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Welcome to Darren's News File.  This is a selection of news items that I care about.  This is a random collection of news items from fields such as Higher Education, Technology, Teaching Methods, Psychology, Business, International Issues, and Current Events.


Price of Happiness
Happiness is the American Way
Teachers' Use of Technology in Education
What Companies Want: The Whole Engineer
A Virtual Student Teaches Himself
How to Listen, How to Reply

News Items:

Price of Happiness
Time Magazine, April 2000

What is a good marriage worth?  Economists David Blanchflower of Darmouth and Adnrew Oswald at England's University of Warwick calculate that a lasting marriage adds happiness equivalent to an extra $100,000 a year.  They also say that yes, higher income equals greater happiness; that to make up for the sadness of losing a job would require an extra $60,000 a year; and that while the gap has diminished over the years, whites are happier than blacks -- about $30,000 happier.

Happiness is the American Way
USAToday, 13 Dec 99

According to Karen S. Peterson of USA Today, Americans are the third happiest in the world.  "More than one-fourth (27%) of Americans are very happy with their sex lives, but Venezuela (46%) and Brazil (32%) edge out the USA. Folks worldwide are content with their personal relationships. The Kuwaitis (76% are very happy), British (61%) and Australians (60%) are the happiest about ties with family and friends, followed by Argentines (57%), Americans (56%) and Egyptians (56%)."

The researchers, Roper Starch Worldwide, determined that certain factors (listed to the right) were key determinants of happiness in their survey.  According to the researchers, Americans are feeling confident, more self-reliant, and optimistic.

According to the survey, "Most unhappy with their quality of life are people in the former Soviet Union, specifically Russia and Ukraine."
The ten happiest countries:
1. Denmark, 49%
2. Australia, 47%
3. USA, 46%
4. Venezuela, 44%
5. Kuwait, 41%
6. India, 37%
7. Great Britain, 36%
8. Malaysia, 34%
9. Mexico, 30%
10. Argentina, 29%
Factors Include:
- relationships, 
- money, 
- self-confidence, 
- role of religion, 
- job, 
- leisure time 
- mastery of technology.

Teachers' Use of Technology in the Classroom
Washinton Post, 23 Sep 99

According to 9/23 Washinton Post article, a study published in that day's issue of Education Week shows that software and the Internet are increasingly being used in the nations schools, but many teachers struggle to make use of them.  According to the survey, 61 percent of teachers use the Web in class, and 53 percent use software.  However, many teachers find it difficult to match up educational Internet sites and software with what they are looking for.  In addition, many instructors report that their computers lack the power to run the
software they would like to use.  Teachers say that expense is the greatest hurdle to overcome in furthering the use of computers in the classroom.  The study also found that older teachers were just as likely to use computers in class as younger teachers.

What Companies Want: The Whole Engineer
by Vera Cuevas EE Times

What companies want: The 'Whole Engineer'

Rapidly changing technology places as many new demands on engineers as it does on the functionality of the products they develop. To provide customers with best-in-class solutions, Mentor Graphics Corp. needs best-in-class engineers-those who possess a robust set of non-technical skills in addition to their technical expertise.  As the EDA industry continues to push the limits of design complexity, the traditional, technically competent development engineer is discovering that non-technical business competence is as important as technical skill. The stereotype of the isolated, Dilbert-like cubicle engineer is being replaced with a new vision of the "whole engineer": a dynamic, informed and approachable individual who can fluently articulate the case for a product from a business standpoint as well as explain the product's functional capabilities.

Mark Klein, Mentor Graphics director of engineering infrastructure, says, "There are three competencies that define an exceptional engineer: technical competence, application-specific competence, and non-technical or business-skill competence."

Read the entire story at:

Chronicle of Higher Education 07 May 99

Western Governors University is a new breed of virtual university that is using technology to reach students who are unable to get to traditional classrooms. The university provides a central Web site that lists the distance-learning courses offered at participating schools and allows students to easily search for a college course online, enroll, and start working toward a degree with just a few mouse clicks.  But even more unusual is the school's goal of helping people to get degrees based on what they already know, what they teach themselves, or what they learn through any other method.  No professors, syllabi, or textbooks are required.  Students simply must pass enough standardized tests and turn in enough independent projects to convince the university that they know the material.  Many universities have long offered correspondence courses and allowed students to get some credits by simply passing a test, and some observers say Western Governors is not as revolutionary as it may seem.  But WGU officials say they are the first to offer degrees based entirely on third-party testing, which unravels the faculty role by placing the authority to design, deliver, and test a course of study in the hands of several groups rather than a single professor.  Meanwhile, critics say that basing a student's degree simply on standardized tests cannot measure the higher-order thinking that is fostered in a university environment. 

To serve your customers you need to know both how to listen and how to respond, and neither task is anywhere near as easy as one would think.  Are you really "listening" when you do surveys to determine customer satisfaction?  Maybe not.  One Fortune 500 CEO reminded his marketing staff: "People are not above lying to a focus group," and even if they're not lying they may not be telling the "truth" because the level of truth you're looking for is not what they find "satisfactory" but what they value.  "In recent years we have learned the hard way that, while the two may overlap, customer satisfaction does not equal customer-perceived value.  We have also discovered that satisfaction is not necessarily a reliable indicator of the customer's propensity to purchase or repurchase."  Traditional research, including focus groups, reported that only 30% of minivan buyers were willing to pay for a fourth door, yet when Chrysler introduced a four-door minivan it was the first choice of more than 80% of buyers.  So "listening" to the customer is a really a kind of anthropological field trip.  But of course even if you hear the customer you're only half-way home:  you still need to give an appropriate, coherent, and intelligible response.  This isn't so easy, as is demonstrated by the fact that so many advertising campaigns are irrelevant and ineffective.  Instead of giving strategic advice on how their clients can manage and package value, the agency community is all too often engaging in narcissistic exercises to produce "a better ad."  The purpose of advertising is not to get attention but to establish a connection and relationship between companies and their customers.  If it doesn't do that, it's nothing but talk, and all in vain.  (Barry Sheehy, "Are You Listening?"  Across The Board, Apr 99)

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