Wednesday, November 28, 2012

New York Times: A Class Where Opening Minds, Not Earning Credits, Is the Point

Many see education simply as the way to earn credits that would lead to future employment.  Read this article by Tamar Lewin, posted in The New York Times' website, about education as it should be seen--a means to open minds.

Tuvan throat singing was never in my repertoire. I had never heard of Tuva, a small Russian republic north of Mongolia. And until the third week of “Listening to World Music,” a free online course taught by a University of Pennsylvania professor, I did not know that the human throat was capable of producing two notes simultaneously.

Related Virtual U.: College of Future Could Be Come One, Come All (November 20, 2012) But after listening to a lecture on Tuvan culture and history and viewing throat-singing videos, I was hooked on the sound — a deep buzz saw with high overtone whistles — and was happy to watch the assigned 90-minute concert by a touring Tuvan ensemble. I wrote the required essay that night, the Tuvan steppes still on my mind.

Three days later, I was given five essays by classmates to grade. (With 36,000 students enrolled, peer grading was the only practical way that Coursera, the company offering the course, could assess students’ work.) I had my doubts about the process, but to my surprise, the process was interesting and useful and taught me as much as the lectures did.

Some of the essays were remarkably good, especially the first one I read, from a classmate who tackled a question I had avoided, on the view of Arjun Appadurai, a sociocultural anthropologist, that modernity necessarily means rupture. (Not what I was expecting from a world music course.) The classmate described her family’s migration experience, and concluded: “Appadurai says modernity is rupture, but I say it’s rapture.” Enraptured myself, I gave her the top score, a 10.

My own first score? A 4. I did not even get full points for writing style. Humiliating, but by the time we hit Tuva, I was getting 10s.

Grades were not the point, though. The course offered no credit, just a certificate for students scoring 70 percent (“with distinction” for 80 percent) — not so useful, given the underwhelming demand for world music expertise.

 As in other free MOOCs (massive open online courses), most of those who enrolled dropped out. The 36,000 in my course dwindled to 3,859 by the final week. But those who stuck with it did form a kind of community. A few weeks in, one student linked to a tribute song (“I Turn to You, Coursera”) on YouTube from the online forum. A Japanese version soon followed.

The course had its flaws. I did not get much out of videos in which teaching assistants “modeled” how to discuss the music. The production values were pitiful, with the professor displaying photos too small to see of her gumboot dancing time in South Africa or gesticulating like an inexperienced weatherman trying to point to the correct area on a map. And I was very aware of the potential for cheating, a common objection to online learning.

The final — 100 multiple-choice questions mostly taken verbatim from quizzes embedded in the lecture videos — took about 25 minutes. But the allotted time was 90 minutes, giving anyone so inclined a solid hour to look up answers on Google. And after complaints on the discussion forum about computer glitches and schedule problems, everyone got a second, then third, chance to take the final.

Often, I wished for more music and less politically correct discussion of exploitation, ethical music sampling and authenticity. And when the professor asked whether the Buena Vista Social Club’s “museumification” of a past era of Cuban music advanced or impeded our understanding of Cuba under Fidel Castro, it was good that she was not there to hear me yell “Who cares?”

But on balance, the seven-week course was mind-opening, a door to a new ethnomusicology adventure each week: sounds of Central African pygmies, Australian aborigines or South African bushmen. And long after the course ended, I am still working — on the subway, in the shower — on producing that growly Tuvan sound.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Frank Biden: The educator's belief as a motivating factor

Frank Biden, and his peers at Mavericks in Education, maintains that the belief that educators have for their students is a valuable factor that motivates both themselves and their students to make the most out their opportunity to teach and learn.

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The teacher-student relationship is, perhaps, one of the most important connections that a person will ever have in life as it may shape the way he or she perceives the whole world. It is a relationship that thrives when both parties, especially the educator, firmly believe in the role of education to the development of a person in modern times. There are times when the student may come to doubt this but the teacher must never be the one who gives up.

Frank Biden, in his years of work with Mavericks in Education, has witnessed how there are times when educators have come to fail their students. In their insistence to uphold the rigid demands of the traditional learning system, they have come to judge some of their failing students as the ‘unteachables.’

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Are there students that actually deserve that label? The people at Mavericks in Education think otherwise and they insist that teachers should avoid falling into the pitfall of disbelief. Instead, they advise educators to firmly hold onto their belief in the abilities of their students and tirelessly work to find a way to inspire the youth under their care to take charge of their own development.

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For more information on Frank Biden and the work of Mavericks in Education, visit this Facebook page.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Frank Biden: Helping young people realize their true potential

Frank Biden, the founder and president of Cygnus International, LLC, is also involved in a number of philanthropic organizations. One of these is Mavericks in Education, a specialized educational institution that aids at-risk students and dropouts in completing their high school education through alternative programs.

Young girl with hands on books at school
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Institutions on alternative education support the education system. Without a doubt, traditional learning has worked to prepare many students for the future, and there are teachers and students who have found something that they can work on with such a setup. However, this is also not to say that the system has not failed several others.

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Together with his colleagues at Mavericks in Education, Frank Biden believes that these young people who have been failed by the traditional system should be given another opportunity to study instead of being forced to adapt to a system that they can’t work with.

Life in school can be difficult, and when there is added pressure like financial problems or high expectations from relatives and peers, students may be forced to quit entirely. Otherwise, one can expect lackluster effort from half-hearted students who are expending most of their energies to fit in with the system – and that is not exactly helping them realize their true potential.

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At this stage in a young person’s life, it is more important to give them the encouragement and the freedom they need to figure out their strengths and to improve on their weaknesses in order to prepare them better for college and for the rest of their lives.

For additional information on Frank Biden and the work of Mavericks in Education, visit this Facebook page.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Falling in step: Frank Biden and adjusting to the learning curve

Frank Biden is the president and director for business development at Mavericks in Education, an organization that develops alternative instructional programs for students with different learning needs.

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Each student has a different approach when it comes to learning. There are those who appreciate lectures, while others prefer reading textbooks—there are also some who learn through a combination of both. Degrees of perception vary in the sense that levels of understanding may differ across different types of people.

Historically, high schools and colleges are a place where qualification matters. Regular teaching methods are employed, and it is often up to the student to cope with this system. Admittedly, a good number of students manage to cope with the course work and the methods of instructions.

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Frank Biden and Mavericks in Education help students who cannot cope with the established system of learning. These are the students who often end up dropping out of school entirely. Mavericks in Education has taken the learning process up a notch by replacing some rather inflexible methods with new processes that maximize the understanding of students with other learning needs.

The process of learning, in effect, becomes a partnership between Mavericks in Education’s charter schools and the students in attendance. The research-based curriculum is flexible enough for leverage in learning, but this also entails great responsibility from the students’ end. Adjustments are made along the way as to method.

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With an expanded instruction method, students in charter schools have a better chance of obtaining their high school diplomas, and even perhaps move forward into advanced degrees.

Read more about Frank Biden and Mavericks in Education in this Facebook page.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Frank Biden: Convincing the youth that education is still relevant

For Frank Biden, ensuring that the youth have access to quality education is still one of the most important tasks of the generations that came before them. This is because education is still the great equalizer, the factor which allows individuals to find their potential, learn to improve it, and then use it as productive members of society.

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Unfortunately, it seems that the attitude of some of the youth toward education differs from Biden’s. Many of them find that access to quality education is now irrelevant to their lives due to a variety of reasons. Surveys done in the past have shown that boredom with the curriculum, outside influences, and lack of educational support have been part of the main reasons why students drop out of school. Frank Biden, as part of Mavericks in education, an institution focused on the design, development, and delivery of innovative educational solutions, is one with many individuals who are striving to reverse this trend.

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Over the years, the dropout rates across the United States have been going on a steady decline. However, the fact still remains that there is much that needs to be done to completely reverse the situation. Investments in educational institutions are good for the majority, but other concerns, such as an insufficient education system, must also be given due attention.

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No matter what strategy is implemented, the goal is for these youth to realize early on that graduating from high school is important for them to succeed on the challenges that they will face later in their lives.

More information on Frank Biden and his involvement with Mavericks in Education may be found on this Facebook page.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Frank Biden's Mavericks in Education and Nike: Geared for success

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Frank Biden serves as the president and director for business development of Mavericks in Education, an educational institution that caters to the special needs of students who are at risk of, or who have already dropped out of high school. The institution boasts of a strong, research-based curriculum that allows students to progress according to their own pace, and a low student-to-teacher ratio. Students do not only get the coursework necessary for them to earn a state-recognized diploma but also receive real-world guidance and advice from mentors and peers to help them stay motivated and finish their high school education.

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Frank Biden and Mavericks High of Osceola recently partnered with Nike, Inc. to help provide employment opportunities for its students. The project was initiated when Nike visited the campus and interviewed 30 students, eventually selecting six to take part in the pilot program. The eight-week program paired the students with mentors from Nike who introduced them to the different aspects of the retail business, in addition to different life skills. Four of the six students were offered full-time employment with Nike at the end of the program. Nike has already requested to make visits twice a year and have secured 25-30 positions at five of their different stores throughout Osceola and Orange County for Mavericks’ students.

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Through the Nike-Mavericks project, the two institutions have forged a bona fide partnership that’s geared for success. Follow Frank Biden on this Twitter account for more updates.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Frank Biden and Mavericks in Education: Helping students land fruitful careers

Frank Biden serves as the president and director for business development at Mavericks in Education, a unique educational institution that caters to the special needs of students who are challenged by the traditional approach to learning. These students are either at risk of or have already dropped out of high school because they are not motivated enough to stay and earn their diplomas.

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Mavericks in Education is committed to the design, development, and delivery of innovative, out-of-the-box educational solutions to help students stay in school and earn a state-recognized high school diploma. The institution’s year-round educational model not only offers students with the essential high school education, it also provides them with job preparedness and prospects for continuing education, free of charge.

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Frank Biden and Mavericks in Education understand that ultimately, the goal of securing quality education is so that students can later on have fruitful careers and gain an edge in the work place. To achieve this goal, the institution offers career preparation and placement services. It provides the students with the knowledge necessary to help them land good jobs -- preparing comprehensive resumes that stand out and acing job interviews.

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Indeed, with these efforts, Frank Biden and Mavericks in Education are paving the way for high school dropouts to have brighter futures.

More information can be found at

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Frank Biden's Mavericks in Education: Offering computer-based, teacher-supported curriculum

Frank Biden is popularly known as the brother of US Vice President Joe Biden. Like his famous brother, he is strongly inclined towards public service and has been making a name for himself in the education sector as the President president and Director director for Business Development of Mavericks in Education.

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Mavericks in Education is an educational institution that caters to the needs of students who are challenged by the traditional approach to learning and are at risk of dropping out of high school. Mavericks Schools offer these students the option to learn at their own pace through its strong research-based curriculum. The institution does provides not only provide the coursework necessary for its students to earn a state-recognized diploma, but also with the guidance they need to stay motivated and stay in school.

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Frank Biden’s Mavericks in Education also boasts of a computer-based program that allows students to utilize the latest technology while studying. This online, computer-based program allows students to be flexible with their studying hours and use individual computers installed with the latest software. Teachers have access to real- time online reporting that provides them with a comprehensive view on each student’s activities and progress. All student data is protected with the highest levels of security, with each user provided with a unique password.

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More information about Frank Biden and his involvement with Mavericks in Education may be found at this Facebook page.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Frank Biden and Mavericks in Education: Providing students with a sustainable educational choice

Frank Biden serves as the President and Director for Business Development of Mavericks in Education, an educational institution that is dedicated to helping students who are at risk of dropping out of high school, as well as students who have already dropped out of school.

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The institution provides students who are challenged by the traditional approach to learning a more innovative and sustainable way to learn. The students, usually aged 15-21, do not only receive the coursework necessary for them to earn a state-recognized diploma but also get real-life counseling, guidance, and support to help them get motivated to stay in school.

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Dropping out of high school should never be an option, which is why Frank Biden and Mavericks in Education are dedicated to the design, development, and delivery of high-quality, out-of-the-box educational solutions. The institution boasts of a strong researched-based, self-paced curriculum that allows students to progress according to their individual abilities and experience. The students also benefit from the low teacher-to-student ratio, which means that they get ample and individualized attention. The students are not only guided to master required skills but also given the support they need to succeed in their future endeavors.

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The institution aims to work closely with public and private school systems in order to save thousands of students from dropping out of school every year. Furthermore, the institution believes that every student deserves a free, publicly-funded education.

Follow Frank Biden on Twitter for more information.