Team Distance Learning

It is no secret that there has always been an ongoing debate regarding distance learning vs. attending a physical campus. My honest opinion is that distance learning is far more beneficial, in so many ways.

My views have not always made me very popular. I have also ended up unintentionally offending and insulting people who have spent many years studying at a physical campus. I would like to share my view points with you, and in doing so, I would like to apologise in advance to anybody I offend. Please bear in mind: I studied through distance learning, and therefore my judgement could be a bit biased.

Distance learning and preparing for the world of work

Firstly, I believe that the world of work is not always a warm and loving place. The world of work can be unfair, hard, and even cruel. Students who enter the working world after studying full-time at a residential college or university often experience culture shock. At a physical campus, you may have friends around you, and it is often a comfortable and fun environment. When you enter into a job, you will soon discover that you are unable to choose the people you work with. It may not be comfortable, and you will have to get on with all sorts of different people. Distance learning removes students from their comfort zones. You are alone with your books – left to fend for yourself, so to speak. Thus, I believe that distance learning prepares students for the real world of work.

Most jobs are going to require you to fend for yourself, be autonomous, and take initiative. Distance learning can teach you all of these things, so that when you enter into the job market, you will not need to spend extra time acquiring all these foreign skills.

Distance learning and skills development

At a physical campus, a fixed timetable is followed, whereas studying via distance learning requires that you follow your own schedule. The time-management skills that you will acquire if you choose to study via distance learning will prove to be invaluable. You will also be forced to learn self-discipline, which is a skill that can be used throughout the rest of your life, both in the working world as well as in your personal life.

Studying via distance learning also gives you the opportunity to study and work at the same time. This can be tough, but the truth is that life is always going to require you to balance a few things at a time. Studying via distance learning provides you with great practice for balancing all the different components of your life. Furthermore, having the opportunity to work and study at the same time allows students to gain that much-needed working experience. Building up work experience while you are studying will give you a head start in your career.

Distance learning and safety

It is not uncommon for physical campuses to have violence, theft and other criminal activities taking place on campus. With distance learning, these potential threats never need to enter your mind. You will always be safe, as you can study from home.

Study with College SA

Just by looking at job advertisements, it will be clear to you that companies are looking for prospective employees who have working experience in conjunction with relevant qualifications. To wait until you are finished with your studies before gaining work experience is going to place you at a disadvantage. Distance learning, on the other hand, gives you the means to obtain these advantages right from the get-go.

I think everybody should go the distance with distance learning. You will acquire a vast range of skills, competencies and self-awareness – far beyond what you will acquire if you attend a physical campus. That is my opinion, and you are welcome to feel differently.

“If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend six sharpening my axe.” – Abraham Lincoln

Take care of numero uno

I was a “Brownie” as a child, which is essentially a mini version of a Girl Scout. Part of our motto was, “A Brownie thinks of others before herself”. I grew up trying to put others’ needs before my own, as far as possible.

However, although I do not advocate pointless or excessive selfishness, now that I am older, I do believe that you cannot take care of anybody unless you take care of yourself first. Feed your own stomach, heart and brain. That way, you will be strong enough to figure out how to feed the next person.

Initially, I felt guilty for feeling this way, and thought that maybe I am just a selfish person. However, my thoughts changed one day when I got on an aeroplane and the flight crew informed us that, in case of an emergency, we need to put on our own mask first, before assisting others. It was then that I realised that taking care of yourself first is a great principle of survival.

I have come to believe that caring for myself is not self indulgent. Caring for myself is an act of survival.

Taking care of yourself:

  • Get an education. Before you can try to help other people, you should enrol into a good college and get an education yourself. That way, you will be in a better position to understand what you are trying to help others with.
  • Live a healthy lifestyle. If you want to live a long and happy life – one in which you will not be a burden to those around you, and in which you are actually able to help someone – then do not invite disease into your life.
  • Have lots of fun. Unlike cats, we have only one life to live – so enjoy it!

Free-form poetry and spoon-bending

Last week I wrote a blog about the supercomputer vs. human brain. And sometime before that I enumerated some study methods and techniques. It’s quite exhausting writing these blog posts, because it takes plenty of deliberating, research, and planning. So, this week I’m kicking back and taking a break from writing such posts. Today, I want to write something simple and off the top of my head, without giving it too much thought.

This is actually quite a liberating feeling, truth be told. I can say and do anything! There are infinite possibilities and I’m not sure what’s going to come out in the end – so watch this space!

Smiley face

This actually reminds me of something I once read on the topic of human language: Have you ever realised that even though the English dictionary has only a limited number of words, we use language so imaginatively that you can, right at this moment, write a sentence that no one in existence has ever written before?

I can make up something totally new and truly original (a new creation), for example:

“Of all the pink elephants in the room, the one with the guitar between his toes is probably the best mannered one of the lot.”

As nonsensical as it may seem, in all likelihood that sentence has never ever (ever) been written or spoken by anyone throughout all the thousands of years of human speech!

There is something very exciting about the endless possibilities that language and human creativity present us with. It reminds me of one of my favourite poets, E. E. Cummings (he often eccentrically wrote his name unpunctuated as “e e cummings”).

Here is his poem, The Sky Was:

The Sky Was - e e cummings

Not only is it freeform poetry, without confining to rhythmic structures of quatrains and couplets, but it totally bursts out of every moulded idea of what poems, sentences, and words shouldlook like!

I think that’s what people (myself included) often forget – that there are actually endless possibilities for everything, but we are blind to them, because we usually just stick to our formulas and common usages. We don’t always fully embrace the fact that we are inherently creative and imaginative beings. And this advice is not just for writers, graphic designers, or creative course students.

I think it is especially working professionals who get too caught up in the ‘right’ way of doing things (by ‘right’, I mean the standard, predictable, formal, formulaic, moulded, mundane, boring, structured way of doing things). You just continue following the formula you are used to (whatever it may be) and get less and less creative in the time being. And the more ‘boring’ the job, the easier it is to do it more boringly.

In every field, profession, or area of expertise, there is the potential for profound change and new things. We call this paradigm shifts: the discovery of a whole new way of thinking about something. Even an accountant can think of an unorthodox new way of keeping books, and thus change the whole industry’s way of doing things.

I’m not just saying you need to think outside the box, for even thinking outside the box has become too boring. With everyone always encouraging you to think this way, thinking outside the box has become the new thinking inside the box. To me, ‘inside’ or ‘outside’ the box doesn’t seem to do justice for the infinite possibilities of the human imagination. It still sounds so limiting. What about realising there is no box? It’s almost like that scene from The Matrix:

Do not try to bend the spoon, that's impossible. Instead only try to realize the truth... there is no spoon.

Now I know, I’m not being that creative myself right now: I’m still writing in paragraphs, using quotations, and punctuating my sentences. But I want to try to be more imaginative in the things I do – even when it’s just sitting behind my desk at work with a mundane task at hand. I think that anyone can become better at what they do, if they release their imagination from those old, tired ways of thinking.

e e cummings poem

Embrace

“EveryBODY is beautiful” – Taryn Brumfitt

This morning, I came across a video and short testimony of a woman named Taryn Brumfitt. Her story really inspired me and I wanted to share it with you.

Taryn Brumfitt is an Australian mother of three beautiful children. She is the founder of the Body Image Movement. The reason that she started this movement is because, after all her pregnancies, she felt fat, ugly, unworthy and unattractive. These feelings are something that men and women alike can relate to.

Many of us feel unworthy or unattractive, especially when famous film stars, musicians or models set unrealistic standards. We are constantly confronted with these men and women on magazine covers, movies, television shows and social media. Hollywood has these scary, fast diets and intense exercise plans that help people to lose weight at extreme rates.

The whole idea that you need to be skinny, firm, lean or have killer abs to be beautiful have many of us “normal” people in tears when we stand in front of a mirror. Society sets these standards, and young girls and boys grow up believing that this is what they should strive for. It has become an obsession and sickness in many young women’s and men’s lives.

My body will take on many shapes in my lifetime. It is my character that matters most.

Before Taryn had children, she was a fit and beautiful woman who was confident enough to walk in a bikini in front of a panel of judges and hundreds of people. After Taryn’s third pregnancy, however, she wanted to go for plastic surgery. She felt ugly and unworthy. She lost her fit and lean body. Instead, she had excess fat, stretch marks, and saggy breasts. Everything that she once loved about her body was gone.

She decided she was going to have plastic surgery done on her breasts, and have a tummy tuck. Before she went for the surgery, she suddenly decided against it for this reason:

“If I go through with this, what am I saying to my daughter about body image? How will I teach her to love her body? How am I going to encourage her to accept and love her body, when I am standing in front of her with a surgically enhanced body? What type of hypocrite or mother would I be?” – Taryn Brumfitt

Taryn then decided to publish ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos of herself. These are not the type of photos that you normally see in a ‘before and after’ photo campaign. The ‘before’ photo is of her fit and firm younger self, while her ‘after’ photos are of her post-pregnancy body. She is embracing her body and her beauty as a woman, regardless of her tummy fat, stretch marks, saggy breasts and other body parts she hated.

Just like Taryn, many of us despise ourselves for the way we look. We spend endless hours obsessing about it, and as a result, we end up being genuinely unhappy with our lives. This was the main agenda behind Taryn’s Body Image Movement – to help women and men accept themselves and to stop thinking of themselves as disgusting or ugly.

Taryn Brumfitt is planning a documentary titled Embrace that will teach women to value themselves and break the unhealthy goals that they set for themselves, which are often derived from society and the rich and famous.

Taryn Brumfitt has really inspired me, because I am one of those women who stand in front of a mirror, insulting myself. We should all learn to embrace ourselves. Not just women, but men too. And in turn, we should teach the younger generations that rock hard abs and beautiful, lean bikini bodies are not the only things that make us beautiful. It is unhealthy to spend our days obsessing over our appearances. We are beautiful just the way we are. Embrace your beauty, and embrace yourself!

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

A picture is worth a thousand words

Thanks to social media, and smart phones with their 10 megapixel cameras, everybody can experience what it feels like to be a photographer. What’s more, because we can digitally store our photos, we are able to easily look through hundreds of photos daily. This is especially useful on those days when your mind feels so stuffy, and you just need some visual stimulation or humour.

On one such day, I spent some time looking through old albums on my own Facebook profile. Each picture in these albums told me a different story. The photographs are a depiction of different stages of my life – from pre-school, right through to my university days.

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“A camera is the save button for the mind’s eye” – Rogu Kingston

It felt as if I was going back in time with every click. Forget following the yellow brick road – I was taking a long trip down memory lane. Oh, the memories, the good times, and the adventures…

So when you need to get away from the hustle and bustle, but can’t get up and leave, simply take a few moments to look through your memory book of pictures – which is now just a click away!

In my opinion, the best old photos to look through are those that belong to your parents or grandparents. Who would have thought that your gran, mom, or uncle had no wrinkles back in the day, and wore “fashionable” clothing? Not me – that is for sure! But thanks to some black and white shiny cardboard, they have proof.

“What I like about photographs is that they capture a moment that’s gone forever, impossible to reproduce.” ― Karl Lagerfeld

If you have a love for photography, feel free to follow this link.

Is the brain really better than the computer?

I always thought the brain was much better than the computer: stronger, faster, and more powerful! Or that the brain is a computer – just more complex than what any computer programmer would ever be able to code. But then someone asked me a question which made me start wondering whether this was really true:

“If your brain is so much better than a computer, why can’t you tell me what 1532 multiplied by 3254 is, but a computer can?”

I realised that I don’t really have an answer to that question (the answer to the sum, however, is 4985128 – according to my computer). So, I decided to do some good old research on the subject, and this is what I found:

  • Computers are better than human brains at making calculations. Computers can do complex calculations in micro-seconds. You even get quantum computers that are made to do quantum physics (all the while, I don’t even know what quantum physics is!).
  • Computers are better at storing data. As long as a computer’s hardware does not get corrupted, it can store exact data for, well… ever! Even the tiniest detail will never go missing (but go ahead and try to remember what you had for dinner two days ago…).

The Human Brain

Now we get to the interesting parts:

  • While the computer is good at calculations, it is bad at adapting. To illustrate, here is a famous story:

In 1997, the IBM supercomputer Deep Blue defeated chess master Garry Kasparov in a groundbreaking (and historic) chess match. This match demonstrated that computers have the potential to logically outthink even the smartest chess player in the world.

What they also found, however, was that if a chess player was to switch his or her style in the middle of the match, the computer opponent would suddenly start struggling to win. This is because computers aren’t programmed to adapt to changes (see my next point for more on this).

Two people playing chess

  • Computers process information differently than the brain does. A computer is digital, while the brain is organic. This means that the brain is always changing, developing, and adapting. When you learn things, you actually change the physical structure of the brain as well. A computer can only change or adapt when new hardware or software is installed.
  • The brain can’t switch off. When a computer’s off button is held in, it stops transmitting signals. The brain, however, never stops transmitting signals. Did you know? The brain can even be moreactiveduring sleep than during wakefulness.
  • Computers cannot yet mimic certain brain functions, such as emotional responses. While computers have very limited functions, the brain has a complex array of abilities. Just because you can’t multiply 345 by 543 at the drop of a hat, doesn’t mean your brain can’t do other equally complex tasks, such as: interpreting emotions; thinking abstractly; interacting socially; planning; reasoning; making jokes; or showing empathy.
  • Computers don’t have a sense of self-awareness. This is one of the most profound features of the brain’s evolution: self-awareness. “I think, therefore I am,” Descartes famously said. Can you think how freaky it would be if a computer knew that it was a computer? (Ever seen the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey? Creepy stuff).
  • The brain is extremely good at learning through observation and experimentation. Even though computer scientists are working on Artificial Intelligence that can ‘learn’, the brain is unrivalled in observational learning. A child can learn a whole new language just by being exposed to it – without needing any lessons.

Can effortlessly learn any language, only while you're too young to care

  • The brain is extremely efficient. While a supercomputer will consume about 96 000 000 Watts of energy every day, the brain consumes only about 20 Watts (just enough to power a small light bulb).

Now, that last comparison means nothing if you don’t fully appreciate the difference in processing power between the brain and the computer. So here is another story:
In January 2014, Japanese and German scientists, for the first time ever, simulated 1% of a single second of the brain’s processing power. They used Japan’s K. computer, the 4th most powerful supercomputer in the world. The K. computer could recreate 1.73 billion virtual nerve cells and 10.4 trillion synapses, which in total added up to only 1% of 1 second of the brain’s processing power!

K.Computer

And here comes the big finish, the ultimate proof that the brain is better than the computer:

Everything that a computer can do better than the human brain is merely a product of human ingenuity, intelligence, and creativity. We can programme and build supercomputers that do quantum calculations, because we use our creativity and imagination.

Human creativity is, at the end of the day, the trump card that the brain holds over the computer. No matter how complex a computer might be, it still functions within pre-programmed parameters, while human creativity and imagination have no boundaries.