Roundup XVII

Anything that helps students better understand their strengths, interests and options seems like a good thing. To that end, there is a quick, free new app to help students of any age to discover careers that fit their personalities. On Compass Lite (compasslite.woofound.com), you click through a series of 84 images that ask, “Me or not me?” The data is used to form a personality assessment and career recommendations. There are links to learn more about the salary and job prospects. Users sign on through Facebook (make sure to decline their kind offer to share the results with everyone you have ever met). It may not be scientific but any conversation with your child about their future is likely a fruitful one.

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Back in 1983 (my hey-day), 80 percent of 18-year-olds had their driver’s licenses, but 25 years later, that percentage has dropped to about 65 percent. Seventeen-year-olds decreased from 69 percent to 50 percent, and 16-year-olds slipped from 46 percent to 31 percent (source: DMV). I remember being so excited to get my license and thrilled with the independence and freedom it brought. What is going on?

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Do you have a child with special needs (of any variety)? There is an amazing list of 100 apps for children with special needs, organized by grade level and subject as well as by area of concern (organization, motor skills, etc.) See commonsensemedia.org/guide/special-needs.

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I found perhaps the ultimate list for college planning information, thanks to the Independent Educational Consultants Association. This is one to print and save: iecaonline.com/PDF/IECA_Antonoff-Resources-List.pdf.

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Going to bed at a different time every night in early childhood seems to limit a child’s brain power, according to a long term study in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.  Particularly sensitive is the three-year-old brain, according to the study. Researchers found lower scores at that age in reading, maths, and spatial awareness in both boys and girls with unpredictable bedtimes.

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The unigo.com 2013 rankings contain one of my favorites lists: the campuses with the happiest students (students are asked to rate their own happiness at school). So here we go – in order starting at 10: Vassar College (New York), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Carleton College (Minnesota), Colgate University (New York), Brandeis University (Mass.), George Washington University (D.C.), Grinnell College (Iowa), Boston University (Mass.), Barnard College (New York ) … and in the number one slot: University of Wisconsin at Madison.

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Minecraft is considered one of the “good” games if your child is captivated by video games (40 million people are now playing it worldwide). Players traverse landscapes of mountains, forests, caves and various water bodies. Their characters hunt, sail, and farm while constructing homes and objects by breaking and placing textured cubes in a 3D world. The goal is to survive. It actually does encourage creativity as there is a limitless opportunity to build, discover, and problem-solve. Hundreds of schools have even purchased a special version of Minecraft for schools. The computer version is $27 and the smart phone version is $7.

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Shmoop is offering free SAT, ACT, PSAT or AP test preparation. Go to zinch.com/shmoop-prep to sign up. Students must sign up by the end of March to receive six months of free test prep. Grockit is another great free test-prep site that also has a free smart phone app.

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Now is the time of year when seniors are frantically searching for scholarships to help chip away at the considerable tuition costs they face over their college years. In addition to the many scholarships that local Sonoma organizations generously offer each year, students and their families should be scouring the web for other sources of scholarship money. To that end, here are some of the best – free – scholarship websites: Scholarships.com is easy to use and organized into different searchable categories. CollegeBoard.org, the site that runs the SAT testing, lists around 2,300 scholarships with a value of closing in on $3 billion. FastWeb.com is another favorite, offering around 1.5 million scholarships totaling around $3.4 billion in funds. This site makes a big effort to delete scholarships whose deadline has passed. And finally, CollegeNet.com lets you search for scholarships based on your personal information and characteristics.

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I think teachershoutout.com is a lovely idea. The site is billed as “a community of gratitude that lets you thank a special teacher, advisor or coach.” The site can be searched by name or school or city. I don’t see any Sonoma entries on there yet, but let’s change that pronto. Post a quick thank you or compliment to your favorite teachers. They are sure to appreciate it.

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The college board is planning to redesign the SAT to more closely mirror the work that students do in college. That said, this plan has just been announced and my guess is that it will only impact students currently in middle school (and younger). Nobody knows exactly what this change will mean (perhaps least of all the college board). The SAT has been administered since 1926. The last time the test was overhauled was in 2005, when the writing portion was added and analogies were eliminated. One prediction is that the new SAT will look more like the ACT, which surpassed the SAT in number of tests taken this year for the first time.

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Did you know that all high school juniors and community college students who are interested in attending UC Berkeley (and meet some key qualifications) are invited to the Cal Summer Experience, a free two-day residential program on the Berkeley campus in late June? The college offers one program for high school students and one for community college students. Activities include: faculty lectures; a UC personal statement writing workshop; test preparation, major selection, transcript evaluation and other related advising; a panel of current Cal students. To qualify, high school students must have an unweighted GPA of 3.5. Community college applicants must have completed at least 30 semester transferable units by the end of this school year, with a GPA of 3.4. Applications are due April 2. Email inquiries to cal.experience@berkeley.edu. What a great, free chance to experience life on a college campus.

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Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate awards cash grants to outstanding public school teachers each year as a way of giving back to the communities in which company employees work and live. Its Education Foundation has granted more than $750,000 to 1,320 school teachers since its founding in 1992. This year, it expects to award approximately 60 teachers grants of $850 that they can use in whatever way they see fit. Nominate a teacher at bhghome.com/educationfoundation.

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I have written about this before, but the idea that K-12 students should be learning computer coding continues to be a hot topic (“The most important language your child isn’t learning in school” is a frequent headline). There are a lot of ways that you can get your child interested in coding outside of school. Scratch.mit.edu is a cool web site for all ages to try computer coding. Computational Thinking at google.com/edu/computational-thinking is another. Check out code.org for more ideas and resources.

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Google is offering a free “Maker Camp” online this summer, July 8 through Aug. 16, during which students will make 30 projects in 30 days. Thirteen- to 18-year-olds (as well as their parents and teachers) will have the opportunity to collaborate with popular maker personalities and other creative teens on traditional arts and crafts and science projects, as well as using innovative technologies and processes that will enable them to create something entirely new. Every Monday through Thursday, a Maker Camp counselor will post how-to instructions for a new project on g.co/makercamp and Makezine.com/go/makercamp. These projects are great for families to do together or for teens to do on their own.

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College students interested in studying abroad (f0r free) should research the hundreds of critical language scholarships offered by the U.S. State Department. This program (clscholarship.org) offers intensive summer language institutes in 13 critical foreign languages as part of a U.S. government effort to expand the number of Americans studying and mastering critical foreign languages. Participants are expected to continue their language study and hopefully use their critical language skills in their future professional careers. The languages offered include Azerbaijani, Bangla/Bengali, Hindi, Indonesian, Korean, Punjabi, Turkish, Urdu, Arabic, Persian, Chinese, Japanese and Russian.

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Fifty-four percent of high-income students and 9 percent of low-income students complete a college degree, according a new study out of the University of Michigan. This gap has widened over the past 20 years, mainly because the daughters of affluent families are doing very, very well in school (tinyurl.com/ahbvflu).

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PBS Science has a new show on You Tube called “It’s Okay To Be Smart,” hosted by biologist Joe Hanson. He also has a supporting blog for the show you can find at itsokaytobesmart.com. It is a show the whole family can watch together.

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The free online college course, Coursera (coursera.org), has announced new international school partnerships, new courses and support for non-English languages. The 29 new universities bring the total number of universities offering courses to 62, including Columbia and Princeton. Courses from the 16 new international universities will be available in Chinese, French, Italian and Spanish. Among the new California universities offering courses online through Coursera, are Cal Arts, UC Santa Cruz and UC San Diego.

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PBS’ first app designed specifically for parents, Play & Learn, has a dozen games parents can play with their kids, each centered around a familiar location – the grocery store, in a car, in the kitchen, etc. The free, bilingual app encourages parents to seize upon daily teachable moments by connecting math and literacy skills to everyday experiences. Each game comes with a parent note that provides information about the math and literacy skills woven into the 13 interactive games and 52 hands-on activities. (pbskids.org/mobile)

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I just came across an edudemic.com list of 50 great education podcasts. edudemic.com/2013/01/education-podcasts/. Let me know which ones you think merit a mention.

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