Roundup III

There is now an app for everything … but this app alerts you instantly if your child is being cyber-bullied or subjected to offensive language online, and it is free. You can go to http://www.eyegardian.com/ and if you have your child’s facebook login password, this site will track any threatening and lewd language linked to your child. It can even screen videos and images.

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The San Francisco Business Times (with Pay Scale Inc.) on Sept. 27 released a report analyzing the median starting salaries and mid-career salaries of graduates from all the Bay Area colleges. Their findings may surprise you! #7: USF, #6: St. Mary’s, #5: San Jose State, #4: Cal Arts, #3: UC Berkeley, #2: Santa Clara, #1: Stanford.

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Have you checked out all the free courses and educational podcasts on iTunes U? The site offers more than 350,000 lectures, language lessons, films, labs and audiobooks. More than 800 universities offer content and many, including Stanford, Yale, MIT, Oxford and UC Berkeley – distribute their content publicly in the iTunes store. Other schools are using the site to distribute schedules, syllabi, lecture outlines, study guides, notes, maps – even entire books. Stanford was the very first university to sign on and they are now celebrating their fifth year on the site. The computer science courses, for example, being offered for free are incredible but virtually any topic is available. What a great way for a student to explore topics of interest not available at school or without committing to an entire (expensive) course of study. www.apple.com/education/itunes-u

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Earlier this month, I took my family to tour UC Davis with me. What a great college town Davis is! I had never been before and was eager to see the campus. Our youngest is 10 but it is really never too early to tour schools, so I always bring her along. She has seen a number of colleges now and already has opinions on what she likes and doesn’t like about different colleges. We passed the “world’s largest corn maze” on the way there. Throw that incentive in there and your kids are sure to agree to go.

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Speaking of Hollywood, when I read that Shakira has joined the Obama administration as an Educational Advisor, I thought I was reading an Onion headline. Upon reading more, it actually makes a lot of sense. Shakira is a role model to millions of Spanish-speaking children, and in her role on the Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, she can likely be quite influential. I didn’t realize she is also very active funding schools in her native Colombia.

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Every single week, the website Zinch.com gives away a $1,000 to a high school student for a winning three-sentence answer to a specific question. Last week it was: Describe a family tradition you’d like to pass down and why it’s important to you. What a great way to win some quick money.

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School districts throughout California are wondering how to carry out a new law requiring that California public schools teach all students, from kindergartners to 12th-graders, about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans. The new law, which goes into effect Jan. 1, added LGBT Americans, European Americans and the disabled to groups whose contributions to U.S. history should added to the social studies curriculum. The next round of textbooks, which must now must include information on the role of LGBT Americans, as well as Americans with disabilities, won’t be required to be purchased in California until at least 2015 due to budget issues.

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The website Edutopia is run by the George Lucas Education Foundation. I just stumbled across it and I particularly like the stories on best practices at schools across the country. As they put it: “In this series, Schools That Work, Edutopia takes a deep look at what school successes are made of. How principals and teachers, parents and students and schools and districts collaborate to change the futures of their young people. We share with you the blueprints that the change makers used – the contracts, lesson plans, and teacher training tools that could be relevant to your school and your path to change.” Check it out at www.edutopia.org/schools-that-work.

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I don’t know of any local schools using it yet, but a new website that features student artwork is gaining popularity across the U.S. Urge your child’s art teacher to check out http://www.artsonia.com. Schools build a gallery of their students’ projects and the website enables family and friends to log on to see the children’s art. Twelve-and-a-half-million pieces of art from students worldwide is already stored there. Friends and relatives can sign up to get alerts when their students’ new masterpieces are uploaded. There is also a cool gift shop where you can buy mugs, coasters, tiles, T-shirts and dozens of other products featuring your child’s art at very reasonable prices. But best of all, schools earn 15 percent when parents purchase these custom keepsakes – which could be a great fundraiser for your arts program. Thousands of art project lesson plans have been submitted by teachers, and are available as a classroom resource. If your school doesn’t register with the site, parents can do it for their child on their own and it is free.

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Does your student in grades fifth through 12 log a lot of hours volunteering? If so, I would love to see them apply for a Prudential Spirit of Community Award. The deadline is Nov. 1. This program is the United States’ largest youth recognition program based exclusively on volunteer community service. Multiple winners at the middle school and high school level in each state receive $1,000 and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C. Ten of the state honorees will be named America’s top 10 youth volunteers of the year, and will receive an additional $5,000, and $5,000 toward the charity of their choice. What is especially nice is that, if I am reading it right, every student who has devoted more than 50 hours to volunteering over the past calendar year will receive the President’s Volunteer Service Award. Volunteer hours can be accrued through Girls Scouts, 4-H, YMCA, etc. but must be certified by the organization. Visit www.nassp.org/spirit.

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If your teen likes to write, there is a great website called Teen Ink that is a national teen magazine, book series, and website devoted entirely to writing, art, photos and forums for students ages 13 through 19. The site features a weekly newsletter, an online writing course, writing contests, book reviews, polls, reviews of summer camps and more. It is a great way for your teen to get “published” and to find a community of similarly interested students. www.teenink.com.

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Speaking of writing opportunities for teens … For a year or two, my daughter was a book reviewer for the Sonoma County Library System. Libraries are always looking for teen book reviewers who get to read free copies of popular young adult books before they are even published. Reviews are posted on the teen blog for others to read.

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I am hot on test prep because SAT and ACT scores can have a big impact on the aid a student receives for college. I found another cool prep site called http://www.grockit.com. You can try it for free for a few days and after that it is $10/month, but it is a lot more fun than most other prep sites as you can study, compete and practice alone or with a group online and they have some really creative features.

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There is a terrific site that outlines all the scholarships that are available to children under the age of 13. www.finaid.org/scholarships/age13. One of my favorites is the eco-hero award. This San Francisco-based nonprofit, Action for Nature, invites kids age 8 to 16 to submit self-initiated projects that concern environmental health and conservation for prizes of up to $500. The Davidson Institute invites any student under 18 to submit any “significant piece of work” in the fields of mathematics, science, literature, music, technology and philosophy. Twenty students are chosen each year to receive awards ranging from $10,000 to $50,000. There are also awards for the best linoleum block prints, robots, letters about literature, editorial cartoons, logos and more.

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The National Sleep Foundation, which I assume isn’t trying to sell us anything, recently published a study of how much sleep children really need as they get older. They found: pre-schoolers need 11 to 13 hours, children ages 5 to 10 need 10 to 11 hours and teens need 8.5 to 9.25 hours sleep. According to their researchers, “There is strong evidence that sufficient shortening or disturbance of the sleep process compromises mood, performance and alertness and can result in injury or death.” Yikes! It can also cause cranky, unpleasant children … reason enough to make an effort to make sure they get enough sleep. http://www.sleepfoundation.org.

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Everyone can use great study/memorization tips, no matter what their age. Sue Shellenberger, of The Wall Street Journal, recently summarized the growing body of research on the best study techniques. 1. Review the hardest material right before bedtime. Going to sleep right away consolidates information in your memory. 2. Turn off music, text messages, TV and email. Distractions make you less likely to remember material you were studying at the time. 3. Test yourself repeatedly. Students remember more when they force themselves to retrieve concepts then when they simply reread their textbooks or their notes. 4. Eat oatmeal for breakfast. A balanced, slow-digesting diet provides a sustained flow of glucose to the brain.

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The California Department of Education issued a news release earlier this month announcing that nearly three out of four California high school graduates in 2008-09 enrolled in a college or university somewhere in the nation. 51.3 percent of college-going California graduates in 2006-07 (newest data available) enrolled in a California community college, UC or CSU. That didn’t surprise me, what did was the fact that it seemed to report that of those college-going grads, only 28.3 percent earned at least one year of credit within two years of their enrollment.

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Along those same lines, a recently-released report, by the nonprofit American Institutes for Research, found that from 2004 to 2009, California spent $480 million, far more than any other state, on full-time community college students who dropped out after their first year. The report highlighted a nationwide trend of increasing community college enrollment but declining completion rates.

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The event above will continue an important conversation on the teaching of STEM subjects in this area. A new report has found that that only 10 percent of California elementary school classrooms provide regular hands-on science experiments, and 40 percent of elementary teachers say they spend an hour or less teaching science each week. The report, commissioned by the think tank, West ED, and conducted by UC Berkeley, found analyzed data collected during the 2010-11 academic year and surveyed teachers, principals and school district leaders across the state. The full report is called “High Hope, Few Opportunities: The Status of Elementary Science Education in California.” And it can be found at http://www.cftl.org.

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I was interested to read that a number of high-level executives in Silicon Valley are choosing to send their children to a Los Altos Waldorf school which eschews technology in the classroom and discourages it at home. The New York Times reported on Oct. 22 that the chief technology officer of eBay, as well as many employees of Google, Apple and Yahoo, have gone the Waldorf route and one high-tech executive is quoted saying he feels there will be time enough for technology later on, and no technology aids are needed for an excellent elementary school education.

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That said, if you have a teenager who knows how to write apps and is otherwise technologically advanced, they can access resources, find co-founders and even hunt down job opportunities through a new site, www.teensintechconnect.com. Founded by an 18-year-old, this network provides support and events for young entrepreneurs.

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