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The 5 Best Books of 2014 (so far)

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The Fault in Our Stars written by John Green

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Arguably, one of the most buzzworthy books of the first half of 2014. Its popularity skyrocketed almost overnight, gripping its readers and tearing at their heart strings. It was originally intended for young adults, but college students and even older adults have relished in this tragic young love story. Therefore it’s not surprising that the book was both successful in print and at the box-office.

All the Light We Cannot See written by Anthony Doerr

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Almost as soon as its release in May, this book has been on many best sellers lists (and rightfully so). It carefully weaves historical fiction to the backdrop of war to create a hard to put down read. For those who cannot get enough of World War II history, this may certainly be the book you’re looking for.

Capital in the Twenty-First Century written by Thomas Piketty

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A bestselling book on economics and development? This certainly does not happen every day. Piketty brings fresh, easily understandable language for those who are unfamiliar with economics and blends it with interesting concepts and charts. This overtly large book (it’s close to 700 pages) have kept readers engaged and thus lifted itself to the top of the nonfiction best sellers list.

Gone Girl written by Gillian Flynn

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This mysterious thriller is sure to leave you at the edge of your seat with the many plot twists and suspenseful circumstances that can only be found in a book by Gillian Flynn. This book has been receiving lots of buzz lately. It has a movie in the works and has been on bestsellers lists since its release.

The Goldfinch written by Donna Tartt

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An extremely smart novel whose popularity has been unmatched in recent years. Donna Tartt successfully brings the reader into the time and place, allows them to feel emotions portrayed and brings all her characters to life. It’s no wonder that the Goldfinch has been given praise for all over the world.

5 Reasons to Integrate Multi-touch Screens Into Classrooms

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With the latest in mobile technology, tablets are now transforming higher education through multi-touch displays. Aside from social interaction, this technology can’t be ignored in hands-on learning, as they provide what most educators refer to as tactile and intuitive interface. In a 2012 Pearson Foundation survey, it’s revealed that tablet ownership among college students and college-bound high school seniors have tripled. Fast forward to 2014, you can now see students carrying multi-touch devices freely in campus.

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However, students tend to misuse them, exhausting it for non-scholastic endeavors. In this article, we’ll try to get rid of this idea by giving you valid reasons to integrate multi-touch screens in the classroom.

  1. Brings real-life visuals

Despite the availability of tablets from Apple, Samsung, and Google, tablet technology still hasn’t reached its pinnacle. Multi-touch  has laid out its plan of a new interactive display that allows you to interact with real-life objects through the Enriched Reality. Reportedly, Enriched Reality is a series of displays, which detect every object it interacts with, including the ones placed on the system.

Ideally, you’ll be able to use your fingers, hands, and pens to navigate the Enriched Reality, which initiates a collaborative approach with your professors to shed light on a specific topic.

It also has networking capabilities, social media integration, and third party application hosting to continuously use your productivity apps.

  1. Redefining how information is presented

“Learning is no longer just a linear process but one in which all information is connected seamlessly and visually, displayed on a high-definition screen,” Verizon Wireless wrote, stressing the importance of tablets in higher education. The article highlighted the importance of organizational applications, paving the way for a deeper way at which you can think and present information.

The company said that there are plenty of applications which you can use as a student presenter, wherein you’ll reinforce your class report with stunning film graphics, videos, documentaries, and games to engage with your classmates through play. Also, you can now communicate freely with them, as well as ask for initial assessments and evaluations.

  1. Mastering language courses

Aside from Math and Science, Mark of Edudemic discussed the importance of a multi-touch device to help you excel in language classes. For one, there are digitized pens which you can use for writing, especially in getting all requirements done on the go.

Another reason is that most manufacturers have now equipped their devices with an advanced palm rejection feature. It allows you to rest your hands in the middle of the task, without necessarily affecting productivity. While texts and diagrams clutter on your screen, this feature still allows you to access movable icons of specific applications.

  1. Affordability and flexibility

Going to college, especially abroad, is also equivalent to investment. Thus, you have to save enough money. While buying a multi-touch tablet is also a wise investment, the same Verizon article mentioned above said that they are less expensive than laptops. You’ll also get savings from e-books. For instance, you may resort to a Kindle alternative of Martin Tovee’s An Introduction to the Visual System, which costs $33.60, as opposed to the physical version costing around $130.

These devices are flexible – you can use it solely for classroom purposes or for entertainment. While reading a required e-book, students are still able to socialize through the social network integration to find encouragement.

  1. Perceptive Pixel Technology is on the rise

Just like Multi-touch, Microsoft is also poised to release its own multi-touch and pen devices, which are based solely on Perceptive Pixel Technology. In an interview with Alex Williams of TechCrunch, Microsoft General Manager Jeff Han said that these devices will use pen and paper “to create what is equivalent to the human as the user interface.”

In the education system, Han pointed out that these devices are aimed to resolve user interface issues such as the “fat finger problem” (pressing multiple buttons due to large fingers). Whether in the classroom or not, you can still touch the displays for remote collaboration with your teacher and peers. This is in line with the true essence of Perceptive Pixel Technology – broadcast and geo-intelligence.

The good thing about multi-touch technology is that it improves every second, thus the chances of using it in the classroom has become limitless. Do you have other ideas on how to use this tech solution in class? Share your thoughts below.

As an online student, Kyle Albert has the knack of strategically using mobile devices in terms of collaborating with instructors and peers. For him, a tablet is a one-stop repository device, as it can replace a standard laptop on a number of ways. Reach Kyle on Google+.

 

eTextbook or Physical Textbook?

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eTextbook or Physical Textbook?

Today everyone uses their laptops, cell phones and tablets for everything including textbook readings for class. It may seem that the only duty our paper textbooks have, is to collect dust on the book self. This isn’t as true as you might think. There are several pros and cons for both an eTextbook and a physical textbook. I’m here to enlighten the public on which to choose, an eTextbook or a physical textbook.

According to Cynthia Boris of NBCNews.com there are various categories of comparison that can be viewed when weighing the pros and cons of an eTextbook and a physical textbook. In her opinion, ease of use, portability and cost are among the most important aspects to consider when making your book decision.

Ease of use: Although an eTextbook encourages you to explore the world of knowledge at the drop of your fingertips, does it make it harder to retain the information you are looking for? Some eTextbooks allow you to make notes and highlight for memorizing purposes but according to a study performed by Survey Monkey, nearly 40% of students preferred to use a print book to study with. An eTextbook might be easier to use sometimes while other times there is nothing better than being able to feel the pages of a physical textbook.

Portability: At times, textbooks can put a large strain on your back when walking to class. The weight of some textbooks can be several pounds each versus a few ounces for only one tablet to store thousands of e-textbooks on. When taking this into consideration, your back might thank you in a few years.

Cost: Textbooks are expensive, it’s true. Today, there are several ways to save money on buying textbooks, like renting! Not to mention some great coupon deals. When comparing costs to eTextbooks on a tablet, they are extremely cost effective. Although you have to take into consideration the cost of the actual device, as Boris says, “It could take a year of schooling before it pays for itself.”

In the end an eTextbook works for some and not for others, no worries though, there will always be physical textbooks to go around. Happy textbook shopping!

The LitMag Dialogues Part 1: How Working at Literary Magazine Draws in a Variety of People

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If there is one thing I’ve learned from pursuing a career in writing, it is the fact that words can come from all over.  Everyone has the ability to create something meaningful via his or her own language, background, culture and experience.  I like being surrounded by writers because we each bring something unique to the “universe” that is the written word.  Writing is a method of communication, used formally in medical journals, newspapers, magazines, and of course, literature.

It can be overlooked at times, but reading other people’s writing is the best way to expand your own horizon of knowledge.  If you think about it, nothing is completely objective.  There is always a tone present, lightly detected or not, that can reveal an author’s true feelings about his or her subject.

I never considered how many sources and types of people that various writings could come from—until I was surrounded by writers on a regular basis.  It started when I took my first creative writing workshops away at school, attended a summer writer’s institute, and began interning at a literary magazine in my hometown.  I didn’t understand how much variety there was in literary works because I had been constricted to what I read as a child and what I was assigned later in high school.

Working at the literary magazine has solidified this realization.  As an intern I am partly responsible for reading and voting on submissions from various writers all over the country and abroad.  I have read pieces written by college students, published authors, MFAs, and professionals who never studied writing but love it all the same.  Then I have read work from people who are a mixture of these categories.  It’s amazing to see how one method of communication, widespread as it is, takes its own form within just one person’s imagination.

Then there’s the other side:  us, the receivers—the interns, the editors, the outside readers who volunteer their input, and everyone else who helps out.  There is a variety even within our small group.  We have different educations, have attended different schools, are from towns from all over, and have experienced vastly different lives.  Yet we all get along, and I feel that a large part of this is due to our passion for words.  (Of course, we’re all a fun-loving group anyway, but the writing aspect is still quite important!)

I think the most valuable thing I can take away from what I have experienced, being surrounded by writers and readers, is that variety is a very good thing.  Without it you can miss out on so many perspectives that have the ability to alter your own lifestyle and values.  Without it would be like living in a secluded society of your own, where you can only learn from people just like you.  I value the new people I have been exposed to since I started college because it has helped me grow as a person, a student, and a writer.  Working at the magazine just marks the beginning of that growth—seeing as I have quite a few more years ahead of me.

The same goes for being away at school.  Dip your toes into the water that keeps changing temperature; don’t stick to what you’re comfortable with.  Take it from me, it’s worth it.

 

 

 

Commute with Kelly: Train Etiquette

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I’m all for calling a spade a spade: your commute on the train will never be too exciting.  Exciting train rides just happens in the movies.

Your commute will most likely be a lot less like this:

 

and a bit more like this:

This is the NJ Transit section of New York Penn Station when all the trains to New Jersey were on stand-by.  Why did this happen?  The backpack I got pressed up against as the herd of cattle was shuffling into gate 3 knew more about why it happened than any of the humans did.  Once on the train, a conductor was explaining the problem.  Too bad the PA system is as clear as New York City air.

When I came upon this crowd after a crazy day at work, I just started laughing.  When problems come up, you really learn a lot about people, by their reactions of course.  I started laughing hysterically.  There’s nothing we can do about it and watching hundreds of people stare at a screen was just something I wasn’t expecting to see that day.

Some guys took the opportunity to talk up some pretty ladies.  Many males and females in their black suits were yelling on the phone.  Some people in their 20s were on their phones discussing plans with their friends.  Some were calm, others panicked.  It was quite a scene.

Aside from events like this, there is a lot to be said about people watching on the train.

When you get on the train, there are two options: sitting in a two-seater or a three-seater.  If you sit in a three-seater, you will never even end up speaking with the person sitting with you.  One person will be sitting by the window and another will the sitting on the aisle.  If the train is super crowded, someone will ask to sit between you and the outside person will get up to let the stranger into the middle seat as they voluntarily wouldn’t want to sit in the middle (unless you’re me and the person sitting next to the window was a really cute boy with blue eyes who gets on the same stop you do…).  Anyway, if you sit in a two-seater, you would think to put your bags on the inside and sit next to the aisle, but that’s not what people do.  They sit and lean up against the window with their things on the outside.  This just doesn’t seem safe so to me, so I always put my messenger bag at my feet.  In a two-person seat, you have a better chance of talking with someone.  I’m not sure why this is, but I have been training for three or four days a week for over a month now and this conclusion has not been disproved once.

It’s funny to see people pair up.  Sometimes it’s a Chinese woman sitting next to a young man in a suit.  Other times, a large man will sit next to a little guy.  It’s funny to watch some people walk past seats and sit next to me as if the blonde girl sitting in front of me wouldn’t be as good of a commuter companion as I would.  I always wonder what goes through people’s heads.

Sometimes though, we all think exactly the same.  No one wants to sit next to the young girl spatting in a Valley girl voice about her day into her phone.

There are people to avoid on the subway too:

Although I haven’t talked to anyone on the subway since I don’t go often and when I do it’s a 10-minute ride, not the 30-40 back and forth from Jersey to the city.

I’ve met tons of people on the NJ Transit train though.  It’s funny how in the morning, the train can be so full of people but so deadly silent; but at the end of the day, New Jerseyans on the train seem to open up.

I’ve met a teacher from Pakistan who was going home to see his family after a day’s work who told me to write a book.  While I was writing an article on the train, I asked that man a question.  I must have been speaking loudly because the young guy in the seat in front of me answered.

I’ve spoken with a marketing man who was talking about his daughter’s hopes of studying abroad.  I told him he hit the jackpot of commuting companions as I told him everything he and his daughter needed to know about studying abroad in our 30 minute ride home.

I met a woman from the Phillapines yesterday who lives in Pennsylvania but was visiting friends in New York.

I talked with a blond girl about being a student and juggling classes and internships.

Some people make it clear they don’t want to be bothered as they stare at the window, sleep, put their headphones in or all of the above.  Others are engrossed in a book, which sometimes leads to a nice little conversation, especially when everyone’s reading Fifty Shades of Grey.  That is one hard book to read while you sit next to men in suits.

They say how much people feel alone in the mix of people in the city, but the other Tri-State area residents makes a nice little community atmosphere on the train.  It’s definitely something to appreciate after cab drivers and other New Yorkers walking around the city curse you off…