Roundup VIII

Dr. Michael Thompson has written extensively about the social life of children. His main points that resonate with me:

1. Let small children choose their own friends; every other aspect of their life is controlled by you.

2. Don’t get emotionally invested in the idea of “best” friends. Only about a quarter of children have one.

3. Recognize that the school day for students is long, boring and exhausting. Allow them free play after school. Thompson makes a lot of other great points in his books, but those are the ones I took away.

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Textbook publishers plan to go entirely digital by 2020. Right now, publishers make most of their money during the first year a new textbook is on the market. They release new editions every two to three years because used books make money for bookstores, not publishers. As a result, publishers are eager to eliminate the used textbook market.

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Speaking of college planning, check out Mytonomy’s library of student created videos on college applications, college essays, and college reviews. These videos are also in Spanish (

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What is the second language that every child needs to learn? Many experts say JavaScript. Computer programming isn’t a core subject in American schools, but perhaps it should be. Java is the main language in developing web pages and mobile apps. The United States is now way behind other countries when it comes to training computer scientists. Most spots at U.S. universities with top science and engineering programs are filled by foreign students. Doug Rushkoff, author of “Program or Be Programmed,” argues that our schools should incorporate computer programming into the core curriculum.

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Teachers are less satisfied with their jobs than they have been in decades according to a recent Met Life survey of public school teachers, parents, and students. Teacher job satisfaction has fallen by 15 percentage points since 2009 (from 59 percent to 44 percent saying they are very satisfied). This decline is coupled with a large increase in teachers reporting that they are likely to leave teaching for another occupation (17 percent in 2009 vs. 29 percent today). In addition, 53 percent of parents and 65 percent of teachers today say that teachers’ salaries are not fair for the work they do. It is thought that the economic downturn is one factor in this declining satisfaction and increasing feeling of insecurity. I would be interested to hear Sonoma teacher reaction to this data.

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Community service-minded, Spanish-speaking, students 15 to 18 years of age should consider apply for the AMIGOS Youth Ambassador Program. Selected students will travel free to Paraguay for a three-week international training and exchange from July 10 to Aug. 3. The program is aimed at teens who want to travel to another country and are eager to make a difference in their communities. Apply at by March 30.

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Khan Academy, the popular educational lecture series for students, has launched a new, free iPad app that includes interactive transcripts of the lectures for easy searching. This iPad app may eventually replace or supplement textbooks, saving cash-strapped schools and students a lot of money. Students can download content and then view it without a laptop or Internet connection. (

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Similarly, the folks behind the famous TED talks, last week unveiled a “TED-Ed” initiative for high school students and life-long learners. Their goal is to grow the archive to hundreds of videos within a year. TED-Ed’s mission is to capture and amplify the voices of great educators around the world by pairing renowned educators with animators to produce a library of nop-notch educational videos.

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Not exactly education, but important for parents of teens … a new app completely disables texting while driving.Textecution ($29.99) is designed for parents to install on their teenagers phone so they know their child is safer behind the wheel of the vehicle. If the user removes Textecution from the phone, it notifies the parent by text.

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A head’s up to high school seniors: Recent reports indicate organizations are researching their scholarship applicants online. Every parent and student should “Google” themselves monthly.

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United States Naval Academy Summer STEM Program is held in three sessions: June 4 through 9 for rising eighth- and ninth-graders; June 11 to 16 for rising 10th-graders; and June 18 to 23 for rising 11th-graders. This residential academic program gives students hands-on practical math and science instruction from Naval Academy professors in world-class lab facilities. Approximately 480 total students will be accepted to STEM. The cost is only $200. Visit by April 15.

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Students in small classes in grades four to six have better school achievement and higher wages as adults than those who learned in large classes, according to a recent Swedish study. This study found that those in small classes had better cognitive and non-cognitive skills, had better scores on standardized national tests in grades six and nine, perceived themselves as having more self-confidence and greater endurance. The differences in school outcomes persisted throughout the rest of their compulsory schooling. The probability of going on to higher education was also greater for students in small classes. Finally, those who were in small classes also earned more money as adults. A reduction in class size of five students resulted in more than 3 percent higher wages.

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Dyslexia affects 15 percent of Americans, including one of my children, so here are some smart-phone apps that are particularly good for dyslexic students (or anyone learning to read).

1. Pocket Phonics ($2.99). Ages 2 to 7, uses graphics, sounds and touch to teach letters and how to “blend” letter sounds together to make word.

2. Montessori Crosswords. ($2.99). A fun game to develop spelling, reading and writing skills using a phonics-enabled movable alphabet.

3. Word Wizard (99 cents). This app supports letter recognition, phonological awareness, spelling and self-correction without sacrificing fun.

4. Dragon Dictation (free) is an easy-to-use voice recognition application that allows you to easily speak and instantly see your text or email messages.

5. vBookz ($4.99). This voice reader reads your books outloud and has a magnifying glass that follows the text as you go.

6. Learning Ally ($99/year) enables students with reading disabilities access to a library of 70,000 digitally recorded textbooks and literature titles.

7. Finally, experts recommend the quick word game Boggle (99 cents) because children hear a ping every time a word is spelled wrong and can fix it.

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Circle of 6, winner of the White House “Apps Against Abuse” technology challenge, is a mobile phone application designed to prevent sexual assault and dating violence among young adults. With only two taps, Circle of 6 connects users threatened with possible sexual assault and abuse to a network of friends who have offered to help, using GPS technology. Go to

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More than 60 percent of new jobs in the last year have gone to college grads, even though they make up only about one third of the workforce.

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I was interested to read that a new study found that children 6 and under learn about prejudice by direct instruction while by age 10, children begin to rely on their own experiences rather than what people tell them (

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Two great book recommendations for teens who loved “The Hunger Games.” “Ashfall” by Mike Mullins and “The House of Tomorrow” by Peter Bognanni.

• • • had an interesting list of top 10 ways to ensure success in college, that are largely relevant for all students.

1. Make new friends in class – Step outside your comfort zone and get to know new people. They will open your mind and help you become a more well-rounded student who is able to understand a variety of perspectives.
2. Sit in the front row of every class – The professor will notice you, it will be much more difficult to zone out and you will be more engaged.
3. Visit the career center often – Having direction will give new life to your college experience. Take all the career tests they have. Read books about career discovery. Ask for input on your resume.
4. Get a professorial mentor – Get to know all of your professors and ask them for help in class; then, meet more often with and ask advice of the one you feel you connect with the most.
5. Be a leader in a club – Being a part of clubs is crucial to expand your social network and your professional skills. However, being a leader is where the real magic happens.
6. Do something you never thought you could do – Study abroad. Join a club that scares you. Start a small business. Go on a service trip. Speak publicly. Be the president of a large club. Whatever it is that you don’t actually think you could do – just do it.
7. Get a professional mentor – You’d be amazed at who will talk to you, how valuable their advice is, and where it will lead.
8. Get a fascinating internship – Internships can open doors and help you learn about a career more than anything else.
9. Write down your goals – There can be incredible results from being focused on specific goals.
10. Develop a morning routine – Developing a morning routine helps you focus. When you start the day rushed, you will have a hurried, seemingly unproductive day.

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After a cheating scandal that involved dozens of teenagers in New York using fake IDs to take tests for others, the SAT and ACT will soon require test takers to upload photos that will be checked against the student’s photo ID at the testing site. Students will also have to list their high school so that schools can keep better tabs on test takers. The new rules apply nationwide and will go into effect this fall.

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Human geography, Chinese and environmental science are the three fastest growing Advanced Placement (AP) classes among high schoolers in America. None of these are yet offered in my town, but perhaps they will be in the future.


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