Roundup XVIII

Recent research shows that students perform better when their instructors use hand gestures – a simple teaching tool that could yield benefits in higher-level math such as algebra. A study published in Child Development found that gesturing may have a unique effect on learning. Interestingly, teachers in the United States tend to use gestures less than teachers in other countries.

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To borrow a headline from Slate.com, “Silicon is the New Ivy.” Recent rankings find that Stanford University has replaced Harvard as students’ “dream college,” according to Princeton Review.

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Courtesy of teachhub.com, here are 14 free web sites your student will enjoy this summer (and prevent learning loss). Bridge Builder – learn how to build and design bridges; iCivics – experience what it means to be part of a democracy; Making History: The Great War – World War I strategy game; MidWorld Online – learn French or Spanish while completing conquests; the popular video game Minecraft; Mission US – students role play the American Revolution or the Civil War; Past/Present – life as an American immigrant in the early 1900s; SimCity – learn how to run a city; SimTower – learn how to run a high-rise; Coffee Shop – run a coffee shop business; Electrocity – learn how electricity contributes to the growth of communities; Lemonade Stand – run a lemonade stand business; Life (Insurance) – manage your life and see why insurance is important; and Science simulations – lots of choices for grades 2 to 8.

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Deadly robots, dramatic arenas, and asynchronous strategy are all part of “Hakitzu: Code of the Warrior,” a free game that introduces kids to Javascript, one of today’s most popular programming languages. With no programming knowledge necessary, players develop a range of coding skills through strategic game-play and customizable ‘CodeWalker’ robots. Hakitzu is available to download for the iPad and iPad Mini.itunes.apple.com/app/fetch/id599976903?mt=8.

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Up to 10 percent of the population is now thought to have a learning disability, such as dyslexia (reading), dyscalculia (math) or autism, translating to two or three pupils in every classroom, according to a new article in the magazine Science. The article also explains that children are frequently affected by more than one learning disability. For example, 33 to 45 percent of children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder also suffer from dyslexia and 11 percent from dyscalculia.

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Nearly a quarter of surveyed ESL (English as a second language) teachers have showed students episode of the TV comedy “Mr. Bean” during lessons, according to a new study. Close to 60 percent of ESL teachers say they have used TV shows to help students improve their understanding of the English language. In each episode, “Mr. Bean” goes about everyday tasks such as going to the dentist, taking an exam or eating at a restaurant and teachers find these scenarios help with vocabulary and grammar. The TV show “Friends” is second most frequently shown, “The Simpsons” is third and the racy show “How I Met Your Mother” is surprisingly fourth. Kaplan International College surveyed 503 ESL teachers from 40 countries.

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I am not sure what I think of this trend … Startups such as Pave.com and Upstart.com enable investors to give money to promising, enterprising students in exchange for a cut of their future earnings. As Pave.com explains it, students get funding that is not debt, mentorship and connections. Investors get an opportunity to share in financial success and connection to future movers and shakers.

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Google Chromebook’s are becoming a hot item among some educators. Google recently announced that the country of Malaysia will be adopting Google apps and Chromebooks for 10 million students, teachers and parents.

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While it is more than five years old, I recently came across a TedTalk by Julius Wiedemann in which he offers forth “100 websites you should know and use.”  This link provides both his original list and an updated list of 100 by category that I found helpful and contained many I was unaware of at blog.ted.com/2007/08/03/100_websites_yo/

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California scored very poorly on the recent national digital learning report card.  The report card measures state policies on digital learning based on their alignment to the elements of high-quality digital learning. California received an “F” and ranks eighth from the bottom among the 50 states. Look up your state here: digitallearningnow.com/reportcard

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High school students across the country are  invited to compete in a computer hacking competition sponsored by the National Security Agency from April 26 to May 5. “Toaster Wars” is a free, online competition that offers students a fun and legal way to get hands-on hacking experience. The aim of the competition is to motivate students to explore the field of computer science, particularly as it pertains to cybersecurity – a field many high school students know nothing about. All students need to participate is a computer and an Internet connection. It is structured in a way that should appeal to both experienced hackers and first-timers. For details go to picoctf.com.

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Aspiring game developers, ages 9 to 18, are invited to learn coding by developing a video game with Kodu, an easy-to-learn, game-creation toolkit and programming language available for free download on PCs. The Kodu Challenge runs from March 19 through May 17, and invites students in two age brackets (9-to-12 and 13-to-18) to design games. Students compete for cash prizes while acquiring valuable skills, such as critical thinking, storytelling and programming. Details are at kodugamelab.com.

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If your child is struggling in school because of a learning disability, an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is a crucial way to support his or her educational needs. Every public school child who receives special education and related services must have an IEP. The National Center for Learning Disabilities explains the top 10 things you need to know about an IEP at ncld.org/students-disabilities/iep-504-plan/what-is-iep.

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The best fix for a student who thinks they hate math is a great teacher. But Numberphile.com is a great resource for that teacher (and parents). The site has curated some of the most compelling and engaging math videos.

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I was sent a review copy of “Girl In The Water: A True Story of Sibling Abuse.” The book is a really disturbing memoir about sibling abuse, something I never even knew was a real problem. This isn’t one brother punching another over the remote control. When the author was 9 years old, her 11-year-old sister led her into the scorching midday sun, tied her to a chair, and taped her eyelids to her eyebrows with electrical tape, leaving her helpless for hours to stare into a blinding blue sky. Every time she walked into her own bedroom she had to say: “I am ugly, stupid, and no one loves me.” I’ve since learned that each year, 19 million children are abused by their siblings. You can learn more at sibling-abuse.com

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The Chegg Blog suggests tips for finding student internships. First, start with your high school or university’s career center/department. Useful websites include internships.com which enables you to search by major or zip code. The government offers hundreds of college internships through usajobs.gov. Another good one is groovejob.com, which has lots of part-time, hourly, seasonal, and student jobs and you can search by location and industry. Finally, internmatch.com still has openings listed for this coming summer.

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In round numbers, only 10 percent of low-income youth graduate from a four-year college, compared to more than 25 percent of middle-income and 50 percent of high-income youth, according to research recently released by the Education Trust.  On their site you can look up any college or university and examine its four and six-year graduation rates.

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