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THE BENEFITS OF ONLINE LEARNING

Learning online is no longer a novelty and more and more students are opting to take online courses every day. The world’s top universities and colleges now offer online courses and it was recently noted that “The future of higher education lies with it.” (Tom Snyder, Huffington).

The popularity of online learning lies principally in its flexibility. Students do not have to be physically in a classroom but can learn remotely and frequently at their own pace. Naturally, this approach may present challenges. While learning online, students must also learn to prioritize their commitments. Good time-management and organization skills are essential for it to be effective, but those are skills which can be improved upon, and that usually do improve, along with self-discipline and responsibility, as students progress through their online courses.

Online learning can also help busy professionals get additional training and keep abreast of advances in their fields of expertise as they continue to work at their jobs.

Another great advantage of online learning is coverage. There will never be as many spots in universities as students who want to enroll in them, but with online courses, educators can reach many more students than would be possible in the traditional classroom. Moreover, everyone receives the same training, communicated in the same way to everyone participating in the course.

It is often thought that with flexibility comes a more laissez-faire approach to learning; that online courses aren’t as “serious” as more traditional ones, and that students simply can’t learn as much as they would if they were sitting in a classroom with a teacher in front of them. If you’ve ever taken an online course you’re probably aware that this criticism is unfounded. Many online courses make greater demands on students and assign more reading material than traditional ones in order to ensure students stay engaged and always have something to work on.

Online courses are designed so as to keep engagement high and help students retain the material taught in them longer. This is usually achieved through the use of media inherent in this type of learning, and also with gamification. Online teachers often find ways to make the course fun and more similar to a game than to what we usually think of when we imagine learning.

Last but not least, online learning usually means time and money savings. Students who opt for this type of learning remove the need for travel and its attendant costs. It reduces or eliminates time away from the workplace and opens a pathway to lifelong learning.

And let’s not forget our planet. The fact that we can now learn without dozens of handouts and paper-based materials does the environment a great favor that we shouldn’t take for granted.

IS ONLINE LEARNING FOR EVERYONE?

As with anything in education, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question as to whether you or your student should try online learning. It is designed on the assumption that the student has some interest in the subject already and will be motivated to learn more. It also requires instructors familiar with this approach who know how to engage students and present the material in an original way, tailored for the online environment. But it is definitely worth a try. The benefits are great and any drawbacks can be overcome if dealt with in a timely fashion and with solid support. We will offer just that this summer to all students interested in online learning, combined with the great project-based learning approach in our new program Nobel Explorers. It is worth checking out if you are interested in providing your child with a summer full of learning and fun.

by Anja Anđelković

5 TEAM-BUILDING ACTIVITIES FOR TEENS TO BUILD TRUST AND COOPERATION

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is a success.” – Henry Ford

In this article, you will find several team-building activities useful in developing closeness, trust, cooperation, and team spirit among teens. Besides being applicable in the classroom and teen workshops, some of these activities can be enjoyed at parties, with friends, or during family gatherings. And all of them can be initiated and led by teens, not only by adult tutors or teachers.

Teenagers have a particular need to be accepted, to belong to a peer group, to have their own crew, and to explore the world together with friends and have fun. Yet many of them feel isolated and lonely and find an illusion of consolation in virtual social networks, which can never replace the joys of real interaction.

That is why we’re proposing several team-building activities, varying from simple games to more complex assignments, that can serve to draw teens closer to one another by encouraging interaction to develop trust and cooperation, letting them experience interdependency through working together to foster a team spirit – all preconditions for successful teamwork.

These activities require a leader to initiate an activity, whether this is a teen or an adult.

Team-building activity No 1 – Let’s get to know each other from a different perspective

Want to make everyone comfortable and included at the party you organize? Why not suggest an icebreaking game where everyone would have the opportunity to speak up informally?

Prepare a list of questions. Be imaginative when inventing them – they should be questions that are interesting to you, too. For example:

  1. Who is your favorite superhero and why?
  2. If you were an animal, what would you be and why?
  3. If you were a wizard, what would be your superpower?
  4. If you had to describe yourself using only three words, they would be…
  5. What is your favorite band/movie/TV show/video game and why?

Prepare enough questions for everybody. Questions can be printed or written down on paper and then cut into slips – one slip, one question. Roll the question slips up and put them in a jar and your game is ready! Suggest the game to your guests – each one who participates takes one question from the jar.

This icebreaking game is useful for smaller groups (up to ten people). Besides being applicable in the classroom or in a workshop where people don’t know each other, it’s beneficial when the atmosphere at a social gathering is a bit awkward or low energy. Moreover, questions like these are amusing and helpful on dates, too!

Team-building activity No 2 – Karaoke performance

We all know that karaoke can be funny, but here we’re adding an extra team challenge! This activity is also good for larger groups, first divided into smaller ones consisting of at least three members.

The challenge for each team is to select a song (from YouTube or audio player) and create a performance around that song. Members of the team decide together on a concept for their particular performance, with each person taking their preferred role. Roles could be a singer, a drummer, a dancer, a backup vocalist, or even acting out the theme of the lyrics.

There are no rules regarding possible roles, just as long as each member has one. When the teams are ready, each team puts on their performance.

This activity is particularly useful in getting teens closer and helping them be spontaneous and stop worrying what others may think of them. Usually, there’s a lot of laughter and good energy during this activity. Make sure to send us photos if you try it!

Team-building activity No 3 – Dragon’s tower

This is a competitive game, great for developing team cooperation. The minimum number of people playing this game is six. You will also need a coordinator to lead the process. Participants are divided into teams consisting of three members. If performed with a large group of students, it’s advisable to create several teams, with the rest forming a watching and cheering audience.

First, the coordinator introduces the following story: Once upon a time there was a king who had N daughters/princesses (N – referring to the number of teams). Then a frightful dragon came and took away the king’s daughters and put them in his distant tower. The task of each team is to find their princess and get her back home.

Each team consists of the following three players: the Silent One (who is allowed to look, but isn’t allowed to talk), the Talker (who is only allowed to look at the Silent One’s pantomime, and is allowed to talk), and the Tracker (who is blindfolded and navigated by the Talker in his quest to find the princess).

The Coordinator picks princesses from a deck of cards and assigns one to each team. He then attaches the princess cards to the opposite wall. Only the Silent Ones from each team are allowed to see where the coordinator has placed their group’s princess. Talker and Tracker mustn’t see this.

All team members stand on one side of the room. The Silent One has an overview of the whole room. When the game begins, he uses pantomime to explain to the Talker, who is facing him, where their princess is located on the opposite wall. The Talker only sees the Silent One and his pantomime and tries to verbally navigate the Tracker, using the information he receives from the Silent One. The blindfolded Tracker then moves, and with help of his teammates, tries to find their princess and to get her back to his teammates successfully.

The winner is the team whose Tracker finds their princess and gets her back first. It is crucial that teammates play their roles well and cooperate in order to successfully finish the task. This is a hilarious game with a great atmosphere!

Team-building activity No 4 – Trust game

There are plenty of trust games and for this purpose, we’ve chosen the following one. It is good for a group of minimum five members.

Participants stand in the circle holding hands. One member stands in the center of the circle, blindfolded or just with their eyes shut. The one in the center has to walk around and explore the space, unseeing. He has to trust the group will guard him and protect him from harm. The group has the responsibility to “watch his back”- to take care of his safety.

All members should have both experiences – of being guarded by the group and guarding a teammate. The challenge is greater if there are several groups in the room, each group taking care of the one in the middle of their circle. There are variations of the game; for instance, a circle can be wider, using ten people and more, or the one in the middle can be dancing or running about, etc.

At the end, participants should be asked how they felt in both roles and what they can learn from this game.

Trust games like this one show how important interdependence is and that we can rely on our team members. Trust is essential for a good teamwork. Also, it teaches that a team must function as a single unit if wants to survive, with all members included and working together.

Team-building activity No 5 – Teens as researchers

Here we suggest an activity initiated by an adult (a teacher or a youth leader) working with teens to research and describe a concept. This activity can range from a very simple task to a real project. Also, it can give impetus to any creative and curious teen to start his own project with his friends.

Teens are divided into teams of three to five members. They are encouraged to imagine that they are researchers investigating some important social topic. If we assume there are four teams, four different topics would be offered and for each topic, a distinctive method of recording and presenting data. Teams are created taking into account students’ preferences and equal sizes of the teams.

For example, topics can be Love, Friendship, Youth culture, Local activism. Extra instruction can be given. If Love is the focus, you may want to find out what love actually is. How does love manifest itself in real life? Or if you research Friendship, you may want to seek out the definition of a good friend. What would a true friend never do?

In order to assist teams to investigate in their particular field, we suggest interview and observation as the main techniques for collecting information. They are encouraged to conduct research in their local environment: school, or community, and to ask real people for their opinion on the topic the team is investigating.

However, methods of recording and presenting data will vary. We suggest four methods for recording data: Video; Audio; Photos; Writing. One method is assigned to one topic. For example, a team working on the Love topic will use a video; a team working on Friendship will use written form, etc.

Depending on the complexity of the assignment, teams are given from several hours to several days to complete the task. Time is needed to jointly create research questions, conduct research on the ground and to conceptualize how to effectively present data using the chosen method. At the end, each team presents their final product with discussion to follow.

Being gathered around a common project is a great opportunity to experience real teamwork, among other benefits. For more about the benefits of project-based learning, read our previous article.

Teamwork is one of the key values here in Nobel Coaching. Check out our new engaging program Nobel Explorers where middle- and high-school students will work in small teams.

by Milena Ćuk, Life Coach and Integrative Art Therapist-in-training

DO CHORES HAVE TO BE A CHORE?

Children, and even adults, often consider chores a “burden” since they take away time we could spend on activities we enjoy doing and intrude into our “fun” time. However, while few people think ironing shirts is interesting and uplifting, it is something most of us will need to do at some point in our lives, even if only before those first job interviews because, let’s admit it – nobody really irons their clothes all the time.

The truth is chores don’t have to be all that horrible, especially if you start participating in them early on and without any negative associations. In fact, a good relationship towards them leads to developing skills useful in adult life and learning how to deal with responsibilities in constructive ways. This is what every parent would want for their child and the good news is there are ways to achieve it. It is possible to have your children help with chores without frustrating them or hearing the usual “Later” whenever you mention anything loosely associated with the household.

HOW TO MAKE CHORES NOT A CHORE

To help your child develop a good relationship to chores, the most important thing is to start young. A good way to begin having a functional household with all members participating in maintaining it is to have your toddler start caring for their basic hygiene. Teach them to brush their teeth and dress and let them have some independence while doing so. Yes, this means you don’t get to pick out that cute matching outfit, but let your child have a choice about what they wear, as long as it’s not a summer dress… in the middle of winter. When your child starts doing these as a part of their routine, you can gradually add other simple tasks: putting their toys away after playing, making their bed or helping set the table. As your child grows, feel free to add more chores that benefit the entire family, and always show your appreciation for your child’s engagement in them. This will help teach your child autonomy, and also that their needs are not the only ones and that all members of the household should participate in maintaining it.

As your child starts taking on more and more chores, you’ll start noticing that some tasks suit their personalities and interests better than others. Encourage them to develop their own methods. As their skills improve, they will feel proud of themselves and chores can actually become a way for them to develop self-esteem. If you have more than one child, it would be smart to delegate different responsibilities to each one. This will not only help you have your house in tip-top condition but will help avoid competition between your children and let them all have a place of their own in the family dynamic. It will also teach them that there is more to being a member of the family than just being born into it. When delegating tasks, try to stay away from social norms about what girls and boys should do. Consider only your child’s individuality and go with that as your main criterion.

Another key factor in keeping the drudgery factor out of chores is your own relationship to them. It is completely understandable that you find some tasks tedious or that it is hard for you to clean the grout and hum upbeat tunes while doing so, but at least try not to be extremely negative whenever it’s time to do housework. Think about all the good you will do for your child if you teach them how to accept chores as a part of their everyday lives. Demonstrate that chores are just like any other activity we do daily and that there is no need to complain about ordinary tasks. If you need to occasionally fake enthusiasm for a chore you particularly dislike, it’s probably better than displaying a negative attitude. Maybe it becomes easier and you actually help yourself on your journey to teaching your child important life skills.

The third thing to keep in mind while delegating chores is the number of tasks your child has to do. As with any other good thing, moderation is key. Having your child help with chores is all well and good and beneficial for everyone involved, but keep in mind that children need time to study and play, and that chores shouldn’t take up most of their time. If you don’t want your child to become resentful towards all household tasks, don’t make him/her participate in them in all their spare time and try not to use chores as a form of punishment. This often leads to resistance and can have negative effects even later in life.

In case you have a child who has already developed a not-so-great relationship with chores, fret not – there are ways to make it better! Of course, take into account everything said in the previous paragraphs, but also show appreciation for any contribution your child makes to the household no matter how minor. If the only thing your child does is occasionally making the bed, mention how great that is that they did that instead of criticizing them for not doing more. Also, keep in mind that we tend to show resistance to activities that are presented as something we must do, so try not to make chores one of those as it will only make the child dislike it even more. And, most importantly, be patient. It might take some time for your child to realize that chores are just a regular activity that, in the long run, make life easier for everyone in the household.

CHORES AS A MEANS TO A FULFILLED CHILD

The first thing that usually comes to parents’ mind when they think about how their children could be doing more around the house is that it would make running the household easier, but this is actually low on the list of reasons why chores are good for your child.

When participating in household activities, children see themselves as important contributors to the family’s well-being, especially if they start while young. Other than that, chores can be a great way to bond with your child and make them feel more connected to everything that is happening within the family. Running a household is a team project, and getting your child to help with chores will prepare them for working successfully with others throughout their lives.

Another benefit for your child in doing chores is that it helps them become more responsible, teaches them self-discipline and gives them a sense of pride and self-worth once they complete their tasks. It also is a great way for them to start managing their time, as they will have to learn how to fit chores into their daily schedules.

And if all of this isn’t enough, think about the many ways chores can be useful in bettering certain skills. They can be great exercise and help your child develop both fine and gross motor skills. For instance, doing almost any type of outdoor work not only works up a sweat but can improve physical well-being. Drying the dishes can help them learn how to handle delicate objects. Chores can also help with your child’s numerical and even verbal skills. Ask your child to help write a shopping list, measure and count some ingredients for a cake, or sort the laundry by color to help with their classification skills. The list never ends. You can actually get very creative and make it fun for both you and your child. The case for chores is strong. All you and your child have to do is start doing them. It is never too late.

Resources:

  1. Albernaz, A. (December 8, 2015). Sparing Chores Spoils Children And Their Future Selves, Study Says.
  2. Paton, G. (February 20, 2014). Parents told ‘use chores to teach children basic skills’.
  3. Responsibility And Chores: Part I – The Benefits of Chores. (December 16, 2012).
  4. 4. 6 Big Ways Your Children Benefit From Having Chores (September 10, 2014).

THE MINDFUL STUDENT – BENEFITS OF THE MINDFULNESS PRACTICE

In the last couple of years, there has been a lot of hype around the term “mindfulness”. Everybody from yoga teachers to Silicon Valley engineers are talking about being mindful and practicing mindfulness. Of course, there are others who think all the hype is nonsense and that mindfulness is just another new-age fad. It’s easy to get lost in the many articles and videos discussing the term without actually realizing what it means, so let’s start with that: mindfulness is a form of meditation in which people learn how to be in the moment, or more precisely how to stay focused and acknowledge all their sensations and feelings without passing any judgment. This concept has roots in Buddhism [5] but nowadays is more frequently secular and, best of all, can be practiced by anyone, anywhere.

Why would we practice mindfulness?

In today’s world where we are all very busy all the time, it’s getting easier and easier to lose focus on the present and get caught up doing our daily tasks automatically, thinking only about what we should be doing next and thus missing out on valuable insights and experiences. Mindfulness can prevent this from happening and help us learn how to stay aware without getting too active or overwhelmed.

Lately, there has been a lot of research into the benefits of this practice and it is getting harder and harder for skeptics to dismiss it as yet another hoax. Aside from being available to everyone and not requiring anything other than some time and a lot of patience (since being in the moment without passing judgment is easier said than done), mindfulness has a positive impact on both our physical and mental health [7].

One of the most cited benefits of mindfulness is stress reduction, which has a positive effect on sleep patterns and the overall well-being of the practitioner. As we teach ourselves to stay present, we get to know ourselves better, our memory improves, we don’t have emotional outbursts, and we even get more satisfied with our relationships as we learn how to deal with stress effectively and to communicate our feelings to our partners [3].

Benefits of mindfulness to students

The case for mindful meditation is strong and it would be almost silly not to try it out after reading about all the benefits you can reap by practicing it. However, mindfulness can be specifically beneficial to students, and its practice has begun to be incorporated into schools to teach very young children how to stay mindful of their experience in the moment without judgment.

  • It is clear that learning how to stay focused is particularly useful for students as it can prevent daydreaming and procrastination, and helps students learn more effectively. Mindfulness has also be shown to be great for attention and is even used as a technique in the treatment of ADHD [1].
  • As it helps deal with stress, mindfulness is a great tool to relieve test anxiety many students experience and helps reduce stress levels related to school in general (http://www.mindfulschools.org/about-mindfulness/research/#reference-17).
  • The practice is also shown to be related to better grades, as it improves cognitive function and enhances our working memory [2]. It has even been shown that after a course of mindfulness practices, our prefrontal cortex thickens. This is the part of the brain responsible for high-order functions such as decision-making and awareness [6].
  • Last but not least, mindfulness has a great impact on students’ social skills. Through practice, students learn self-control and respect for others [5] and get better at solving interpersonal problems [4].

All in all, the potential benefits of mindfulness are far more persuasive than the opinions of a couple of skeptics and, as a practice that is relatively accessible and easy to introduce, it is a great tool of self-improvement for adults and their children alike. If you are interested in knowing more about it and going through mindfulness training as part of overcoming some learning difficulties, don’t hesitate to contact us.

by Anja Anđelković

References:

  1. Brancatisano, E. (October 24, 2016). The Benefits Of Bringing Mindfulness In To The Classroom.
  2. Chan, A. L. (August 4, 2013). Mindfulness Meditation Benefits: 20 Reasons Why It’s Good For Your Mental And Physical Health.
  3. Davis, D. M. & Hayes, J. A. (July/August 2012). What are the benefits of mindfulness? Monitor on Psychology, 43 (7), 64.
  4. Gouda, S., Luong, M. T., Schmidt, S., & Bauer, J. (2016). Students and Teachers Benefit from Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction in a School-Embedded Pilot Study.
  5. Holland, E. (Feb 16, 2015). Can ‘Mindfulness’ Help Students Do Better in School?
  6. Ireland, T. (June 12, 2014). What Does Mindfulness Meditation Do to Your Brain?
  7. Research on Mindfulness. Mindful Schools.
  8. Weare, K. (April 2012). Evidence for the Impact of Mindfulness on Children and Young People.