Monthly Archives: May 2013

The Web-based Brain: Redefining Intelligence

May 30, 2013

pg 226 Our Brain

“Do not train a child to learn by force or harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.” – Plato

How do we choose to measure intelligence, and what kind of intelligence do we value in society today?

On the Science page of the Huffington Post, the recent article, People Getting Dumber? Human Intelligence Has Declined Since Victorian Era, Research Suggests, stated, “Our technology may be getting smarter, but a provocative new study suggests human intelligence is on the decline. In fact, it indicates that Westerners have lost 14 I.Q. points on average since the Victorian Era.” Hmmm.

We currently measure intelligence with the understanding that each successive generation’s IQ will be smarter than the last, (The Flynn Effect.) It should stand to reason then, that each successive generation’s average IQ test scores would be higher. So why are our test scores lower?

There are two different types of intelligence which psychologists believe to be separate neural systems; Crystallized Inteligence, Gc. which is our ability to use skills, knowledge and experience we build over time as we memorize information, and Fluid Intelligence. Gf, which is the ability to analytically solve complex problems using logic, independent of acquired knowledge,

Recent scientific studies show that individuals trained on a video game could improve short-term memory skills, or working memory, i.e. the kind of memory you use to hold information and manipulate facts. If you improve your working memory– your Fluid Memory– from these computer games, the ability to solve complex problems increases, and it can be argued that we are actually increasing intelligence. Neurobiologists know that the brain has plasticity, and when stimulated, more “branching” appears at the “cortical” level, connecting different regions of the brain to one another; we make more fluid associations. Perhaps what looks to us now like stupidity, or a general dumbing-down may actually turn out to be a different sort of intelligence.

Dr. Gary Small, the Director of UCLA Longevity Center, proposes that we are at a major milestone in brain evolution, and clearly we are redefining intelligence. He states that it is important that we acknowledge the results of how we are searching and gathering information on the worldwide web. He says,” …what we may see with all the new technology is sort of a super brain which is evolving right now….”

Daniel Weinberger author of “Too Big to Know” says, “…we may be seeing the emergence of a type of Web-Form thinking, that is far looser, driven more by interest, less focused and reduced, and is more collaborative…”

Are current IQ tests a good measure of intelligence?
In December 2012, Malcolm Gladwell wrote an article for, “Are You Smarter Than Your Grandfather? Probably Not.” He explained the theroy proposed in political scientist James Flynn’s book ” Are We Getting Smarter? Rising IQ in the Twenty-First Century.

Gladwell explains, “Ultimately, Flynn concludes that human beings are not smarter—just more modern.” He begins with Flynn’s investigation into the character of the standard intelligence measuring tests. He explains,” the Flynn effect puts the average IQs of the school children of 1900 at around 70, which is to suggest, bizarrely, that a century ago the United States was populated largely by people who today would be considered mentally retarded.” Harsh.

Flynn explores the nature of the tests, and explains that the IQ tests today want you to “classify,” thus children today “…picked up the habit of classification and use the vocabulary of science. They classify the world as a prerequisite to understanding it.”

Standard IQ tests have various subtests, such as “similarities” which ask children to find commonalities, or relationships. These showed significant gains, while the subtests that test arithmetical reasoning, had significantly smaller gains. Gladwell explains,”…In 1910, schools were focused on kids memorizing things about the real world. Today, they are entirely about relationships.”

The extreme intelligence of Autism
It turns out that the fastest growing trend in global IT companies is the hiring of autistic software developers. It is a proven fact that highly functioning people on the autistic spectrum display an extraordinarily high talent for both math and science.

The title of a recent cover story in the May 22 issue of Handelsblatt, Germany’s economic and financial newspaper, “Looking for Autism” caught my eye. The sub-headline was basically a disclaimer, stating that, lest you think that SAP (SAP AG, a large German, multinational software corporation which manufactures Enterprise Software – has discovered its social conscience, in fact its plan to hire 650 Autistic workers by 2020 is actually fueled by the desire to take advantage of their special programming talents. Very Interesting.

In the highly competitive race for creative innovation in software development, most IT corporations have recognized that some of the most startling advances in IT technology are created in collaborations. But what many may not realize is that IT corporations such as SAP have discovered that development teams with one or more Autistic team members had the highest rate of team member satisfaction, and out-performed other teams by a large extent in terms of the rapid advancement in technology and innovation. Bringing together such diverse talents frees each team member to express and use their individual strengths to their full potentials, as the autistic members could most effectively and rapidly handle the intricacies of testing the software codes and other time consuming repetitive tasks, by rapidly finding mistakes.

IT companies have begun collaborating with social institutions such as Specialistern, based in Denmark (which now has branches in the U.S, Poland, Switzerland and Germany), Left is Right, in Sweden and Auticon in Germany. Specialistern describes itself as, “… a socially innovative company where the majority of employees have a diagnosis on the Autism spectrum.” Based on the particular skills of those Autistic individuals, Specialisterne, Left is Right, and Auticon, work directly with corporations to help autistic people find work with IT companies, who are willing to work with them in order to increase their competitive advantage.

In explaining this unusual partnership, Luisa Deplazes Delgado, the chief human resources officer at SAP says that both Specialistern and SAP believe that, “…innovation comes from the edges,” and, “…Only by employing people who think differently and spark innovation will SAP be prepared to handle the challenges of the 21st century.”

Interestingly enough, while training Autistic children how to use the computer, human resources trainers at SAP reported that they had a noticeably higher success rate using the Apple iPad, because of its simple user-friendly interface.
One could say that we have embraced our destiny by creating and participating in the global change brought about by the construct of the Internet, and the endless free-flow and exchange of information it offers. If we have developed and are continuing to evolve a Web-based form of thinking, we are in effect increasing our brain plasticity, or Fluid thinking. We are right on schedule, and as James Flynn would contend, we are “becoming modern.”

Why not begin to consider that we are in fact creating new societies, which could be said to function on a higher, and more effective level as proven by the SAP team models?

We might just find out that if we respect and embrace our innate differences, and create school models and working situations which are intuitively “fluid” we actually allow the strengths of each individual to reach their full potential, because….they are doing what they really want to do.

Read more:

A web cast on the Science page of the Huffington Post called Reverse Intelligence. Scroll down to the bottom of the page, it is worth a watch.

Jeannie Winston Nogai
Owner / Winston Nogai Design / E:

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Top 10 States in the U.S. for International Students

May 23, 2013

“I never truly understood myself until I met the other. I never truly met the other until I got past myself. What are time and distance, but bridges to be crossed on my journey to meet the other, and in so doing, find myself?” ~Unknown

International education, whether it is a globalization of academic curriculum or student exchange or both, is important as it forces necessary introspection at the same time it engages the other. We can say “international education” serves as a “bridge” between countries and cultures. Countries may not enjoy good diplomatic relations, people of different religious beliefs may not understand one another, and people speaking different languages may not be able to communicate, but international education promotes cross-cultural understanding when students from different parts of the world work together on a project, share dorm rooms, study or conduct research together. Their different customs, tradition, religious beliefs, political affiliations and different languages are bridged through educational endeavors. The importance of international education goes far beyond the individual…it is citizen diplomacy at its best.

International education is also good for the economy. If you didn’t know this already, it goes without saying that international student exchange contributed an estimated $22.7 billion to the U.S. economy in fiscal year 2011-2012. According to the Open Doors Data – Institute of International Education: “Higher education is among the United States’ top service sector exports, as international students provide revenue to the U.S. economy and individual host states for living expenses, including room and board, books and supplies, transportation, health insurance, support for accompanying family members, and other miscellaneous items.”

Here are the top 10 States in the U.S. and the estimated revenue contributed to each state’s economy in the 2011-12 academic year:

1. California $3.215 billion

2. New York $2.59 billion

3. Texas $1.356 billion

4. Massachusetts $1.49 billion

5. Illinois $1.004 billion
Source: http://www.destination360.cpm

6. Pennsylvania $1.077 billion

7. Florida $935.7 billion

8. Ohio $717.0 million

9. Michigan $758.7 million

10. Indiana $688.2 million

If there are any misconceptions out there about international students being a drain on the U.S. economy or taking seats away from domestic students, the figure reported by IIE’s Open Door should set the record straight.

Useful links:


Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc.

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America’s Jazz Ambassadors

May 16, 2013

Louis Armstrong

During the cold war in the 1950s and 60s, when America was worried about Sputnik, ICBMs, and building bomb shelters, there was a quiet but determined cultural diplomacy going on behind the Iron Curtain. The U.S. State Department around the mid-1950s started sending American jazz musicians into Russia, newly-independent African nations (whom the USSR was wooing), Yugoslavia, Hungary, Pakistan, India, and other developing nations. The State Department first thought of sending a top US ballet company such as Martha Graham’s or the American Ballet Theater. The great U.S. Representative Adam Clayton Powell, who was the first African-American to be elected to the Congress (his district was Harlem), proposed a better idea: send top jazz musicians abroad to represent American democracy. After all, isn’t jazz the most democratic of artforms?

And so it was that Benny Goodman, Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Dave Brubeck Duke Ellington toured the world spreading the infectious musical joy of jazz to people in countries where jazz was either little known or forbidden.

A recent show at the UCLA Fowler Museum was dedicated to this wonderful chapter in musical diplomacy. I led a panel that included Quincy Jones, who was on the very first tour in 1955. There is a picture of him near the Sphinx , a country being courted by the Soviet Union because of the Suez Canal’s strategic location. Another pictures shows Q at the Acropolis, posing as Rodin’s sculpture The Thinker.

In one funny incident, perhaps apocryphal but I think not, Louis Armstrong was sent to Ghana. Upon his return to the States, he landed at Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C.. Vice President Richard Nixon was there to meet him, and was in the limousine that went out onto the tarmac to greet him.

Nixon asked Satchmo if there was anything he could do for him. Louis said yes, please can you carry my trumpet case through customs? Satchmo was a regular pot smoker and had some fine Ghanaian weed in his case. And the Vice President got it through customs without a hitch.

Jazz was certainly the great cultural ambassador of America back then. Hip hop has now joined and shared that distinction. The great LA band Ozomatli was dispatched to tour the Middle East, Burma, and other places recently.

Check out this video of Satchmo’s arrival in Ghana 1956: it’s great!

Tom Schnabel, M.A.
Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
Host of music program on radio for KCRW Sundays noon-2 p.m.
Blogs for KCRW
Author & Music educator, UCLA, SCIARC, currently doing music salons

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International Student Visas in the News, Again

May 09, 2013

Lecture Hall I, UMBC, Wednesday night, fall semester, 2010

The recent tragic bombings at the Boston Marathon, signifying yet another senseless act of violence and loss of innocent lives has spawned a wave of anti-immigration sentiments, in particular concerning student “visas.” According to the online blog Politico: last Wednesday on Fox News, Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio said “student visas are not a right…that the nation needed to be open to changes that provided more security…I don’t like profiling anybody, I don’t like singling out anybody or generalizing anything. On the other hand student visas are not a right. Student visas are something this country does out of generosity, student visas are something this country does because we figured out it’s in our national interest, but you don’t have a right to a student visa. Therefore we can place whatever restrictions we want on student visas.”

Before we demonize all international students and even the process by which student visas are issued and tracked, we need to be reminded that we already have an effective system in place known as SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System), the Homeland Security database, that was created after the attacks of September 11, 2001. According to Chuck Olcese, the director of international student services at the University of Kansas: “international students are actually watched more closely than other people visiting the country…the student visa system is the most-watched system in the immigration process.”

One of the three 19-year old men, Azamat Tazhayakov, charged last week with interfering with the investigation into last month’s bombing was admitted back into the U.S. in January without a valid student visa. Turns out that the visa for Tazhayakov had been terminated since he’d withdrawn from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. This information had been reported by the University and Tazhayakov’s status had been updated in the SEVIS database. Had the border agent at the airport checked the SEVIS database, he/she would have seen that Tazahayakov did not have a valid student visa and could have denied him/her entry, but the agent did not have access to the SEVIS database. Under existing procedures, border agents can verify a student’s vista status through SEVIS only when the person is referred to a second officer for additional questioning or inspection, “U.S. to tighten border checks on foreign students”. Having acknowledged the glitch in the procedure, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection has ordered that all border agents must have access to SEVIS by this week.

Creating more stringent requirements on granting visas to international students, as declared by Senator Rubio, is not the answer. Due diligence is already being carried out by the U.S. institutions admitting these students. Clearly, the SEVIS database is populated with invaluable information; it is access to this information that hindered the apprehension of Tazahayakov when he arrived on U.S. soil in January. Hopefully now that all border agents have been given authorized access to SEVIS, the likes of radicals like Tazahayakov can be stopped and denied entry before they can wreak havoc.

For more on this breaking new policy check out this piece: “US orders new visa reviews for arriving students”

The Frustrated Evaluator

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Dispatches from Paris, France

May 02, 2013


No trip to Paris is complete without a stroll alongside the Seine to take in the sights and sounds of this charming city, paired with some café lounging and people watching, museum hopping, and in my case, exploring the City of Light by tracing Hemingway’s footsteps before he cheated on her with Spain and Cuba. It was propitious that I stayed in the Latin Quarter a stone throw away from the University of Paris I Pantheon-Sorbonne, University of Paris Faculty of Law, University of Paris Faculty of Medicine and several Institutes of Higher Education in Fine Arts, Agriculture and Engineering. Dropping into these campuses and seeing the facilities and rubbing shoulders with hip philos standing on the sidewalks taking long puffs on their Marlboros (smoking is no longer permitted inside buildings) engaged in friendly and at times heated banter, walking past outdoor cafes, sandwich stalls and gyro stands on Rue de Mouffetard where inexpensive and tasty fare satisfies the college student’s budget was the visceral experience (albeit brief) I had of the life of a French university student.

Rue Saint-Jacques
Rue Saint-Jacques and the Sorbonne in Paris

University of Paris
University of Paris, Faculty of Law

Faculty of Medicine
University of Paris, Faculty of Medicine

My meeting with Celine Ouziel, Educational Adviser with Education USA at Fulbright Franco-American Commission in Paris and Patricia Janin, head of the American Section at Fulbright proved mutually enlightening. I learned of some of the problems French students have in obtaining original sets of their academic documents, when institutions tend to issue one set and will not reissue additional official copies and the lack of a cohesive approach in the U.S. to recognizing the classes préparatoires (two-year post-secondary program required for admission to the Grandes Écoles).


Like most things in life, nothing is static and the French education system, once regarded as one of the best in the world, is being questioned by French academics and teachers, and in the media, especially, on the question of the “level” of the baccalauréat examination. “Many academics complain that the baccalauréat these days is given away, and that this is a major cause of the high failure rate in the first year of university.” Source: The jury is out; French Ministers and civil servants claim that this is not the case and so the debate goes on.

Despite the grumblings from the academics and French media, when it comes to getting admitted to a university in France, the baccalauréat is the gold standard. But admission to a grande école, seen as “the peak of the education pinnacle in France, relatively small and highly selective “schools” (in the American sense of the word),” is not only the baccalauréat but completion of the two-year classes préparatoires at a Lycées (which in this respect, are also a part of the French higher education system). The Grandes Écoles “provide a cosseted higher education to the nation’s future elites – tomorrow’s “haut fonctionnaires” (senior civil servants), leaders of industry, top military brass, top politicians, engineers, physicists and others.” Source:

The debate inside France continues to pit academics and media against ministries and civil service departments. In a meeting at the Fulbright office, I attempted to dispel myths on U.S. higher education, especially our community colleges and the myriad of benefits of attending a community college before transferring to a four-year university, as well as ACEI’s credential evaluation policies concerning the baccalauréat examination and the classes préparatoires for which we recommend some advanced standing credit. Our evaluation policies, in line with decades of established national guidelines, was welcomed, though at first it was met with surprise, especially where it concerns the credit allowed for the classes préparatoires. It seems the practices of a few U.S. universities with select admissions requirements (where no credit is considered for the classes préparatoires thus underestimating the value of the Grandes Écoles degree programs) have been interpreted as being the norm on a national level by those outside the country. Given that we have over 3000 colleges and universities in the U.S., each with its unique set of admission criteria, adhering to a perspective practiced by a select few does not imply a national standard. We all agreed to continue the discussion by organizing a webchat and a visit to the Fulbright office in the near future to speak about these issues with French students wishing to study in the U.S.. To be continued…stay tuned!

Jasmin S. Kuehnert
President & CEO ACEI

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