Special Edition: Educational (but fun!) toy gift ideas for the holidays

Here is an excerpt from my recent newspaper article on holidays gifts for kids. In the spirit of shopping local I have focused on ones available at most small town toy stores:

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Trends in education are having an impact on the toys that families will see on the shelves this holiday season. While perennial favorites like crafts, trains and board games continue to be readily available, the bulk of the new toys released and selling briskly this year seem to have a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) focus.

Building Toys

The toy company Mechanical Science offers a number of elaborate building kits. Kids ages 6-14 use a multidimensional construction system to build structures and machines. Models include an oil drill, a flying eagle, a crane, a pulley, levers and more ($50).

Marble mazes have come a long ways since the 1980s. The Q-Ba-Maze 2.0 line offers kids ages five and uo the chance to create marble maze sculptures in the form of animals, geometric shapes, and other designs ($17-$28). Also for sale in town is the Gravity Maze by ThinkFun. The colorful Falling Marble Logic Game is aimed at ages 8 to adult and it comes with cards with 60 different challenges from beginner to expert ($30).

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Especially for Girls

I wrote about the hot new “girl power” toy company GoldieBlox last year but it merits another mention. The current line extension, geared at girls ages 4-9 explores a different engineering concept in each set (belt drive, zip line, dunk tank) but makes it so fun that kids don’t realize how much they are learning as they play ($20-$30).

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Perhaps even more popular with young girls today, however, is Roominate for ages 6-12. These colorful kits feature DIY wired dollhouse building sets are aimed at getting girls excited about STEM. Through hands-on building and circuits, Roominate brings together creativity and engineering ($30-$60).

Brain Games

I am a sucker for brain games and Brain Baffler’s IQ Collection offers several different mind exercising and mind bending challenges for kids ages 8 and up. Our local store sells the Periscope and Orbite challenges ($10-$13).

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Along the same lines, Mindbending Toys is offering at least six all-new editions of Speed Puzzles, Brain Trickery, Lateral Thinking Puzzles and Optical Illusions ($9).

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There is new toy category called Baby Lit. I got a huge kick out of the Little Miss Austen and Little Miss Bronte series available at our local toy store. The novels are simplified for young children and some contain cut out wood figures in period dress. Other toddler titles include Sense and Sensibility, Anna Karenina, Romeo & Juliet, Moby Dick and a dozen more ($8 and up).

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Flashcards and Early Learning Toys

It is a whole new era in flashcards. There are three different hand-held electronic flashcards made by Learning Resources – one for counting and colors, one for money skills and one for telling time ($18).

Learning Resources offers some fun gift “games in a can” called Cracker Stackers geared at reinforcing early learning. The Picture Alphabet game is geared at ages four and up, the Sight Words game is for ages five and up and the Opposites game is for ages five and up.

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French and Spanish bingo sets by Eeboo can sneak in some foreign language practice. The store also offers license plate bingo cards, number fluency cards and a few other fun car games ($12-15).

Wood kits

If your child is more interested in low-tech building projects, the Adventure Station Whittling Kit is a terrific option. Kids learn how to handcraft items out of real wood and a single kit can result in a LED lighthouse, a sailing ship or several other projects ($30).

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Many stories are now offering wood building kits. Our local store is offering a wood birdhouse, dump truck and a bulldozer (for ages eight and up) from the company RED Toolbox ($13-$45).

Robots and Programming Toys

While most programming games require screen time, ThinkFund’s Robot Turtles is billed as a game for little programmers. The board game introduces basic coding concepts to preschoolers, ages four and up ($25).

Most toys stores offer a few building kits – one of which combines gyroscopes and robots. This award-winning Gyrobot by Thames & Kosmos kit has 102 pieces and seven different projects inside. The same company also offers kits for ages eight and up to build a air-driven hovercraft and other remote controlled machines ($50).

Elenco offers a series of Snap Circuits kits that will be fun for any kids ages eight and up who love hands-on electronic building projects. Kids can build a real, working motion detector, a flying saucer, a strobe light, a robot and more. Our local store had a wide selection of choices when I visited ($30-$80).

Fun for the Whole Family

I love the retro feel of the new Matchbox Trivia games: Quick Fire Quiz, Great Debate, Devilish Dilemmas and After-Dinner Quiz. The Great Debate offers 80 debatable subject cards for all ages in clever matchbox packaging ($6).

Long time favorite strategy board game The Settlers of Catan is having a resurgence. According to the Wall Street Journal, Settlers has become so popular in Silicon Valley that it’s now being used as an icebreaker at some business meetings. The game, and its many game expansion packs, are a great option when the entire family wants to play one game together ($40).

While all of these toys were available locally in Sonoma, if you want or need to shop online, try Fat Brain Toys or Educational Insights for other ideas of educational toys for all ages.

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Education RoundUp XXIX: College for free, college tips and resources, free test prep, moral children, where billionaires went to college

CNN has looked at which colleges worldwide have produced the most billionaire graduates. Not all billionaires went to elite colleges and 35 percent of billionaires didn’t graduate from college at all. That said, here we go with the top ten and how many billionaires each produced:

University of Pennsylvania – 25; Harvard – 22; Yale – 20; University of Southern California -16; Princeton – 14; Cornell – 14; Stanford – 14; UC Berkeley – 12; University of Mumbai – 12; London School of Economics – 11. http://tinyurl.com/k833wyn

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Peers play a critical role in high school success, according to a recent study in the journal Social Science Research. The research found that actively participating in an extracurricular activity during high school increased the odds of a student enrolling in college. Participating with peers who have higher-than-normal GPAs makes the student twice as likely to go to college. Among the groups with the highest GPAs were honor society, math students, science students, debate team members, student council members, orchestra members and tennis players. Football and wrestling students had by far the lowest GPAs, and the lowest percentage of students who would later enroll in a four-year college. Academic extracurriculars (debate, math club, etc.) were more powerful indicators of college-attendance than sports, performance and student leadership. According to the study, participating in more than one extracurricular had no extra benefit. tinyurl.com/ojmz7u2.

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Does your child’s backpack seem astoundingly heavy? The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons recommends that the weight of a backpack should be less than 10 percent to 15 percent of a child’s body weight. Signs of a too heavy pack: grunting when picking up a backpack, red marks on shoulders and complaints or arms or fingers “falling asleep.”

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Roominate are terrific new architecture and interior design building kits aimed at young girls. Kids can build multiple floors, balconies, and columns, place working lights, and fans and design furniture and floor plans. It is considered one of the best STEM toys of the year. The Roominate line was created by two female engineers out of Caltech, MIT and Stanford on a mission to get more girls interested in engineering. They believe that early exposure through the toys will inspire the next generation of female technology innovators. roominatetoy.com

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If your teen is making you crazy, here is a comforting quote from popular parenting author and Ph.D., Wendy Mogel:  “Don’t take it personally if your teenager treats you like crap. Judge his character not on the consistency of in-house politeness, clarity of speech or degree of eye contact but on what teachers say, whether he’s welcomed by his friends’ parents, and his manners towards his grandparents, the neighbors, salespeople and servers in restaurants.”  challengesuccess.org.

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High school students all seem to fixate on the same top colleges. CollegeBound.net recently released a list of the most underrated universities in each state. On our coast, the schools named were UC Santa Cruz, Oregon State and Washington State University. See the complete list at businessinsider.com/map-the-most-underrated-college-in-every-state-2014-4.

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While it is great when teens can visit the colleges on their list before applying, sometimes it just isn’t possible. I recommend your student spend some time looking through online reviews posted by current students as part of their research. While it makes sense to take student comments with a grain of salt, these reviews do provide a sense of any college’s strengths, weaknesses and culture. College Times TV has compiled a list of 17 web sites that run real student reviews at collegetimes.tv/college-review-websites. Their favorites are collegetimes.tv and studentsreview.com.

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Algebra is widely regarded as a gatekeeper subject, in that it indicates future success and acts as the key entrance point into advanced math. To that end, the website gettingsmart.com offers 20 great enrichment resources for teachers and parents that just might help make the difference in your student’s algebra proficiency. Check them out at tinyurl.com/o2996vp.

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A new study shows that offering daily, before-school, aerobic activities to children could help in reducing the symptoms of ADHD in the classroom and at home. Students with signs of ADHD (inattentiveness, moodiness and difficulty getting along with others) responded positively to morning exercise. “Early studies suggest that physical activity can have a positive effect on children who suffer from ADHD,” said the researchers. (Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology). In related research, a recent Finnish study shows that higher levels of physical activity are related to better academic achievement during the first three school years, particularly in boys. Students getting greater physical activity at recess, and walking or biking to and from school, were related to better reading skills and higher arithmetic tests than less active boys. The results did not hold true for girls.

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Thanks to a slew of hot titles published in their formative years (Harry Potter, Hunger Games, etc.), millennials read more books than the over-30 crowd, according to research released last week (Pew). Almost 90 percent of Americans younger than 30 said they read a book in the past year compared with almost 80 percent of those older than 30. Americans are also buying more books than they borrow from libraries. http://tinyurl.com/qxdsr2a

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College students are on their phones nine hours a day? I checked this statement twice because I didn’t think I could be reading it right. A recent study on cell phone activity conducted at Baylor University, and published in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions, found that female college students spend an average of 10 hours a day on their cell phones, and male college students spend nearly eight (this includes multi-tasking). http://tinyurl.com/pprqqds

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While students should find and follow their passions in college, I can’t resist sharing with you the 10 “worst” college (undergraduate) majors for today’s job market, based on underemployed findings and median pay research conducted by the web site PayScale. By underemployed, they mean holding a job not in your field and/or one that leaves you overeducated, underpaid, or not able to make ends meet. #10 – psychology, #9 education, #8 liberal arts, #7 graphic design, #6 English language and literature, #5 sociology, #4 general studies, #3 health care administration, #2 business management and administration and #1 criminal justice. http://tinyurl.com/npa6wqg

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Here are some tips on ways to spot a great teacher, courtesy of Wall Street Journal reporter Dana Goldstein? She concluded that great teachers:

“Have active intellectual lives outside their classroom … the best teachers often love to travel, have fascinating hobbies or speak passionately about their favorite philosopher or poet.”

“Believe intelligence is achievable, not inborn. Effective educators reject the idea that smarts are something that only some students have; they expect all children to perform at high levels, even those who are unruly, learning disabled or struggling with English.”

Are data-driven. “Effective teachers assess students at the beginning of new units to identify their strengths and weaknesses, then quiz students when units end to determine whether concepts and skills have sunk in.”

Ask great questions. Great teachers focus on conceptual not factual understanding – not when was the Depression, but what factors led to it. (WSJ Sept. 6.)

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The Chinese, Turkish and Korean languages are said to express number concepts more clearly than English – one possible explanation for why it is harder for young American children to learn basic math skills. The Wall Street Journal tackled this topic recently, reporting that this language gap is gaining attention from educators and psychologists. An example – we have the word 11, in many other languages the word is ten-one, helping with understanding of place values. The author suggests some math video games that can help: Addition Blocks, Hungry Guppy, Hungry Fish and Monster School Bus, to name a few. WSJ, Sept. 10.

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Students struggling with algebra should check out the free, online, easy-to-use online site Algebra Nation. The site offers a lot of options that can support a student’s in-class algebra instruction.algebranation.com.

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I love the idea of heralding up-and-coming colleges and universities that are making innovative changes in their academics, student life and diversity. A list of the top 10, announced by U.S. News & World Report last week, are: Tulane University, George Mason University, Drexel University, Biola University, Portland State, Clemson University, Indiana University, Purdue University, Georgia State University, University of Southern California, Northeastern University, University of Central Florida, Arizona State (Tempe) and University of Maryland (Baltimore). tinyurl.com/lk3whwt.

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While no student should rely on rankings when developing their college list, it is always interesting to me to see how organizations rank colleges differently. The 2014 list of the world’s best colleges by the Times of London honors the following top 10 (in order from the top): Cal Tech, Harvard University, University of Oxford, Stanford University, University of Cambridge, MIT, Princeton University, UC Berkeley, Imperial College London and Yale University (tie). Other California colleges making the top 50 were: UCLA (12), UC Santa Barbara (37), UC San Diego (41). Berkeley and UCLA have the honor of being the two highest ranked public universities on the list. tinyurl.com/lg5op3s

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For the first time ever, 15 nonprofit organizations have joined forces to support the parents of (the one in five) children with learning and attention issues. The site brings together technology, resources and access to experts in an online community. I’m impressed by all the resources they have gathered in one place. understood.org

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A new website called Packback offers a growing collection of 3,000 digital textbooks in 21 subjects that students can rent for $3 to $5 per title in a 24-hour period. Books can add thousands to the cost of a college education (and private high school education) so sites like these – as well as digital ebooks – are certainly the wave of the future. For any of you who have had a child leave a crucial textbook at school or temporarily misplace one, paying $3 for 24 hours access almost sounds like a bargain. And your first rental is free. Have you seen the TV show Shark Tank where contestants pitch business ideas? The site first hit it big there. packbackbooks.com

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There is a new online service that isn’t cheap but promises to help students better understand their interests and aptitudes. YouScience claims to use the latest psychology and technology available to predict precisely the majors and careers where a student is most likely to succeed. Founders say their goal is to stop teens from wasting their first two years of college. Students participate in a series of game-like exercises to discover their optimal college and career path. Creators claim this is not an intelligence test and goes far beyond what Kuder, or similar in-school interest and skills assessments, can offer. The cost ranges from $79 to $249. youscience.com

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There is a new PSAT, SAT and ACT app called Play2Prep that offers simulated tests and timed games that students can play on their own or against their friends. The free site includes a progress tracker. Full disclosure – one of my good friends developed it – but it is getting great reviews from major media outlets. play2prep.com.

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With all the focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) major and careers, most students don’t know what kind of occupations fall under the STEM heading. For a good list, visit http://preview.tinyurl.com/pe4xwjs. The list ranges from web developers to animal scientists to astronomers to math and science teachers. Discussion of what people in these careers do might be a good conversation to have with your middle school or high school students.

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There was a terrific article recently in the New York Times on what kids around the world eat for breakfast. The photographer for the story visited kids in seven countries and chronicled their morning meal. There are some intriguing ideas for parents looking to expand their children’s palates beyond sugary, bready American staples.http://tinyurl.com/kjgn6jj

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If college in the U.S. is just too expensive and your teen loves the idea of living abroad, how about college in Germany? All German universities are now completely free to Americans (and all other foreign students). No time to learn German? Many of the universities offer international studies degrees taught in English. http://tinyurl.com/kuaou8x

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Yik Yuck. Yik Yak is a terrible free new social media app enabling high school and college students to post anonymous comments about each other. When you log in, you see comments from other posters within 1.5 miles of your location (so every person posting in theory goes to “your” school.) You might taking a look to see what your teen is seeing. Maybe if enough parents log in the site will become uncool. I guarantee you will be upset. One local teacher said he is having a huge problem with the app as a distraction in class.

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While you are tearing your hair out of Yik Yak, “Why Kids Sext” is the issue posed by this month’s cover story in The Atlantic. Author Hanna Rosin found that the girls she interviewed were largely unembarrassed by naked photos of themselves being passed around and unaware that possessing or sending a nude photo of a minor – even a selfie – can be prosecuted as a felony under state child-porn laws. The article delves into why teens are so fascinated by sexting, and is worth a read for parents and teens both. http://theatln.tc/1rDo5qw

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Do you have a daughter who enjoys playing chess? If so, make sure to tell her about California native Jennifer Yu, 12, who last month became the first American girl in 27 years to win the World Youth Chess Championship. http://tinyurl.com/n7lks6h

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Are you concerned about how best to talk to your child about ebola? Reporter Juliana Minter suggests some tips in the Washington Post:

1. Stick to the facts

2. Assure them they are safe

3. Explain that West Africa and their country are very different.

4. Teach them way to protect their own health.

5. Use this as a learning experience (a chance to discuss global issues, health and more). Read the complete article at http://tinyurl.com/mf9kxxo

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While the videogame Minecraft is frequently praised by educators for improving spatial reasoning, math and logic, reporter Clive Thompson wrote recently in Wired Magazine about how it can also be good practice for reading and writing. It is rare that a player doesn’t delve into Minecraft wikis and players guide manuals. Thompson notes that these texts are complex, challenging material written at a high school level, yet are frequently pored over by elementary school students. If your son or daughter likes gaming more than reading, this sounds like an excellent way to sneak veggies into their brownies. wired.com/2014/10/video-game-literacy/

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Linkedin is quickly catching on among high school and college students as a way to create and share their academic credentials and work and volunteer experience. The site has a new college-planning feature and to promote it, the site is giving away $100,000. All you need to do is go to Linkedin and create a Decision Board. You add universities and your potential field of study. You can then share it with others to get advice on your big decision. If you share it with at least one person, you are entered to win. Share your board with at least one person to finalize your entry (due by Friday,Nov. 7)http://tinyurl.com/nb6xeaq

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The Economist magazine recently attempted to quantify the monetary value of being fluent in a second language. While the educational benefits are clear, MIT economist Albert Saiz found the monetary benefits are smaller – and vary based on which language you know. Thanks to basic supply and demand, a crunching of the numbers found worse returns for Spanish study in states with a larger share of Hispanics. He suggests instead that students learn a language in high demand, but short supply. He found knowing a language gives you an average 2 percent bump in pay over your lifetime but just 1.5 percent for Spanish, 2.3 percent for French and 3.8 percent for German. http://tinyurl.com/n26uwo5

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It is a great idea to expose students to all different forms of writing. If you have a student who might enjoy reading movie scripts, you can access legal downloads of more than 80 recent films at gointothestory.blcklst.com/free-script-downloads

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In an article titled, “Welcome to 13th Grade!,” Slate magazine reports on the Oregon high schools that are offering a fifth year of high school. Reporter Rebecca Schuman suggests that every district consider it but admits that as a teen she would have set her house on fire if she had been forced to stay in school another year. The pilot allows students to earn college credit that final year (without paying tuition) and to enter college as sophomores. http://tinyurl.com/o9cxv4a

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All high school students (and their families) who are researching four-year colleges should spend some time at the White House’s College Scorecard site. You can find out more about a college’s affordability and value search colleges based on programs or majors offered, location, and enrollment. http://tinyurl.com/d7xe5z2

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My readers liked the information about German college being free to Americans. As a follow-up, the Washington Post this week wrote about a few others countries where college is free or almost free to U.S. citizens: Finland, Norway, Slovenia, and Brazil. In France, fees are less than $14,000 a year and in Sweden Ph.D. programs are free. Most offer at least some programs entirely in English.http://tinyurl.com/kuaou8x

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Has your K-12 child tried “homeworkspot.com” yet? It is really quite an amazing free resource for homework, school projects, research, and getting questions answered by experts.I logged on and researched a few questions that a middle schooler might be tackling and was impressed. “The reference desk” includes biographies, encyclopedias, safe search engines, statistics and more. There is a section on science fair support, SAT prep, I could go on and on.

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Khan Academy is diving into college admissions. It makes sense as the generation that uses and trusts Khan Academy progresses through high school that the site would add these resources. The new robust section of the website offers advice for every step of the process from high school course planning to surviving freshman year in college.Khanacademy.org

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A segment on public radio recently described up five addictive but educational games that kids can play on their phones to enhance their physics skills (without even knowing that they are exercising their brain). Urge your student to try out: Crayon Physics Deluxe, World of Goo, Coaster Crafter, Amazing Alex and Tinkerbox. For older students, the reporter (from Common Sense Media) recommends Valve’s Portal, Antichamber and Quantum Conundrum.http://tinyurl.com/oxtrnfm

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Are your kids lukewarm on history but love movies? A homeschooling/blogging mother of nine recently created a timeline from 1630 to 2000, broken down into 12 eras and listing the most important people and events. She then found period movies for each time period. In theory, you could teach your children all of American history using her detailed timeline chart. It is something to behold. You can download a pdf of all at http://tinyurl.com/oxy848d

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I am afraid I can’t stop harping about how bad pot is for the teenage brain. Harvard researchers recently studied a composite scan of the brains of 20 pot smokers, ages 18 to 25 and found that even with smoking pot just once or twice a week, there were changes in two significant regions of the brain. The more the subjects smoked, the greater the differences. Researchers are realizing that old research is irrelevant now as pot is much more potent today. http://tinyurl.com/l48llxf

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In researching tutoring options recently I came across WyzAnt, which bills itself as the leading tutoring marketplace on the web with 72,000+ tutors offering private lessons in hundreds of subjects like math, science, test prep, foreign languages, music and computers. Pick a subject, any subject, and you are likely to find a dozen tutors in or around Sonoma already registered on the site (with their background, specialty and prices listed). It’s a worth a look. wyzant.com

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Customcollegerankings.com is a useful (free) tool in comparing colleges based on a wide array of factors (is the admission rate higher for men than women, how many sex offenses happened on campus last year, what is the school’s admissions yield, percentage of students from overseas, etc.). It is definitely worth a look. Or check out your alma mater to see how things have changed since you graduated.Customcollegerankings.com\

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Does your child enjoy math and like competing against others? The Caribou Mathematics Competition is a worldwide online contest held six times a year for grades 3 to 12. The cost is $12 to enter each year.cariboutests.com

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I am always on the lookout for great foreign language learning apps because the daily practice that these apps can provide is a great supplement to in-class learning. The teachthought.com website recommends newcomers HelloTalk, Memrise, busuu and Voxy for learning English, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, French and more. Most are free. http://tinyurl.com/qg2o7mp

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Study tips billed as the shortest, secret formula to getting good grades:
1. Go to every class.
2. Sit in the front row.
3. Spend at least two hours of study time in the library for every hour you have in class, every week.
4. Ask for help when you need it.
5. Repeat.
Source: CommunityCollegeSuccessblog.com

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Have you seen the hit new animated movie, “Big Hero 6?” We enjoyed it and it makes being an engineering nerd look incredibly compelling. If your child enjoyed it, make sure to check out this website where they explain how all the cool inventions were made.tinyurl.com/qjjc464

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There is a new font called Dyslexie, created by a Danish designer, that is thought to make it much easier for dyslexic students to read. We are trying it out at our house right now. Parents can download it for free at dyslexiefont.com and it took me less than a minute to get it listed as one of my choices in Microsoft Word going forward. It is compatible with most programs. www.dyslexiefont.com/en/dyslexia-font/

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Have you checked out Course Hero? This site enables students to browse millions of study resources, ask tutors for help and to share study materials with each other. The site claims that 93 percent of its members have earned better grades since joining. Some of the site is free, some parts have a cost. coursehero.com

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Has your child ever been deep into their homework, long past their bedtime when you realize you are out of graph paper, lined paper or music paper? The free Printable Paper website lets you print out 1,450 different sheets of paper. printablepaper.net

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There are more changes ahead for the AP courses offered to high school students nationwide. The College Board is in the process of revising many of its 36 courses. The goal is to cover†fewer topics, and reward imaginative thinking more than rote memorization. A new AP Biology course went into effect two years ago and the physics courses are different as of this fall. AP European History and AP Art History will be changed for next year. tinyurl.com/q5d5suf

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And in news from the College Board about the SAT test – it has been confirmed that the new, completely revamped SAT will be unveiled in spring 2016. Sorry sophomores!collegeboard.org/delivering-opportunity/sat/redesign

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As part of National Teen “Don’t Text and Drive” Week, Amica Insurance offers the following safety tips:
• Encourage teens to turn cell phone notifications off. If they can’t see or hear their phone go off, they will be less tempted to pick it up.
• Start a new rule: While driving, cell phones go in the backseat or another spot where they cannot be reached.
• Download an app that will temporarily disable the phone while driving (Live2Tsxt, DriveOFF and DriveScribe).
The app Canary goes one step further ñ it alerts you when your child is speeding or has traveled beyond a predefined area.

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Almost every grown up I can think of would enjoy the gift of a copy of the new book, “How We Learn” by New York Times reporter Benedict Carey. I heard him speak at an education conference at Stanford University last week and his engaging book provides a peek inside how our minds work and easy ways we can all learn and remember better. Brain science has come a long way in the last decade. I highly recommend it.

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I am not Catholic but I enjoyed Pope Francis’ tips on being a happier person, summarized here on the website The Higher Learning:
1. “Live and let live” – by this he basically means, “Move forward and let others do the same.}
2. “Be giving of yourself to others.” People need to be open and generous toward others, he said, because “if you withdraw into yourself, you run the risk of becoming egocentric. And stagnant water becomes putrid.”
3. “Proceed calmly” in life.
4. Pursue a healthy sense of leisure.
5. Sundays should be holidays. “Sunday is for family,” he said.
6. Find innovative ways to create dignified jobs for young people.
7. Respect and take care of nature.
8. Stop being negative. “Needing to talk badly about others indicates low self-esteem.”
9. Respect others’ beliefs. The church should grow by attraction, not proselytising, the Pope said.
10. Work for peace. “We are living in a time of many wars,” he said, and “the call for peace must be shouted.” (thehigherlearning.com)

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Virtual career fairs might sound dubious but the online textbook site Chegg builds a solid case for them being the wave of the future. At most college host career fairs, attendance tends to be limited to employers nearby. Chegg bills a virtual fair as speed dating with recruiters from all over. Students fill out profiles explaining who they are and what they are looking for in a career, recruiters specify the type of employee they are seeking. Then, in an eight-minute “chat,” recruiters and students meet, ask questions and share information – just like a regular career fair. Students can register with LinkedIn.http://goo.gl/qPQXSi

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The website CollegeMatchmaker has compiled a list of  “111 Ridiculously Awesome Full Tuition Scholarships.” I posted it in my education tips Facebook group (facebook.com/groups/156018021085044/) and one member quickly replied that her sister had gone to college for free thanks to one of the scholarships listed. It is absolutely worth a look if you have a high school student. http://tinyurl.com/l78nrw4

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According to the ACT (testing company), the greater your academic achievements, the farther from home you are likely to attend college. The study examined ACT scores of more than a million students in the high school graduating class of 2012, revealing that as scores went up, so did students’ distance from home. (Other studies have revealed a similar pattern for SAT scores.) They couldn’t say exactly why except that the higher your score, the more choices you have and the study also found that the higher the parents’ level of education, the farther away students went to attend college. http://goo.gl/qOg8sK

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While there is a lot of talk about how many international students now attend U.S. colleges, the fact is that currently only 4 percent of U.S. undergraduates are international students. At elite colleges, the undergraduate percentage is higher. For example, at UC Berkeley, almost 20 percent of the freshman class is comprised of international students. http://online.wsj.com/ (Source: UC Berkeley 2013-14 Common Data Set)

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If you continue to have questions about how the new Common Core State Standards are changing classroom instruction for your child, you might want to listen to the four-part National Public Radio series on reading in the age of the Common Core. The series highlights changes†in reading instruction brought on by the Common Core State Standards: an increased emphasis on evidence-based reading, writing and speaking; increased use of nonfiction; and a the effort to get students reading more “complex texts.” http://goo.gl/tmznSg

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My post was much delayed this month so I’ll be out with another one over the holidays.  Please go to www.educationroundupnational.com to sign up to receive these posts by email. And please forward this email to any friends who might enjoy it.  Happy Holidays!

Education Roundup XXVIII: free books, playing sports in college, budding artists, apps for toddlers, badges, standing desks

Here are some sobering statistics for high school athletes from the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) and the Department of Education:

• 59 percent of high school football and basketball players believe they will get a college scholarship.

• 98 out of 100 high school athletes never play collegiate sports of any kind at any level.

• Less than one out of every 100 high school athletes receive a scholarship of any kind to a Division I school.

According to their data, the hardest sport to play at the college level is basketball. The point of this is not to squash dreams, but to highlight the importance of athletes not neglecting their academics. Great data on this and more is at ncaa.org.

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Do you have a budding writer or artist in your house? There are a number of terrific places where students can submit art and writing to be published. These publications are real, not the kind that are out to get your money. For high school artists taking their work to the next step, aiming for publication can really make a difference with colleges. Information about the 16 or so places that publish student work appears at: cultofpedagogy.com/publish-student-art-writing/.

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The Maze Runner” by James Dashner is one of the most popular books for teens right now. Many students are scrambling to get a copy before the movie comes out later this month. Did you know that book and thousands of other popular titles are available at your local public library not only in print but also as an audiobook on CD, as a downloadable audiobook and as an ebook for readers like Kindles and iPads? Check out your library’s web site for details.

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Was the transition to school morning start schedules painful in your house? The American Academy of Pediatrics announced last week that it wants all U.S. middle and high schools to permanently delay their opening times to 8:30 a.m. or later. Currently, only 15 percent start after this time. Widespread sleep deprivation among teenagers coincides with the tendency of puberty to turn teens into night owls. A later start time has been shown to result in fewer car accidents, higher grades and test scores, and a lower risk of depression, moodiness and obesity. Studies have shown that 59 per cent of middle school students and 87 per cent of high school students aren’t getting the recommended 8.5 to 9.5 hours sleep on school nights. http://tinyurl.com/k3wz2fg

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The possible applications of 3-D printing seem truly endless and now the technology is being used to allow visually-impaired children to experience illustrated storybooks. The Tactile Picture Books Project at University of Colorado Boulder is creating versions of children’s books like Goodnight Moon and Harold and the Purple Crayon with 3-D images in place of typical illustrations. Visually impaired kids can feel the images and get the full experience of picture books. Eventually, parents will take pictures of pages from books and send them to a 3-D printer, and make their own copies of books tactile. http://tinyurl.com/mukkkyp

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Washington Monthly’ has a unique means of ranking colleges, focusing on “bang for the buck.” Check it out here:  http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/college_guide/2014.php

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In other college ranking news, the e-transcript web site Parchment has analyzed which colleges students tend not to say “no” to. It is called yield, as each college hopes that its offers of admissions yield a “yes” from accepted applicants (that they don’t choose to go elsewhere). The College Choice study is based on enrollment decisions from more than 27,000 U.S. in-bound college students at 700 universities. Stanford topped the list for the second consecutive year. One interesting trend was more students choosing military schools over Ivy League institutions, as the U.S. Air Force Academy ranked higher than Columbia, Brown and Dartmouth this year, perhaps suggesting the growing, undeniable appeal of a free education. parchment.com/c/college/college-rankings.php

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My book recommendation of the week?  I really enjoyed Dave Eggers’ new book “The Circle” (now in paperback) and recommend it as a great discussion starter for teens and parents. The plot centers on a young woman working at a Facebook/Google-like company that is secretly aiming for world domination.

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I was surprised to learn that 27 percent of children in the U.S. live apart from their fathers. If you are interested in the role of fathers, there is a great new book on the science of fatherhood by Paul Raeburn called “Do Fathers Matter?” Raeburn also writes the About Fathers blog at psychologytoday.com/blog/about-fathers.

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Here is a great quote on the value of arts education from Pixar President Ed Catmull:  “My view is that the purpose of art is not to teach us how to draw but how to see. To observe. That’s really what art is about.  When you take art classes you are observing the world. You’re capturing … you’re paying attention to what’s going on. And if you develop those skills of observation and seeing what’s going on, then that skill is useful in science. In medicine. And engineering. And that’s the value of it.”

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Apps are being created aimed at younger and younger children. Let’s Play is a free app for parents of ages 0 to 3 that suggests fun activities, organized by age and routine, to help support their young child’s early learning. zerotothree.com/tips-for-play

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Tween geeks perhaps can take comfort from a new study showing that tough times lie ahead later in life for the coolest kids in middle school. The study, published in the journal Child Development, followed socially precocious cool kids for a decade and found that their social status often plummeted in high school and they began struggling in many ways. It seems to be a student’s longing to impress friends and subsequent brazen behavior can lead to difficulties with intimate relationships, alcohol and marijuana. tinyurl.com/kdt89ut

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Sheet music can be expensive. Mutopiaproject.org offers arrangements of classical pieces for free download. The site offers 1,272 pieces that are in the public domain, including works by Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Handel, Mozart and many others for piano, guitar, cello, voice and more. http://www.mutopiaproject.org

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The free smartphone app Word Lens enables you to point your phone at a road sign or restaurant menu in another language and see an immediate translation from six languages, including Spanish. No Internet connection is needed. This would be handy when travelling but might also be fun to try out with your kids in restaurants.questvisual.com

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Teachers around the country are flocking to Google Classroom. This new tool for creating and managing online assignments may be the next big thing, particularly for Chromebook users. Google Apps for Education are really catching on – it is a platform for free, web-based email, calendar and documents for collaborative study anytime, anywhere. Imagine no more assignments left at home, no more excuses for not knowing what the homework is. google.com/apps/education.

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Did your student find the best part of girl scouts or boy scouts to be the badges? If so, they will absolutely love diy.org. The site offers badges for exploring interests and completing challenges. Whether your child is an actor, angler, animator, or an archer, an architect, an astronomer or an athlete – you get a sense of the fun from just the A category.

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Studies of students who transfer between two-year colleges and between two and four year colleges have found that 39 percent of transferring students lost all their credits in the switch, and 28 percent were only able to transfer some credits. The takeaway for me was that students interested in transferring should get qualified help and advice early in the process, and only take courses at fully accredited institutions. Source: National Center for Education Statistics.

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It is a popular classroom tool right now for teachers to ask students to instruct each other on material learned in class. Studies have found that even just telling a student that they will later be teaching the information changes their mindset enough so that they learn and recall better. http://tinyurl.com/k5s3t6f

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Schools across the country are adding standing desks as a means of increasing alertness and fighting childhood obesity. More than one third of American kids are now overweight or obese according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A research team out of Texas A&M found that students in standing-desk classrooms love them and burned more calories per hour than sitting students. Teachers loved the desks, seeing greater focus, improved student behavior and classroom performance. The study was funded by United Way and the CDC and was published in the American Journal of Public Health. Researchers expect standing desks to be more common in classrooms in the next three to five years.

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OK, here is my App of the Week: Bookster is a free, read-along storytelling app that reads to your kids, records and plays their voices, and teaches vocabulary along the way. It has turn-able pages that let kids move at their own pace, and the pages are interactive with tap-able words. It is easy to use and seems quite engaging. imaginelearning.com/programs/bookster/

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Education Roundup XXVII

According to The Wall Street Journal, new research suggests that a summer internship helps a student’s career prospects more than perhaps anything else in their college years. In research conducted with potential employers, the study found that majors didn’t matter, a higher GPA didn’t matter much, all that really seemed to matter from the college years was whether students had a summer internship (work experience). Reporter Brett Arends said, “Candidates whose résumés could point to pre-graduation work experience in the industry they were applying for were 14 percent more likely to get an interview. An English major with an average GPA and a summer internship in a bank was more likely to get a job interview at a bank than an outstanding finance major who spent the summer touring Europe.” Read more here.

Ready for some good news? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released a comprehensive report that shows that teens are behaving better today than any other time since the federal government began collecting data. Teen pregnancy is way down and high school seniors are drinking less, smoking less, barely using cocaine and they are exercising more. http://tiny.cc/d0m3gx

According to Ed Surge magazine, today’s college students arrive on campus with an average of seven devices AND 80 percent of these students will carry and use a mobile phone every waking hour of the day. While the device count includes phones, tablets, e-readers, TVs, printers, laptops, game consoles, video cameras, etc. I still found the number disturbing. http://tinyurl.com/l3hk2kv

New research published in an academic journal about sleep has found that college students who are poor sleepers are more likely to earn worse grades than healthy sleeping peers. The study also found that sleep problems have about the same impact on a student’s GPA as binge drinking and marijuana use.http://tinyurl.com/m9tdewr

If you get annoyed by people who confuse their and there, you will love the free new website quill.orgTeachers can also sign up their class and monitor student progress. The site provides fun editing challenges and it covers all of the grammar concepts from the Common Core State Standards for grades 1 through 8.

Do you have a teen or pre-teen who has trouble staying organized? Suzanne Shaffer (Countdown to College) suggest a few apps to help:

1. Evernote. Create virtual notebooks, organize important deadlines and track key documents.

2. GoogleDrive. Create documents, spreadsheets, and presentations and collaborate with others in real time. You can access your documents anytime, and all changes are saved automatically. There isn’t even a save button.

3. Remember the Milk. To do lists with priorities, due dates, time estimates, repeating lists, tags. Get reminders via email or text.

4. inClass. Keeps track of classes and homework and organizes video notes, audio notes, photo notes.

          And she recommends these free apps to help students prep for college:

1. Evernote.  Takes notes, captures photos, creates to-do lists, records voice reminders – and makes these notes completely searchable across all your devices.

2. Find colleges.  Search for information about U.S. colleges and universities.

3. Collegeconfidential.  Read and interact with other users on topics like financial aid, college life, test preparation and more.

4. Quad2Quad.  Curate and assemble the most important college data.

5. College visits.  Search and find schools to add to your list, rate your college visits, keep personal notes on each visit.

6. SAT question of the day.  Real SAT questions and SAT preparation materials from the test maker.

7. StudyBlue.  Review class notes or make flashcards whenever you have a minute to spare.

8. Khan Academy.  More than 4,200 videos on a massive number of topics.

9. Scholarship advisor.  Find money for college.

10. Scholarships.com.  A database of 2.7 million local, state and national college scholarships.

Teens seem to think that borrowing or buying “smart drugs” – ADD and ADHD medicines like Ritalin and Adderall – is not a big deal, but studies are finding that the possible short-term boost in mental performance may come at the cost of a long-term decrease in brain plasticity, which is necessary for task switching, planning ahead and behavioral flexibility. http://tinyurl.com/kgstq9z

A recent study suggests that students who work or study abroad are “smarter.” Students become more open minded when they live abroad and researchers have found that these students are better able to make connections among disparate ideas. Research has also found that the more engaged a student is in multicultural pursuits, the more job offers they receive after their program ends.  http://tinyurl.com/lpuccuw

According to a recent article in the New York Times, new data proves that college is worth the investment and in fact has never before been more valuable. There was been a lot written about the rising cost of college, but according to MIT economists, the true cost of a college degree today is about negative $500,000 – not going to college will cost about half-million dollars. The pay gap between college graduates and non-grads reached a record high last year, according to Labor Dept. statistics. Americans with four-year college degrees made 98 percent more an hour on average in 2013 than people without a four-year degree. That’s up from 64 percent in the early 1980s. Said reporter David Leonhardt, “College debt may still be a real fear and hardship, but it’s a relatively small cost in the long term. The average $25,000 in student debt doesn’t hold a candle to the $500,000 to be made over a lifetime.” http://tinyurl.com/pabbakr

Stanford University’s d.school is re-imagining a college education. “What if you were admitted to college not for four years at age 18, but for six years you could use at any time in your life? What if you declared a “mission” rather than a major? What if your transcript displayed not the courses you have taken, but the skills and ideas you have put to work in the world?” This is the first time the university’s famous d.school has applied its “design thinking” processes to the undergraduate experience. The results should be interesting. http://tinyurl.com/lvls44l

News coming out of a related study: less than 2 percent of U.S. employers said they actively recruit liberal arts majors, and most companies feel that cultural fit is more important than GPA when deciding on new hires. Employers said that they have the most openings for engineering and computer information systems majors, followed by jobs for those in medicine and nursing. http://tinyurl.com/nxrwyxf

Scholastic’s Teachers website offers forth some great ideas to encourage children to read over the summer:

Join a library summer reading program (the competition, log and incentives can encourage children).

Create a calendar with fun activities for students to complete while reading (examples: make a tent and read under it, read to a pet, read to the oldest or youn­gest person you know).

Launch a summer book club. Read the first book of an engaging series, as the summer is a good time to pursue a complete series.

Plan a book swap.  Ask everyone to bring books they are done with and trade books as well as recommendations.

Try out an audio book with babies and toddlers, as well as with children and teens.  Play the book during naptime or convince your teen to try exercising or doing chores to a book instead of music.

In a novel idea for a reading contest this summer, The New York Times will ask teens, “What interested you most in the paper this week?” Anyone 13 to 19 years old can post an answer, and every Tuesday winners will be published on the blog The Learning Network, and all related posts are accessible without a digital subscription. http://tinyurl.com/lj25h5t.

A student blogger recently posted tips on how to stay focused in class for students of all ages:

– Practice active listening and take notes.

‘;l– Sit in the front section of the room.

– Sit in the same seat every day (It will help you to remember what you learned in the class).

– Avoid sitting in the same seat for multiple classes.

– Participate in class.

Read his full explanations at http://tinyurl.com/kv27ycp.

As you search for summer reading, movies and websites to amuse your children, don’t forget to check out Common Sense Media. The site can help you find age-appropriate movies, books, apps, TV shows, video games, websites and music with more than 20,000 reviews by age, entertainment type, learning rating and genre. commonsensemedia.org

There is a 99-cent app that might get your kids outside. When you hold The Night Sky app up to the sky, the app identifies the names of the planets, stars and constellations.

There have been interesting shifts in undergraduates’ choices of majors over time, and the shifts don’t really reflect where the jobs are. Among the majors less popular since 1970: education (down from 21 percent of degrees awarded to 5.9 percent in 2011-12); English (7.6 percent to 3 percent); social studies and history (18.5 percent to 10 percent); math and statistics (3 percent to 1 percent); physical sciences and science technologies (2.5 percent to 1.5 percent); and foreign languages, literatures and linguistics (2.5 percent to 1.2 percent). The majors that have gained the most share: business (13.7 percent in 1970-71 up to 20 percent in 2011-12); health professions (3 percent to 9.1 percent); and communication and journalism (1.2 percent to 4.7 percent). http://tinyurl.com/mepem2v

In related news, very few of America’s new teachers took undergraduate coursework in teaching. Today, only around half of all new teachers have an undergraduate teaching degree versus 88 percent prior to 1980. According to the National Center for Education Information, the teaching force is changing due to an influx of people from non-traditional backgrounds. America’s teachers are still mostly white and female (the share of men in the profession fell from 31 to 16 percent over the last 25 years) but they’re getting younger, and studies are finding that they are more open to school reform initiatives, like eliminating under-performing teachers and tying pay to students’ test scores. http://ht.ly/wdR2C

Fewer teens are having babies (or abortions). Teen pregnancies, births and abortions have dropped to new lows. In 2010, among teens age 15 to 19, pregnancies are down 51 percent from the peak in 1990. While teen pregnancies declined in all 50 states, New Mexico has the highest rate and New Hampshire the lowest.

I was surprised to learn that only 15 percent of current college students are between the traditional ages of 18 and 22, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. My perception of college is out-of-date with today’s reality. This demographic shift is one of the reasons that the entire notion of how higher education is delivered is being reexamined.

I read a helpful article recently on red flags to look for in teens that might indicate depression, drug use or just general cause for concern. Some are obvious (excessive moodiness, social isolation) but others less so (changes in eating or sleeping patterns, unexplained aches and pains). The complete list and accompanying discussion is helpful. http://tinyurl.com/lqmjo7b

It can be hard for teens to ask for help in person. Crisis Text Line is a new free service designed to help teens through their hardest times: family issues, stress or suicidal thoughts. Trained counselors text back and forth with advice and resources. Teens text “LISTEN” to 741-741. crisistextline.org

Ben Carpenter is author of “The Bigs: The Secrets Nobody Tells Students and Young Professionals About How to Find a Great Job, Do a Great Job, Start a Business, and Live a Happy Life.” http://tinyurl.com/lf8k5k9. He offers 22 pieces of advice as students look toward the future:

• Do what you’re good at.

• Try out different fields when you’re young.

• Always ask yourself, What’s my edge?

• Think of your boss and your company before yourself.

• Be creative and bold.

• Comfort and success rarely go hand in hand.

• Stay in the driver’s seat of your career.

• Don’t agree to anything you don’t fully understand.

• When you’re upset, choose to look forward, not back.

• Learn to appreciate diverse work styles.

• Know when to look after your own interests.

• Own your mistakes.

• Be a good steward of the “little” things.

• If you want to be a leader, act like one.

• Do what you say you’re going to do, when you say you’re going to do it.

• Don’t let anyone have anything negative to say about you.

• Don’t complain about your job to your coworkers.

• A single act can ruin your great reputation.

• Don’t pick fights you can’t win.

• Don’t badmouth your coworkers.

• Live within your means.

• Don’t forget to have fun.

Kitestring is a new, free service that alerts your emergency contacts if you don’t respond to its check-ups. The website was founded by an MIT grad student who was worried about his girlfriend traveling alone. Here’s how it works: You or your child start a trip on Kitestring (either on the website or via SMS), and the site texts you later to make sure you’re OK. Reply to the message within five minutes and all is well. If you don’t check in, they alert your emergency contacts that you set up ahead of time. Of course, you can always extend your ETA or check in early. www.kitestring.io

According to the U.S. Department of Education, only 59 percent of full-time, first-time students, who began seeking a bachelor’s degree at a four-year institution in fall 2005, completed the degree at that institution within six years. Students assume they will complete college in four years, and calculate tuition based on that assumption, but the numbers suggest that finishing in four years is unlikely for many. nces.ed.gov/

Researchers at Stanford have found that walking boosts creativity. A person’s creative output increases by an average of 60 percent when walking, as opposed to sitting. Facebook and Apple executives are famous for meeting while walking, which now doesn’t seem so crazy. Indoors vs. outdoors does not matter. news.stanford.edu/news/2014/april/walking-vs-sitting-042414.html

All the rage among teens across the country is a new game you play on your phone called 2048. My teens love it. Beating the game involves math and strategy. It is better than the pointless Candy Crush type apps, but equally addictive. tinyurl.com/qehy38n

Most people agree that apprenticeships are the best way to get employees the skills that companies seek, but apprentice programs have been declining in the U.S. while growing more common in other countries. In Germany for example, there are 17.4 apprentices per 1,000 people, while in the U.S. there are currently 0.9. According to the Department of Labor, formal programs that combine on the job learning with mentorships and classroom education fell 40 percent between 2003 and 2013. Earlier this month, President Obama set aside $100 million to encourage apprenticeships in high-growth industries. Maybe that will help.

The rising cost of college tuition is a hot topic, but only a third of all students at four-year public and private schools actually pay the published price at a college. For the typical student at a private nonprofit college, the net cost of school is less than half the sticker price. While the sticker price at public colleges grew more than 35 percent over the past 10 years, the average out-of-pocket costs for your typical student only grew by 16 percent. At private, nonprofit four-year universities, it was even less. tinyurl.com/ksk7yca

For the first time, more Latino than white California students have been offered admission to attend the University of California system as freshmen. For next year, around 29 percent of students admitted to a UC campus will be Hispanic, compared to about 27 percent white. Asian students still made up the largest group admitted, at 36 percent.

In related demographic news, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, over the next ten or so years there will be a 16 percent decrease in white students but a 23 percent increase in Asian students and a 64 percent increase in Hispanic students who graduate from high school. http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2014/2014051.pdf

Need five good reasons to take your child to the library? Christine French Cully, editor of Highlights magazine, offers these:

Regular visits to the library inevitably lead to more reading.

When you visit the library, you expose your child to more books and magazines than you can afford to buy.

Your local librarian can recommend books that you might not think to suggest, broadening your child’s tastes, mind and vocabulary.

Library time is active, not passive.

Owning a library card teaches kids responsibility.

Read the complete list at http://tinyurl.com/ktz266h and visit your local library.

For what it’s worth, the new ranking of the best public high schools in America is out, courtesy of U.S. News & World ReportThe methodology is “based on the key principles that a great high school must serve all of its students well, not just those who are college bound, and that it must be able to produce measurable academic outcomes to show the school is successfully educating its student body across a range of performance indicators.”  http://www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools/national-rankings

Every Apple computer store will now recycle any old Apple product for free. They will also hand you a gift card if you turn in something that they think they can resell. Announcement of the new initiative was timed to Earth Day.

The Department of Education offers a handful of tips for anyone who is taking out or currently had a student loan:

Keep close track of what you are borrowing (detailed records of the different loans, repayment dates and interest rates).  At nslds.ed.gov, select “Financial Aid Review,” log in, and view all federal student loans in one place.

Make interest payments while still in school. Even though a grace period is available, if you have a part-time job in school, paying back at least some of your student loan interest while you’re in school can save you a lot of money in the long run.

Keep your loan servicer in the loop. Make sure they always have up-to-date contact info for you.

Figure out what your monthly loan payments are going to be before you go into repayment. The same website above has a repayment estimator that allows you to pull in your federal student loan information and compare what your monthly payments would be under the different repayment plans that are offered.

A new study has found that the longer kids spend watching television, the less sleep they get, according to Mass General Hospital for Children and Harvard School of Public Health.Young children who had a TV in their room lost an average of 30 minutes of sleep a night. Previous research has found that even a slight lack of sleep can have repercussions on behavior, learning ability and memory. http://tinyurl.com/olzmpug

Based on the sample questions released last week, it looks like the new SAT will be a harder test. In addition, math will now account for half of a student’s score (800 out of 1600 points) and calculators will no longer be allowed. Students will begin taking the test in spring 2016. You can look at the sample questions at College Board’s site, deliveringopportunity.org.

A mobile app to help combat jet-lag was released recently by mathematicians who have found a way to help travelers better adjust to new time zones. “Overcoming jet lag is fundamentally a math problem and we’ve calculated the optimal way of doing it,” said Danny Forger, a math professor at the University of Michigan. The free iPhone app, called Entrain, is perhaps the first to take a mathematical approach to “entrainment,” the scientific term for synchronizing circadian rhythms with the outside hour. The researcher/developers calculate ideal light adjustment schedules for more than 1,000 possible trips, a specialized plan and predict how long it will you take to adjust. entrain.math.lsa.umich.edu

A new study has shown that using marijuana even just a few times a week may be enough to cause damage (The Journal of Neuroscience). It turns out that not much research had previously focused on casual pot smoking (fewer than four times a week) but researchers at Northwestern and Harvard in this small study found volume, shape and density changes in two crucial brain areas that control emotion and motivation, and some types of mental illness are affected by even infrequent pot smoking. The more marijuana the students smoked, the more their brains differed from the non-users. As a result, researchers now say they are very concerned about the long-term impacts of even minor marijuana use on the developing brain. http://tinyurl.com/lgdcp5x.

Scientists seem to agree that green tea has many positive effects on health, including enhanced cognitive functions, in particular the working memory. Researchers also think that green tea may help treat cognitive impairments in psychiatric disorders such as dementia. http://tinyurl.com/kxy59l4.

“In the past generation, the rising preoccupation with children’s safety has transformed childhood, stripping it of independence, risk taking and discovery. What’s been gained is unclear: rates of injury have remained fairly steady since the 1970s, and abduction by strangers was as rare then as it is now. What’s been lost is creativity, passion and courage” – said author Hanna Rosin in a recent cover story in The Atlantic titled, “The Overprotected Kid.” She goes on to say that playgrounds are so safe they are boring, and to quote Ellen Sandester, who said, “When (children) are left alone and can take full responsibility for their actions, and the consequences of their decisions, it’s a thrilling experience.”

Please do recommend this site to others who might be interested and send any interesting news you see my way at lornasheridan@gmail.com.  Happy summer!

Education Roundup XXVI (links fixed)

You have likely seen age progression drawings in news coverage about missing children. Well, Google and Intel have funded the development of a new computer program that seems able to accurately age a small child so that families will soon be able to quickly and inexpensively know what their kindergartner will look like as an adult. For some reason, I find this very disturbing and sad.

Does it make you cry to calculate how much you have spent on LEGOs for your child over the years? A company called Pley is offering Netflix-type subscriptions for LEGOs. Unlimited rolling access to the large LEGO sets is $39 a month, $25 for medium sets and $15 a month for small sets. Why is this such a good idea? Well, LEGO sets are expensive to buy and it is the building, not the owning of the sets that is fun for children. Pley says it will sanitize each set before sending it out and weigh each package to detect missing pieces. Customers can lose up to 15 pieces without incurring any penalty. pley.com.

Is your child more likely to pick up a book than a LEGO? A new service offers children 12 and under a monthly library of more than 2,000 books available on the iPad for $9.95 a month. The company’s mission is to encourage kids to use iPads for something other than games. For adults, there is already Oyster, an e-book service aimed at adults for $9.95 a month. Meanwhile, Amazon has Kindle Free Time Unlimited that gives families unlimited access to e-books, movies, TV shows, educational apps and games aimed at the under 8 crowd.

 In researching her latest book, author Jessica Lahey asked countless teachers, “What one thing would you want your students’ parents to know?” The same five points came up over and over again:

1. Your kids can do much more than you think they can do.

2. It’s not healthy to give your child constant feedback.

3. We promise not to believe everything your child says happens at home if you promise not to believe everything your child says happens in our classrooms.

4. Your children learn and act according to what you do, not what you say.

5. Teach your children that mistakes aren’t signs of weakness but a vital part of growth and learning.

Her complete write-up on this at tinyurl.com/q92aruk is excellent. Her book, “The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed,” comes out next year.

If you think that computer science should count toward graduation as either a math or a science credit (it does not currently in most states), then visit code.org/action/make-cs-count, to sign a petition now. 

In what is sure to be the wave of the future, Stanford University last week announced what it called a “re-imagining of the humanities.” Stanford has created two new “joint majors” that will allow students to earn a bachelor of arts and science in one of two combinations – computer science and English, or computer science and music. The school hopes to redefine what it means to experience a broad liberal education in the 21st century.http://tinyurl.com/m7b49w7

Babies and young children make giant developmental leaps all of the time and it turns out that napping plays a crucial role. Sometimes it seems like babies make huge strides in development overnight. New research has found that infants who nap are better able to gain new skills, and preschoolers are better able to retain learned knowledge, after napping (bonus – mom gets a much-needed break). http://tinyurl.com/moab8ju

Parents have a lot of questions about the new SAT, even though it is not going to be unveiled until 2016. You can see some sample questions here.  To summarize what is known at this time:

• Vocabulary will focus on words widely used in college and career.

• Students will be asked to use source documents to support answers.

• There will be an optional essay, measuring ability to analyze evidence and build an argument.

• The math section will focus on topics that contribute to college and career training.  Math will account for half of the total score instead of 1/3.

• New questions will ask students to analyze text and data.

• Each exam will include passages drawn from either founding documents or key global writings.

• Wrong answers will no longer cause score deductions.

Georgetown professor and MIT Ph.D. Cal Newport predicts that the ability to get and stay focused will be the superpower of the 21st century. He writes a popular blog called Study Hack, and he suggests five tips to improve your attention span:

• Reduce stress, as it makes you frazzled and stupid.

• Work during your prime hours.

•  Dedicate true blocks of time to a project.

• Do one thing at a time.

• Meditation is weight lifting for your attention span.

More specific suggestions can be found at calnewport.com/blog.

Don’t forget that your public library card can get you and your children free or discounted passes to most of your area attractions (children’s museums, science museums, etc.)  You must usually obtain the passes in advance, at your library or online. You need your library number and you can use your last name as your PIN.

Did you know that you are able to lend any book you have purchased for your Kindle or Nook to another person for up to 14 days? Each book may be lent once to anyone else with the same type of device.

Without question, keyboard skills are increasingly important for students. There is no need to buy an expensive typing program as there are many great free typing games available. For beginners, try KeyMan and KeyBricks. For students who can identify the keys on the keyboard, try Trash Typer, Alpha Attack. To increase speed, try Desert Typing Racer, Typing Chef and Spacebar Invaders.

UCLA received a record high 99,559 undergraduate applications this year (including 19,087 transfer-student applications) – more than any four-year university in the country. For specifics on UCLA and other colleges’ admissions figures, visit thechoice.blogs.nytimes.com.

A poll by Scholastic and the Gates Foundation found that the top five websites used by teachers are: You Tube, Discovery, Scholastic, PBS and Pinterest. Ninety-one percent of teachers use websites to find or share lesson plans, 65 percent to gain professional advice and support and 57 percent to collaborate with teachers they wouldn’t otherwise know.

Khan Academy now offers free Common Core-aligned, adaptive math exercises. Thousands of new, interactive math problems are fully aligned to every standard from K-12 and will be much more similar to what Sonoma students will see on future assessments. The math problems focus on conceptual understanding, procedural fluency, and real-world application – and they were created and reviewed by 40 math educators. If you are eager to prevent summer slide with your student, this might be a good first stop – khanacademy.org/commoncore.

Autism diagnoses are up 30 percent in the last year alone. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that one in 68 children have autism spectrum disorders. The CDC added that the criteria used to diagnose, treat and provide services have not changed. The study focused on “peak age of identification,” which is age 8. You can read more at tinyurl.com/kk8x444.

There is a new free app for mobile devices that enables people to evaluate their abilities to perceive, understand and control emotions. The MEIT test (Mobile Emotional Intelligence Test) is a skill test to evaluate the ability to perceive emotions, the understanding of these emotions and the ability to manage them. emotional-apps.com.

Sleep is so important for teens. Youth athletes who sleep eight or more hours each night are 68 percent less likely to get injured, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Hanging out at the Google lounge at the SXSWEdu conference, I fell in love with the new, white 11-inch Google Chromebook. Besides being a great-looking and inexpensive device at $259, I am thinking there may be advantages to having the same device for home use that a student uses at school.

Despite what feels like significant evidence to the contrary, a new study suggests that our children have no more homework today than we had in 1984. The Brown Center on American Education found that the percentage of 17-year-olds who say they have more than two hours of homework each night has remained unchanged over the past 30 years at 13 percent. Backing up the finding is a UCLA study that found the number of seniors who said they had more than six hours of homework a week dropped from 50 percent in 1986 to 38 percent in 2012. http://time.com/28433/brookings-institute-study-30-years-unchanged/

A number of studies in recent years have attempted to clarify what makes someone mentally tough. A cognitive psychologist boiled down the findings to 12 key attributes of mental toughness in sport, ranked in order of importance:

• Unshakeable self-belief in your ability to achieve competition goals.

• Unshakeable self-belief that you possess unique qualities and abilities that make you better than your opponents.

• Insatiable desire and internalized motives to succeed.

• Remaining fully focused on the task at hand in the face of competition-specific distractions.

• Regaining psychological control following unexpected, uncontrollable events.

• Pushing back the boundaries of physical and emotional pain, while still maintaining technique and effort under distress during training and competition.

• Accepting that competition anxiety is inevitable and knowing that you can cope with it.

• Not being adversely affected by other’s good and bad performances.

• Thriving on the pressure of competition.

• Remaining fully focused in the face of personal life distractions.

• Switching sport focus on and off as required.

I found these relevant for everyone, not just athletes. Read the complete piece at Scientific American at linkis.com/com/l7UhQ

Should would-be parents be able to “design” their perfect baby? “Preventing a lethal disease is one thing; choosing the traits we desire is quite another,” suggested Thomas H. Murray in a commentary in Sciencemagazine. New techniques are making it possible for parents to do more than screen for lethal diseases. Interestingly, sex selection is prohibited in at least 36 countries, but not in the U.S. http://tinyurl.com/llhp53w

Up on my Facebook page recently popped a photo of an annoyed teenage girl holding a handmade sign that read, “Mom is trying to show me how many people can see a photo once it’s on the Internet.” The photo was dated March 18, 2014. By the time I came across it that same evening, 1.2 million Facebook users had “liked” it, I assume in support of the mom making a good point about her daughter needing to be careful with what she posts online.

K-12 teachers can request free classroom online and print edition subscriptions to USA Today. Grants are awarded on a first come, first serve basis. usatodayeducation.com/k12/usa-today-education-grant-request.

Have you ever said to your son, “Be a man!?” Jennifer Newsome’s newest project is a documentary film called “The Mask You Live In,” which explores how we are failing our boys every time we urge them to “be a man.” Why is she so worried? “Compared to girls, research shows that boys in the U.S. are more likely to be diagnosed with a behavior disorder, prescribed stimulant medications, fail out of school, binge drink, commit a violent crime, and/or take their own lives.” Source: therepresentationproject.org/films/the-mask-you-live-in/.

How about a free app that helps your child to explore different careers? Build Your Future allows students to explore 100 careers; determine what levels of education are required and learn about potential salaries. Teens are given a Return on Investment (ROI) score between 1 and 5 for various careers. A score of 1 means it will be difficult to pay off the debt accrued based on future income; a score of 5 means they should have no problem paying off debt with estimated future income.

Children from families with regular family routines exhibit greater social-emotional health, according to researchers.Specific results showed that children who participate in five weekly family routines are more than twice as likely to have high SEH and for each additional routine that a parent and child do together, there is an almost 50 percent greater likelihood of having high SEH. Routines include eating dinner together, singing songs, reading books, telling stories and playtime. http://tinyurl.com/mzp6e9u

A study out of Berkeley has found that preschoolers can do a better job of figuring out unusual gadgets and toys than college students, perhaps because their brains are more flexible and less rigid about cause and effect. http://tinyurl.com/m243qx3

Author Hilary Wice has spent the last year researching and writing a book about the six key character strengths that children need to live happy, successful lives. Number one? A love of life. Two through six? Resilience, courage, kindness, honesty and self-control. You can read the thinking behind her research at http://tinyurl.com/mlljxva

I am a big fan of the new College App Map. Students and parents can click on a grade level and, for example, see all the resources that a sophomore might find useful with regard to testing, researching colleges and researching career paths. collegeappmap.org.

I can’t say for sure how well it works, but the free website admitted.ly allows students to take fun personality quizzes and get matched to colleges that are supposedly ideal for their personality, interests and goals.

I read an article recently on the benefits of foreign films for instilling global citizenship in our children/teens. I can be hard to choose the right films because many aren’t rated or widely reviewed. Here are six that are highly recommended by Homa Tavangar, the author “Growing Up Global”:

“Ponyo” (all ages) – Japan

“My Neighbor Totoro” (all ages) – Japan

“Like Stars on Earth” (“Taare Zameen Par”) (all ages) – India

“The Red Balloon” (all ages) – France

“The Cave of the Yellow Dog” (age 7 and up) – Mongolia

“The Story of the Weeping Camel” (age 7 and up) – Mongolia

There were two big announcements last week concerning SAT testing for college. First, there will be sweeping changes to the SAT, taking effect in two years (2016). Scoring will go back to 1600 from 2400, the writing section will no longer be required and the content of the questions will be different, and more aligned to the new Common Core State Standards. Also, the College Board, which administers the SAT, announced a major partnership with Khan Academy to offer completely free SAT prep to all students to level the playing field for low-income students who can’t afford prep classes. http://tinyurl.com/mwkr7hv

Did you know that Amazon.com will give a percentage (.05 percent) of every purchase you make to the nonprofit of your choice? I signed on the moment I heard about it. The program is called Amazon Smiles, most purchases qualify, and you can sign up quickly and easily at smile.amazon.com. After you sign up, the donations are automatic.

I played a crazy new video game on my phone recently that teens might just enjoy. The free app, developed by an ex-con who went on to graduate from the University of Texas, is called SaulPaul’s Dream in 3D. A young guy runs through the halls of his high school dodging babies (who symbolize teen pregnancy), liquor bottles and pill bottles. The babies cling to your legs and slow down your progress (my favorite part) and the liquor makes you weave so you can’t move as accurately and the pills kill you if you don’t avoid them. There isn’t a lot more to it than that but that didn’t stop Flappy Bird from being a hit. http://wedreamin3d.com/

I saw two documentaries at SXSWEdu that I highly recommend (available On Demand or online). Both could be watched by all ages. “American Promise” follows two African American boys from age 5 to 18, navigating life at an elite private school in New York City. The other, “Ivory Tower,” is a fascinating look at the insanely high cost of college, and whether today’s students are really getting anything out of college (spoiler – some really are, some are totally wasting their parents’ money). I also saw the documentary, “Girl Rising,” but I didn’t love it. I am all for improving girls’ access to education worldwide but the hyper-stylization of the film really bugged me. If you loved it, let me know.

TED Talks can be fun for the entire family (7 and up perhaps) and spark great discussions. Blogger Travis Wright is striving to watch every TED Talk (there are thousands now). He recently created a list of “12 seminal TED Talks that every human being should watch.” Why bother? He describes TED Talks as, “the greatest repository of speeches and presentations by the most brilliant minds, most fascinating people, education radicals, tech geniuses, medical mavericks, business gurus and music legends of our time.” http://technorati.com/technology/article/12-ted-talks-that-every-human/

While we are only now getting our winter, now is the time for students to apply to summer programs. I have assembled a database of ideas of low-cost programs for students ages 12 to 21 that can be found on my website at: educationroundupnational.com or http://tinyurl.com/mgve58c.

If you have a smart phone, you have likely heard of Flappy Bird, the app that challenges players to guide a little bird through an obstacle course of vertical pipes. It was a huge hit before the creator stopped offering new downloads. Code.org has resurrected Flappy Bird with a free tutorial that allows kids to code their very own version of the game.

Studies show that we can train our minds to be happy or unhappy. Furthermore, careers such as accounting and law that focus on catching mistakes and errors can result in a pervasive pessimism that carries over into one’s personal life. Eric Barker writes in The Week that you must teach your brain to seek out the good things in life. Specifically, he suggests that listing three things you are thankful for each day can make a big difference. He also says that one of the reasons old people are happier is because they remember the good and forget the bad. http://m.theweek.com/article.php?id=256206

It is hard to sustain optimism about the state of education today when I spend my days reading articles like: “What’s Holding Back American Teenagers?: Our high schools are a disaster.”This recent piece in Slate by a psychology professor (Laurence Stein) who has written extensively about teens, states, “It’s not just No Child Left Behind or Race to the Top that has failed our adolescents – it’s every single thing we have tried. The list of unsuccessful experiments is long and dispiriting … Over the past 40 years, despite endless debates about curricula, testing, teacher training, teachers’ salaries and performance standards, and despite billions of dollars invested in school reform, there has been no improvement – none – in the academic proficiency of American high school students.” http://tinyurl.com/mjaa3jp

The blogger Emily Mendell has compiled a list of 31 things that your son (or daughter) should be able to do on their own before heading off for college. Rather than make you click a link, here is the complete list: Write a check; pay a bill; make travel arrangements; navigate an airport, train or bus station; deal with a canceled flight; take a taxi; catch the subway; plunge a toilet; change a tire; check the oil; shave with a razor; withdraw cash from an ATM; pay for dinner; self-prescribe over-the-counter meds; call a doctor; cook a meal; cancel a membership; buy clothes; return a purchase; pack a suitcase (without inspection); do the laundry; iron a shirt; go food shopping for themselves; negotiate a deal; make hospital corners; sew a button; remove a stain; replace a fuse; remove a splinter; enjoy a drink responsibly; and say “no” with confidence.

I have been slow to get on the all-organic bandwagon but a recent report by CNN has done the trick. Scientists (including finally the FDA) are now suggesting that certain chemicals may be triggering the recent increases in neuro-developmental disabilities among children – such as autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and dyslexia. Harvard researchers say a new global strategy to control the use of these substances is urgently needed. The list of suspected chemicals is a long one. You really need to read the full article yourself here: http://tinyurl.com/kqv26xn

My kids can’t live without Quizlet. This online learning tool was created by a high school sophomore in Albany, and it is now perhaps the most popular study tool out there. Students can create or share flashcards, track their progress and give themselves graded quizzes. Best of all, it is free. Quizlet.com

Signing on to a college’s Pinterest account is a fun way for potential and future students to learn more about a school.Check out Chapman University’s page to get an idea of what I mean: pinterest.com/chapmanu/

Does your middle-school daughter or her friend ever use baby talk? Why do girls do that? A former teacher writing for The Atlanticfeels it is crucial for teachers to discourage this trend before it becomes a habit. She writes about them developing their outer voices – the ones the world will hear and judge as girls make their way out there.http://tinyurl.com/mvkjsf5

Finally,  interested in what the classroom of the future will be like?  Read the feature story I wrote about the SXSWEdu conference in Austin.  Education technology is completely transforming our children’s education!

Please share this post with friends!  

Revised: Meaningful/Enriching Summer Programs On A Shoestring (for ages 12-25)

I know that summer just ended but I have gotten a lot of questions about summer programs so here are new listings and revised links. Some of these programs change their web site addresses annually. If the link I provide doesn’t work, don’t give up, just google the program name and let me know. If you would like me to delve into new areas, send me a request.

Free programs are great not only because they are free (!) but they tend also to be much more impressive to colleges (because they tend to be selective). The best ones (free and selective) require applications prior to Christmas.

My rule of thumb for what constitutes a good value is a sleepaway/residential program that is FREE or less than $750/week… so I have about 30 here that are FREE and then the others are around $500 for the week (or less).  I have tried to group them by category, please scroll to the very bottom to see them all.  Comment with any that I might have missed. I apologize if any prices have changed since I gathered the data.

OUTDOORS

Appalachian Mountain Club Trail Crew -- My son did this and loved it. Kids 15+ can get work experience and/or volunteer hours working with other teens on the AT.  The cost is around $280 a week.  They live in tents and food, etc. is provided. Locations in MA , NH and ME but teens from all over are welcome.  The cost is tax-deductible.

Habitat for Humanity offers 7-10 day Learn & Build project trips for $550 (also tax-deductible) for teens ages 16-18.  You choose your job site building houses and living with your team.  You need to get yourself to the site but there is likely to be one near you. My son did this in Milwaukeee last year and loved it.

The National Park Service has a Youth Conservation Corps. program where teens spend 8-10 weeks living at a National Park site, working for pay on the trails with other teens.

The Student Conservation Assoc. invites students  ages 15-19 to work on a National Crew from 3-5 weeks at a key national Park Service site somewhere in the country. The crew lives in tents and cooks their own meals. FREE and all meals, accommodations are covered, you just need to get yourself to the site.

Vermont Trout Camp is June 22-26, 2014Campers (age 13-16) will be introduced to the basics of fly fishing through a series of fun and engaging outdoor activites. Participants will learn from some of Vermont’s most accomplished fly anglers and conservationists.  Campers will learn about fish biology, fish habitat and stream ecology as well as aquatic entomology. $450.  There is also a Maine Trout Camp.

WOOFING — Students 18 and up can work on an organic farm anywhere in the world and have room and board covered so that they are just responsible for their travel there.  They can stay a few weeks or a few months. My daughter is WOOFing in Ireland this year.  FREE

The least expensive outdoorsy sleepaway summer camps for ages 10-15 are almost certainly 4-H camps (less than $500 week).  The cool thing is, you can pick a location you (as parents) might want to vacation, and you could always have your child attend camp there.  Three years ago our son did a week at Camp Farley on Cape Cod and had a ball.  His new friends couldn’t believe he was from CA.

OVERSEAS

Culturalvistas.org —  The American Youth Leadership Program with Singapore and Malaysia is a FREE  international exchange experience for ages 15-17 supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The goal  is to expose high school students and educators to U.S. – Singapore and U.S. – Malaysia relations through the lens of the effect of sustainable development on urban planning.  A pre-departure orientation that prepares participants for a three-week experience in Singapore and Malaysia  (June 28 – July 24, 2014)  Post-program implementation of education and service projects which highlight the learning that took place during the program.  Teachers can also apply to travel with the group.

nsliforyouth.org — The National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) program was launched in 2006 to promote critical language learning among American youth. The U.S. Department of State, in cooperation with American Councils for International Education, awards merit-based scholarships to high school students for summer and academic year immersion programs in locations where the seven NSLI-Y languages are spoken. NSLI-Y immerses participants in the cultural life of the host country, giving them invaluable formal and informal language practice  — Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), Hindi, Korean, Persian (Tajiki), Russian, and Turkish.  Students ages 15-18 can apply for this FREE U.S. State Dept. program which is either a full summer or a school year overseas. Students do not need any previous language study.  My daughter did this program in Chengdu, China… comment to me for more information. The deadline is November.

Critical Language Scholarship Program (CLS)  — The CLS Program is part of a U.S. government effort to expand dramatically the number of Americans studying and mastering critical need foreign languages. Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) institutes provide fully-funded (FREE) group-based intensive language instruction and structured cultural enrichment experiences for seven to ten weeks for U.S. citizen undergraduate and graduate students.

Eurasian Regional Language Program (ERLP)  — The American Councils Eurasian Regional Language program provides graduate students, advanced undergraduates, scholars, and working professionals with intensive individualized instruction in the languages of Eurasia. Participants may in enroll in semester, academic year, or summer programs. All courses are conducted by expert faculty from leading local universities and educational institutions. FREE

Bronfman Youth Fellowship in Israel — The Bronfman Youth Fellowship offers a 5-week summer program in Israel that educates and inspires exceptional young Jews from diverse backgrounds to become active participants in Jewish culture throughout their lives, and to contribute their talents and vision to the Jewish community and to the world at large.  High School Juniors from the United States and Canada who will be at least sixteen by July of 2012 are eligible for the FREE Fellowship.

CIEE South Korea  — This FREE two-week program includes scheduled excursions, including a day visit to the Demilitarized Zone dividing North and South Korea, visits to ancient palaces, a home visit with a Korean family, a trip to the National Museum of Korea.  Students must not have visited South Korea in recent years or had much exposure to Korean culture, customs, and/or daily life; be a U.S. citizen; be entering 10th, 11th, 12th grade or have just graduated from high school; have a GPA of 3.0 or higher. More info is here.

These listings change each year.  Read about the complete set of offerings here.

LANGUAGE STUDY

STARTALKFREE government sponsored day camps and residential sleep-away language camp programs across the United State where students ages 12-18 can learn Arabic, Chinese, Dari, Hindi, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Swahili, Turkish, and Urdu. The choices for 2014 won’t be available until late winter. For the residential programs, students live on a college campus. Teachers can also apply.

The Federal Service Language Academy is a great, low-cost idea for rising sophomores, juniors and seniors who want to pursue language studies and possibly a career in the foreign service.  The program runs June 8-27 or July 6-25 for 2014.  For twenty-one days, students are immersed in a foreign language and culture in an academic environment hosted by the University of North Georgia.  You  live in a residence hall with students who are learning the same language and communicate in your language as much as possible. Guest speakers from federal agencies like the US Department of State, FBI, CIA, Army or Homeland Security will present information on careers in their specialties. Students can get academic credit for successful achievement of first or second-year Arabic, Chinese, Korean, German, Russian, or Portuguese proficiency levels.  The cost is $1895 for three weeks.

ARTS

Marie Walsh Sharpe Foundation Art Seminar — This prestigious two-week FREE seminar allows students to gain a stronger foundation of skills and understanding in the visual arts through experiencing college-level drawing and painting classes in a group setting.  Open to high school juniors, transportation NOT included.  At Colorado College.

Auburn University Summer Symphonic Band Camp — You won’t find a better bargain than $350 for a week of sleep away band camp for middle and high school students.

The California State Summer School for the Arts (CSSSA) is a rigorous pre-professional training program in the visual and performing arts, creative writing, animation, and film for talented artists in grades 9 – 12. Its purpose is to provide a training ground for future artists who wish to pursue careers in the arts and entertainment industries in California. Students apply for the opportunity to study in one of the School’s seven departments. They may receive 3 units of CSU elective credit for successful participation. The cost is $1550 for 4 weeks, and students live in a dorm at Cal Arts.

University of Michigan Summer Performing Institutes  — MPulse is on the Ann Arbor campus and designed to inspire high school students to exciting new levels of excellence in music performance, music technology, musical theatre, theatre, and dance.  MPulse provides an opportunity for approximately 200 young musicians and performing artists to gain exposure to the rigorous training provided by the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance (SMTD). $500, grades 9-12.

There is an inexpensive residential Fashion Design Camp at Texas Women’s University for ages 10-18. And one for middle school students at University of Georgia, that my daughter did last summer.

Northern Illinois University has a variety of residential camps for middle and high school students at around $500 for the week..

University of Wisconsin offers both a middle school and a high school residential Summer Art Studio Camp that is $559 for the week.

HUMANITIES

High School Great Books Program at Thomas Aquinas College.  Each summer for two weeks, high school students from around the country join members of the teaching faculty on the campus of Thomas Aquinas College for spirited conversation, engaging firsthand some of the best works of the past 2,500 years. They read and discuss works selected from the masters of the Western intellectual tradition, including Plato, Euclid, Sophocles, Shakespeare, St. Thomas Aquinas, Pascal, and Boethius.  In addition to daily sports, occasional movies, and hiking in the hills surrounding the campus, the program includes trips to the Getty Museum, a concert in Los Angeles, and Santa Barbara for volleyball on the beach and exploration of the historic city. Open to students who have completed three years of high school by summer 2014.  Cost is $975 for tuition, housing, meals, books, and organized activities off campus.

Thomas Moore College in New Hampshire has a very similar Great Books summer residential program for $895 for two weeks.

Princeton Summer Journalism Program.  SJP welcomes about 20 high school students from low-income backgrounds every summer to Princeton’s campus for a FREE intensive, 10-day seminar on journalism.  Low-income high school juniors living in the continental US with at least a 3.5 GPA and an interest in journalism. Travel is paid for as well.

TASP  A Telluride Association Summer Program (TASP) is a FREE six-week humanities and social sciences educational experience for high school juniors that offers challenges and rewards rarely encountered in secondary school or even college.

TASS   A Telluride Association Sophomore Seminar (TASS) is a FREE six-week educational experience for high school sophomore that focuses African-American studies and related fields.  High school sophomores from around the world.

Carleton College Liberal Arts Experience  is a summer program designed for the best and brightest college-bound students representing high schools across the country. The Carleton Liberal Arts Experience (CLAE) will select 50 high school students who have just completed their sophomore year and bring them to Carleton for a FREE one-week summer program. The CLAE program introduces the strengths of a liberal arts education through an array of courses in science, art, social sciences, and technology. In addition, workshops are offered to assist participants with their high school and college careers.

Auburn University’s Creative Writing Studio for rising 9th -12th graders is $475 for a residential experience.

LEADERSHIP

Girls State & Boys State —  American Legion Boys State and American Legion Auxiliary Girls State are the premier programs for teaching how government works while developing leadership skills & an appreciation for your rights as a citizen. 2-3 rising senior boys and 1 rising senior girl from each high school in America is eligible to participate.  Ask your school for details. As a participant in the program you, will run for office, learn public speaking, create and enforce laws and actively participate in all phases of creating and running a working government in this exciting and fun week-long FREE summer program. My daughter did this in 2013 in CA.

Thomas Moore College in New Hampshire has a residential Catholic Leadership Institute summer program for high school students that is $895 for two weeks.

Pepperdine University Youth Citizenship Seminar  The Southern California Youth Citizenship Seminar at Pepperdine University is a five-day, FREE  program designed to provide a creative opportunity for 250 outstanding high school juniors to interact with today’s leaders, explore current national and world topics, discuss constructive solutions to critical issues, and share memorable interaction with your peers.

The U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis offers several FREE programs for high school students.  Students are invited to spend a week checking our all aspects of the Naval Academy.  You just need to get yourself to Maryland. 

MATH, SCIENCE, ENGINEERING

Stanford Medical Youth Science Program  The SMYSP Summer Residential Program (SRP) is an annual five-week science- and medicine-based enrichment program that takes place from mid-June to late July, and is held on the campus of Stanford University.  Students live in dorms.  Students must be sophomores or juniors from northern or central California and be low-income or a first-generation college student. FREE

Texas Tech Clark Scholars  The Clark Scholar Program is an intensive seven week summer research program for highly qualified high school juniors and seniors.  The Program at Texas Tech University helps the Scholars to have a hands-on practical research experience with outstanding and experienced faculty. The program is FREE and Scholars will receive a $750 tax-free stipend as well as room and board. Program duration is from June 23 to August 7, 2014.  Applications must be received by February 7.

Summer Math and Science Honors Academy.  SMASH scholars spend five weeks each summer at a SMASH site on a college campus (currently at UC BerkeleyStanfordUCLA and USC) immersed in rigorous STEM classes.  SMASH Scholars live on campus for five weeks each of three summers (after their 9th, 10th and 11th grade years) with other high potential Black, Latino/a, Native American, Southeast Asian or Pacific Islander high school students.  FREE

Summer Program for Mathematics and Science — The Summer Academy for Mathematics and Science is a FREE rigorous residential six-week summer experience at Carnegie-Mellon for good students who have a strong interest in math and science and want to become excellent students.  SAMS applicants must be at least 15 years old and have completed their sophomore year of high school to participate in this program.

University of Michigan offers a one-week residential Summer Engineering Exploration Camp for $495 for rising sophomore, juniors and seniors from anywhere in the country.  The tuition covers room and board but you have to get yourself there.

Santa Clara Summer Engineering Seminars are for rising seniors.  The week living on campus at Santa Clara is completely FREE.

Mizzou Engineering — The University of Missouri offers a weeklong residential engineering camp for $500. There are two sessions in July — Come see how your math and science talents can pave the way for a rewarding career in engineering.

KU Engineering — Project Discovery is a weeklong, intensive (residential) learning camp for high school students entering the ninth through 12th grades. Two sessions are offered, one in June and the second in July. Campers choose from different engineering disciplines and work closely with KU faculty and graduate students as they complete a hands-on project.  The cost is $500

SAME are Army Engineering & Construction Camps for rising juniors and seniors. There are several residential options and locations.  The cost is just $50.

ASM Materials summer residential (week-long) programs for rising juniors and seniors are completely FREE.

More math ideas, some free, some not.

Engineering for middle and high school students.  The University of Texas at Arlington offers a series of one-week residential engineering camps for students in middle school and high school.  The camps are $375 for a week camp.  My son did one after 7th grade and I highly recommend them. They live in the dorms and learn about all the different fields within engineering.

NC State University offers rising 11th and 12th grade students the opportunity to explore engineering and college life at NC State through our residential HS programs. Students spend a week on campus, live in the dorms, eat in the dining halls, meet like-minded students from all over the globe and immerse themselves in a specific engineering workshop of their choosing. The cost is $700/week.

BUSINESS/FINANCE/ECONOMICS

These camps are surprisingly hard to find…

Chapman University Economic Summer Institute for High School Students.  The objective of these FREE summer workshops on campus at Chapman is to expose students to and get them interested in the foundations of economic analysis using experimental economics..  Students must be high school juniors and seniors.

FEE Summer Economics Seminars for high school and college students are totally FREE and some travel scholarships are available.  My daughter did one in 2013 and it was incredible.  They take place at college campuses in various cities and are just a few days long. For the last 50 years, FEE’s goal in hosting introductory economics seminars has been to give students the tools needed to answer or find answers to some of the most difficult economic questions.  Students with an interest in economics, history, politics, social science, philosophy, education, business, or current events are all encouraged to apply.

OLAB (Opportunities to Learn About Business) – This camp in mid-July is for risings seniors is completed FREE (business sponsors cover your cost).  The camps is at Wabash College in Indiana.  It is a one-week hands-on introduction to business and the market economy.

The Model UN Summer Institute at Harvard Business School is a surprising bargain at $595 for the week.

POLICE/FIRE

The California Cadet Academy is a FREE residential summer camp in Napa for high-school aged students who are interested in becoming Firefighters, Police officers and Emergency Medical Technicians. Cadets who attend the Academy are trained in fire science, law enforcement and basic first aid (CPR certificate issued).   It is open to non-CA residents I think. If not, each state has one.

The NH Police Cadet Training Academy is open to non-NH students. $135.

GENERAL CAMPS

Auburn University has a series of very cool one-week residential camps in every possible topic including:

Costs range from $500-$700 for the week.

Clemson University offers a Summer Scholars program of one-week camps for rising 7th – 12th graders at very reasonable prices.  Course choices include:

COLLEGE VISITS

U.C. Berkeley offers a FREE “experience Cal” program each June for rising seniors.  This two-day residential program on the UC Berkeley campus is for university-bound high school and community college students.  The program is offered at no cost; however, all of our students are expected to provide their own transportation to the Berkeley campus and back.

SCIENCE RESEARCH – RESIDENTIAL

MITES  is a FREE six-week residential summer program at MIT (for rising seniors) during which students have the opportunity to experience a demanding academic atmosphere and to begin building the self-confidence necessary for success at America’s top universities. This program also stresses the value and reward of pursuing advanced technical degrees and careers while developing the skills necessary to achieve success in science and engineering.

Research Science Institute  The RSI academic program is a FREE intensive, six-week introduction to scientific research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).  High school juniors from around the world

OTHER LINKS with more ideas

Cogito has a great search function for a wide range of summer programs.

UC Berkeley offers a host of ideas beyond the university

More ideas off the Stanford University website HERE

Check out this resource of ideas: http://studenteducationprograms.com/

Here are more ideas for high school students.

More math ideas here.

More engineering options here.

A ton more general ideas here.

Unviersity of Georgia offer some programs for middle school students here.

Know of any other free summer programs? Email me at lornasheridan@gmail.com or use the comment box below.  Please send the link to my web site to your friends who might be interested — http://www.educationroundupnational.com.

Education Roundup XXV

Welcome to this month’s Education Roundup (National Edition)…

My very favorite academic exercise in my entire K-12 career was speed-reading … an activity that has truly gone by the wayside. But a new website called spreeder.com is a free service designed to help students to improve their reading speed and comprehension. I clocked in comfortably reading at 525 words a minute on the site. See if you can top my score. I can see the usefulness of this as a periodic assessment device, but for speed-reading instruction I think they offer a companion computer program that costs money. All things being equal, however, life is easier if you can read quickly. spreeder.com

Kid trackers are a hot topic, and I recommend that you start young if you are interested, as it is very difficult down the road to convince a teenager to submit to this kind of oversight. For the smallest children, the Toddler Tag ($30) beeps if your child moves more than 30 feet away from you. The Filip ($200) bracelet lets your child call you with a press of a button and displays location. And for students getting their first phone, Life360 (free) looks pretty good, as it enables you to keep precise track of your child (via the phone) at all times, whether the app is open or not and whether or not he or she accepts your call.

The blogger Emily Mendell has compiled a list of 31 things that your son (or daughter) should be able to do on their own before heading off for college. Write a check; pay a bill; make travel arrangements; navigate an airport, train or bus station; deal with a canceled flight; take a taxi; catch the subway; plunge a toilet; change a tire; check the oil; shave with a razor; withdraw cash from an ATM; pay for dinner; self-prescribe over-the-counter meds; call a doctor; cook a meal; cancel a membership; buy clothes; return a purchase; pack a suitcase (without inspection); do the laundry; iron a shirt; go food shopping for themselves; negotiate a deal; make hospital corners; sew a button; remove a stain; replace a fuse; remove a splinter; enjoy a drink responsibly; and say “no” with confidence.

Teens are seriously stressed out, according to new research. And this stress is negatively affecting every aspect of their lives. More than a quarter (27 percent) say they experience “extreme stress” during the school year and 34 percent expect stress to increase in the coming year. They aren’t just stressed out by school though. They also cite their friends, work and family. The concern is that they aren’t using healthy ways to cope with stress and they may be setting themselves up for future chronic stress and chronic illness. Researchers haven’t really looked at teen stress before so the report is worth a read if your teen struggles with stress. http://tinyurl.com/l4st9kt

I have been slow to get on the all-organic bandwagon but a recent report by CNN has done the trick. Scientists (including finally the FDA) are now suggesting that certain chemicals may be triggering the recent increases in neuro-developmental disabilities among children – such as autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and dyslexia. Harvard researchers say a new global strategy to control the use of these substances is urgently needed. The list of suspected chemicals is a long one. You really need to read the full article yourself here: http://tinyurl.com/kqv26xn

My kids can’t live without Quizlet. This online learning tool was created by a high school sophomore in Albany, and it is now perhaps the most popular study tool out there. Students can create or share flashcards, track their progress and give themselves graded quizzes. Best of all, it is free. Quizlet.com

Signing on to a college’s Pinterest account is a fun way for potential and future students to learn more about a school. Check out Chapman University’s page to get an idea of what I mean: pinterest.com/chapmanu/

Does your middle-school daughter or her friend ever use baby talk? Why do girls do that? A former teacher writing for The Atlantic feels it is crucial for teachers to discourage this trend before it becomes a habit. She writes about them developing their outer voices – the ones the world will hear and judge as girls make their way out there. http://tinyurl.com/mvkjsf5

Badges are a hot topic in education. Imagine a marriage between the Girl Scouts and LinkedIn. Prognosticators expect that within a few years, every résume will have badges on it that signify expertise or competency in relevant skills. The badges serve as a hyperlink to details (relevant coursework, honors won, etc.) Read more about it at http://tinyurl.com/orz3t8v.

Work experience during high school is playing a key role in admissions to highly selective colleges these days, as well as quick and relevant employment after graduation from college, according to a recent survey of businesses and students. More and more students are looking for work experience through internships or volunteering. Hiring companies state the most important factors for them in hiring students are the reputation of the high school, high academic performance and references. Go to http://tinyurl.com/kc3hwbd.

A student’s GPA and the rigor of their course load is more important in college admissions than any other factors this admissions season, according to a survey of college admissions officers (National Association for College Admission Counseling). In other news from NACAC, for-profit colleges and two-year public colleges saw declining enrollment while public and private nonprofit colleges continued to grow. http://tinyurl.com/lgsxptl

In the new book, “All Joy and No Fun,” journalist Jennifer Senior looks at all the ways that having children changes parents’ lives. Using sources in history, sociology, economics, psychology, philosophy and anthropology, she questions our beliefs about parenting, what it adds to our lives and what it takes away. It is next up on my nightstand.

More 18- to 31-year-olds live with their parents today than at any other point in the last 40 years (Pew Research). Perhaps today’s teens should be a little nicer to their parents? Those young adults with more schooling were less likely to be living at home. http://tinyurl.com/ktmksnu

I was surprised to read in the Wall Street Journal last week that fewer children are playing team sports today than four years ago. Losing the most ground are basketball, baseball and soccer (all down 7 to 8 percent) while ice hockey is up 64 percent and lacrosse is up 158 percent. Experts can’t agree on why. Some blame video games and others the time pressure of high school extra-curriculars. http://tinyurl.com/mxehxvo

The latest issue of National Geographic is all about the science of the brain. How we learn is a hot topic and scientists seem to be making impressive strides in better understanding brain function, all of which bodes well as educators apply that knowledge in our classrooms. The February issue underlines the point that “scientists are learning so much about the brain now that it’s easy to forget that for much of history we had no idea at all how it worked or even what it was.” Also on the magazine’s website are some great brain games and activities pegged to current events, like the Olympics. education.nationalgeographic.com

Tiger Mom Amy Chua is back in the news with a new book with this thesis: “For all their diversity, the strikingly successful (cultural) groups in America today share three traits that, together, propel success. The first is a superiority complex – a deep-seated belief in their exceptionality. The second appears to be the opposite – insecurity, a feeling that you or what you’ve done is not good enough. The third is impulse control.” The groups she cites as strikingly successful are: Indian-Americans, Iranian-, Lebanese- and Chinese-Americans and Mormons (she cites the fact that Indian-Americans earn almost double the national figure). She also mentions that while “Jews make up only about 2 percent of the United States’ adult population, they account for a third of the current Supreme Court; over two-thirds of Tony Award-winning lyricists and composers; and about a third of American Nobel laureates.” Her new book is “The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America.”

The Atlantic magazine tackles the subject of teenage risk-taking in a long piece that is both comforting and terrifying for those of us with teens. In a nutshell, the increased natural dopamine being released in the adolescent body “can give adolescents a powerful sense of being alive when they are engaged in life. It can also lead them to focus solely on the positive rewards they are sure are in store for them, while failing to notice or give value to the potential risks and downsides,” said the author, UCLA psychiatry professor Daniel Siegel.tinyurl.com/lfyvb3q.

Researchers have quantified what we have suspected for some time – kindergarten is the new first grade. “In less than a decade, we’ve seen the kindergarten experience essentially transformed,” said Dahna Bassok at University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education. “Academic skill-building has really taken center stage in today’s kindergarten classrooms, in a way that just wasn’t the case” before the late 1990s. Today’s kindergartens now feature homework, worksheets and an emphasis on learning to read by the end of the year.phys.org/news/2014-01-kindergarten-grade.html

There are dozens of fellowships, workshops, seminars and service trips for teachers who are interested in traveling overseas this summer (at no cost). If you know of a teacher who might be interested, forward them this link:http://tinyurl.com/m6ebjme

There is a growing body of research that questions the merit of stand-alone middle schools (as opposed to K to 8 schools). Educators were previously enamored with the middle-school model but now many are challenging the notion that grouping students in the middle grades is the right approach. (Only 2 percent of sixth- and seventh-graders in private schools attend a stand-alone middle school.) According to a professor at Columbia, “In the specific year when students move to a middle school (or to a junior high), their academic achievement, as measured by standardized tests, falls substantially in both math and English relative to that of their counterparts who continue to attend a K to 8 elementary school. What’s more, their achievement continues to decline throughout middle school. This negative effect persists at least through eighth grade, the highest grade for which we could obtain test scores.” educationnext.org/stuck-in-the-middle/

If your student age 13 to 21 is interested in the visual or performing arts, the best list of summer programs around the country and around the world that I have come across is atda.org/podium/default.aspx?t=117646.

Parents spend their time wondering if their sons are geniuses and if their daughters are fat, according to some depressing research conducted by a reporter at the New York Times. Seth Stephens-Davidowitz analyzed Google searches and found that parents are two-and-a-half times more likely to Google “is my son gifted?” than “is my daughter gifted?” (despite the fact that girls are surpassing boys in classrooms across the country). And parents are twice as likely to Google “is my daughter fat?” than “is my son fat?” tinyurl.com/pt3hcmw

The British government is requiring that programming (computer coding) be taught in every K-12 classroom in England starting next year. The United States, thanks to Silicon Valley, is the world’s premier technology powerhouse, so it is baffling to me that England has beaten us to the punch. You can read more about England’s coding curriculum at http://tinyurl.com/pdtzvqu.

I am a big fan of audiobooks, both for myself and for children who don’t love to read. While I favor audible.com, there is a site called tales2go.com that streams thousands of name-brand titles from leading publishers and storytellers to students’ mobile devices and desktops. The family subscription is $99 a year for up to five devices. The app and a seven-day trial are free.

Are you interested in game-based learning? If so, you may need to get yourself a Pinterest account just to follow the Game Based learning board. The page offers up dozens of great sites and resources for students and classrooms. pinterest.com/edutopia/game-based-learning

“Giving our kids the option to quit celebrates the idea that they should have the chance to try out new things without the expectation that every new thing will fit,” said author Kristin Levitahn, who is quoted in an article about letting kids quit things (at theatlantic.com). There has been a lot of talk about the value of persistence but she offers forth a valuable argument for being okay with quitting as well.

If you have had the misfortune of spending much time combing through stock photos online, you know how lame most of the pictures are under the category of women or mothers. Lots of cookie baking and sundresses. Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In Foundation has partnered with Getty Images to change all that and ensure that when a child needs an image for a poster board of professional women, old-fashioned stereotypes can be avoided. As Sandberg explained, “When we see images of women and girls and men, they often fall into the stereotypes that we’re trying to overcome, and you can’t be what you can’t see.”

I have a new favorite website for instructional support and cool new learning tools and resources. Check out edtune.com. My favorite thing about is that you don’t need to register to use it.

Schools in the 40+ Common Core states across the country will take new computer-based standardized tests this year. Because they will be administered on computers, the new assessments will allow for a broader range of test questions than the multiple-choice exams given in the past. They will emphasize critical thinking, reasoning and problem-solving – modeling the kind of teaching and learning needed to prepare all students for the demands of college and the modern workplace. No student, school or district scores will be produced from this year’s field test because its purpose is to “test the test” – to determine how well the test questions and technology work.

Studies show that we can train our minds to be happy or unhappy. Furthermore, careers such as accounting and law that focus on catching mistakes and errors can result in a pervasive pessimism that carries over into one’s personal life. Eric Barker writes in The Week that you must teach your brain to seek out the good things in life. Specifically, he suggests that listing three things you are thankful for each day can make a big difference. He also says that one of the reasons old people are happier is because they remember the good and forget the bad. http://m.theweek.com/article.php?id=256206

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The BBC (British Broadcasting Corp.) has a great Spanish-language game website for elementary students. Students choose an aspect of the language to explore, and are presented with a list games and learning tools to help with mastery. BBC.Co.UK/Schools/PrimaryLanguages/Spanish

Lots of parents are very casual about pot use but a new study has found that exposing adolescent rats to the primary ingredient in marijuana can lead to molecular and behavioral alterations in the next generation of offspring, even though progeny were not directly exposed to the drug (according to researchers at Mount Sinai). “Our study emphasizes that cannabis [marijuana] affects not just those exposed, but has adverse affects on future generations,” said Yasmin Hurd, Ph.D. “Finding increased vulnerability to drug addiction and compulsive behavior in generations not directly exposed is an important consideration for legislators considering legalizing marijuana.” http://tinyurl.com/mp4phb4

It is hard to sustain optimism about the state of education today when I spend my days reading articles like: “What’s Holding Back American Teenagers?: Our high schools are a disaster.” This recent piece in Slate by a psychology professor (Laurence Stein)  states, “It’s not just No Child Left Behind or Race to the Top that has failed our adolescents – it’s every single thing we have tried. The list of unsuccessful experiments is long and dispiriting … Over the past 40 years, despite endless debates about curricula, testing, teacher training, teachers’ salaries and performance standards, and despite billions of dollars invested in school reform, there has been no improvement – none – in the academic proficiency of American high school students.” http://tinyurl.com/mjaa3jp

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I just learned that nearly a quarter of American adults did not read a single book last year (and this counts audiobooks, Kindle books, everything). Furthermore, the number of non-book-readers has nearly tripled since 1978. The good news? The typical American did read five books last year. http://tinyurl.com/lzhzmzq

The new school analysis site Niche.com surveyed 909 public and private high schools between 2012 and 2014, and ranked schools by students’ average SAT/ACT scores (close to 80,000 score results over two years). The chart is interesting just to see which public and private schools across the country come out on top by this measure.  Check out the ones in your area.  While a lot of people hate to lend weight to SAT scores, a recent study by Case Western Reserve found standardized test scores to be a valid measure of general cognitive ability and these scores still do play a huge role in college admissions.

I am off to the huge South by Southwest Education Conference (SXSWEdu) in Austin, Texas, March 2-6. Last year, attending more than a dozen panel discussions on innovation in education really opened my eyes to changes headed our way. I hope to learn as much this year.

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Education Roundup XXIV

Welcome to this month’s Education Roundup (National Edition)…

 

Do you ever wonder what it would be like to be the mother of an Olympic athlete?  What those early years are like? Think…  a lot of driving but also some challenges you might not expect. You can read the complete article at http://tinyurl.com/m59msz4.

Have you ever walked in to find your children watching a TV show that you KNOW they have seen before? It makes me crazy. There is a cool website that features more than 300 mind-expanding documentary films, many of which are appropriate for all ages.  These are also a great classroom resource. Check out the list atdiygenius.com/mind-expanding-documentaries/.

Common Sense Media recommends five important media resolutions that every family should make in 2014.

• Make a detailed schedule that ensures a balance of screen time and other activities.

• Get to know your child’s favorite device. Have them show you their favorite games, apps, etc. You will understand their interest better and you will be better able to assess needed safety and privacy controls.

• Review behavior do’s and don’ts with first-time users. They should have to ask you before they go online and should understand a site’s rule and how to recognize red flags (like someone asking them for private information).

• Establish a charging station in your bedroom and make sure kids hand over all their devices before bed.

• Model the right behavior by never texting and driving or it is hard to expect them to do the right thing when they are alone behind the wheel.

I wish I had thought of these when my children were younger as the longer you wait to establish truly common-sense guidelines like this, the harder it is. I suggest you link acceptance of these guidelines to every new device you purchase. I wish I had.

A new set of studies has found that high praise can actually make some children feel worse about themselves. The name of the study is: “That’s Not Just Beautiful – That’s Incredibly Beautiful: The Adverse Impact of Inflated Praise on Children with Low Self-Esteem.” While it might be counter-intuitive, researchers found that when adults give excessive compliments to children with low confidence, the children were less likely to pursue challenges. http://tinyurl.com/qx4yjmc

A recent Wall Street Journal story came to the conclusion that kids who understand gratitude get better grades and are less likely to get depressed. The author, Diana Knapp, suggests that gratitude is a muscle that must be exercised and saying thanks at dinner on the 364 days a year that are not Thanksgiving can help. The author cites a study from 2008 where sixth- and seventh-graders were assigned to list five things they were grateful for every day for two weeks. It found they had a better outlook on school and greater life satisfaction three weeks later, compared with kids assigned to list five hassles. Depressingly, the author also cites a recent large-scale study that tracked materialism among high school seniors and found that desire for lots of money has increased markedly since the mid-1970s, while willingness to work hard to earn it has decreased. http://tinyurl.com/npkd88j

If your student loves science, there is a very inspiring story about the young winner of the Intel Science and Engineering Fair in 2012 in this week’s Baltimore SunJack Andraka is 16 years old, he is openly gay and he attends public school in Maryland. He invented an early-stage test for pancreatic cancer. His parents speak eloquently in the article about their strategies to encourage their son and to expose him to as much as possible, while still letting him be a kid and enjoy his interests. http://touch.baltimoresun.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-78754377/

San Francisco Unified School District made the national news last week for its innovative school mediation program. While 61 percent of its student population qualifies for the federally funded free or reduced lunch program, the district’s standardized test scores continue to rise and meet yearly state and federal benchmarks. Is it possibly because of a new approach to tackling student stress? Since 2007, the district has included transcendental meditation lessons into twice-daily “quiet time” periods – 15-minute breaks in all classrooms. Other benefits include reductions in truancy and discipline problems to which they credit this program.

Disaster Hero is a free online game designed to teach children (grades 1 through 8), parents, and teachers how to prepare for disasters. The goal is to ensure that kids know what to do before, during, and after a disaster. Disasterhero.com

While I am still not exactly sure what it is, I keep reading about studies that tout mindfulness training as crucial to academic success. The latest study looked at college students (who are notorious for high levels of distraction and stress). Mindfulness training can focus attention and improve learning, according to a new study by University of Miami researchers. Mindfulness is a mental state in which a person pays attention to the present experience without ruminating about the past or worrying about the future. Mindfulness training emphasizes attention-building exercises and learning to observe the activity of the mind.

Do you know of a student ages 14-26 who is, or might be, interested in economics? Last summer my teenage daughter attended an economics seminar put on by the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). She lived in a dorm at St. Louis University and attended workshops with dozens of other high school students. Best of all, the seminar was free (room, board, books and tuition all covered, you just have to get there). FEE has just posted their summer 2014 seminars, and topics include: “Making Innovation Possible: The Role of Economics in Scientific Progress”; “Are Markets Just? Exploring the Social Significance of a Free Economy”; and “How Economic Thinking Can Create a Better World.” The closest campus being offered for the program this year is Chapman University (near Los Angeles). Schedules and applications are at fee.org/seminars. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, so apply early.

A happy parent raises a happy child (in most cases). Here are 10 science-based ways to be happier, courtesy of Beth Cooper (at Buffer.com)

1. Exercise: Exercise has a profound effect on our happiness and well-being. It can help you relax, increase your brainpower, and even improve your body image, even if you don’t lose any weight.
2. Sleep more: Sleep helps our bodies recover from the day and repair itself, and that helps us focus and be more productive. It turns out sleep is also important for happiness.
3. Spend more time with friends/family: Social time is highly valuable when it comes to improving our happiness, even for introverts. Several studies have found that time spent with friends and family makes a big difference in how happy we feel.
4. Get outside more: Spending time in the fresh air can improve your happiness. Spending 20 minutes outside in good weather not only boosts positive mood, but also broadens thinking and improves working memory. Interestingly, studies have also found that happiness is maximized at 57 degrees, so there is even an upside to winter.
5. Help others: To make yourself feel happier, you should help others. In fact, studies suggest that 100 hours per year (or two hours per week) is the optimal time we should dedicate to helping others in order to enrich our lives.
6. Practice smiling: Smiling can make us feel better, but it’s more effective when we back it up with positive thoughts, according to this study. Smiling can also improve our attention and help us perform better on cognitive tasks.
7. Plan a trip: As opposed to actually taking a holiday, simply planning a vacation or break from work can improve our happiness – the effect of vacation anticipation can boost happiness for eight weeks.
8. Meditate: Meditation is credited with improving focus, clarity and attention span, as well as helping to keep you calm. It turns out it’s also useful for improving your happiness as well. Meditation literally clears your mind and calms you down.
9. Move closer to work: Our commute to work can have a surprisingly powerful impact on our happiness (or lack thereof).
10. Practice gratitude: Taking note of things you are grateful for each day can improve your mood. Research suggests that a conscious focus on blessings may have emotional and interpersonal benefits. http://tinyurl.com/kx4nozf

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New research indicates that parental involvement is more important than any other factor in positively influencing the health, growth and even IQ of children. Involvement and family time also plays a huge role in decreasing the stress in a child’s life. While this sounds like another plug for family dinners, what researcher Gail Gross found is that academic and social performance in 3-to-17-year-olds increases significantly with even small increments of focused time with parents. The key, she says, is not the activity you do together, it is simply being fully present. http://tinyurl.com/n53f9dg

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Reading has a positive impact on the brain that researchers are only just now beginning to understand. In a recent experiment, students brains were scanned each morning after having read sections of a thriller novel over nine nights, and then again daily for five days after they finished the book. The scans revealed increases in connectivity in the students’ brains following the assignments, which persisted for the five days after finishing the novel. The parts of the brain associated with language comprehension, sensations and movement benefited the most. http://huff.to/1dkcBoD

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The Hour of Code last month was tremendously successful, with more than 20 million students across the country gaining exposure to coding. The students I spoke to who have tried coding at school have loved it. If you are looking for coding classes or summer camps, you can visit code.org to search for possibilities. http://aws.code.org/. If your child’s classroom is exploring coding, email me the details atourschools@sonomanews.com.

If your kids enjoy science, there is a great list of 60 popular free science games online covering some of the most popular topics within biology, geology, physics and chemistry.stumbleupon.com/su/1phjd9

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Busuu is a community-based language-learning site that offers games, groups, exercises and other free resources for learning Spanish, French, Italian, Brazilian Portuguese, German, Russian, Polish, Turkish, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese or English.The site has a nice look with illustrations and animation. Like many of the best language sites, after an initial free period, it costs money; membership options range from $20 a month to $150 for a two-year membership. But Busuu’s best feature is free – conversational practice that involves typing and chatting live with native speakers of your language of choice. busuu.com

DragonflyTV is a PBS science education television series for middle-school students, and its website features viewable episodes, games, resources and more. There are fun games and experiments as well as science-based multimedia experiences. Also cool is a science-center locator which returns a list of science museums near your location.

The site Sumdog provides free educational games that make math and reading practice fun for students K-8. Students will like competing against other students of similar ability around the world. But the more they play, the more the games adjust to their skill level. Sumdog automatically begins to present more difficult questions while limiting the allotted time for answers. In addition, a student who incorrectly answers questions on a given topic receives more of those types of questions in ensuing rounds. There are both free and paid versions at sumdog.com.

There is a tabletop board game called Robot Turtles that teaches youngsters ages 3-8 the fundamentals of programming, without words. http://buy.robotturtles.com Children act as programmers, putting instruction cards down, driving the turtles through the maze, but the grownup is the computer, executing commands on the board.

In honor of the winter break, here is a list of 30 of the best educational computer games to amuse your children. Some are new, some are old favorites. The complete list is at:edsurge.com/guide/gaming#View-Product-Comparisons but some of new ones I have not mentioned before worth checking out include: The Oregon Trail ($5), Sokikom ($10), Brain Age ($16), Garry’s Mod ($10) and Second Life (free).

If you are looking for books for the new year, here are 17 ways to get your hands on free books: stumbleupon.com/su/2uCgjG. On the list are lots of websites worth checking out including: Bibliomania, Zunafish, Bookins, BookMooch and Childrens Books Online. Another great article I found offers up ways to get almost any book, study guide, reference text or magazine in the world for free (legally). Read it here: stumbleupon.com/su/1m4OvT

Parents can be very casual about marijuana smoking (“it is just pot”) but new studies are showing that pot smoking among teens can permanently reduce the size of the growing brain. Researchers at Northwestern University found that the section of the brain related to working memory actually reduced in size from pot smoking (which coincided with the teens’ poor performance on memory tasks). The shrinkage was more advanced in people who started smoking marijuana younger. Read more at http://tinyurl.com/mrskfw4.

I felt very guilty after reading an article in the New York Times on “Parenting While Plugged In.” The author suggests that while everyone is worried about the effect of screen time on children, we should also be looking at how our own extended screen time affects our relationships with our children. One researcher spent five years conducting 300 interviews and she found that children can be jealous and hurt, competing with a screen for their parents’ attention. While parents say they need to have their device on because of work, they are actually just engrossed in their connectivity, in the same way that kids are with their devices. It all comes back to the idea of quality time.

A new HBO documentary shines a light on parental obsession with youth sports. If you get HBO, consider taping “Trophy Kids” and watching it with your children. An interesting discussion might result. Without any voiceover shaping the dialogue, filmmakers allow the parents and children to speak for themselves about their emotional investment in organized sports … and the result is tense and emotional. HBO is producing an entire series called “State of Play,” which will examine a variety of sports themes as they influence our society. “Trophy Kids” is playing daily and also available on HBO on Demand.

I was surprised to learn that California teachers are paid more than teachers in any other state in the nation. California teachers have the highest average salary at $64,424 and South Dakota brings up the rear at $36,374. The other states in the top five are New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Illinois. stumbleupon.com/su/2h29Rs

How do you “create good students”? A principal suggests on the website Edutopia that several conditions must exist: more hands-on learning (less time drilling and droning); higher level engagement; articulated learning goals; the right curriculum and technology tools; knowledge of the best way that each individual student learns; learning extended into the home; publishing of student creations; pursuing what students want to explore; and fun (if a teacher isn’t having fun, it is likely the students aren’t either). edutopia.org/blog/creating-great-students-ben-johnson

Class Central is a free online course aggregator from top universities such as Stanford, MIT, Harvard and others. You can search all the MOOC (massive open online course) providers for the topics that interest you. This is great for students who might want to explore a field of study not available at their school or for adults who like the idea of being lifelong learners. class-central.com

A fun exercise to do with your whole family is to take a learning style quiz and discuss and compare results. Quick and easy free ones are available here: edutopia.org/multiple-intelligences-learning-styles-quiz or here: educationplanner.org/students/self-assessments/learning-styles.shtml

Have you heard about the teen who will serve no jail time despite killing four people in a recent drunk driving accident because his lawyers claimed he is a victim of “affluenza”? His attorneys argued that he was so coddled and spoiled that his parents never taught him right from wrong. He had a blood alcohol level of .24 – triple the legal driving limit for an adult – and was on Valium when he crashed his truck, injuring 11 people and killing four. While intelligent, he was estimated to have the emotional age of a 12-year-old.

I was surprised to learn that even the most rigorous computer science courses do not currently count toward core high school graduation requirements in California and neither the UCs nor CSUs count computer science as fulfilling a mathematics or science requirement. As of right now, 14 states do count computer science as a math or a science, and hopefully California will soon follow. http://tinyurl.com/lr6o94p

Need book ideas for kids of all ages? Check out Amazon’s list of the top 20 most popular books in each category for readers of all ages: baby-age 2 | ages 3-5 | ages 6-8 | ages 9-12. You can see the full list in best-selling order at http://tinyurl.com/k3uw8cb

Along the same lines, greatschools.org released its list of the all-time best book series for kids, by grade level. Some of its top picks: “Maya & Ruby,” “The Elephant & Piggie,” “Peter & The Starcatchers,” “The Babysitters Club” and “Artemis Fowl.” Read the complete list here: http://tinyurl.com/n46nu4q

If you are worried that your teen is smoking cigarettes, I recommend you show him or her the images at http://tobaccobody.fi/n_en.php. It is an absolutely horrifying high-tech, high-def look at how each part of your body is affected by cigarette smoking. I am still cringing.

If you can’t get enough of all things education, there is a list of the best-selling education books of 2013. The top five: 1. “America the Beautiful,” by Ben C. Carson; 2. “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” by Daniel Kahneman; 3. “How to Read Literature Like a Professor,” by Thomas C. Foster; 4. “How Children Succeed,” by Paul Tough; 5. “The Last Lecture,” by Randy Pausch. My favorite is Paul Tough’s book.http://tinyurl.com/kxh4cs3

An app I have written about here more than once, Duolingo, was just named Apple’s choice for App of the Year. Considering how many apps are out there, that is quite an honor. Duolingo is free, and offers fun language instruction and practice in six languages – Spanish, French, German, Italian, English and Portuguese. The app is like a game and it uses images and your smartphone’s microphone to help you learn words, recite them and write them out. Duolingo.com

A study has found that listening to music can interfere with short-term memory and can be a terrible idea for students doing homework or studying for tests. Students were tested recalling a series of numbers, while listening to different kinds of background music. Interestingly, it didn’t matter if the student loved or hated the music being played. edutopia.org/blog/dont-listen-music-while-studying-david-cutler

I can’t wait to try The Big History Project. Pulled together by a tech guy and a historian, this free online initiative aims to challenge the way history is traditionally taught. Formerly only available to educators, the free game is now open to the public (and it is backed by Microsoft and Bill Gates). There is also a companion TV series on the History Channel. The goal? To bring the full story of humanity to life via a game by viewing history not as a straight line, but as a complex, interconnected web. bighistoryproject.com

Which colleges produce the most ambitious students? Inc. Magazine was curious. Using data from personality tests to gauge ambition, it decided that students from the following colleges are the most ambitious: UC Berkeley, UCLA, Harvard, U. Penn, Stanford, Vanderbilt, London School of Economics, Oxford, University College London and Boston University. Kudos to laid-back California for having three of the top 10 schools. You can read the details here:http://tinyurl.com/ndm4s4m

“IF…,” is a very unusual new online game that asks kids ages 6 to 12 to employ empathy and social-emotional skills in a game setting (for ex. helping cats and dogs in tribes to get along). The game will be available as a free iPad app in January and you can sign up to receive it when it goes live. A lot of attention is paid to the academic development of children, IF … will focus on the 20 or so specific related to self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationships and decision-making. Ifyoucan.org/exsel-stats

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Roundup XXIII

Parents need to make adulthood look appealing (and worth the hassle of growing up). It seems obvious but when I heard a high school counselor say this recently it resonated with me. We are sending a very positive message to our kids if we can impress upon them the joy we get out of our work, our marriage and our other responsibilities. It we complain about our lives as adults, we aren’t giving them much incentive to grow up or much to look forward to.

I just stumbled across The Good Men Project. Billed as both a magazine and “a conversation,” the site aims to foster a national discussion centered around modern manhood and the question, “What does it mean to be a good man?” It is not a new post but the site’s “25 Rules for Moms with Sons” has stuck with me. Some of my favorites: teach him the words for how he feels; encourage him to dance; let him lose; give him a way to release his energy; kiss him; and answer him when he asks “why”?

Only 8.3 percent of students from low-income families currently earn a four-year degree by the age of 24. According to Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce, at the current production rate in higher education, the U.S will fall 5 million short of the workers with post-secondary credentials needed by 2020. http://blog.collegepossible.org/view-the-degree-gap-infographic/

I love the website iCivics.org. Students can play civics games (run for president, pass new laws, etc.) and access free resources. http://www.icivics.org/

The free iPad app Mibblio is a musically interactive storybook that gets students excited about reading through the incorporation of music into the story. Children sing along and can play instruments along with the music (guitar, harp, piano, flute, maracas and bongos). mibblio.com

Most members of my book club listened to our most recent selection as an audio book (while driving and/or exercising). The favorite two sites for our group – audible.com (low cost) and our local library (for free). Audio books are also great for kids who say they hate to read or kids who like multi-tasking (listening while shooting hoops or doing chores).

There continues to be evidence that learning a second language can be the key to a student’s success. Not only does it increase cognitive function, it also seems to lead to higher rates of success in school and in the workforce. Of students studying a foreign language in the U.S., 69 percent are studying Spanish, 18 percent French, less than 1 percent other languages, and the remaining 12 percent are not studying a language. Students who study a foreign language for all four years of high school have been found to score 140 to 150 points higher on each section of the SAT, and bilingual workers earn five percent to 20 percent more than their peers who speak only English. The only problem? The number of elementary and middle schools offering world language instruction is decreasing, and in middle school that percentage has dropped from 75 percent in 1997 to 58 percent today. (Middlebury Interactive Languages).

Millennials in college are suffering high rates of depression, according to a recent opinion piece in Slate magazine. They are finding the transition to adulthood completely overwhelming. The issue, said the therapist interviewed, is that people in their 20s no longer view themselves as adults because of benign reasons like longer life spans, and depressing reasons like helicopter parenting and unemployment. Read the entire article here: http://tinyurl.com/kowpkde.

If you are interested in multiple intelligences – the idea that some students are visual learners, some are auditory learners and some learn by doing – then you will enjoy the page of resources put together by the Ed Tech website. The site categorizes apps and learning tools by how well they suit each kind of learner. tinyurl.com/onof5qv

There has been a lot of debate over the results of the recent testing of 15-year-olds worldwide (the PISA literacy, math and science tests are administered in 65 countries every three years). American students score right around the world average in all categories and came in 17th in literacy, 21st in science and 26th in math. While the U.S. Dept of Education was embarrassed by the scores, defenders feel they are perfectly fine considering the socioeconomic challenges of many of our students. Every news article seems to suggest different reasons for the mediocre scores – search “PISA 2013” and you will get the drift. While the differences between the U.S. education system and countries abroad should not be reduced to statistics, Amanda Ripley’s “The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way” is a lively read that tries to tease out some answers. Ripley follows U.S. high school exchange students studying overseas and she interviews foreign students studying at our high schools.

Along those lines, I have another book recommendation. “Raising Global Children: Ways Parents Can Help Our Children Grow Up Ready to Succeed in a Multicultural Global Economy” is a combination parenting-advocacy book that details what raising global children means, why global awareness is important and how to develop a global mindset. According to the National Research Council, Americans’ “pervasive lack of knowledge about foreign cultures and foreign languages threatens the security of the United States as well as its ability to compete in the global marketplace and produce an informed citizenry.”

A recent article in Time Magazine tackles the question of what is “ailing” teenage boys. Only 43 percent of college students today are male, down from 58 percent in 1970. Even more troubling is the fact that 81 percent of suicides in the 10 to 24 age bracket are males. Author Rosalind Wiseman suggests that boys are struggling more with modern adolescence than girls. Her book “Masterminds and Wingmen” is next on my list. Wiseman has also published a book of advice for boys. You can read an excerpt at time.com/boys.

In the category of good news, according to the nonprofit that tracks this data, only 16 percent of teens have had sex by age 15 and in 2012 the birthrate among teens dropped to its lowest level in 73 years. It is currently half what it was in 1991. Over the past 20 years, among high school students, the percentage who say they have ever had sex dropped from 54.1 percent to 47.4 percent. (Source CDC and Guttmacher Institute)

The computer game Minecraft is frequently cited as the best example of the potential of learning through games because it encourages critical thinking, collaboration and problem-solving. The PBS website Mindshift suggests six other games that it feels are equally good for the growing brain: Garry’s Mod; Kerbal Space Program, Sound Shapes, DIY, Stencyl and Code Academy. If you go online to read this article, you can access hot links to the game sites. http://tinyurl.com/q9azmgv

I had almost forgotten that comedian Al Franken was elected senator in Minnesota until I saw that he is the co-sponsor of my new favorite bill being introduced in Congress. The bill would create a grant program for universities to “create and expand the use of textbooks that can be made available online” with free access to the public. Students would have access to digital textbooks and not be forced to buy the latest edition from their campus bookstore.

The new and improved SAT has been delayed until 2016, one year later than originally announced. That means this year’s freshmen will likely be the first class to take it. The College Board announced the overhaul, after having been surpassed by the ACT for the first time last year. The new test should be better aligned with the Common Core State Standards.

The author of “Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World,” feels strongly that too many of us do a terrible job of conversing with young girls. When we start every conversation with a compliment on their outfit or appearance, we are sending them a powerful message that Lisa Bloom feels later manifests itself in low self-esteem, high rates of eating disorder and a depressing trend of girls under 12 sporting a full face of makeup. You can buy the book here.

Are you curious where the young inventors, artists and moguls featured in Forbes Magazine’s recent “30 under 30” feature went to college? While many attended Harvard, Stanford and Princeton, the website 60secondrecap hunted down the college affiliation of each of the several hundred people mentioned in the article and found lots of surprises. Interestingly, Arizona State, which accepts 89 percent of its applicants, has more “30 under 30” alumni than the University of Chicago, Duke, Dartmouth and Cornell. Both the original article, and the website’s dissection of it are interesting. 60secondrecap.com/forbes-30-under-30-colleges

Anne Schramm, of Sylvan Learning Center, offers five tips for parents to help their children study more efficiently and effectively in the New Year:

• Planners are a sanity saver. Making sure a student has one central place, such as a log sheet or calendar to track major deadlines, due dates, events and extracurricular activities, will help the student visualize the coming week, manage time efficiently and stay on schedule.

• Breaking it down. When it comes to major tests or big projects, there is nothing worse than not knowing where to start. Knowing when to take a deep breath, step back and break a daunting undertaking into smaller, more manageable tasks is a key skill.

• Organization is a must. By becoming disciplined at keeping reading materials and notes in logical order, students can find what they need right away, cut down on time spent tracking things down and increase time spent actually studying.

• Taking good notes matters. Taking good notes helps keep kids’ grades up, especially in middle or high school. Parents can help children learn to boil down information into note-like form by encouraging them to pick out main ideas in conversations, news reports, church sermons or magazine articles.

• Study like clockwork. The most successful test-takers don’t cram the night before. Students will do their best on tests when they regularly review the information every day at home. Having children work with friends to study, or in small groups outside of school, is a great way to encourage this.

Schramm says children are not born with study skills. “Like most other academic skills, study skills are learned. The good news is, parents can teach their children some simple and effective guidelines and techniques that will help them understand and retain information, unravel complex ideas and feel confident and prepared when test days roll around.”

Just in time for Christmas, I want to again mention the girl-power toy company GoldieBlox. GoldieBlox has developed a set of interactive books, games and toys to “disrupt the pink aisle and inspire the future generation of female engineers.” CEO Debbie Sterling came up with the idea when she found herself one of the few women in her engineering program at Stanford. Her new gender-stereotype-bashing video for the toys is awesome and is getting a lot of buzz – http://tinyurl.com/nr87hrn

A new list of the top college towns in America is out, from the American Institute for Economic Research. The list goes to 70, but the top five college towns are: Ithaca, N.Y.; Ames, Iowa; State College, Penn.; Crestview, Fla.; and Iowa City, Iowa. Towns were evaluated based on the number and diversity of the college students living there; arts and leisure opportunities; cost of living; earnings potential; and other factors. Read the complete list at aier.org.

Meanwhile, a new global index has ranked 25 of the world’s major cities based on qualities most attractive for people between the ages of 15 and 29. Metropolises were ranked using 80 different indicators, including business, lifestyle and entertainment and they are, from number 1: Toronto, Berlin, New York City, Dallas, Paris, Chicago, London, Los Angeles, Tokyo and Seoul. http://tinyurl.com/l5yb356.

Somehow this is both obvious and shocking. Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have found that university students who were spanked as children are more likely to engage in criminal behavior (no matter where they grew up and no matter how loving and helpful their parents were in general). http://tinyurl.com/ktyx8wq.

Why are young women dominating academically in high school but showing less success in college and in their careers? A recent article in the Huffington Post suggests that girls rapidly lose self-esteem in college. “Female students who enter college as self-assured, ambitious individuals, graduate with less confidence, feeling anxious, doubtful and depressed, and no one can figure out exactly why.” The author, a female college student herself who is experiencing this firsthand, said that in her first week at her dream college she passed a poster in her dorm hall stating, “Don’t worry if you fail your finals; just pray your future husband is passing his!” She has been disheartened by the sexism she has encountered and suggests college and workplace atmospheres may be to blame. Read the entire article here: http://tinyurl.com/mus3o27.

The deadlines are fast approaching for the handful of government-sponsored programs that enable youth ages 15-25 to live/travel/study abroad for free. Go to http://tinyurl.com/mbcoau7

There are definitely good video games and bad video games. Former English teacher and current game developer Catriona Wallis said recently in the Huffington Post, “Good video games can teach kids how to learn things on their own quickly and then use these skills to achieve, make constant and rapid decisions that affect things they do, improve hand-eye coordination, develop creative problem solving skills, exercise control in challenging circumstances, be persistent, pay attention to detail and think strategically and laterally as well as linearly and logically.” Experts suggest you play with your child, and one favorite game cited is Gamestar Mechanic. I would add any of the SimCity games to the list. The resources in her recent Huffington Post article can help you tell the good from the bad. http://tinyurl.com/lgm3bya

Teens who stay up late at night perform more poorly academically and emotionally, according to researchers at UC Berkeley. By graduation, night owl teens had lower GPA scores, and were more vulnerable to emotional problems than teens with earlier bedtimes (Journal of Adolescent Health). The temptations of technology have made it even more difficult for teens to get enough sleep. The good news is that better sleep patterns can be adopted anytime. Read more here.

Newsweek released its list of the top public high school in the country.  Schools are ranked based on how successful they are in producing college ready grads (graduation rate, college acceptance rate, AP/IB tests taken and passed per student and average SAT/ACT scores. (http://tinyurl.com/m6g9t7b)

I have to admit that I always appreciate it when other moms admit how hard they find it to try to “have it all.” A new book, “Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink,” by Katrina Alcorn suggest that working moms, in particular, are always having to say they are sorry … to their husbands, to their kids and to their co-workers … and that they are apologizing for not being able to do the impossible. I haven’t finished the book but it broaches a topic that isn’t going to go away anytime soon.

If you have a senior in high school, “17 Things I Want Myself to Remember Senior Year” may be meaningful to you and them. You can read the article by Pennsylvania high school senior Katy Ma here: http://tinyurl.com/n6vpane.   My favorites are: not everything will happen according to plan; bring a camera with you wherever you go; if you haven’t been outside in more than two days, it’s a problem; thank everyone as much as you can; and celebrate the victories but don’t dwell in pride.

Study abroad by American students has more than tripled over the past two decades. Despite these increases, fewer than 10 percent of U.S. college students study abroad during their undergraduate years, even though studying abroad is the same price or cheaper than a semester at a student’s home university. The most popular choice for U.S. students is the United Kingdom (then Italy, Spain and France). In terms of who comes here, China now sends as many students to the U.S. as the next four countries combined: India, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Canada. (Chronicle of Higher Ed)

“I Wonder What It Feels Like To Be Dyslexic” is a cool coffee table book that uses graphic design to provide a visual sense of how dyslexic students see words, giving parents and teachers a much better sense of the frustrations of the learning disability. You can take a look at pages from the book at http://tinyurl.com/lnu9ygw.

Does your student love Khan Academy, the website that has a clear, engaging tutorial video for basically any possible topic at any grade level? If so, consider becoming a beta tester. Students sign into New Feature Explorer and can test features before their release. http://tinyurl.com/l6xr2ft

ClassWish is a free website that organizes cash or supply donations for schools. Teachers and PTOs can create supply wish lists and spread the word with emails and printable flyers. Supporters can get a receipt for their tax-deductible contribution. Classwish.org

Wordplay is a free online game to help students learn and remember Spanish words and phrases. Students can master new words with a simple game that adjusts to each student’s unique needs. The game helps students to learn the proper meaning, pronunciation and spelling of each word. A mastery meter fills as students develop mastery, and turns blue as they build long-term retention. wordplay.com

If your student is transitioning to a new school next year, be it kindergarten, middle school or high school, consider signing up for the new school’s email newsletter today to ease the transition and to learn more about the campus and ways to get involved before next year.

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Roundup XXII

If you are frustrated by your middle schooler’s obsession with computer games, here are five games that a panel of educational experts think have the most potential to educate, engage and empower students: DragonBox, Scribblenauts, Portal 2, Gamestar Mechanic, Minecraft. You can read about these games and others at the great non-profit Institute of Play web site at instituteofplay.org.

In honor of Digital Citizenship Week, here is a helpful visual for students to keep in mind regarding their digital profile (on Facebook, Twitter, texting, etc.). Think….

T – is it true

H – is it helpful

I – is it inspiring

N – is it necessary

K – is it kind.

Hmm, not bad tips for grown-ups too. My least favorite of the new social media sites might just be ask.fm. This digital question and answer site is a haven for bullies who can post anonymously. Ask your teen about it.

I just came across a listing of 50 great resources for the parents and teachers of gifted and talented students (teachthought.com): organizations, blogs, twitter feeds, articles and more. The complete list is here.

Ninety percent of K-12 schools in the U.S. don’t teach computer science, says Code.org. By the end of 2013, it wants to flip that stat around so that 90 percent do teach it. The nonprofit wants 10 million students to participate in the “Hour of Code” during Computer Science Education Week Dec. 9 to 15. Free participation kits are available for schools, community organizations and even local officials.

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The website “Dear Teen Me” made me laugh and cry. Famous authors and other notables submit letters to their teen self. They are all beautifully written and many are sure to strike a chord. dearteenme.com.

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There is a controversial article in the new Harper’s magazine that contends algebra cannot be learned by everyone — that it just can’t.  And that U.S. schools should stop jamming algebra II, in particular, down every student’s throat. The author interviews experts, many of whom are math teachers, who say forcing all teens to take algebra and algebra 2 is disastrous and unfair to students, most of whom, the author contends, will never need that particular math in their lives. (tinyurl.com/lf7cg9o)

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A recent article in the Atlantic Magazine says that ninth grade is the most important year in high school. Educators are finding that how freshman year goes determines whether a young person will move on or drop out of school. I was surprised to learn that nationwide, ninth-graders have the lowest GPA, the most missed classes, the majority of failing grades and get in more trouble than any other high-school grade level. Researchers have found that repeating ninth grade can have terrible results in terms of a child’s motivation and self-esteem and a disproportionate number of ninth-graders who are held back drop out.

What is the hottest job skill today? Translators and interpreters are expected to be two of the 15 fastest growing occupations in the nation (Department of Labor). There are projected to be 25,000 new jobs for interpreters (who focus on spoken language) and translators (who focus on written language), between 2010 and 2020. According to CNN, in the last week alone, roughly 12,000 jobs posted on Indeed.com included the word “bilingual.” In government jobs, being bilingual in Middle Eastern languages such as Arabic, Farsi and Pashto (Afghani) pays the best. In the private sector, employees bilingual in Scandinavian and Asian languages are the highest paid. Read more here.

Stanford Alumni Magazine recently devoted a few thousand words to “what it takes to get into Stanford” and after reading it, I feel slightly nauseous and still can’t tell you the answer. But it is an interesting and detailed look at the process at what is now the most selective university in America. You can read the entire article here.

Time Magazine’s Idea section recently suggested three things that schools can do to better help boys succeed. Quoted is psychologist Michael Thompson, who I think hits the nail on the head when he said, “Girl behavior is the gold standard in schools. Boys are treated like defective girls.” The three suggestions are:

• Bring back recess. They cite research that since the 1970s, schoolchildren have lost almost half of their unstructured outdoor play time, and that boys seem to react worse to “recess deprivation” than girls.

• Turn boys into readers. Find books that appeal to boys, have a male reading model and help parents support boys’ literacy.

• Encourage the young male imagination. Boys read, write and draw differently. Consider assignments from the point of view of boys.

Read the entire piece here.

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Did you know that you can adjust your iPhone or iPad settings to read all text to you (including choosing what kind of accent, speed, etc.)? You go to “setting” then “accessibility,” then “speak selection” and make your voice and speed selections. After you change the settings, you open a page of text (on Safari, email, anywhere) and highlight the text and click “speak.” I amused myself tremendously having an Irish voice read me my email this morning. Not only might this be terrific for struggling readers, but also to listen to documents while driving, etc.

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My new favorite website is litpick.com and it is perfect for students in grades 4 to 12 who love to read. The site is an online community that offers free electronic books. LitPick receives courtesy copies of new young-adult books from publishers and authors and makes these review copies available to students. As young reviewers, students are asked to offer their opinions of the books in anonymous book reviews posted on the site. This year, Litpick.com was named the best website for teaching and learning by the U.S. Librarians Society. The site is free for eBooks and $15 a year to get print books as well.

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I have lived in five different school districts since our youngest child was born and our children have attended public school, private school, boarding school, parochial school and Montessori. Having peeked under the covers of very different schools across the country, I am fascinated by case studies of successful initiatives at the district and school level. Earlier this fall, the nation’s 2013 Blue Ribbon schools were announced. These 286 elementary, middle and high schools offer promising ideas in very different settings. You can read one-page profiles of each school (including student demographics and exactly why the school was honored) at http://tinyurl.com/kl2geha.

SimCity has launched a new educational game for middle-school students called SimCityEDU: Pollution Challenge. The game, which was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation, is designed to engage students while developing real-world skills. Students play the role of mayor in a “real” city, where they must address issues such as reducing pollution while not ignoring other societal impacts such as maintaining employment levels and citizen happiness. Teacher dashboards provide data on student performance and feedback on results so teachers can assess performance in real time.

A company has invented facial recognition software called  Engage-Sense that applies algorithms to what the cameras have recorded during a lecture or discussion to interpret how engaged the students are. The camera captures if students were confused, bored, smiling, focused or looking around. Teachers can then be provided with a report, based on the facial analysis, to learn what aspects of the class were most and least engaging. They expect that in five years, teachers all over the country will be using it. Learn more here.

I have spent countless hours compiling a list of dozens of free (or very low cost) summer programs for students ages 12 to 25. These are free programs overseas or cool offerings on college campuses, with accommodations included. Many of the best ones have deadlines coming up in the weeks ahead so it is not too early to start thinking about next summer,  educationroundupnational.com.

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One terrific program I included is for students ages 15 to 18 (and for teachers) that provides them with as three weeks in Singapore and Malaysia as well pre-and post trip enrichment and training. The American Youth Leadership Program with Singapore and Malaysia is sponsored by the U.S. State Dept. and is completely free. The deadline to apply is Sunday, Dec. 1 – culturalvistas.org/aylp/info.htm. Why am I so excited about these kinds of programs? I have seen first hand how they have changed the lives of several Sonoma students.

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If your child loves the “Captain Underpants” books, you might want to read the scathing review of the books’ misogyny here.  It is pretty compelling.

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Our children need it and perhaps we do as well … SelfControl is a free app that lets you block your own access to distracting websites, your mail servers, or anything else on the Internet. You set a period of time to block for, add sites to your blacklist, and click “Start.” Until that timer expires, you will be unable to access those sites – even if you restart your computer or delete the application.

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I love the premise of the book “Raising Children that Other People Like to be Around” because when it comes right down to it, that is really the end goal. Author Richard Greenberg organizes the process around five basic behavioral “musts” based on the word SMART:

1. Set an Example – Behave as though everything you do will be mimicked by your child – because it will be! And reflect on the examples set for you by your own parents, and discuss them with your spouse or partner.

2. Make the Rules – Decide what values you think are most important to you and your parenting partner. Remember that “rules are the arms in which your children can embrace themselves.” Explain why you created a rule, and the logic behind it, so that your children understand that we weren’t just making them up for fun.

3. Apply the Rules – Once you’ve decided what’s important, you have to stick to your guns. Little children will test boundaries, which is their job. By saying “no” together with an explanation of your reasons, you show them you care. Remember also that every rule you create is a rule you have to enforce and too many rules make life very complicated.

4. Respect Yourself – This one is a biggie. You need to lead with the confidence that generates admiration and respect. Your children are passengers in your cab. You should be far better informed about the local roads than they are. And even if you’re not, you need to make them think you are, for their comfort and safety.

5. Teach in All Things – If you see your child as an “Adult In Training” and you know it’s your job to be their teacher, then everything you do will be informed by an underlying lesson. Once our kids catch on, they begin to see the lessons themselves.

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If you are unclear about the new Common Core State Standards and why your school district is excited about them, there is a very clever three-minute video worth watching at commoncoreworks.org.

•••

Why are so few girls interested in computer science? It is so puzzling to me. A new report says although 57 percent of all undergraduate degrees are earned by women, women account for only 14 percent of the computer science degrees at major research universities. And furthermore, this number is falling – it was 37 percent in 1985. Today, only 0.4 percent of female college freshmen say they intend to major in computer science.  Read more here.

•••

Because it is that time of year, I’m offering forth yet another college ranking… this one focused on affordability, future earnings, diversity and student activities (Newsweek’s The Daily Beast). Kudos to California for snagging five spots in the top 15. There are a few names that will surprise you. From #1-15: Yale University, MIT, Stanford University, Harvard University, Columbia University, Princeton University, U.C. Berkeley, Williams College, U. Virginia, U. Pennsylvania, Vanderbilt University, Rice University, Cal Tech, Pomona College and U.C.L.A. The list goes to 200 here.

What should parents be looking for in a preschool? Tips from Ed Source and the Stanford Children’s Center suggest: 1. Look for signs of purposeful teaching – ask what the teacher is doing and why. 2. Inquire whether teachers have a B.A. or higher, though only a Child Development Associate Permit is required in California. 3. Gravitate toward well-organized, clean, childproofed classrooms with clear sight lines. Low shelves should be well-stocked with creative play items. 4. Ask teachers how they track and communicate child development and screen for potential problems. Ask for the school’s curriculum. 5. Look for engaged teachers and children who show sign of trust and cooperation. Read more here.

Watching movies and educational videos with the captions switched on improves student comprehension, recall and class discussion according to researchers at SF State. Captions are frequently used for English language learners and students with learning disabilities but this study found captions beneficial to all students.  Read more here.

New data out suggests that the teaching profession is attracting “a more academically successful group of people compared to previous years,” according to researchers at the University of Washington. They found that more teachers have their master’s degrees (26 percent in 2008 versus 17 percent in 1993) and the average SAT score for a first year teacher climbed slightly from just below the national average (45th percentile) to the national average 50th percentile. http://educationnext.org/gains-in-teacher-quality/

If you enjoy the content here, please consider forwarding this post on to friends….

Meaningful/Enriching Summer Programs On A Shoestring (for ages 12-25)

It is easy to find a terrific summer program for thousands of dollars. The trick is finding fun/meaningful opportunities for your kids that don’t cost a mint.  Free programs are great not only because they are free (!) but they tend also to be much more impressive to colleges (because they tend to be selective). The catch is, the best free or low-cost opportunities are selective and most have deadlines starting now through maybe January.

My rule of thumb for what constitutes a good value is a sleepaway/residential program that is FREE or less than $750/week… so I have about 30 here that are FREE and then some that cost a few hundred dollars.  The sheer volume of ideas here is daunting, so I apologize if any of these have deadlines that have passed or are not being offered this year.  Please let me know what success you have with any of these and add any that I have missed into the comment box.

OVERSEAS

Culturalvistas.org —  The American Youth Leadership Program with Singapore and Malaysia is a FREE  international exchange experience for ages 15-17 supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The goal  is to expose high school students and educators to U.S. – Singapore and U.S. – Malaysia relations through the lens of the effect of sustainable development on urban planning.  A pre-departure orientation that prepares participants for a three-week experience in Singapore and Malaysia  (June 28 – July 24, 2014)  Post-program implementation of education and service projects which highlight the learning that took place during the program.  Teachers can also apply to travel with the group.

nsliforyouth.org — The National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) program was launched in 2006 to promote critical language learning among American youth. The U.S. Department of State, in cooperation with American Councils for International Education, awards merit-based scholarships to high school students for summer and academic year immersion programs in locations where the seven NSLI-Y languages are spoken. NSLI-Y immerses participants in the cultural life of the host country, giving them invaluable formal and informal language practice  — Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), Hindi, Korean, Persian (Tajiki), Russian, and Turkish.  Students ages 15-18 can apply for this FREE U.S. State Dept. program which is either a full summer or a school year overseas. Students do not need any previous language study.  My daughter did this program in Chengdu, China… comment to me for more information.

Advanced Russian Language and Area Studies Program (RLASP)  — American Councils’ longest-running FREE study abroad program provides intensive Russian-language immersion for US undergraduate and graduate students in Russia.

Critical Language Scholarship Program (CLS)  — The CLS Program is part of a U.S. government effort to expand dramatically the number of Americans studying and mastering critical need foreign languages. Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) institutes provide fully-funded (FREE) group-based intensive language instruction and structured cultural enrichment experiences for seven to ten weeks for U.S. citizen undergraduate and graduate students.

Energy in Central Asia Program (ECAP)  — A four-week Central Asian business culture studies program in Kazakhstan for undergraduate and graduate students as well as working professionals at all levels of Russian-language proficiency. FREE

Eurasian Regional Language Program (ERLP)  — The American Councils Eurasian Regional Language program provides graduate students, advanced undergraduates, scholars, and working professionals with intensive individualized instruction in the languages of Eurasia. Participants may in enroll in semester, academic year, or summer programs. All courses are conducted by expert faculty from leading local universities and educational institutions. FREE

Youth Leadership Program with Azerbaijan (YLP)  — Students, teachers, and community leaders can apply for the Youth Leadership Program with Azerbaijan (YLP). YLP is a FREE short-term cultural and educational exchange program, the Youth Leadership Program with Azerbaijan is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) and administered by American Councils. The program focuses on expanding relationships between the people of the U.S. and Azerbaijan and aims at strengthening ties between the two countries.

American Youth Leadership Program with Cambodia  — The American Youth Leadership Program (AYLP) with Cambodia is a FREE four-week cross-cultural exchange program that is open to American high school students and teachers (who will serve as program leaders and chaperones)  Must be between 15 and 17, have at least one semester of high school remaining, and be US citizens.

Bronfman Youth Fellowship in Israel — The Bronfman Youth Fellowship offers a 5-week summer program in Israel that educates and inspires exceptional young Jews from diverse backgrounds to become active participants in Jewish culture throughout their lives, and to contribute their talents and vision to the Jewish community and to the world at large.  High School Juniors from the United States and Canada who will be at least sixteen by July of 2012 are eligible for the FREE Fellowship.

CIEE South Korea  — This FREE two-week program includes scheduled excursions, including a day visit to the Demilitarized Zone dividing North and South Korea, visits to ancient palaces, a home visit with a Korean family, a trip to the National Museum of Korea.  Students must not have visited South Korea in recent years or had much exposure to Korean culture, customs, and/or daily life; be a U.S. citizen; be entering 10th, 11th, 12th grade or have just graduated from high school; have a GPA of 3.0 or higher.

LANGUAGE STUDY

STARTALKFREE government sponsored day camps and residential sleep-away language camp programs across the United State where students ages 12-18 can learn Arabic, Chinese, Dari, Hindi, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Swahili, Turkish, and Urdu. The choices for 2014 won’t be available until late winter but it is worth visiting the web site to get a sense of the many options that existed in 2013 like this one, 2 weeks learning Russia on a college campus, for free, for grades 9-12.  Teachers can also apply.

The Federal Service Language Academy is a great, low-cost idea for rising sophomores, juniors and seniors who want to pursue language studies and possibly a career in the foreign service.  The program runs June 8-27 or July 6-25 for 2014.  For twenty-one days, students are immersed in a foreign language and culture in an academic environment hosted by the University of North Georgia in partnership with the Georgia Department of Education.  You  live in a residence hall in the same vicinity as your fellow students who are learning the same language and are asked to communicate in your language as much as possible. For career exploration purposes, guest speakers from federal agencies like the US Department of State, FBI, CIA, Army or Homeland Security will present information on careers in their specialties. Students may also be awarded one high school unit of academic credit for successful achievement of first or second-year Arabic, Chinese, Korean, German, Russian, or Portuguese proficiency levels.   The cost is $1895 for three weeks.

ARTS

Marie Walsh Sharpe Foundation Art Seminar — This prestigious two-week FREE seminar allows students to gain a stronger foundation of skills and understanding in the visual arts through experiencing college-level drawing and painting classes in a group setting.  Open to high school juniors, transportation NOT included.  At Colorado College.

The California State Summer School for the Arts (CSSSA) is a rigorous pre-professional training program in the visual and performing arts, creative writing, animation, and film for talented artists in grades 9 – 12. Its purpose is to provide a training ground for future artists who wish to pursue careers in the arts and entertainment industries in California. The California State Summer School for the Arts is a state agency funded through a unique public-private partnership.  Students apply for the opportunity to study in one of the School’s seven departments. They may receive 3 units of California State University elective credit for successful participation.  The cost is $1550 for 4 weeks, and students live in a dorm at Cal Arts.

HUMANITIES

High School Great Books Program at Thomas Aquinas College.  Each summer for two weeks, high school students from around the country join members of the teaching faculty on the campus of Thomas Aquinas College for spirited conversation, engaging firsthand some of the best works of the past 2,500 years. They read and discuss works selected from the masters of the Western intellectual tradition, including Plato, Euclid, Sophocles, Shakespeare, St. Thomas Aquinas, Pascal, and Boethius.  In addition to daily sports, occasional movies, and hiking in the hills surrounding the campus, the program includes trips to the Getty Museum, a concert in Los Angeles, and Santa Barbara for volleyball on the beach and exploration of the historic city. Open to students who have completed three years of high school by summer 2014.  Cost is $975 for tuition, housing, meals, books, and organized activities off campus.

Thomas Moore College in New Hampshire has a very similar Great Books summer residential program for $895 for two weeks.

Princeton Summer Journalism Program.  SJP welcomes about 20 high school students from low-income backgrounds every summer to Princeton’s campus for a FREE intensive, 10-day seminar on journalism.  Low-income high school juniors living in the continental US with at least a 3.5 GPA and an interest in journalism.

TASP  A Telluride Association Summer Program (TASP) is a FREE six-week humanities and social sciences educational experience for high school juniors that offers challenges and rewards rarely encountered in secondary school or even college.

TASS   A Telluride Association Sophomore Seminar (TASS) is a FREE six-week educational experience for high school sophomore that focuses African-American studies and related fields.  High school sophomores from around the world.

Carleton College Liberal Arts Experience  is a summer program designed for the best and brightest college-bound students representing high schools across the country. The Carleton Liberal Arts Experience (CLAE) will select 50 high school students who have just completed their sophomore year and bring them to Carleton for a FREE one-week summer program. The CLAE program introduces the strengths of a liberal arts education through an array of courses in science, art, social sciences, and technology. In addition, workshops are offered to assist participants with their high school and college careers.

Princeton University offers a Summer Journalism Program for low-income sophomores or juniors with at least a 3.5 GPA. Cost is FREE including travel.

LEADERSHIP

Girls State & Boys State —  American Legion Boys State and American Legion Auxiliary Girls State are the premier programs for teaching how government works while developing leadership skills & an appreciation for your rights as a citizen. 2-3 rising senior boys and 1 rising senior girl from each high school in America is eligible to participate.  Ask your school for details. As a participant in the program you, will run for office, learn public speaking, create and enforce laws and actively participate in all phases of creating and running a working government in this exciting and fun week-long FREE summer program.

Thomas Moore College in New Hampshire has a residential Catholic Leadership Institute summer program for high school students that is $895 for two weeks.

Pepperdine University Youth Citizenship Seminar  The Southern California Youth Citizenship Seminar at Pepperdine University is a five-day, FREE  program designed to provide a creative opportunity for 250 outstanding high school juniors to interact with today’s leaders, explore current national and world topics, discuss constructive solutions to critical issues, and share memorable interaction with your peers.

MATH, SCIENCE, ENGINEERING

Chapman University Economic Summer Institute for High School Students.  The objective of these FREE summer workshops on campus at Chapman is to expose students to and get them interested in the foundations of economic analysis using experimental economics..  Students must be high school juniors and seniors.

FEE Summer Economics Seminars for high school and college students are totally FREE and some travel scholarships are available.  My daughter did one in 2013 and it was incredible.  They take place at college campuses in various cities and are just a few days long. For the last 50 years, FEE’s goal in hosting introductory economics seminars has been to give students the tools needed to answer or find answers to some of the most difficult economic questions.  Students with an interest in economics, history, politics, social science, philosophy, education, business, or current events are all encouraged to apply.

Stanford Medical Youth Science Program  The SMYSP Summer Residential Program (SRP) is an annual five-week science- and medicine-based enrichment program that takes place from mid-June to late July, and is held on the campus of Stanford University.  Students live in dorms.  Students must be sophomores or juniors from northern or central California and be low-income or a first-generation college student. FREE

Texas Tech Clark Scholars  The Clark Scholar Program is an intensive seven week summer research program for highly qualified high school juniors and seniors.  The Program at Texas Tech University helps the Scholars to have a hands-on practical research experience with outstanding and experienced faculty. The program is FREE and Scholars will receive a $750 tax-free stipend as well as room and board. Program duration is from June 23 to August 7, 2014.  Applications must be received by February 7.

Summer Math and Science Honors Academy.  SMASH scholars spend five weeks each summer at a SMASH site on a college campus (currently at UC BerkeleyStanfordUCLA and USC) immersed in rigorous STEM classes.  SMASH Scholars live on campus for five weeks each of three summers (after their 9th, 10th and 11th grade years) with other high potential Black, Latino/a, Native American, Southeast Asian or Pacific Islander high school students.  FREE

Summer Program for Mathematics and Science — The Summer Academy for Mathematics and Science is a FREE rigorous residential six-week summer experience at Carnegie-Mellon for good students who have a strong interest in math and science and want to become excellent students.  SAMS applicants must be at least 15 years old and have completed their sophomore year of high school to participate in this program.

Cornell Curie Program Summer residential FREE program for rising junior or senior girls who excel in math and science and want to learn more about careers in engineering.

More math ideas, some free, some not.

Engineering for middle and high school students.  The University of Texas at Arlington offers a series of one-week residential engineering camps for students in middle school and high school.  The camps are $375 for a week camp.  My son did one after 7th grade and I highly recommend them. They live in the dorms and learn about all the different fields within engineering.

NC State University offers rising 11th and 12th grade students the opportunity to explore engineering and college life at NC State through our residential HS programs. Students spend a week on campus, live in the dorms, eat in the dining halls, meet like-minded students from all over the globe and immerse themselves in a specific engineering workshop of their choosing. The cost is $675/week.

GENERAL CAMPS

Auburn University has a series of very cool one-week residential camps in every possible topic including:

Costs range from $500-$700 for the week.

Clemson University offers a Summer Scholars program of one-week camps for rising 7th – 12th graders at very reasonable prices.  Course choices include:

COLLEGE VISITS

U.C. Berkeley offers a FREE “experience Cal” program each June for rising seniors.  This two-day residential program on the UC Berkeley campus is for university-bound high school and community college students.  The program is offered at no cost; however, all of our students are expected to provide their own transportation to the Berkeley campus and back.

SCIENCE RESEARCH – RESIDENTIAL

MITES  is a FREE six-week residential summer program at MIT (for rising seniors) during which students have the opportunity to experience a demanding academic atmosphere and to begin building the self-confidence necessary for success at America’s top universities. This program also stresses the value and reward of pursuing advanced technical degrees and careers while developing the skills necessary to achieve success in science and engineering.

Research Science Institute  The RSI academic program is a FREE intensive, six-week introduction to scientific research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).  High school juniors from around the world

WILDERNESS

National Conservation Crews.  National Conservation Crews help protect America’s national parks, forests, and wildlife refuges.  Students must be 15-19 years old  FREE. 15-35 days.  Various locations across the US and Canada

The Appalachian Mountain Club offers 1-4 week trail crews for teens ages 15-18.  These programs cost around $240 a week, which is a donation to the non-profit.  My son did one for two weeks in the Berkshire Mountains in 2013 and absolutely loved it.

The least expensive outdoorsy sleepaway summer camps for ages 10-15 are almost certainly 4-H camps (less than $500 week).  The cool thing is, you can pick a location you (as parents) might want to vacation, and you could always have your child attend camp there.  Three years ago our son did a week at Camp Farley on Cape Cod and had a ball.  His new friends couldn’t believe he was from CA.

WOOFING — Students 18 and up can work on an organic farm anywhere in the world and have room and board covered so that they are just responsible for their travel there.  They can stay a few weeks or a few months. FREE

OTHER LINKS with more ideas

Cogito has a great search function for a wide range of summer programs.

UC Berkeley offers a host of ideas beyond the university

More ideas off the Stanford University website HERE

Check out this resource of ideas: http://studenteducationprograms.com/

Here are more ideas for high school students.

More math ideas here.

More engineering options here.

A ton more general ideas here and here.

Know of any other free summer programs? Email me at lornasheridan@gmail.com or use the comment box below.

Roundup XXI

This week, I celebrate my 100th column appearing in the Sonoma Index-Tribune.  Woohoo!  The best stuff makes its way here (with hot links).

A dad who writes for The Atlantic magazine recently tried to do his 13-year-old daughter’s homework for a week. The results are funny and depressing. He found an emphasis on memorization, not critical thinking, a lot of busywork and little coordination between teachers. I gather that homework loads swing in cycles and our unfortunate children are the top of the pendulum right now.

The Atlantic ran another fascinating article this month titled: “The Case Against High-School Sports.” Author Amanda Ripley contends that Americans waste far more energy and money on high school sports than almost any other country … to our detriment on the world stage. She writes about one Texas town that suspended football for the year and saw 80 percent of (all) students pass their classes, up from 50 percent the previous fall and 160 people at parent-teacher night, compared with six the year before. The article is controversial but a great conversation starter to have with your older children.

If you are interested in delving deep into information about a particular college (how many students were taken off the wait list last year, admissions criteria, test scores of accepted applicants, etc.) then you should search out the “Common Data Set” for that college. It is everything you might want to know in one place, updated annually. Schools do not make it easy to find though. Search for the university name and “common data set” in quotes.  Here is Rice University’s Common Data Set, as an example.

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There is possible hope for teens who have terrible judgment about posting things online. Gov. Jerry Brown of California just signed legislation requiring web companies, starting in 2015, to remove online activity if a minor requests it. This new “eraser” law applies to scandalous posts as well as ones that are just embarrassing. “Kids so often self-reveal before they self-reflect,” said James Steyer, founder of Common Sense Media, about the law. What a true statement.  Other states are sure to follow.

 …

If your child enjoys Minecraft (and I have already written about its educational merits) then you might want to explore Eden-World Builder. Players construct with blocks that vary in material, appearance and effect. Players can upload and download maps from a server, explore the maps and modify them. Reviewers say that Eden-World Builder appeals to anyone who loves Legos and wants to experience that kind of fun in a computer game. The app is 99-cents in the iTunes store.

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Researchers have found that students who are taught integrated mathematics, combining several mathematic topics, such as algebra, geometry and statistics, into single courses, do much better on standardized tests than students who take one course at a time. The U.S. is one of the few countries that still clings to rigid year-long courses: algebra I, geometry, algebra II, then pre-calculus and calculus. The researchers expect that these findings may challenge some long-standing views on mathematics education in the U.S.   Read more here.

How terrific that the content on the Khan Academy web site will soon be available in Spanish. The site is translating its 100,000 practice problems and video lessons. On any video, click on “Options > Translated subtitles.” The site is using the collaborative translation tool Crowdin (crowdin.net) to translate all its text into every conceivable language: the homepage, the exercises, the class reports, the video descriptions, the articles and tutorials – everything but the video subtitles. Crowdin is a web service that provides a platform for translation. Visitors to the site are invited to help with the translations.

Similar to Khan Academy, the free ShowMe iPad app lets anyone create lessons using an online whiteboard. There are now millions of ShowMes, across topics in math, science, languages, English and grammar, social sciences, music, art and sports. showme.com/learn.

If your child is at a school that has or is considering 1-1 tablet computers, you will be interested to read the New York Times’  recent piece entitled, “No Child Left Untableted.” It is a thoughtful look at the pros and cons of technology use in the classroom and the role of teachers in successful implementation.  Meanwhile, The Los Angeles’ school district’s $1 billion iPad initiative offers a cautionary tale. The LA Times reported recently that students quickly bypassed security measures to visit unauthorized web sites and so school officials took the new devices back from students, but only two-thirds have been returned. And officials hadn’t decided in advance what consequences there would be if the iPads were lost or stolen.

Emergency room visits for sports-related traumatic brain injuries (such as concussions) increased 92 percent between 2002 and 2011, according to research by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Skiing, sledding, inline skating and skateboarding had the highest ER admission rates.

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If you’re looking for a book to spark great dinner table conversation with your teens (and adults), I highly recommend What Money Can’t Buy by Michael Sandel. The book asks the thought-provoking question, “Are there some things that money can buy, but shouldn’t?” Some examples: a spot in the carpool lane, use of a womb, votes, organs, citizenship, college admissions … The author gives very specific examples and his arguments weave together philosophy, history, sociology, economics and morals.

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I love the idea of kids gaining work experience while still in college and earning money. U.S. News & World Report recently ran a piece on seven of the best jobs you can have while in college to launch your career after graduation. They are: social media coordinator (for your college or local businesses); campus brand ambassador (many large companies hire students to promote their brands on campuses); office of institutional research assistant (this office collects and analyzes data about students, parents and alumni – great practice for investment banking or consulting); career center staffer (my personal favorite as you get early access to jobs and recruiters); group exercise teacher (teaching workout classes shows leadership and the ability to motivate others); and finally chief executive of your own start-up (college is a great time to start a company and use all the on-campus resources for advice and counsel).

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Do tough teachers get good results? I have seen some lively arguments on facebook about Wall Street Journal writer Joanne Libman’s piece lamenting the by-gone days of tough and scary teachers. She writes: “It’s time to revive old-fashioned education. Not just traditional but old-fashioned in the sense that so many of us knew as kids, with strict discipline and unyielding demands. Because here’s the thing: It works.”  Her manifesto centers on these eight principles but I urge you to read it in full:

1. A little pain is good for you.

2. Drill, baby, drill.

3. Failure is an option.

4. Strict is better than nice.

6. Grit trumps talent.

7. Praise makes you weak…

8.…while stress makes you strong.

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A recent study found that e-readers are more effective than paper for some students with dyslexia. Researcher at Harvard University and U. Mass found that about a third to one half of students read more effectively with a device rather than on paper because of the ability to enlarge the type and have fewer words on a page. We are trying it out in our house.

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October is ADHD awareness month, and more than 1 in 10 American kids are now diagnosed with the condition. While most take powerful medication, some experts are now suggesting that many of these children may actually be suffering from sleep disorders. A child who struggles to pay attention or is aggressive or socially withdrawn may actually be exhausted from a lack of quality sleep. Without proper rest, kids’ nervous systems cannot function properly, which particularly affects the area of the brain that deals with focus and attentiveness. Parents should look out for night tremors, bedwetting, sleepwalking and noisy breathing – not just snoring – and discuss options with a doctor if need be.

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If Massachusetts were a country, its eighth graders would rank second in the world in science, behind only Singapore. California came in second to last in math and science among the states who were benchmark participants, just ahead of Alabama – but landed close to the middle of the pack internationally. The survey tests the knowledge and skills of fourth and eighth graders around the world. (More than 600,000 students in 63 nations participated). Massachusetts eighth graders also did well in math, coming in sixth, behind Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan. There is good news for the U.S. as a whole as we came in 10th in science and ninth in math, with scores that were above the international average. While achievement tests are not the be-all and the end-all in measuring school effectiveness, I am always curious how the U.S. stacks up beyond our borders.

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I am always writing about free ebooks, but did you know that you can download free music from 150-plus classical composers, courtesy of musopen.org? Musopen provides free public domain scores and a library of recordings by classical composers. You can browse recordings organized by composer, performer, instrument, form and time period. Music can be streamed online for free and if you become a registered user for the site, you can download five tracks per day.

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The controversial website ratemyprofessor.com annually ranks the colleges with the best professors based on student ratings. The top 10 (in order) this year surprised me as there are some names that don’t frequently make top ranking lists: Duke University, Vanderbilt University, Penn State, Stanford University, U. Wisconsin at Madison, U. Georgia, Washington University in St. Louis, Rollins College, Texas A & M and U. Michigan. The list is based on the overall average professor rating and a school’s overall rating. While most of the colleges are huge, supposedly school size does not affect the outcome of the list.

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Eager to see the kind of testing that will accompany the new Common Core State Standards? You can see free grade-by-grade practice tests right now here.  Sign in as a guest, there is no need to provide any personal data.

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If you have a recent college graduate who is looking for work, suggest that they plan a visit back to their alma mater. Even after graduation, the college and career center is willing and eager to help. Graduates can return to search job listings, get help with resumes and interview tips and attend networking events. Many schools even have a job list-serve where open positions are posted in real time.

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The New York Times has a really well-conceived website for teachers, parents and students called The Learning Network. The site features a weekly news quiz, features for ELL students, a word of the day and college advice. Everything on the site is free without needing a digital subscription. It is definitely worth checking out.

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Time Magazine recently printed a list of the all-time best 100 novels. There is no number one or I would share it with you. Instead the list is in alphabetical order and available here: http://ti.me/o98PmV.

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The new app Oyster plans to offer with books what Spotify offers in music. Oyster offers a huge variety of best-selling books and classic novels. Users pay a monthly fee of $9.95 for unlimited access to 100,000 books with more to be added in the weeks and months ahead. oysterbooks.com.

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A major ranking of community colleges was just released by Washington Monthly Magazine. Determining each college’s rank was: the hours spent preparing for class; the percentage of new students who return for a second year; the percentage who graduate or transfer elsewhere within three years; the number of books and papers students are assigned; the amount of interaction with faculty; and the overall ratio of credentials granted for every 100 students enrolled. (washingtonmonthly.com/college_guide/rankings_2013/community_rank.php).

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Edutopia offers an incredible array of free downloadable guides for parents including: A Parent’s Guide to 21st-Century Learning; Mobile Devices for Learning: What You Need to Know; How To Thank A Teacher and more. edutopia.org/classroom-guides-downloads.

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Roundup XX

Researchers have developed an excellent predictor of children’s future emotional health and happiness. The “Do You Know (DYK) Scale” asks 20 questions about a child’s family history. They found that children who provided the most comprehensive answers to the test had a better sense of control in their lives and a greater sense of a well-functioning family life. Why might this be so? The thought is that stories of a family’s history give children a sense of clear values and emotional strength. Other tips for family well-being:  10 great minutes of togetherness at any meal is as good as a family dinner every night; use the word “we” rather than “you” during family squabbles; move living room furniture into an O shape; and the biggie… be honest with children about family setbacks, failures and struggles (children need to know they are part of something bigger than themselves). You can read more and see the questions at: tinyurl.com/mgtssol

LinkedIn is gaining in popularity among college students and recent graduates… and now is aiming younger. The job-networking site recently dropped its minimum age from 18 to 14  “to allow teens to build their resumes and connect with colleges on the site.” More than 200 universities now have their own “University Pages” so that potential applicants can learn about their offerings. Access for teens will come with restrictions intended to preserve their privacy.

National Geographic has launched a new weekly TV series on Friday nights for ages 10 and up called Brain Games. It is a fun and informative look at how the brain works. The web site also has some cool functions that the whole family might enjoy. A recent episode centered why we lie, how often we lie and what goes on in the brain that allows us to lie. The web site then offered games and experiments to underscore the concepts. Learn more about it at: braingames.nationalgeographic.com. There is a companion book that looks excellent, entitled, “Brain Works: The Mind Bending Science of How You See, What You Think and Who You Are” by Michael S. Sweeney.

There is a new web site called Born to Learn with animations that illustrate new discoveries about how humans learn. Students might get a kick out of it as well. Its tagline? “Your brain is the planet’s most powerful learning machine. But our current systems of education aren’t doing enough to unlock our true potential. This is what Born to Learn is all about.” (born-to-learn.org).

Campusgrotto.com consolidated a wealth of advice to come up with 12 habits of successful students. Read the whole thing at: campusgrotto.com. Some of my favorites…    Successful students:

  • set short-term and long-term goals.
  • stick to a weekly study schedule.
  • take advantage of office hours.
  • are active in activities outside the classroom.
  • go to class and participate.The most successful students sit in front and are involved in classroom discussions.
  • get proper sleep. A sharp brain starts with getting enough rest.

If you have a daughter or granddaughter ages 5-9, keep your eye out for a new toy called Goldie Blox. Developed by Stanford-educated engineer Debbie Sterling, the toy aims to challenge gender toy stereotypes.  The toy combines a storybook and a hands-on construction set with small figurines with the hope of getting girls interested in engineering. (goldieblox.com)

The web site CrunchBase has analyzed data to determine which universities are producing the greatest number of successful entrepreneurs. The site checked the alma maters of 6,150 founders from 4,885 companies. No surprise that Stanford came in first.  The rest of the top ten are:  Harvard, Berkeley, MIT, U. Penn, Columbia, Cornell, USC, Yale and U. Michigan.

ADD/HD expert Dr. Kevin Ross Emery has developed a free, unique “Managing the Gift” app, aimed at revealing the potential of children with ADD/HD. Unlike other ADHD apps that are self-diagnostic or generalized, this app provides custom-tailored reports with tips on parenting, guiding, supporting, and educating children with ADHD and ADD. One feature is a personalized interactive tool that defines a child’s distinct ADD/HD personality.

I don’t have room to reprint it in full but if you are or have a college student, you should look at The 20 Things I Wish Someone Told Me at 20 (courtesy of Dr. Karin Smithson and The Huffington Post). Some of my favorites have to do with holding on to your friends, listening to your parents, taking care of your body, kindness, online smarts and asking for help. You can read the complete list at: tinyurl.com/kalleku

A new study out of UC San Francisco and Berkeley found that just one use of cocaine may rewire the brain and drastically affect future decision-making. Other studies have shown the damage cause by long-term use but this study found that the wiring in the brain’s frontal lobe (the area of the brain that handles decision-making and memory) was altered after just one use.

A study focused on teaching boys found eight categories of instruction that were most successful with male students.  They looked at the best practices in schools of varying size, both private and public, that enroll a wide range of boys of disparate races and income levels.

• Lessons that result in an end product – a booklet, a catapult, a poem or a comic strip, for example.

• Lessons that are structured as competitive games.

• Lessons requiring motor activity.

• Lessons requiring boys to assume responsibility for the learning of others.

• Lessons that require boys to address open questions or unsolved problems.

• Lessons that require a combination of competition and teamwork.

• Lessons that focus on independent, personal discovery and realization.

• Lessons that introduce drama in the form of novelty or surprise.

A long article about these findings and how our boys tend to be penalized for their classroom behavior ran in The Atlantic this summer.

I can’t get Ken Robinson’s book, “Finding Your Element,” out of my mind.  You might remember Robinson as having the most popular TedTalk of all time.  The book is about how discovering your talents and passions can transform your life. The bestsellers “Lean In” and “Finding Your Element” are this generation’s “What Color is Your Parachute,” but better.

I am a huge fan of the web site StumbleUpon. You enter in your interests (education, college, wine, travel, whatever) and each time you enter the site it has accumulated dozens of interesting articles and sites for you to look at. You can quickly swipe between stories. (stumbleupon.com)

I read last week that 31 percent of kids ages 8 to 10 now have their own cell phone. That number increases to 69 percent of 11- to 14-year-olds and 85 percent of those ages 14 to 17. Wow, will the age keep getting lower or are we at the youngest possible point today?

The web site Librophile offers thousands of full-length free audio books and eBooks. Currently up for grabs: The Wizard of Oz, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Homer’s Odyssey, The Red Badge of Courage, Moby Dick and hundreds more. If you have a child who doesn’t love to read, definitely try audio books. They are a big hit with our son. He listens for hours while shooting hoops in the driveway. (librophile.com)

California just became the sixth state to adopt the Next Generation Science Standards but there is still no formal timeline for implementing them.  The new science standards stress problem solving, critical thinking and concepts that cut across difference science disciplines. They emphasize scientific thinking and big ideas instead of memorization and focus on the connection between what a student learns in school and what a scientist might use in the workplace. Teachers, academics and experts from 26 states worked for two years to develop the standards. Sadly, district budgets contain no money to train teachers in the new standards and the curriculum framework still needs to be developed. http://www.nextgenscience.org/next-generation-science-standards

October is National Dyslexia Awareness Month. Did you know an estimated 10-15 percent of our nation’s school children show signs of dyslexia? My daughter is one of them. I have found that the International Dyslexia Association web site is the best resource out there for more information: interdys.org/.  Was your child slow to learn to read or currently a very slow reader? I recommend speaking first with your school’s learning specialist about the possibility of dyslexia but you can also try another free app: Dyslexia Detector. (itunes.apple.com)

I am excited to tout another math app that is really terrific. Wuzzit Trouble, from InnerTube games, was developed by Stanford mathematician Keith Devlin (the NPR Math Guy). What is unique is the game’s the ability to teach multiple skills simultaneously. Players are able to practice and develop math skills and comprehension appropriate to their particular age and skill level. (innertubegames.net)

There is a new ranking that cites 12 colleges as delivering a terrific bang for the buck. The ranking looked at student debt upon graduation, starting salaries, tuition and room and board for four-year universities, and graduation rates. The top schools from 1-12 are: University of Cincinnati, Ohio University, San Diego State University, University of Houston, Western Michigan University, West Virginia University, University of Arizona, University of Texas, George Mason University, the University of Maryland (Baltimore County), University of Oklahoma and Texas A&M University. It is really nice to see some unexpected names on that list. It is limiting when high school students all focus on the same handful of colleges. (policymic.com)

Do you have a child who struggles with organization or motivation in school?  No?  Well, aren’t you lucky!  Blogger Andrea Reiser recently suggested 15 questions to ask your student as he or she heads back to school that might help tackle these issues:

1. What are you most excited about in the upcoming school year?

2. What are you least looking forward to?

3 What do you see as your biggest challenge?

4. Are there any non-academic issues that concern you about the upcoming year?

5. What are your academic goals for the year?

6. What are your personal goals for the year?

7. How can we help to support you in achieving your goals?

8. Is there one general theme you need/want to focus on?

9. What will you do differently from last year?

10. Is there anything in particular that will help motivate or focus you?

11. Do you want to make any changes to your study environment that may improve or enhance your study habits?

12. What are your biggest distractions and how can we help you manage them?

13. How are you planning to prioritize your schoolwork and activities and how can we be of help?

14. Is there anything we can do to help you get/stay organized?

15. What’s the best way for us to keep a pulse on your schoolwork?

Just in time for back to school, Pinterest is setting aside a special spot for teachers to share creative classroom ideas, lesson plans and innovative classroom decor. My teenage daughter loves Pinterest for its craft and decorating ideas. Pinterest.com

A couple hundred schools have recently purchased bullet-proof white boards for classroom use. The white boards have handles and can withstand multiple rounds from an automatic weapon. The boards cost $299 each from the company Hardwire. Genius or ridiculous?

There is a website that tracks each state’s progress in providing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) instruction for its students. Vital Signs offer the most comprehensive picture of the demand for and supply of STEM skills, what states expect of students, students’ access to learning opportunities and the resources schools and teachers have to do their work. Check it out at vitalsigns.changetheequation.org/.

The ACT college admissions exam will go digital in 2015. Students want their results faster and in theory are now tech-savvy enough to take the exam online. There aren’t big changes planned to the questions or content but portions will be more interactive and there will be places where students explain concepts in their own words. Why is this important?  The ACT is now more popular as a college admissions test than the SAT and, when one company makes a change, the other is likely to quickly follow.

I was surprised to learn that humanities degrees accounted for 17.1 percent of all college degrees in 1970 and continue to account for 17 percent of degrees today (despite all the talk of STEM careers).  While many humanities degree programs have indeed shown sharp declines, the huge increases in enrollment in visual and performing arts has more than covered those losses.

Parents, teachers, coaches and friends have a new way to get news of students after they head for college. Meritpages.com is used by almost 500 colleges to verify and promote achievements and create a positive online presence for students. Parents can “follow” a student’s merit page and receive updates when a college verifies an accomplishment, like making the dean’s list or winning a scholarship. Students can also add campus activities, leadership positions and work experience. The thought is that employers and graduate schools will also find the free site helpful when Googling candidates.

 K-12 educators share ideas on the ThinkTank12 web site. The site recently featured “the best” 11 math game apps for smart phones. Some of their favorites are: Math vs Zombies, Math Motion Zoom and Math Kid. Read the rest here: tinyurl.com/m2dr3en

New research shows that working with pre-schoolers on estimating skills is important. A new study by the University of Missouri shows that preschool children who has trouble estimating the number of objects in a group were more than twice as likely to have a have trouble with math later in school. (tinyurl.com/mpulkd5)

The Chegg blog consolidated data from US News & World Report, Forbes and AOL to come up with a list of the top nine majors that are earning graduates the highest paychecks right now. In no particular order, they are: chemical engineering, accounting/finance, pharmacy, information systems, civil engineering, nursing, pre-med, computer science and computer/mechanical engineering. (blog.chegg.com)

Stanford psychology professor Carol Dweck suggests that one little word has the power to inspire your child to do incredible things. Every time your child says “I’m not good at math (or science or Spanish)” or “I don’t get how to ___________ (insert any topic here), say, “You aren’t good at it YET.” Teachers are becoming big fans of Dweck’s books and “the power of YET” is becoming quite a hot topic.

There was a lot of buzz this summer when the Oregon legislature approved a plan for the state’s universities to be tuition free. In exchange, students agree to give up three percent of their income for 24 years. The original idea was hatched by a group of U.C. Riverside students in 2012 (they called it Fix UC). At that time, UC system president Mark Yudof said he found the idea appealing but it never went anywhere. Earlier this summer, two state lawmakers in Ohio proposed following Oregon’s lead. It will be very interesting to see if anyone can make this work. What do you think? Great idea or appalling?

Researchers have long known that exercising can help with learning but new research has found that the exercise timing and intensity are critical in learning and memory formation. In a German study, women who gently rode a bicycle (exercised lightly) while hearing new vocabulary words performed best on later recall tests. They performed much better than the control group who sat quietly and the other group who exercised vigorously before studying the words. You can read more about it here.

My daughter, who takes Mandarin, is attempting to teach herself Spanish through online resources. She is curious how she is actually doing and how far she has gotten. She found this free language profiency testing site helpful.  She also loves the language learning web site duolingo. The site has data that claims it is as effective as university-level courses but its adaptive gaming platform makes irt addictive. Best of all, it is free. It offers instruction in Spanish, French, German, Portguese and Italian. duolingo.com

My kicks and giggles this summer came from a facebook and twitter page and blog from The Honest Toddler. Hard to explain but basically a caustic imp saying what we fear little tykes actually are thinking.

 If you find these resources useful, please consider forwarding this blog on to your friends! — LMS

Roundup XIX

I frequently send my kids cheery texts before big tests and exams (“You can do it”) and was chagrined to read a new research study by a Harvard economist Roland Fryer who found that encouraging text messages, like mine, help kids get excited about the idea of doing well but showed absolutely no success in improving results. Fryer was previously best known for proving that paying students for good grades doesn’t work.

• • •

Researchers have some new advice for high school students who want to improve their grades: become friends with high-achieving classmates. A good GPA can be contagious.  Researchers found a direct correlation between student’s grades and the academic environment of their social network. If a student’s class ranking at the start of the study was higher than average for her social network, it tended to fall over the course of the year. Conversely, if a student initially ranked below the rest of her group, her class ranking tended to rise over time. Slate had a similar article on this topic two years ago.

• • •

An article in Psychological Science (and widely reported elsewhere) in May reports on findings that math skills at age 7 predict how much money a child will make at age 42. Kids who were better at math at age 7 ended up in a higher socioeconomic class by age 42, regardless of what other advantages they had. This certainly underlines the importance of quality early childhood education. Read more here.

• • •

Does your child love to write? Kidblog is a safe, age-appropriate blogging site for elementary and middle-schoolers. Teachers have administrative control over all student blogs and student accounts. Students’ blogs are private by default, which means they are only viewable by classmates and the teacher. The site is completely free of advertising, so there no potentially inappropriate sales pitches. Kidblog.org

• • •

For families who don’t qualify for financial aid, finding colleges that offer general merit aid (not need based, students are judged on grades and scores) is critical. The best list I’ve ever seen is at: tjhsst.edu/supportingtj/careercenter/meritscholar.htm.

• • •

Critter Corral is a free iPad game developed at the Stanford School of Education. It uses animals in a Wild West theme to teach pre-schoolers early math concepts. Early math skills are connected not just to better math performance in grade school but also to improved reading skills. Read more here.

 • • •

I love free stuff  and the website freenology.com has a list of more than 100 top-notch free ebooks (science fiction, cooking, romance, memoirs, business).

• • •

If you are curious which are the “hot” colleges today, that can be largely inferred from their yield rate – the percentage of students who choose to attend their college over the others they were admitted to. Harvard has always had the highest yield (82 percent) but Stanford is not far behind at 77 percent (higher than most of the other Ivies). Public universities tend not to disclose their yield. A lower than expected yield means that a school will take more students from its wait list. A more complete list is here: thechoice.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/30/college-admits-2013.

• • •

I feel strongly that the single most important book for a 16-to-30-year-old young woman to read today is “Lean In” by Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg. Part memoir, part career advice, part research paper, the book really resonated with me and I recommend it highly. She talks a lot about the life choices young women make and what they should keep in mind when they do. Buy or borrow a copy for yourself and your daughter today and let me know what you think.

• • •

There is a very cool new computer game called Progenitor X for grades 7 to 12 in which players are humankind’s last hope for survival against a zombie outbreak. Students use the latest biomedical technology to find and treat humans infected with the disease by manipulating cells. Hidden within the game are core biology science standards taught from middle school to college. The game is based on research being conducted by the University of Michigan but the game is also fun. sciencegamecenter.org.

• • •

I learned recently that India uses same-language subtitling (SLS) as an inexpensive way to boost literacy rates. Research has found even greater results for both children and adults who watched videos with subtitles in a foreign target language. Using movies and other media is a great inexpensive way to immerse yourself in a new language. A new program called Lingual Media Player (LaMP) allows two subtitle tracks to be played alongside a movie or video. LaMP is a free, Windows-only application.

• • •

Just in time for summer, check out Real Simple Magazine’s “50 Great Books That Will Change Your Life” in the June issue. I was both excited and horrified by how few of them I have read. The list ranges from fiction to non-fiction to reference books. realsimple.com.

• • •

Harvard Business Review recently posted online some obvious but important “Twelve Rules for New Grads” reprinted here in summary:

• What you learned in college is a foundation for future learning, nothing more.

• Be someone who your colleagues want to work with.

•You’re not as smart as you think you are, even if you are as smart as you think you are.

• From the very first moment, remember you are creating an impression.

• Do what’s required, from the menial to the extraordinary, to get the job done.

• The harder and smarter you work, the luckier you’ll get.

• Learn to listen, listen to learn.

• Always do your homework.

• Don’t learn the tricks of the trade, learn the trade.

• Embrace your weaknesses.

• Network your brains out.

• Don’t lose yourself trying to be what you think others want you to be.

• • •

Here are a couple of my favorite new apps to check out: Babyphone turns your smart phone into a baby monitor; iHomeopathy is a useful reference of natural remedies for common childhood ailments and injuries; and Artkive stores and organizes digital photos of your child’s art masterpieces on your smartphone.

• • •

Even the most game-savvy teens will get a kick out of the computer game “Civilization Revolution’ while leading a civilization from the dawn of man to the modern age and beyond. Teens go head-to-head with history’s greatest leaders as they wage war, conduct diplomacy, discover new technologies and build the most powerful empire the world has ever known. Players choose from 16 different real civilizations around the world and focus on a specific mode of domination: technology, weaponry, economic or cultural. Check it out here.

• • •

If your kids enjoy Scrabble online or on their smartphone, they will definitely enjoy W.E.L.D.E.R., the word puzzle game app that you play solo. The game is addictive, with the benefit of exercising strategy and logical thinking as you build words, test your vocabulary, spelling, mental agility and planning skills.

• • •

If you are a parent or teacher who found themselves exhausted by the end of this school year, there is a blog that I promise will make you laugh out loud. jenhatmaker.com/blog/2013/05/30/worst-end-of-school-year-mom-ever.

• • •

Harkening back to the days of apprenticeships, a new two-year program called Enstitute teaches skills in information technology, computer programming and app building through on-the-job experience as a possibly appealing alternative to college. The nonprofit offers an eight-hour-a-week curriculum on finance, branding, computer programming and graphic design. Apprentices share a large loft space in Manhattan and work full time, are paid a stipend. Its founders hope to create brand name like that of a top-flight university. Graduates leave with work experience instead of a diploma. enstituteu.com.

• • •

There seems to be a bit of a disconnect … A national survey by the ACT testing company found that 89 percent of high school teachers think their students are either very well prepared or well prepared for college-level work, while only 26 percent of college instructors think students are very well prepared or well prepared for entry level college courses.

• • •

The free cognitive training computer game Double Decision can slow and even reverse the brain functions that come with aging in a way that even crossword puzzles cannot. The Wall Street Journal gave it a rave review. The game challenges players to find matching motor vehicle and road signs despite an increasing array of distractions. Check it out at brainhq.positscience.com

• • •

Applications are open now for a very cool, free, but selective summer program, for third-, fourth- and fifth-grade math and science teachers. The Mickelson ExxonMobil Teachers Academy is a week-long camp where 200 teachers learn new ways to teach math and science nstahosted.org/mickelson/. Think about nominating a teacher from your school.  They will be flattered even if they aren’t chosen.

 • • •

The Education Index sorts and ranks college and graduate school programs. Interested students can search through more than 19,000 programs at 2,240 universities. By filtering through data such as average SAT scores, retention rates, tuition, and financial aid, students can use the index to eliminate schools from their list inventory that don’t make sense. The site also lets students rank and compare specific programs at multiple schools. phds.org

• • •

I can’t resist reprinting, in full, “25 Things Every Young Professional Should Know by Age 25,” courtesy of Danny Rubin at the Huffington Post.

25. It’s spelled “definitely,” not “definately.”

24. Read an apartment lease before you sign. All of it.

23. An Excel PivotTable will change your life.

22. A cover letter should add color and personality. It shouldn’t summarize your resume.

21. Everyone likes to receive praise, but the smartest young adults actively seek constructive criticism.

20. The days of a college syllabus are long gone. If you’re waiting for someone to give you direction, have a seat. You’ll be there a while.

19. Multi-tasking is great, but some moments require your undivided attention.

18. Take LinkedIn seriously.

17. Understand the pay-stub that accompanies your paycheck.

16. There’s no such thing as an overnight success. However, people who do “break through” tend to start their day while others are still asleep.

15. Know the difference between a Roth IRA and Traditional IRA.

14. Even though college is over, you should still find extracurriculars. Among the many reasons, clubs and organizations are terrific places to network.

13. You’re never too busy to write a thank you note.

12. Negotiate your salary.

11. The ability to follow-through on assignments can take you from 25-year-old newbie to essential team member.

10. You probably make more money than some of your friends and less than others. The only thing that matters is that you pay your own bills on time.

9. Bring a lunch to work. It’s healthier and cheaper than eating out.

8. Don’t step into an interview room without research on the company and questions for the employer.

7. Dropbox: learn it and love it.

6. Treat interns with respect. They’ll provide you with management training and ease your workload.

5. To impress older business associates, ask about their own career path. You may also learn a thing or two.

4. Under-promise. Over-deliver.

3. The less you write, the tighter the message. The less you talk, the stronger the speech.

2. The only failure in your 20s is inaction. Everything else is trial and error.

1. You’re halfway through the most formative decade of your life. You don’t need all the answers, but you must keep asking questions. Start with this one: what’s something new that I can learn right now?

• • •

I laughed really hard watching Stephen Colbert’s recent commencement address at the University of Virginia. If anyone in your house enjoys Colbert, check it out at tinyurl.com/q6k8rct or on YouTube.

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