Monthly Archives: December, 2014

Education Roundup: XXX

While many of us still drink out of plastic water bottle and heat food in plastic, more and more studies are showing what a bad idea that is. New research has found that prenatal exposure to the phthalate chemicals in plastic can result in a lower IQ in children. The researchers recommend that pregnant women not microwave food in plastics, avoid scented products like air fresheners and dryer sheets, and not using recyclable plastics labeled as 3, 6, or 7. http://tinyurl.com/mepg48d

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How many of you still hit the space bar twice at the end of the sentence? Today, the rule is one space, not two spaces, after a period. Period. For those of us over 40, it is almost impossible to break the habit but ask kids today about it and they will not even understand the question. Unless you are typing on an old-fashioned typewrite, get over it. The rule is one space. How do I remember? Well, I usually don’t and it infuriates my copy editor. http://www.cultofpedagogy.com/two-spaces-after-period/

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Most kids (ages 6 to 17) say that they would read more books if they could find ones they like, according to research by Scholastic.com. It also found that kids age 6 to 8 are more likely than older kids to want books with characters that look like them; kids age 9 to 11 are more likely than younger kids to want books that have a mystery or problem to solve; kids age 12 to 14 are more likely than older kids to want books with smart, strong or brave characters; and kids age 15 to 17 are more likely than younger kids to want books that let them forget about real life for a while. Get suggestions at scholastic.com/readingreport/

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Baby Center has announced the most popular baby names of 2014 and there isn’t a Mary, John or Anne to be found. The top girls names from one to 10 currently are Sophia, Emma, Olivia, Ava, Isabella, Mia, Zoe, Lily, Emily and Madelyn. The top boys names are Jackson, Aiden, Liam, Lucas, Noah, Mason, Ethan, Caden, Jacob and Logan. You can read the complete list at babycenter.com.

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I loved playing around on the new personality quiz website Traitify. You answer a series of quick easy questions about your personality and the site provides insight into your dominant traits. It is fun for both kids and grown-ups, and at least right now appears to be free. It might be a fun activity after a big holiday meal. There is also an option where you can explore which careers you would be best suited to and better understand your leadership style. https://demo.traitify.com/

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AdmitSee is a new website where students applying to college can advise each other on their essays. The site gives applicants and parents insight into essays that worked, school faculty can use the free admissions resources on the site, and college students can get paid for sharing their college applications materials. Yes, that last part is a bit horrifying. Supposedly the site works closely with schools to prevent plagiarism. I believe the site replies heavily on TurnItIn.com – a plagiarism detection service that provides “originality checking.” The website was created by four UC Berkeley students and it authenticates not only college essays but also other scholarly writing.

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High school students are talking about the new (mostly free) Test Precision app because of its personalized SAT and ACT prep services. The site’s rapid diagnostic test offers to help students decide on which of those two tests they will do better. Testprecision.com. There are a host of other to-notch online test prep sites at http://preview.tinyurl.com/q96sj2q.

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President Obama wrote his first line of code at the White House in Dec., the first president to do so. He joined Code.org and a dozen students to kick off the Hour of Code and Computer Education Week. He wrote a line of JavaScript that, I kid you not, moved Elsa from the movie Frozen 100 paces forward. Ask your children if they did anything for the Hour of Code in their classroom.

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It can be hard to explain to child why you might not open your wallet every time you pass a homeless person or are asked to donate to a charity. The holidays are a good time to teach your child about charitable giving.†You can explain how charities work and the research that should be done before money is donated. The website kids.gov had some helpful articles on evaluating charities and signs of a charity scams. Consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0074-givingcharity

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Is your child or teen obsessed with Harry Potter? J.K. Rowling began releasing new stories about Harry and his wizarding world on Dec. 12 and she released a new one every morning through Christmas. Sign up at pottermore.com to get the free stories via email.

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According to the website discovertheforest.com, the average American child can identify 1,000 corporate logos but cannot name 10 plants or animals native to his or her region. The site, a partnership between the Ad Council and the U.S. Forest Service, seeks to encourage todayís youth and their parents to re-connect with nature with tips and resources for experiencing it first-hand.

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Did you graduate from college in four years? Today, only 19 percent of full-time students who are studying at non-flagship public universities earn a bachelor’s degree in four years. The number is, however, higher at privates universities and flagships (36 percent) like Berkeley and UCLA. As for students enrolling at a public junior college like SRJC, only 5 percent of full-time students receive an associate’s degrees after their planned two years. (completecollege.org)

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The nonprofit Making Caring Common, led by a Harvard psychologist, suggests five strategies to raise moral, caring children:
1. Make caring for others a priority.
2. Provide opportunities for children to practice caring and gratitude.
3. Expand your child’s circle for concern beyond their family and friends.
4. Be a strong moral role model and mentor.
5. Guide children in managing destructive feelings (like anger, shame and envy).  http://sites.gse.harvard.edu/making-caring-common

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The Huffington Post headline read: “You are more likely to inherit your dad’s social status than his height.” I had to think about that for a moment. The article cites a new study out of UC Davis and the London School of Economics indicating that there is very little social mobility these days and the correlation is stronger for income than height. http://tinyurl.com/m96nfwr

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The annual Google code-in challenge invites students worldwide to put their technology skills to work. Students (13 to 17 years old) complete coding, documentation, and quality assurance tasks to win prizes and everyone who receives a certificate and T-shirts for completing tasks. Grand prize winners receive a trip to Google’s headquarters. The challenge began yesterday, Dec.1 and runs for seven weeks. http://www.google-melange.com/gci/homepage/google/gci2014

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If you’re looking for book ideas for your daughters, you’ll get a kick out of the website, A Mighty Girl. The site features reviews and recommendations of more than 2,000 books with girl-empowering female characters. You can search by reading level, awards won, issues covered and more. The site also has a great gift guide. Amightygirl.com

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My how the times have changed – approximately 26 percent of all college students today have dependent children. The number of college students with dependent children grew by 50 percent from 1995 to 2011. Today the 4.8 million college students with children represent about 26 percent of all college students in the nation. diverseeducation.com/article/68341

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Do you have a child who is interested in learning more about specific careers and you just can’t answer their questions? I spent a few hours exploring a government website that provides really useful pay, qualification, training and employment outlook information on hundred of careers, from private investigator to wind turbine mechanic to massage therapist to line cook. The site’s format is easy to use and it includes sections on the fastest growing careers, highest paying and more. bls.gov/ooh

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More and more students are getting internships in college as a way to increase their chances of getting a great job after graduation. U.S. News & World Report recently ranked the top 10 colleges for internship and co-op programs and there are some less familiar names on the list. From one to 10: Belmont University (Tenn.), Berea College (Kentucky), Butler University (Indiana), Cornell University (New York), Drexel University (Penn.), Elon University (North Carolina), Georgia Tech, Northeastern University (Mass.), Purdue University (Indiana) and Rochester Institute of Technology (New York). http://tinyurl.com/qxv73w3

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I get nervous when my 13-yr-old explores YouTube. Cakey is a new free app that lets kids safely watch YouTube videos without coming across inappropriate content. Your child can only watch videos you add in the app or that you choose from the thousands of suggestions shared by other parents on the web site. It also provides an age rating (best for ages 3+, for example) for each video. You remove YouTube from your child’s iPad and replace it with Cakey. cakeyvillage.com

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There is a lot of talk in the education world these days about data literacy. More and more teachers are creating lesson plans to teach students to collect and analyze data (beyond math and science). The goal is to prepare students today to not only be qualified for careers that depend on data analysis but also just to be capable of deriving opinions from real-world data. Recent research finds that the U.S. faces a shortage of workers with analytical expertise, particularly managers and analysts who can make decisions based on big data analysis. http://tinyurl.com/nmr5rp5

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Are you worried that your children’s brains are turning to mush over the holidays? The Fit Brains Trainer is an app that offers more than 360 brain games. I found it addicting and a lot of fun. Fitbrains.com

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It is time to start researching summer experiences for your children. The best ones books early. While it might be counter-intuitive —  the less expensive the program is (free is best) typically the more prestigious it is. You can get a lot of ideas here: https://educationroundupnational.com/2014/02/28/expanded-meaningfulenriching-summer-programs-on-a-shoestring-for-ages-12-25/

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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!