Ballpoint pens can be tough on the fingers. Paint-markers are messy and have a nauseating odor to them. Pencils need to be sharpened, roller-ball pen tend to fail to place ink on the paper, and highlighters are simply good for highlighting rather than writing words. Finding the right pen that works well with note-taking in college isn’t as easy as it sounds. Even high-tech gadgets such as laptops, cell-phones and PDAs have limitations in its use and power. Yet, note-taking is vital in college, especially when the lessons being taught are done through long, tedious lectures, hard-scrabbled scrawling on the white board, or Power-point presentations. So what is a student going to use to write his/her notes? Possibly, one of the most powerful tools to come around in recent times is an inexpensive one. Gel pens are slightly higher in price than the typical ball-point pen; however, the price is worth it when one finally gets a chance to swish it over a piece of paper with the greatest of ease. They are ergonomically designed, easy to refill, and come in packs of different colors. Gel pens, by far, are the smoothest-and best – pens to use for taking notes. Despite the onslaught of technology, pen and paper note-taking is still the most viable tool a college student can have. Laptops are bulky and its batteries have a limited amount of energy. A user usually has to sit near an outlet in order to plug in and keep it going. The same can be said about cell-phones and PDAs. Also, college professors tend to frown on these devices. Some see it as an obstruction, and believe the student is using them for other matters such as text-messaging friends or cheating on exams. Others, as one example proved, are simply paranoid that someone is trying to record their lecture for nefarious reasons (one professor banned them for fear that the devices were being used to collect evidence against him for the FBI). Pen and paper are easy to carry and to retrieve. All it takes is a notebook, backpack or a three-ring binder – with a pen pouch – that can carry both. The secret behind the gel pen is its ink. It is thicker than the standard types found in ball-points, roller ball, and fountain pens. Its high viscosity allows for more support of various pigments than other pens. In other words, it can come in many colors. The ink rarely congeals like a ball-point pens and it doesn’t bleed through the paper like paint-markers or fountain pens. The reason for this is the ingredients in the ink. It is kept in a water-based gel made of water, biopolymers (such as xanthan gum and tragacanth gums) and thickeners such as polyacrylate. As a result, the pens: Create bolder lines than ball-points pens Smudge less. Are less prone to bleed through the other side of the paper and anything under it. Create finer, more controlled lines with fewer blots than a fountain pen. Can be seen on dark surfaces. Support an assortment of colors. Have no odors. The design is also a plus. More expensive models will use contoured rubber grips to ease the pressure one usually puts on a pen. Most models are retractable and require no caps. This makes matters easy for the note-taker who may have to juggle the cap, papers, books, and other devices while seated in a lecture hall. It’s simply one less thing to worry about. Most gel pen models are similar to rolling ball pens. Some models – such as the Pilot G2 – will come in different point sizes such as ultra fine, extra fine, fine and bold points. Its G-TEC-C models come in micro fine and hyper fine. Gel pens are similar to fountain pens, as well. Its design allows for refills. Often, the refills come in various colors, types of gel-ink and design. The straw-like cartridges can be swapped out of the pens and replaced with another. Although the pens as an entire unit is relatively cheap and can be replaced easily with less time and money than the refills, the ink in some of these refills are specialized for certain needs. There are several companies that make quality gel pens. Pilot’s G-2 series and Zebra are two companies that come to mind. Paper-mate has also come out with its own gel pens, as well. They are probably to most affordable of the three. Technology is one thing. The feel and pressure needed to push this pen across the paper is more important. The inks come out smoothly with little or no effort. On top of that, it doesn’t dissolve as fast as other inks, thus leaving a longer and lasting impression on the notes. Since it comes in different colors and can be bought in rainbow packs, several can be used during a note-taking session to illustrate, underline or highlight an important topic. On top of that, gel pens are surprisingly durable. They can survive an accidental trip to the washers, or a drop in the water and still be workable. By far, gel pens are the most useful – and smoothest pens – out there. Due to its price, it’s also a great buy – especially in bulk. So if one needs a good tool for note-taking, look no farther than the gel pen.
Just as some students’ comments about their forensics trade books alluded to their preferences for forensics television programs over books, analysis of the students’ post unit questionnaires revealed that students’ most frequent engagement with everyday texts was in viewing both fiction and nonfiction forensics-related television programs. Forty percent of the students watched forensics TV programs prior to the unit, including CSI, CSI New York, CSI Miami, Forensic Files, The New Detectives, Law and Order, Numb3rs, FBI Files, Cold Case, Without a Trace, Bones, Psychic Detectives, Suburban Secrets, First 48, Medium, Body of Evidence, Monk, and Criminal Minds.
Students remarked that these forensic television shows were easier to follow after the unit and that the programs helped them remember or reinforced concepts and techniques they learned in chemistry. For example, Jack remarked that CSI (shown on SPIKE TV daily) helped him understand how to dust for fingerprints and how to find the angle of a blood spatter. Taylor noted that she was better able to understand how to use evaporation and filtration to separate mixtures by watching The New Detectives on The Discovery Channel than from the lab done in class. Bob watched an episode of Prime Time Crime with his mother during which detectives found a lower jaw bone; he was able to follow and predict the forensic scientists’ processes to identify a body by relating information on the show to the characteristics of males’ and females’ dental impressions that he learned in class.Thomas Sabo Earrings
I also saw indicators that students changed the way they viewed these forensic television programs as a result of instruction in forensic science. Like the students from the prior year, these students described how they shifted from passive watching to active viewing of forensics television by using their observation and inquiry skills. For example, as one 16-year-old girl, Gina, watched these programs, she and her mother would attempt to figure out the crime and predict the culprit by using forensic evidence. Gina used what she knew about forensic clues and processes to help her solve the cases on TV. She described how she used the class handouts that showed the seven types of fingerprints to match the fingerprints shown on the TV screen by noticing their patterns, such as whorls and arches. Gina paid attention to these “tiny details,” as she called them, to help her predict the episodes’ outcomes.
Other students reported similar behaviors that evidenced active engagement with media texts and the proclivity to make connections between concepts learned in chemistry and those presented in popular culture texts. For example, Kelsey watched CSI New York and described using her knowledge and observations of fingerprint evidence during the program to make inferences about the suspects. Laura related information she had learned in the blood spatter lab in class to an episode of The New Detectives in which forensic scientists used blood stains on a victim’s clothing to determine a murderer. Angela counted 11 types of evidence shown in two cases presented on one episode of CSI. She formed questions during the broadcast about forensic techniques shown on the program that varied from ones that she learned in class, such as why detectives on the program used liquid instead of powder to lift fingerprints at a crime scene.Thomas Sabo Bracelets
Although students were able to connect their in-school instruction to the forensics shown on these television programs, there were also misconceptions about forensics that fictional programs such as CSI fostered that the teacher and the guest speakers addressed. For example, fictional forensics programs often show the forensic scientists going to the crime scene and examining the site and victims, collecting bodies, and gathering evidence. In actuality, there are separate personnel who attend a crime scene and collect and establish a chain of evidence (Ann Bucholtz, personal communication, November 10, 2007). In addition, fictional television programs often depict forensic evidence such as DNA being analyzed quickly when, in fact, many city forensics departments cannot afford DNA analysis and, when they can, the analysis takes much longer to conduct than these programs typically depict. In ways like these, the students were reminded that popular culture should not be celebrated in an unquestioned way, but that ideas and impressions must be verified from reputable sources, such as forensic professionals or scientific texts.
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