by each individual and, if any entrant is a minor (under 18 years of age), that individual's parent or guardian.
  • The name, address, and telephone number of the high school, or home school association, which is hosting the prom, and the date the prom was held.

The deadline for this scholarship is June 13th. To learn more about this scholarship award and nearly 3 million others in our database, conduct a free college scholarship search today!


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Food-bot Keeps Stomachs and Wallets Full

Carnegie Mellon Grad’s Program a Hit with Budget-Conscious College Students

April 29, 2011

Food-bot Keeps Stomachs and Wallets Full

by Alexis Mattera

The academic year is winding down at many colleges and so are many students’ meal plans and bank account balances. Instead of reaching for the ramen noodles (AGAIN), grab your computer instead. That’s what Greg Woloschyn did last year and it paid off: He created Food-bot and didn’t pay for food for five months.

The then-senior and computer science major at Carnegie Mellon grew tired of scouring his campus for free dining options so he created an email account that screened messages from every mailing list on campus for food-related terms. Once that method proved successful, Woloschyn spent his winter break writing a more advanced computer program called Food-bot which used the information to populate a food calendar online. His findings weren’t just doughnuts or pizza either: Woloschyn trained the program to rate the food mentioned in event listings (for example, steak earned a 10) and assigned “awkwardness” ratings for no-cost noshies at ethnic or religious-affiliated events.

One year later, Woloschyn’s plate is pretty full: He’s expanded Food-bot beyond Carnegie Mellon to serve empty-pocketed students at Berkeley, the University of Maryland at College Park, Duke, Case Western and MIT and has plans to develop mobile applications for Android phones and iPhones this summer when he’s not at work as a software engineer for Qualcomm. If you’ve tried Food-bot, has it kept your belly and wallet satisfied?


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