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Time Is Running Out to Apply for Cambridge's LEGO Professorship

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Some people think that academia is all work and no play, but that won’t be the case at the University of Cambridge. In 2015, the English educational institution announced that they were looking to hire the world’s first full-time professor of play, development, and learning. As The Guardian reports, the application for the LEGO professorship is due on Friday, January 20—meaning fun-loving scholars only have three days left to throw their hats in the ring.

Cambridge’s so-called "LEGO professorship" was established by a £4 million donation from the LEGO Foundation, a corporate foundation whose mission, according to its website, is "to make children’s lives better—and communities stronger—by making sure the fundamental value of play is understood, embraced, and acted upon." More than a third of that donation will fund a new Centre for Research on Play in Education, Development & Learning (PEDAL), led by the LEGO professor; the remaining money will go toward the professorship.

Scientists are still figuring out how play contributes to child development, and they’re hoping that PEDAL will provide some answers. Ultimately, their findings may influence how children are taught in schools—think more playful learning instead of tests.

"The value of play is relatively under-researched," Cambridge professor Anna Vignoles, who's currently serving as PEDAL’s interim director, told The Guardian. "You have people who are claiming that it enhances learning, that it’s important, that it’s good for children’s wellbeing. All of that might be true, but actually there’s remarkably little evidence for that. The aim of the PEDAL center is to conduct rigorous research into the importance of play and how playful learning can be used to improve students’ outcomes."

Cambridge University is in charge of the hiring process, and they’re seeking a candidate whose focus is educational psychology. Even though the LEGO Foundation has no ultimate say in the final hire, they’re hoping the candidate will be playful, curious, open-minded, imaginative, and possess a "childlike mindset," according to Bo Stjerne Thomsen, the LEGO Foundation’s global head of research. As for experience level, applicants don’t need to have already held a professorship, as more emphasis will be placed on their research skills.

No word on whether the position will include playing with actual LEGOs, but if that's the case, the world's largest LEGO store opened in London's Leicester Square in November, making it worth a field trip.

[h/t The Guardian]

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Tulane University Offers Free Semester to Students Affected by Hurricane Maria
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As Puerto Rico continues to assess the damage left by Hurricane Maria last month, one American institution is offering displaced residents some long-term hope. Tulane University in New Orleans is waiving next semester’s tuition fees for students enrolled at Puerto Rican colleges prior to the storm, Forbes reports.

From now until November 1, students whose studies were disrupted by Maria can apply for one of the limited spots still open for Tulane’s spring semester. And while guests won’t be required to pay Tulane's fees, they will still be asked to pay tuition to their home universities as Puerto Rico rebuilds. Students from other islands recovering from this year’s hurricane season, like St. Martin and the U.S. Virgin Islands, are also welcome to submit applications.

Tulane knows all too well the importance of community support in the wake of disaster. The campus was closed for all of the 2005 fall semester as New Orleans dealt with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. During that time, schools around the world opened their doors to Tulane students who were displaced. The university wrote in a blog post, “It’s now our turn to pay it forward and assist students in need.”

Students looking to study as guests at Tulane this spring can fill out this form to apply.

[h/t Forbes]

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Pablo, a Groundbreaking New BBC Series, Teaches Kids About Autism
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Autism spectrum disorder affects one in 68 kids in the U.S., but there’s still a lot of confusion surrounding the nature of the condition and what it feels like to have it. As BuzzFeed reports, a new British children’s program aims to teach viewers about autism while showing kids on the spectrum characters and stories to which they can relate.

Pablo, which premiered on the BBC’s kids’ network CBeebies earlier this month, follows a 5-year-old boy as he navigates life with autism. The show uses two mediums: At the start of an episode, Pablo is played by a live actor and faces everyday scenarios, like feeling overstimulated by a noisy birthday party. When he’s working out the conflict in his head, Pablo is depicted as an animated doodle accompanied by animal friends like Noa the dinosaur and Llama the llama.

Each character illustrates a different facet of autism spectrum disorder: Noa loves problem-solving but has trouble reading facial expression, while Llama notices small details and likes repeating words she hears. On top of demonstrating the diversity of autism onscreen, the show depends on individuals with autism behind the scenes as well. Writers with autism contribute to the scripts and all of the characters are voiced by people with autism.

“It’s more than television,” the show’s creator Gráinne McGuinness said in a short documentary about the series. “It’s a movement that seeks to build awareness internationally about what it might be like to see the world from the perspective of someone with autism.”

Pablo can be watched in the UK on CBeebies or globally on the network's website.

[h/t BuzzFeed]

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