Addressing the devolution of education

teenage-students-in-classroom--141090063-5af498bc6bf0690036889c1b.jpg

The latest report of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, that measures 540,000 fifteen year olds across 72 countries in maths, reading and science, has revealed that the UK failed to come top ten in any of the three subjects.

In 2017, there were many high-performing secondary schools from all four corners of the UK, such as St Michael’s Catholic Grammar School, London, Allerton High School, Leeds, St Edmund’s Catholic School, Portsmouth, and Kendrick School, Reading, with the majority concentrated within London and the South-East. However, despite the exam successes of last year, more than one in eight schools still underperformed in their GCSEs. Asian countries, such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, and Korea, perform the best, with European countries such as Switzerland, Ireland, Finland, and Estonia also high up in the league table.

There’s a lesson to be learned from these results. What are these countries doing to achieve these stats and how can we follow their lead to also improve our literacy, numerical, and science levels? An obvious factor is that these high-achieving countries spend a lot more than the UK does on education – hundreds of billions of dollars. There are also social and cultural differences that contribute to increased learning and better results. According to the MBC Times, the East Asian countries ‘prize effort above inherited “smartness”, have clear learning outcomes and goalposts, and have a strong culture of accountability and engagement among a broad community of stakeholders’.

These countries have an expectation that their children should work hard. In South Korea, children go to school seven days a week. This hard work has produced the incredible result of 100 literacy across the country. However, this also leads to what TED has warned is an ‘enormous, unrelenting pressure to perform.’ This is an extreme case that may not be suited to the UK culture and expectations of education, however, there’s a lesson to be learned from South career about creating dedicated and focused homework time after school away from technological distractions.

Andreas Schleicher, a special advisor on education policy at OECD, also adds that the Koreans have large class sizes. This seems an unusual factor to success, as in the UK we consider smaller classes, like those in private schools, a more effective learning environment. However, in South Korea, ‘the goal is for the teacher to lead the class as a community, and for peer relationships to develop.’ This model of peer-to-peer mentoring has also made the headlines in the UK over recent years, with start-ups such as MyTutor providing tuition for 11 plus students in those LEA’s which still have grammar schools.

Of course, technology is also a significant factor for success. According to Fair Reporters, Japan has maintained its second position in the league tables thanks to ‘a combination of hard work ethic and technology… no other country deploys technology in education to the extent that Japan does. Kids have access to resources that most other students do not, giving them the ability to get answers to some of the most difficult questions’.

In the UK, especially at GCSE learning, there is an issue with rote learning. It gets you through your exams, but it doesn’t ensure sustained learning beyond the classroom. In Singapore, they ensure that their students can solve problems themselves and learn conceptually, which all leads to the all-important independent thinking. Even if UK schools are yet to catch on to this method, parents can still apply it at home. Encourage discussion of a recent news item, politics, culture, or current affairs. By cultivating their own opinions at home, children can then take those independent learning skills into the school environment. Why don’t you start with this article, and get them to discuss what they think needs to be improved in their own education?

Renovations are creating increase home equity

Best-Most-Beautiful-Houses-In-The-World-Picture-l.jpg

The financial crisis of 2018 saw a dramatic downturn in house prices, and indeed there are many regions of the UK that are still in the process of recovering. However, improving your property’s value isn’t just a case of waiting for the market to pick up; there are also things that you as a homeowner can also do to help.

Although smaller renovation projects might help to incrementally increase your house’s value, it is normally the larger ventures that will substantially contribute to the overall resale value.

Square footage concerns are arguably the most popular method to dramatically increase the worth of your property; particularly if you already own a home with two or three bedrooms. From a very broad perspective, these projects can generally be broken down into three categories:

  • Home extensions
  • Basement conversions
  • Loft conversions

In terms of home extensions, it is first important to determine whether you have existing space within your garden. Assuming that this is the case, an extension can add a significant amount of value to your home, and in particular extensions to a kitchen.  

Basement conversions are another popular option although it must be mentioned that such projects can be quite disruptive and time consuming. You will have to address variables such as working around load-bearing walls and dealing with existing issues including mould and moisture. Still, there is no doubt that basement conversions are extremely beneficial if you happen to own a larger property. Ventilation concerns and fire exits are other areas to address, as conforming to all council regulations is critical. Other metrics include:

  • Lighting, plumbing and heating.
  • Adding insulation and waterproofing materials.
  • Potential excavations.
  • Hiring an architect and a surveyor.

While costs can run well into the thousands of pounds, the ultimate payoff could very well be worth the effort.

Converting a loft is a third option to consider. This tends to be the easiest to complete and yet, it can add as much as 12 per cent to the value of your home. You will naturally be required to adhere to all relevant building requirements and other issues such as raising the height of a roof or adding plumbing fixtures could need to be addressed. The installation of bathrooms and entirely new electrical circuits are other tasks which might be necessary in order to pass inspection.

Conservatories have become an increasingly popular option in recent times due to their relative ease of installation as well as the fact that they can increase the internal space of a home. There are numerous styles to choose from, so be certain that the end product is able to work in synergy with the existing exterior decor. The only potential downside is that the average conservatory will not add as much value to the property as the projects mentioned above.

Off-street parking is a very attractive amenity and if you happen to have enough space within your front garden, it could represent a welcome addition. Gravel, bricks, slate and raised borders are all options which will increase the aesthetic appeal of your home, resulting in a slightly higher resale value.

Finally, you can always upgrade existing features such as windows (from single- to double-glazed), exterior lighting, the internal wiring, the plumbing, or the boiler. Such projects can be tackled on a piecemeal basis, so you will not be required to commit yourself beyond a financial “comfort zone”. Surprisingly enough, even the smallest of updates can have a significant impact upon the value of your home.

Substantially increasing the value of your home will require an equally substantial amount of time and effort. Still, these very same efforts could very well be rewarded in the long run. It is wise to speak with a professional in order to determine which of these projects is feasible. You might also want to consider using an online valuation tool to see where you can add most value.

Why the Dropout Rate is Rising for USA College Students

101465185-175513024.530x298.jpg

Since the 1970’s, the college completion rate in the United States has consistently seen a decline. This has become a growing concern especially as the 16-24 year old age bracket has been affected the most.

A considerable more amount of high school students have been entering college since the 1980’s. While this can be viewed as a positive change, unfortunately the number of graduating students has not increased. Compared to the 1970’s, there has been a 5% decrease in a 25 year olds likeliness of obtaining a bachelor’s degree. This data was found through a study performed by professors Michael Lovenheim, John Bound, and Sarah Turner.

Why the college dropout rates have increased is because of numerous reasons. Those along with the repercussions on the economy and steps to resolve it are outlined ahead.

Increase in College Tuition

FundingU, a student loan lending company, surveyed their customers and found that more than half were forced to drop out of college due to lack of funding. Approximately 79% of the surveyed students claimed they would have to delay their graduation due to financial constraints. 55% said they had issues finding enough to pay for college.

The average cost of tuition during the 2017-2018 school year was $34,740 at private institutions. Public colleges averaged at $9,970 and $25,620 for out-of-state residents. After mortgage debt in the United States, student loan debt is the second largest debt category. It amounts to approximately $1.48 trillion across 44 million borrowers.

It’s clear that the rising cost of tuition is out of reach for many students. This is causing financial situations that result in prolonging graduation or not reaching it at all. These are loans that most likely won’t be paid back for a decade. Understanding this, some young adults may not even be considering a college education knowing the financial repercussions.

However, cert IV training and assessment online has seen an incline in interest, especially in Australia. Many students have chosen to pursue a digital education in light of the rising prices for conventional brick and mortar institutions.

Forced to Work Longer Hours

To meet the rising costs of college, students are forced to work longer hours to be able to afford tuition. An increase in hours of employment means less time is available to study and attend classes. This can easily have an affect on students ability to graduate or the time it will take them to reach it.

As well, having less time to complete labs or extensive assignments such as an expository essay can decrease grades. Together these factors can increase stress or anxiety levels. This potentially further adds to why those enrolled may consider dropping out.

How it Affects the Economy

It’s common knowledge that the level of education someone reaches can raise their income level. This is because they are able to specialize in specific fields and acquire in-demand occupations. Without higher education, it can be more difficult to find these high paying jobs.

So, if less students are graduating from college, there will be a decrease in higher earning and specialized employees. According to the American Institutes for Research, $4.5 billion in earnings and tax revenue was lost in 2010 because of the college dropout rate. This was the result of 1.1 million students entering college to receive a bachelor’s degree and 500,000 not graduating.

The lost tax revenue and earnings could have helped develop institutions, communities, and similar infrastructure. Also, less educated individuals may struggle to find employment and will have to rely on government assistance. This only further worsens the problem.

What’s Being Done About it

This is not an issue that has gone unnoticed. Certain states are beginning to reallocate their resources in an attempt to raise graduation rates. Specifically, an increase in expenditures for student services has had positive affects on such rates.

In 2011, Vice President Joe Biden spoke on this topic, sayingRight now we’ve got an education system that works like a funnel when we need it to work like a pipeline… We have to make the same commitment to getting folks across the graduation stage that we did to getting them into the register’s office. The dreams and skills of our college graduates will pave the way to a bright economic future for our nation “.

Since then, the federal government has begun developing college completion tool kits. These are strategies that governors and states can implement to help raise higher education rates. Financial incentives are one of the many propositions. Others include:

  • Allow high school students to more easily gain college credits.
  • Improve high school preparation for college.
  • Restructure curriculum and grading to aid students in graduating on time.

While the college dropout rate in the United States is a definite problem, it not unfix-able. Lowering tuition rates, preparing high school students more and reallocating resources are crucial areas to target. More action is being taken than ever before to help students graduate. With this momentum, it’s fair to assume that the United States could see a decrease in college dropouts in further years.

Higher education requires higher guard of online privacy

3.jpg

When an individual decides to take the plunge and become a student, they ultimately make the choice to put their trust and their investments into the relationships they build during their time as a student, as well as the university itself that they choose to attend. It makes all the sense in the world. the people that we align ourselves with and invest our time into, in any stage of life, shape who we are. They become some of our closest friends, and sometimes even our families away from our families (particularly for those students that live on campus). Additionally, with universities being the primary environment for students throughout their studies, they should want to protect those students.

Generally, it seems like common sense for students to protect their passwords and keep them secure, especially with fellow students or roommates. Even though most other students are trustworthy, there are the occasional few that do prove to be less than morally sound. While most students are generally quite smart and protective of their privacy against their peers, there is a preconceived notion that students can trust their university to protect their privacy. Unfortunately, however, this has proven not to be the case for some higher education institutions, especially lately. Students must not only safeguard their online privacy with roommates and fellow students, but (perhaps shockingly) students are subject to online privacy invasion from the very universities and colleges that they attend. Universities are increasingly monitoring their students’ online activity, and they are doing so in ways that are not immediately brought to the attention of those students, as they should be.

Everything from students’ virtual presence and interactions, such as emails and social media use, to their physical presence, such as campus whereabouts, is subject to potential monitoring – and it quite often is now. University and college administrators are using surveillance and tracking tools and programs to essentially keep tabs on their students. Legal representatives of these institutions claim that the surveillance and tracking tools and programs are necessary as protective measures for their stakeholders. This claim is flawed, and frankly insulting. Realistically, these actions are – more often than not – just heavy-handed strategic moves used to control their public image…regardless of the impact that it might have on students. The data collected by universities and colleges in their bid to maintain control over their students’ privacy, can be stored, used, or even used against students. It is an unfortunate reality, and it is one that more and more students are finding difficult to accept.

The value of privacy cannot be overstated, particularly when it comes to personal data. Students can obviously invest in a VPN to protect themselves online, and they have access to various platforms that can help them decipher the ins and outs of a VPN, such as SaferVPN review and word-of-mouth testimonials. Using a VPN can help students gain control of their online privacy, and gives them a sense of security that some feel is lacking in the way their university handle such matters. Students can gain a certain sense of security when using a VPN that they otherwise would have to go without. This sense of security can make the difference when it comes to a student’s trust and sense of virtual safety in regard to their university and surrounding individuals.

While some educational institutions maintain that it is their fundamental right to have insight into their students’ private activities while on campus, it is a constant topic of fierce debate among academics, students, and the wider communities. The desire for online privacy to remain strictly private can be misconstrued by higher education institutions as a reason for distrust, but it is simply a desire for respect of the rights of students. Not unlike other industries and sectors, universities and colleges must ultimately find the balance between the necessity of online security and the network users’ right to privacy. It is a tricky line to walk.

Online privacy and security are hugely important in the grand scheme of things, and they should be particularly important to those (like students) that catalogue more and more of their lives online. As the world continues to move towards an all-consuming digital takeover, online privacy and security must be top priorities for anyone and everyone. Everyone should have peace of mind that the industries that they align themselves with and invest their time and money into, have their best interests at heart. Universities and colleges must be warier of the potential for student unease in the wake of their invasive online perusal into their student’s accounts. What seems like a necessity to them can be construed as an invasion of privacy and basic rights by students. And without students, there are no universities. To remain relevant, viable institutions, universities and colleges must learn to respect and value the online (and all aspects, for that matter) privacy and security of their student bodies.

Turning an affinity for communication into a career

2016_CommCurrents_Social_Media_December.png

For millions of students a year, university is their primary focus, their way of working toward a bigger goal. The sole aim of going to university or college is to come out of the experience with a degree. Not only that, but important skills that have been obtained over the duration of studying for said degree. Students everywhere are taught that their future financial stability depends on their ability to hone and utilise specified skills when it is most needed. There tends to be an emphasis on the importance of learning specific skills in the name of having a flourishing, successful career. As students focus on these specific skill sets, the more ‘general’ skills like confidence and communication go unnoticed and underutilised. While it is a certainty that these skills are more aligned with everyday skill sets, they are still incredibly important. In fact, communication is one of the most fundamental skills that any person can have these days. In practically every aspect of life, every potential career path, communication is ingrained into it in some way or another. While students study a vast array of courses and topics, they ultimately become communicators in a sense.

Regardless of what a student’s chosen degree or major is, being able to articulate thoughts and progressively have them play an integral part in the college or university experience ultimately allows students to take those thought processes and years of practice into the real world once they finish their degree and move on from the campus. Even the most introverted students come out of their shells and engage while learning the fundamentals that will form the basis of their future careers – they have to. To ignore those around you as a student is to plead ignorance, and that simply will not do. Professors and future employers prefer to have students and staff in their midst that want to go better, that reach for more, and go out of their way to squeeze every last drop out of the university or college experience.

Communication is the lifeblood of the university or college experience; those that go out of their way to speak to their educators, fellow students, and potential employers while they are still in the stage of learning on campus, set themselves up for heightened successes ahead of the game. Going out of one’s way to communicate with those around them while part of a university or college campus makes students feel more connected, giving them more of a complete sense of belonging and confidence in an otherwise alien environment.

Some students take their keen sense for communication further by going on to study a communication-driven degree, such as marketing, authorities, IT, or even HR management. For students that opt to invest in and study a HR management course, they go on to become the primary key instigators in their chosen company’s talent management system. Additionally, HR students tend to go on to become the face of a company’s people sector…taking care of the individuals that make up the company’s employee body. The transition from the student in need of guidance to the career-driven individual that offers guidance is one that is increasingly becoming a popular career choice, as students revel in the opportunity to prove their abilities and their compassion for others by communicating honestly and openly.

When prospective employers are asked what the biggest deciding factor is when they hire (or do not hire) someone, they nearly always come back with something along the general lines of communication skills. It is simply not enough anymore to have the necessary, specific skills required for a particular job. To be taken seriously, prospective employees must be able to communicate honestly and openly, as communication is vital in any career, but especially in the initial stages of that career. Employers want individuals that can speak of their passions, as well as demonstrate them. The ability and willingness to do every part of the job – and do it well – is what sets potential job-getters apart from the masses. It has never been more important for students to learn these communication skills before they successfully earn their degree, never more invaluable to understand the advantages and the drawbacks of life, in every sense of the word. To thrive in this modern-day society, people must be able to communicate as well as do.

Annually, there are millions of students that go through the motions of the university or college experience, learning skills and undergoing tests along the way on their path to their future. Securing any student’s future is not only about the specified skillset their degree and their university or college teach them, but about the skills that they learn for themselves along the way. University has a distinct way of bringing students out of their shell through in-class learning methods, as well as the environment itself. As students make the transition from being seasoned learners, comfortable in their environment, to fresh prospective employees of their chosen field, their communication skills become their best friend, allowing them to navigate this newest stage of life with as much ease and velocity as possible.

 

The pressure of university causing a global panic

1.jpg

For individuals that opt to go to university or college, they make the decision knowing that the path to graduation will not come without its mountains to climb. Year after year, students are given assignments to write, practicals to complete, and exams to study for. The issue is not so much with the work itself – anyone that goes into university as a student expects it to be hard work…after all, that is the point. The stresses come with students having to work to survive and still having to cope the sheer number of hours they must invest in their education to sometimes even make passing grades. It is quite rare that a university student only has their studies to commit time to. Most students work – some of them even working full time hours or positions – while simultaneously balancing their studies, spending time with their families, seeing their friends, and having time to themselves. University is a constant balancing act, and it is not at all uncommon for some students to struggle trying to stay afloat as their responsibilities whir around them like an immense whirlpool of stress, anxiety, and overwhelming responsibility. With finals week being arguably the most anxiety-inducing time for any university student, universities everywhere are coming up with inventive ways to ease the stresses on students around the most important time in the semester.

University finals tend to be one of the most frenzied times of a student’s year, and they are definitely the most chaotic times of the university calendar year. There is nearly always a build-up to several assignments and multiple exams all being due in the one week, and the truth is that students are simply not built (in most cases) to deal with so much, all at once. While universities impress upon their students that they should be giving their studies 110% all the time, they seem to forget the reality that is most university and college student’s lives. Most students work nearly full time hours while attending university, with some even having shifts in the morning, class in afternoon (or vice versa) and having to put in study time outside of campus as well. Top this with the basic human need to have quality time with loved ones as well as treasured time alone, and students can barely keep up with the expectations placed upon them.

While there are various causes of anxiety and stress among students, there are a few that stand out as primary causes. Overinvested parents and students being solely focusing on achieving the desired grades are a potentially lethal combination. As students invest too little or even too much time on maintaining and excelling at their students, their parents can sometimes be too invested in their futures, causing the weight of the world to feel more like an entire galaxy upon the student’s shoulders. It can be argued – as can anything – that stresses and issues can only impact students as much or as little as they allow them to, but when the pressure is constant and the stress is unyielding, students are placed in the impossible circumstances of needing to measure up while trying not to fall down.

There are many contributing traits that have the potential to build up and throw a student off.

Personal and family pressures creep into a student’s psyche and turn even the most confident of students into anxiety-driven individuals that can barely keep themselves afloat in the sea of assessments, examinations, and overall academic performance (among all the other moving pieces of their life). Universities themselves can be less than supportive at times, which makes students feel alone in their higher education experience. While the stresses pile up, there are now thankfully multiple tools and outlets now available to students that can help ease the anxiety that they experience on the daily while on campus. Students can invest in the help of a trusted tutor to bump their knowledge and skill set up. Students have access to online portals that are their saving graces, offering various kinds of academic essay writing service that can take the pressure off the student’s shoulders when it matters the most. Support groups and online forums are now available for students to connect with others that are experiencing the same or similar struggles to themselves.

The mental health of students should always be the first priority but unfortunately for some, their schools lack adequate (if even existent) assistance for students – as well staff – struggling with mental health issues during their time as members of the educational institutions. As more campuses invest in stress relieving assistances like puppy playgrounds and free sausage sizzles to boost student morale during examination hot spots throughout the year, students are being given little boosts to help keep them afloat. For students that are struggling on a more serious level to deal with their studies, there are now mental health assistance programs and spaces that can be of crucial support when individuals need it most.

While university is often referred to as one of the most exciting times of a student’s life. While this could not be more true, it is also one of the most anxious, stress-driven periods of a student’s life. Year after year, students are weighed down by the pressures that university puts on them, and yet the ones that can cope persevere despite the crushing accountability of all that lays before them. Mental health support is crucial on university and college campuses, now more than ever. As it is becoming increasingly apparent that students find it difficult to cope, there is comfort in knowing that universities and colleges are coming up with new and inventive ways to offer support to their students when they need it most. More importantly, more and more universities and colleges are now offering mental health assistance year-round. It is a pivotal turning point in the global epidemic that is mental health struggle, and it could not come at a more crucial time.

The taxing side of business

Business, like so many aspects of modern life, run primarily on finances. It is quite literally impossible to keep a business running without control over, and influx of, finances. As one of the most intricate aspects of not just a business, but any given person’s life, it pays (literally) to be in control of one’s finances. The greatest business idea cannot hope to get off the ground if it has no financial backing, just as it cannot hope to thrive without financial income. Running a business is a game of give and take, requiring money to be put into the business for it to generate return on investment (ROI). Profitability is the direct result of hard work, determination, and – much as it is frustrating – financial input. As businesses thrive and survive or sink and disappear, the most common denominator of any business’ success (or demise) is financial stability. For businesses to remain viable and ensure their longevity they must be smart with their finances and able to incorporate or make room for them where needed – especially when unexpected costs or influxes occur. Just as with an individual’s personal bank account, a business cannot continue to exist comfortably without financial influx. Finances make the world go around – and keep business afloat.

Keeping track of finances is a struggle sometimes, much less when you are waiting on others to be able to update them properly. Running a business is time consuming in and of itself, and doing the finances for the operation is one of the less-entertaining aspects. Aside from relying on clients to pay outstanding invoices and the cost of creating and marketing the products, there is the underlying costs that come with running a business. Simply keeping the doors open relies on financial stability, as having a physical location (or a virtual one, at that) relies on rent or special fees to be paid constantly and on time to keep the business’ space safe and in operation. The financial costs of owning and operating a business are seemingly never-ending, and they can easily pile up if the individual placed in charge of the finance department does not keep on top of them adequately.

When getting a project off the ground, the biggest factor is always (and will likely always be) financing the project in its longevity, and not just in the process of getting it up and running. But there are now various alternative finance options available for those that struggle with, or do not necessarily have the time or patience to deal with, the financial whirlpool that is bank assistance. There are more funding options available than ever before, and individuals and businesses alike are turning to these alternative, modern financing options in an effort to get their funding easier and quicker. The fast-growing alternative finance industry is earning its stripes as the preferred method of this modernized evolution of the finance sector.

When going through business’ finances, playing the waiting game for customers to pay invoices can be incredibly frustrating. Thankfully invoice factoring can cover the gap of slow payments by converting sales invoices into immediate cash. Essentially invoice factoring works by allowing business owners to turn outstanding invoices into capital they can invest straight back into their business. This is made possible because invoice factoring at its core is a kind of accounts receivable financing. This revolutionary funding solution is a fantastic way to improve working capital without having to solely rely on the punctuality of your clients.

As much as most of us wish it weren’t so, finances are the life blood that keep businesses and industries running. Like most aspects of life, without financial backing most – if not all – businesses fall flat within a matter of months (sometimes just weeks or even days). It is virtually impossible to keep a business afloat without having active and strong control of the finance sector of said business. With alternative finance options becoming more readily available every day, businesses and individuals are being given a new portal to keep their brands alive and thriving, and the best part is that they no longer must go through the banks and the drawn-out processes of borrowing from such financial institutions. Business owners have total control of their finances, including how to get them. There has never been a more exciting and positive time for businesses to take the reins and propel their ideas into fruition.

Technology and its assistance in climate change related natural disasters

732efe1fd6ed21072c0969e385355e9a.jpg

In recent years, the world has experienced a record number of back-to-back natural disasters. In the U.S. over 110 large fires burned throughout the country last summer alone, with California facing its deadliest heat wave ever. One study found that the area affected by forest fires in the West has more than doubled over the past 30 years, with Washington state having experienced the most damaging fire in state history in 2015. Hurricane Harvey and Irma brought devastation to Texas, the Caribbean and Florida last year, wreaking widespread havoc and earning Harvey earning the reputation of the costliest disaster in U.S. history. Southeast Asia suffered catastrophic flooding in 2017, killing 1200 people, displacing tens of thousands and causing more than $3.5 billion in total losses. Then there was the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan that contributed to losses of over $354 billion in today’s dollars, the extreme heatwave of Europe and California’s severe drought of 2017. According to global insurance firm Swiss Re, economic loss in 2017 were estimated at $306 billion – almost double 2016’s loss and also much higher than the 10-year-average of $190 billion.

And the verdict is in. Scientific studies are beginning to reveal that climate change is exacerbating the naturally-occurring risks we already face as inhabitants of planet Earth. Extreme event attribution is one of the most rapidly expanding fields of climate science, with one major conclusion being drawn by those studying it: extreme weather events are here to stay.

So how do we prepare for what lies ahead? The answer is one that, ironically, is perhaps responsible for getting us to where we are today. Technology.

Technology can help solve inefficiencies within humanitarian responses to natural disasters. Next gen technology such as robotics and AI can help improve the efficiency and productivity (in terms of cost savings) to emergency responses, as well as allow humanitarian organizations to share data in order to better collaborate with other organizations. Through technologies that enable electronic payments, people in need of fast and secure cash relief can be helped quicker than ever before. But perhaps aiding the coordination and communication effort following a disaster is where we see technology have the most impact. Be it for relief workers on the ground, families seeking loved ones, authorities wishing to locate the missing or hospitals trying to treat the injured, traditional communication channels are often overloaded or broken down and unable to be used during times of crisis. ‘Crisis maps’ is one example of a Google-owned product that works to aid emergency communications and disaster response, using open-source software with information provided live by locals to develop maps of the crisis and publish real time information regarding the impact. Through this platform, messages and texts submitted by those trapped under rubble are able to be heard, enabling quick and efficient response by rescue teams. In the U.S., there are countless apps geared towards survival and rescue during an emergency. The official FEMA app is one example, which allows users to stay updated with weather-related alerts from the U.S. National Weather Service as well as upload and share disaster photos to support the emergency response effort. In a more generalized way, social media can also help save lives and reconnect separated families in the wake of a natural disaster – as well as enable communities to hold agencies to account by spreading awareness of abuse or poor conditions in refugee camps.  

Early warning systems and capabilities via mobile technology can also allow people to prepare for oncoming disasters. For example, had Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia utilized early action systems they could have avoided as many as 100,000 deaths during the most recent famine, more than half of which were children, one Oxfam and Save The Children study found.

Technology can also facilitate the development of materials and products that prevent damage inflicted by natural disasters. Bushfire shutters, for example, are designed to withstand extreme heat, preventing windows from shattering and causing curtains or furniture to catch aflame. This significantly reduces the risk of houses of being burnt down during a bushfire, which can potentially save lives. Better yet, the technology of today can converge architectural, engineering and geo-spatial data to put into place better town planning, enabling builders, architects and government to prioritize restoration efforts in the wake of a natural disaster – as well as better plan towns to prevent further damage by natural disasters.

Technology can also help us mitigate climate change through innovations such as renewable energy, in order to reduce the risk climate change poses in terms of natural disasters. Finding and harnessing alternative energy sources are key to reducing our dependency on fossil fuels and in turn, reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. Through tech innovation we will see the complete transformation of the automation industry into one that uses resources more efficiently to reduce waste, pollution, energy usage and use of raw materials. Technology can also allow for large scale growth of lab-developed meats, lessening our dependence on livestock farming which contributes significantly to global warming and uses valuable amounts of land and water.

We simply need to harness all the incredible opportunities technology presents us in order to better cope with the inevitable increase of climate change-related natural disasters we will experience in our lifetime.

Cleaning up our act – Renewable energy to restore balance on Earth

renewables.jpg

The planet’s reliance on energy to keep society running is undeniable, and it is no secret that humanity has utilised unhealthy energy sources to keep society running smoothly. While fossil fuels were nearly solely responsible for humanity’s energy consumption in the past, there are healthier, more environmentally-friendly energy sources being developed and implemented that can ensure the planet has a brighter, healthier future. In the relatively little time that renewable energies have been in successful operation, they have made leaps and bounds, surging upward and onward to place them firmly in the lead as prospective sole energy sources of tomorrow. Over the past Summer, for example, renewables generated more electricity than brown coal and produced 40% more than gas, only being surpassed by black coal. While there are still ways to improve renewable energy sources there is no doubt that the generations of the future will likely enjoy the benefits of natural, renewable energy sources rather than the unhealthy fossil fuels that have driven humanity’s progression up until the early 2000s and onwards.

Since 2015, the number of locations that are generating 70% or more of their total electricity supply from renewable energy sources has more than doubled, further cementing renewable energy sources as the leading candidates for the future of energy the world over. The momentum created by renewable energy continues to build, as cities the world over make the pivotal shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. Renewable energy has not come about without its barriers though, with one of them being America’s very own President Donald Trump. When President Trump made the decision to withdraw from the Paris accord, it sent the planet (including his own country) into a panic spiral, making people angry and afraid for the consequences that could occur as the result of his decision. Since his decision, the majority of passion and action for climate change has been driven by the global covenant of more than 7,400 leaders that came together in the wake of his decision. As leaders continue to realise the importance of keeping the planet healthy, so do their people.

The economy is built on energy, and up until recently the economy has functioned around the preconceived assumption that said energy will be reliable, accessible, and relatively inexpensive. Had we continued to utilize energy sources that are unhealthy and short-lived in their shelf life, that assumption would have remained a glorified act of ignorance. However, with renewable energy solutions becoming more popular and affordable – particularly solar panels and wind turbines – this assumption holds more truth than ever. While the transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy is sure to be a long one, the positive results that will be yielded will be more than worth their weight in gold.

We live in an increasingly carbon-constrained planet and ignoring the facts will only serve to do more harm than good. Reality checks have been served left, right, and centre in the form of climate change and subsequent natural disasters, air pollution rates, and the very health of living beings all around the world. With every dawning wake-up call comes more call for action, more desperation to restore balance to a world that we as a race have single handedly begun to destroy. Whether this damage is reversible is not yet a certainty, but the one thing that rings loud and true is that there are no downfalls to making the change to renewable energy sources, there are only bright positives. Renewable energy is not only changing the world and the lives of people in current and future generations, but it is revolutionising them.

Humanity relies on the sourcing and producing of energy to balance, centre, and drive forward our way of life, but the sad truth is that, up until this point, the methods of which we have extracted energy sources has been all but unhealthy. The good news is that there is a better way, and that way is already being implemented and yielding significant results in the little time that it has been broadly available. Renewable energy such as solar power has been the saving grace of the planet. Unlike the fossil fuels that came before it, it is a sustainable form of energy as well as being the fastest-moving energy source to have burst into fruition. In the time that renewable energy has been introduced and become viable, it has improved the lives and societies of people around the globe, propelling us into a certain future that is lit up by renewable energy and empowered by the good that using such energy sources does for the planet. We may not be able to turn back the clock, but renewable energy can (hopefully) restore balance to Earth – and to future generations to come

Technology growing in the workplace requires appropriate guidelines for employee usage and responsibilities

smartphones.jpg

Workplace environments are vastly shifting the way professionals communicate with others. As technology becomes an integral portion of workplace, employees, bosses, and coworkers are all affected by this changing communication. Workers must learn and keep up with digital communication to make sure they are updated on company announcements and concerns. The workforce used to heavily rely on vocal communication as a means of dissenting information, but now businesses continually seek new ways to maximize communication efficiency.

Although sending an email may be easier for some than just making an office announcement, there’s no set rules for responding to emails. This is pertinent to all types of businesses, from restaurant management to property management. Many communication errors could be eliminated if professionals would make an avid effort to make sure they are reading all emails as this is an important step in understanding new ways of communicating in work environments. Too many times excuses have come up with an employee ‘not reading the email.’ To avoid that communication issue, it would be beneficial for companies to assemble a technology guidelines and expectations book or manual that allows employees to understand what is expected of them when utilizing technology in the workplace. In said manual, the company or organization could provide rules for replying to emails in an efficient and timely manner and provide guidelines for always reading company emails.

A technology manual will also help workers understand how they are to utilize technology within the workplace. A large issue with having personal laptops and mobile devices in the work environment is that they can provide a large distraction to individuals and their coworkers. It’s easy to open a phone to check a text message and then opening various other apps to check social media or scores of games. Having technology at consumer fingertips fosters a society of desiring continuous and constant updates on everything. People feel as if they need to know exactly what is going on all the time because the fear of missing out would mean possible societal and/or social isolation due to feeling left out over a national or global phenomena that happens via the internet. Having the internet readily available for employees at all times can disrupt productivity if company computers and laptops aren’t being used effectively.

With the implementation of heavy amounts of technology and devices powering offices and professional work environments, it’s become crucial to have an IT employee or team on-site as much as possible. If the technology fails, the work will be impossible to complete until it is fixed. Asking managers and employees to call a help center instead of having a live person working IT can be difficult in regards to communication. Conversing via telephone with others on how to fix a technical issue doesn’t always provide the same results as actually employing IT personnel to come resolve issues. It’s important for companies to maintain awareness of internet issues an stay well prepared in the event the wifi would fail or another form of internet access stops working. Having a backup plan incase technology would fail can be a highly beneficial tactic.

As digital communication becomes a main form of interaction between workers, it’s important for companies to implement standards regarding expectations for digital communication. Some industry professionals have concerns over the future of face-to-face communication. Workers must now learn the professional business standard of having company conversations as well as learn how to maintain a strong sense of responsibility for having a positive digital presence through email communication. Some things can be difficult to express and explain via email, so having effective communication skills is vital to the success in any job.

Technology growing in the workplace is inevitable. The solutions for technology disruption isn’t necessarily to remove it, but to provide guidelines and rules for employees using it. Companies and businesses will have to learn how to implement new standards for new ways of working. Being flexible with growing industries is crucial to economic growth as complacency can be dangerous to the stagnation and fall of a company. As profitable revenue is the goal of most companies, this can only be generated if workers are effectively doing their jobs and communicating. Many errors made can be reduced if workers are effectively communicating with each other.

It would be effective companies add a communication portion to their employee orientation. A communication section should include a thorough guideline for business communication expectations. Along with face-to-face professionalism standards, the company should also include their rules for utilizing technology in the workplace and expectations for digital communication responsibilities. After explaining the rules of expected behavior, then companies should give examples in employee orientation about the right and wrong ways to perform these communication behaviors. If they take the time to explain what is irresponsible behavior when utilizing technology or what is appropriate conversational behaviors, they will reduce the amount of future communication discrepancies and disruptions. The last thing to be explain is the repercussions and consequences for employees failing to follow company guidelines. To implement these tactics into an employee orientation with help teach new employees therefore, it is important that a manager employs an outstanding trainer to teach and train them. As technology grows, the rules and guidelines for professional usage will continue to grow with it.