Tag Archives: advanced learners

Education Roundup XLIII: Checklist for college kids, parenting preteen boys, screen time, likeability and much more

educationtrounup

Parental depression: A recent study in Developmental Psychology finds that maternal depression is actually most common among mothers of middle school children as they enter the tween years. Parenting a tween may even be harder than mothering an infant. The study authors surveyed more than 2,200 well-educated mothers about their personal well-being, including their mental health, parenting experiences and perceptions of their children’s behavior. They found that the years surrounding the onset of adolescence are among the most difficult times for mothers; and that during this period of transition, women can feel lonely and dissatisfied with their mothering roles. http://tinyurl.com/j3yw6fr

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Insomnia: If your children (or you) have trouble sleeping, there are five house plants that you can put in the bedroom that might help. The 18 million people who saw this information on the same video I did can’t all be wrong. The plants each have either a scent that helps with sleep or oxygen generating/air quality improving attributes. They are lavender, aloe vera, English Ivy and white jasmine. Worth a try. www.facebook.com/ninachkahov/posts/10209581571270750

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Help for introverts: If you worry about the future success of your quiet child in a world that seems to favor and reward extroverts, you might enjoy the podcast by Susan Cain, the bestselling author of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.” Cain hosts this 10-part weekly series on parenting and teaching introverted children. She discusses why quiet kids are unique and require different parenting and teaching methods from their extroverted peers. She and her guests discuss how parents and schools can help introverts thrive, how social media allows quiet children to express themselves in ways that were never possible before, the neuroscience of introversion and more. http://tinyurl.com/hhoc7bf

Bolstering confidence: Experts now believe that better than telling your kids how awesome they are and that they can do anything they set their mind to, we should teach them the three qualities of: practice, patience and perseverance.

  1. Practice, because effort coupled with feedback is critical to developing mastery and achieving excellence.
  2. Patience, because mastery and meaningful accomplishment happen over a long time frame.
  3. Perseverance, because obstacles are likely and setbacks are common in any endeavor.

Particularly important, says “What Great Parents Do” author Erica Reischer, is that we emphasize to our kids that success is defined by effort and step-by-step progress, not by comparison with others. http://tinyurl.com/hr4z9j9

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Fake babies: According to new research from Australia, girls who take part in a fake infant virtual parenting programs are more likely to become pregnant than those who don’t take the course. The study authors say this method is not an efficient use of public funds in the effort to stop teen pregnancy. “It’s one thing to get results to say it doesn’t work, it’s another to get results that does the opposite,” study author Sally Brinkman told ABC News. RealityWorks, the largest fake baby company in the U.S. disputes the findings. http://tinyurl.com/h3mvm26

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Nagging moms: Large scale research in England has found that parents’ super-high expectations for their teenage daughters – especially if they remind them constantly of those expectations – can influence whether young girls will grow up to become successful women. The researchers found that girls whose “main parent” – that’s usually the mother – consistently displayed high parental expectations were far less likely to fall into the traps that made the girls less likely to succeed in life. (http://tinyurl.com/z5y4as9) Specifically, these girls were:

  • Less likely to become pregnant as teenagers.
  • More likely to attend college.
  • Less likely to get stuck in dead-end, low-wage jobs.
  • Less likely to have prolonged periods of unemployment.

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No school subjects: Finland is considered to have the best schools in the world and yet they are embarking on a huge change – removing school subjects from the curriculum. There will no longer be any classes in physics, math, literature, history or geography. Instead, students will study events and phenomena in an interdisciplinary format. For example, World War II will be examined from the perspective of history, geography and math. Beginning at age 16, students will choose which topic they want to study, bearing in mind their capabilities and ambitions for the future. The changes are expected to be complete by 2020.

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Permission to plug in: The American Academy of Pediatrics has revised its guidelines for children and adolescents to reflect new research and new habits. The best news for busy parents is a loosening on the screen time for the littlest children. The new guidelines shift the focus from WHAT is on the screen to WHO else is in the room. For babies younger than 18 months, AAP still says no screens at all except live video chat. For ages 15 months to 2 years, experts now suggest avoiding solo media use and instead treat a video or an app like a picture book (watch it with them and discuss). For preschoolers age 2 to 5, AAP recommends Sesame Workshop and PBS and no more than an hour a day of screen use. http://tinyurl.com/grldwgu

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International students: Enrollment numbers of international undergraduate students are up 79 percent from 10 years ago. Where are these students coming from? The top country is China, followed by Saudi Arabia, South Korea, India and Vietnam. http://tinyurl.com/jklytgt

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In cigarette news: Vaping is gateway smoking: tenth graders who vaped often were about 10 times more likely to become regular smokers six months later, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. “It’s such an emerging public health issue,” said lead author Adam Leventhal from USC’s school of medicine. “These teens aren’t just experimenting – a significant portion are progressing to more regular levels of smoking.” http://tinyurl.com/jbdnej4

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Other cig news: As part of its plan to “phase out” conventional cigarettes, Philip Morris is introducing a new product, called IQOS, that heats tobacco instead of burning it. Users will supposedly experience 90 percent fewer toxins than in normal cigarettes. http://tinyurl.com/zaaugwj

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Good chocolate news: Nestle has found a way to reduce the amount of sugar in chocolate by as much as 40 percent and it plans to start selling products with the new formulation in 2018. Dreyer has done something similar with its “slow-churned” method of making ice cream that reduces fat by half and calories by a third. http://tinyurl.com/z5ph3fk

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Life hacks: Inc. magazine recently ran a great article on “8 Things Every Person Should Do Before 8 a.m.” Do these things first and you’ll have done the important stuff first,” says author Ben Hardy. The reasons supporting each are compelling and available online at www.stumbleupon.com/su/2iHp3V/

  1. Get a healthy seven-plus hours of sleep
  2. Prayer and meditation to facilitate clarity and abundance
  3. Hard physical activity
  4. Consume 30 grams of protein
  5. Take a cold shower
  6. Listen to or read uplifting content
  7. Review your life vision
  8. Do at least one thing toward long-term goals

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Free magazines: Many local library are offering a new service that allows cardholders to read magazines from their mobile device or home computer. Zinio for Libraries has more than 160 popular full-color digital magazines to choose from and they look the same as the hard copy version. The collection of popular digital magazines includes both new and old titles with no wait list, no checkout periods, and no limits. www.zinio.com

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Book suggestion: Should we pay children to read books or to get good grades? Is it ethical to pay people to test risky new drugs or to donate their organs? I recommend “What Money Can’t Buy” by Michael J. Sandel as a fun, thought-provoking holiday gift for teens or adults. The book is an easy read and will give your family plenty to talk about over the dinner table.

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Gift for a fidgety kid: The Anti-Stress Cube has six sides, each with something to fidget with: Click. Glide. Flip. Roll. Spin. It is designed for kids and adults who likes to fidget to relieve anxiety and stress, kids with autism and ADHD and kids with sensory special needs. There are a few options, priced around $20. Take a look at www.thestresscube.com.

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Lower math scores: The results of international PISA testing that compares 15-year-old students across 73 countries found that U.S. math scores were down and science and reading were flat. The top-performing country in all three subjects was Singapore. U.S. students scored below the international average in math, and at the international average in reading and science. One piece of good news was that the U.S. narrowed its achievement gap somewhat between low-income students and their higher-income peers. http://tinyurl.com/zd6xe7d

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Summer trips: I have compiled a giant list of free and low-cost summer experiences for middle and high school students. The categories include outdoor adventures, art camps, language programs, overseas travel and more. Many are sleep-away (residential) programs on college campuses. Many of the best ones have deadlines right around now. Take a look with your student over the holiday break. www.educationroundupnational.com

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Priorities today: Millennials would rather travel than buy a house or car, or even pay off debt, according to new research. The study asked more than 1,000 people aged 18 to 35 in the U.S., U.K. and China about their priorities for the next five years. http://tinyurl.com/h9jplsg
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Popular study abroad locations: Most U.S. students who study abroad choose a European country. Last year, 54.5 percent – of the 313,415 U.S. students who studied abroad for academic credit – did so in Europe. The one non-European country among the top five destinations was China. Tops is England, then Italy, then Spain. Young women are twice as likely to study abroad as young men. http://tinyurl.com/jgax8e4. If your college student is or has studied abroad, ask him or her to send us a note about the experience to ourschools@sonomanews.com.***

Help for kids with special needs: There is a great list of 21 Chrome extensions for struggling students and special needs kids available at http://tinyurl.com/gnh4zol. The apps can assist students in five main categories including “text to speech,” readability, reading comprehension, focus and navigation.

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Screen culprits: Parents spend more than nine hours a day with screen media. Common Sense Media has found that despite using media heavily throughout the day, parents overwhelmingly believe they are good role models for kids. Of that nine hours, the vast majority is personal media (seven-plus hours) and only slightly more than 90 minutes devoted to work media. Meanwhile, many parents are concerned about their children’s media use, including thinking that their children may become addicted to technology (56 percent) and that technology use negatively impacts their children’s sleep (34 percent). The study also found that parents from lower-income households spend more time with personal screen media (nine hours, 15 minutes) than middle-income parents (seven hours, 42 minutes), who spend more time than higher-income parents (six hours, 41 minutes); and parents with a high school degree or less spend the most time (nine hours, three minutes), as compared with parents with an undergraduate degree (six hours, 10 minutes). http://tinyurl.com/hjcqq3w

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Headphones for kids: With so many kids using headphones these days, there are concerns about which are “safe for young ears.” Half of 8- to 12-year-olds listen to music daily, and nearly two-thirds of teenagers do, according to a 2015 report. Safe listening is a function of both volume and duration. So what are the best headphones to protect hearing? A testing team found the best overall pick for children was a Bluetooth model Puro BT2200 ($99.99). Toddlers liked the fit of Onanoff Buddyphones Explore ($29.99). For older children, ages 4 to 11, was JLab JBuddies Studio ($29.99). A pair of earbuds – Etymotic ETY Kids 3 ($49) and Puro IEM200 ($29.99) – did the best job at blocking outside sounds.

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Top 10 parenting books: Need some advice dealing with your children? Here are some recommendations for the top 10 parenting books of this year, courtesy of collegeparentcentral.com. I have marked with a star the ones I have read and also recommend. (http://tinyurl.com/znodeoj)
• “The Gift of Failure” by Jessica Lahey*• “How to Raise an Adult” by Julie Lythcott-Haims*• “Building Resilience in Children and Teens” by Kenneth R. Ginsberg and Martha M. Jablow• “A Survival Guide for Parenting Teens” by Joani Geltman

• “It’s the Student Not the College” by Kristin M. White

• “Emerging Adulthood – The Winding Road from the Late Teens Through the Twenties” by Jeffrey Arnett

• “The i-Connected Parent- Staying Close to Your Kids in College (and Beyond) While Letting Them Grow Up” by Barbara Hofer

• “Making the Most of College – Students Speak Their Minds” by Richard Light

• “The Naked Roommate – for Parents Only” by Harlan Cohen

• “You’re On Your Own, But I’m There if You Need Me” by Marjorie Savage

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Test your character: There is an online site where adults and students can discover their character strengths and take a personality survey. The survey is free and might provide interesting to your teens. Some of the more detailed reports provided by the nonprofit cost money. www.viacharacter.org/

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Required reading overseas: Take a look at what students in countries from Ireland to Iran, Ghana to Germany, are asked to read and why. For example, in Australia, students read “Tomorrow, When the War Began” (1993) by John Marsden, about a teenage girl and her friends who return from a camping trip to find that an unidentified foreign military force has invaded Australia. In Austria, students read “Faust” (1787) by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, a play about a scholar who makes a pact with the devil. You can even find free, downloadable versions of many of the books at Project Gutenberg. http://tinyurl.com/j99jkfc

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Downwardly mobile: A new study has found that about half of 30-year-olds won’t make as much money as their parents did at the same age. Back in the 1970s, 92 percent of American 30-year-olds earned more than their parents did when they were young. The study was conducted by economists and sociologists at Stanford, Harvard and the University of California. They used tax and census data to compare the earnings of 30-year-olds starting in 1970 to that of their parents. http://tinyurl.com/jqyzw8v

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Popular baby names: A Baby Center survey has found that Sophia and Jackson were the most popular baby names of 2016. On the site, you can click on a name to see its popularity over time, common sibling names and more. The site also looks at the hottest baby-naming trends. The rest of the top 10 are Emma, Olivia, Ava, Mia, Isabella, Riley, Aria, Zoe and Lilly. The rest of the top 10 for boys are Aiden, Lucas, Liam, Noah, Mason, Caden, Oliver and Elijah. www.babycenter.com/top-baby-names-2016.htm

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Does math equal success: A new study has found that low-income children’s math knowledge in preschool was related to their later achievement – but not all types of math are created equal. In preschool, children’s skills in patterning, comparing quantities, and counting objects were stronger predictors of their math achievement in fifth grade than other skills. Understanding written numbers and calculating also emerged as predictors of achievement. The study’s authors suggest that certain early math topics should get more attention than they currently do.

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Most popular college in the U.S: UCLA is the first U.S. university ever to receive 100,000 freshman applications. 102,177 students are seeking a spot in the Class of 2021, up 5 percent from last year. The target size for the entering class is about 6,500. Those figures don’t include tens of thousands of expected transfer applicants. http://tinyurl.com/glkarct
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Check list for college kids: I can’t resist a good list by which to rate my parenting. Psychology Today recently ran an article of 40 things students need to know by the time they leave college. Some are obvious (how to do laundry and how often to change bed linens), but here are a few that might be commonly overlooked (http://tinyurl.com/hy459v4)
  • How to address an envelope
  • How to scan a document and how to send an attachment in e-mail.
  • How to answer a landline and how to use call waiting on a landline.
  • When not to text and when to call.
  • How to pump gas and check your oil.
  • How to fill out forms at a medical office and how to have all the correct information handy to do this.
  • Learn to distinguish between real news and fake news; get your news from many different sources and not just social media.

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Parenting preteen boys: One of the best articles I have read about parenting pre-teen boys appeared in the Wall Street Journal right before Christmas. Most boys lag behind girls in language skills, empathy and attention during these years, according to recent studies. The article suggest ways to explain this to boys and to bolster their development and confidence during these crucial developmental (and tough) years. http://tinyurl.com/z9ju76e

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Brighten: A new anonymous app is growing in popularity among high school and college students and finally that’s a good thing. Brighten enables students to send anonymous compliments to their friends, and it’s a place to read the nice things people are saying to each other. You can also use the app to let someone know you are thinking about them. Users can swipe left on any brighten they’ve written or received to delete it, or swipe left on any brighten to report it. To date, more than 10 million messages have been sent by its one million users. www.brighten.in

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Learning a second language: People who learn more than one language are less likely to develop dementia; they are more creative; and they have an easier time learning a third language. Researchers also believe that language learning also improves tolerance. This seems increasingly important in today’s world. Read more at http://tinyurl.com/zvmbeu9

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Improve your life: The co-authors of “Emotional Intelligence 2.0” suggest 10 habits that will dramatically improve your life. Among the best, which are relevant for students as well (http://tinyurl.com/h9age5x) …

  • Stay away from people who erode your quality of life.
  • No more phone, tablet or computer in bed.
  • Appreciate the here and now.
  • Realize that things aren’t always as you perceive them to be.
  • Get started, even though you might fail.
  • Get organized.
  • Start a collection of the things that truly resonate with you.

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Linguistics app: Local Lingual is a cool interactive language map. Click on any location in the world, and it plays recordings of the local language, along with the national anthem and other information. www.localingual.com

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Allergy lifesaver: CVS is now selling a rival, generic version of Mylan’s EpiPen at about a sixth of its price ($109.99 for a two-pack) of the authorized generic version of Adrenaclick, a lesser-known treatment compared to EpiPen, which can cost more than $600.

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Hum: Verizon is hard-selling a device called Hum that you can install on a car to track how fast your teen is driving. You get a text message every time your child is speeding and it’s so small that it is almost undetectable. But what are we supposed to do with the information? If we freak out, the teen will know it’s on the car. Is the Hum another example of too much information? Like the school parent portal and apps on our phones that help us locate our children at all times?

Send tips, comments and resources to Lorna at lorna.sheridan@sonomanews.com. Please forward this blog to your friends if you think they would enjoy it.

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Education Roundup XXXIII — The best resources, tips and research for students, parents and teachers

An article titled “The 5 Things Your Kids Will Remember About You” really caught my eye. It is worth reading in full, but author David Willis said it really boils down to these five:

1. The times you made them feel safe.

2. The times you gave them your undivided attention.

3. The way you interacted with your spouse.

4. Your words of affirmation AND your words of criticism.

5. Your family traditions.

The entire piece is online at www.patheos.com.

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I love a hot topic and was interested to read, “Why Middle School Should Be Abolished” in the Daily Beast. The author, David Banks, is a long-time educator and author, and he said, “America should do away with middle schools, which are educational wastelands. We need to cut the middle out of middle schools, either by combining them with the guidance and nurturing that children find in elementary school, or with the focus on adult success that we expect from our high schools.” tinyurl.com/ngxpcs6

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As I get anxious about losing my memory, I was interested to read about the top brain foods, not just for young developing brains but also for adults eager to ward off Alzheimer’s and dementia. They are: cocoa (hooray for dark chocolate); omega-3 fatty acids (found in salmon, flaxseed oil and chia seeds); walnuts; Magnesium (found in avocado, soy beans, bananas and dark chocolate); and blueberries. You can read more in Science Daily at tinyurl.com/mlty2hz

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I loved the article, “15 Reasons Why Frequent Travelers Are More Likely To Be Successful” by Tracy Tullis (www.lifehack) (read the entire article for more insight):

1. Adults who have travelled know how to thrive outside their comfort zone

2. They welcome and embrace change

3. They know how to manage their emotions

4. They trust and don’t always need to be in control

5. They manage fear and move past it

6. They recognize and seize opportunities

7. They know how to negotiate to get what they want

8. They see beauty where most don’t

9. They are more confident and know how to fake confidence when vulnerable

10. They better understand differences in people and are more accepting

11. They know when to live in the moment

12. They smile more and feel happiness more often

13. They understand the importance of listening

14. They are less judgmental and more empathetic

15. They may not be rich but they know how to save and spend wisely

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And the good news is that more Millennials are studying abroad during college than any previous generation. Over the past two decades, participation in study-abroad programs tripled, according to the Institute for International Education (IIE). While it was previously thought that STEM majors couldn’t study abroad or it might delay their graduation, more and more science, technology, engineering and math majors are studying overseas. The most popular destinations are the U.K., Italy and Spain. A campaign called Generation Study Abroad seeks to double the number of U.S. students who currently study abroad (300,000 last year or 9 percent) to 600,000 in four years. Officials from IIE says that globalization makes study abroad “absolutely necessary” for graduates, as one in five American jobs in today’s market is tied to international trade. tinyurl.com/o55wgem

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With the hope that empathy is something one can build in a child, I was interested to find a list of TV shows and movies that said thought to promote empathy. Some of the top picks by Common Sense Media are the movies “Dumbo,” “Bully,” “A Little Princess” and “Maya the Bee Movie”; and the TV shows “Scorpion,” “Parents Just Don’t Understand” and “Glee”; and the PBS radio show “This American Life.” The complete list is at commonsensemedia.org.

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A professor recently offered forth her “best advice for college freshmen” on the blog, Grown and Flown. Her tips included:

1. Show up and sit in the front. (She can predict a student’s grades by their attendance and where they sit in the classroom – back row = bad grades.)

2. Introduce yourself. (Find excuses to go to your professor’s office hours and re-introduce yourself every time you see him/her.)

3. Engage. (Ask questions, be respectful in emails and turn off your cell phone in class.)

4. Affiliate. (Students who are active in campus groups are happier and less likely to drop out.)

5. Learn a language and/or live abroad. (The more foreign the better as you likely won’t have these chances ever again.)

6. Stay healthy. (Get enough sleep and work out – take care of yourself.)

7. Tap into resources. (Free career advice; funding for internships, research opportunities and mental health counseling, take advantage of it.)

8. Be social. (Leave your dorm room door open and join a study group.)

9. Savor your independence. (College is a time to grow up but keep your support system in place and value your family.)

10. Make the most of each day. The time will fly by. grownandflown.com

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About half of all colleges in the U.S. engage in the practice of “bait and switch” in which students receive less financial aid after their freshman year. Institutions frequently use financial aid as a recruiting tool and aid declines after year one. When you combine this practice with annual tuition increases, more and more students must take on debt to stay in school, transfer or drop out. Most scholarships, like those won locally by Sonoma high school students, are for the first year of college only. tinyurl.com/jvjcc2f

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I was discouraged to learn that e-cigarette use among middle and high school students has tripled in the past year. Last year, 13.4 percent of high school students reported using e-cigarettes on at least one day in the past 30 days, up from 4.5 percent in 2013. Among middle school respondents, the percentage increased from 1.1 percent to 3.9 percent in 2014. tinyurl.com/nbqqvwp

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A new study out of UCSF has found that if you want ADHD kids to learn, you should let them squirm. It turns out that tapping their feet and wheeling their chair around is vital to these students remembering information and working out complex cognitive tasks. The study suggests that students with ADHD could perform better on classroom work, tests and homework if they were able to ride an exercise bike or sit on an activity ball. The excessive movement that is a trademark of hyperactivity may actually be crucial for them to learn. Unfortunately, children in the study without ADHD performed worse under these conditions so it will be hard to implement in a mixed classroom. tinyurl.com/mpevu4g

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Arizona State University (ASU) last week announced plans to offer an entirely online freshman year experience for less than $5,000. The program will award academic credit to people who successfully complete eight web classes on general education subjects, taught by Arizona State faculty. Best of all, students only pay the $4,800 tuition if they pass their final exams. Those who finish the course sequence would be able to apply to ASU for admission with sophomore standing. ASU continues to offer an on-campus four-year college experience as well. ow.ly/M0kyp

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One reason that computer coding instruction has been slow to take off in our schools is that it can be very difficult to find qualified instructors. If you know how to code, the lure of higher salaries in the corporate world makes teaching less desirable. For that reason, I was excited to read about Google’s free CS First program. It is intended to operate as a computer science “club in a box” – no expertise from the adult leader required. It was developed as a full-fledged after-school program for students ages 9 to 14. If you don’t know how to code yourself but are interested in starting an after-school coding club, it sounds ideal. Cs-first.com

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Starting in September, every fourth-grader in the nation will receive an “Every Kid in a Park” pass that’s good for free admission to all of America’s federal lands and waters – for them and their families – for a full year. This is part of President Obama’s Every Kid in a Park initiative, aimed at getting America’s children to “enjoy their country’s unrivaled public lands and waters.” Because getting to the parks can be an issue, the National Park Foundation will also be awarding transportation grants for kids and schools. A new education portal will feature more than 1,000 materials developed for K-12 teachers, including science labs, lesson plans and field trip guides. ed.gov/blog/2015/02/lets-get-every-kid-in-a-park/

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The Uncollege Blog recently tackled the topic of crucial skills that every young adult needs – but which aren’t taught in college. The article goes on to provide some specific tips on how to gain this missing knowledge. This is a terrific article that I hope everyone will take the time to read in its entirety (tinyurl.com/msvneyv)

• How to network with purpose

• How to manage your bank account

• How to build a career that’s all your own

• When to trust your gut

• How to avoid burn-out

• How to bounce back, or the art of failing with grace

• How to be a good partner

• How to communicate and negotiate well

• How to take care of your home

• The importance of travel

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More and more high school and college students are taking notes, not on paper, but on an iPad, tablet or smart phone. The website College Candy offers up the five best note-taking apps with cool new features: Penultimate App, My Script Smart Note App, My Script Smart Note, InkFlow App and Dragon Dictation. I am going to try them out in interviews.

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Textbooks continue to be insanely expensive. A price comparison extension for Chrome to help students find the best textbook deals when they search for their course books. Occupy the Bookstore shows students the best prices on the web as well as on-campus student listings for the book, right alongside the prices that the campus bookstore is offering. occupythebookstore.com

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It was interesting to see the names on a recent ranking of the 25 state universities with the happiest freshman. The top 15 (based on freshman retention rates) are:

1. UCLA 96.9 percent

2. University of California, Berkeley 96.8 percent

3. U.S. Naval Academy 96.5 percent

4. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill 96.4 percent

5. University of Virginia 96.1 percent

6. University of California, San Diego 95.8 percent

7. University of Michigan 95.7 percent

8. University of Florida 95.6 percent

9. University of Maryland 95.2 percent

10. University of Wisconsin 94.8 percent

11. University of California, Irvine 94.7 percent

12. U.S. Military Academy 94.6 percent

13. College of William and Mary 94.5 percent

14. Georgia Institute of Technology 94.3 percent

15. University of Georgia 94.1 percent

cbsnews.com/news/25-state-universities-with-the-happiest-freshmen

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Speaking of happiness, I always say that I just want my kids to be happy but decades of research on happiness has discovered that focusing on happiness is not a great way to actually be happy. Psychologist and author Erica Reischer was interviewed about this issue for KQED public radio. She reminded listeners that Dr. Spock once said, “The trouble with happiness is that it can’t be sought directly. It is only a precious by-product of other worthwhile activities.” Reiser explained, “Too often, we parents equate happiness with pleasure and gratification. We try to pick summer camps our kids will ‘like.’ offer them meals they will ‘like,’ organize play-dates with kids they ‘like,’ and so on. Over time, these interactions send the message to kids that happiness is found in feeling good and getting what we want, and that organizing food, activities, relationships and even life itself around our preferences is the way to go.” She said that when kids are engaged and what they are doing has meaning to them, they tend to be happy. drericar.com/

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Some experts contend that happiness is a skill, that it can be learned and/or taught. The Happify app’s free activities and games are based on serious academic research. The program is designed to train people to disrupt patterns of negative thinking, manage stress and build skills to overcome life challenges. Happify recommends daily activities and the site claims it can teach all ages valuable skills to find peace of mind and feel more engaged, motivated and … well, happy. happify.com

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There were two pieces of interesting news recently for families dealing with peanut allergies. One study found that eating peanuts in infancy “significantly decreases” chances of a peanut allergy. Another found that children whose family washed dishes by hand (rather than families who used a dishwasher) were far less likely to become allergic to peanuts. The theory behind the latter is that germs are good. You can read the full articles in the most recent issues of The Atlantic and Time magazine.

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The Speakaboos app helps children read, explore and discover books they love based on their interests. The app was developed based on decades of research and testing and it aims to cultivate literacy and language learning skills for children from preschool to second grade. The site provides free storybooks with illustrations, animated characters, story-driven games and touch-screen interactions to keep children engaged while learning. The app works on computers, tablets or mobile devices. www.speakaboos.com

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If you are concerned about your child’s understanding of their online presence, Common Sense Media has introduced a game that introduced middle school students to the fundamentals of digital citizenship. The site offers animated, choose-your-own-adventure interactive experiences. Students can tackle digital dilemmas, make good (and not-so-good) decisions, and try out possible solutions through stories and mini-games – all without risking their real-world reputations. digitalcompass.org

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Do your children have trouble focusing when they sit down to do homework? These are some good tips. Soloquest’s Deb Stewart suggests a pair of noise-cancelling headphones and some soothing background music (classical is often a good choice) to block other sounds.

• Get your student in their regular homework place, remove any distractions (cell phones, chat windows, TV, etc.).

• Now, add a pair of noise-cancelling headphones (over-the-ear are the most effective) and switch them on. They will immediately eliminate a great deal of background noise.

• Next, play music that will help keep the mind focused.

If you’re just getting started, she suggests Pachelbel’s Canon in D, Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony Movement #2, Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony Movement #2 or Dvorak Ninth Symphony Movement #2.

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Once upon a time, Facebook was reserved for college students only. With grandparents now enjoying the site, college students are loving it a little bit less. A new social network called Friendsy, launched by two Princeton students, offers options for connecting with classmates you might not meet otherwise. The founders were concerned by reports that college students today are feeling less connected with their peers and find it hard to make friends on campus. In less than a year, the site is active on more than 1,600 college campuses. Friendsy.net.

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My new favorite free math app is TeachMe. This online suite of Internet math games covers math concepts in pre-K to ninth grade and is searchable by Common Core State Standards. TeachMe also has progress reports and dashboards for parents and teachers to track individual student performance. mathgames.com

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Rather than cushy world tours, a new nonprofit called Global Glimpse brings students together from diverse communities for group immersion community service experiences in developing countries. The company provides scholarships on a sliding fee scale that makes the program accessible to low income students. Students pay from $500 to $3,500, which includes airfare, accommodation, and all meals for their 2.5 week trip. globalglimpse.org

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Speaking of travel, if you know of a student who is planning a trip abroad this summer, they should check out Language Zen. The free personalized site selects vocabulary based on how much it is actually used in the real world. languagezen.com

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A new study has found that parents who tell their kids that they are better than other children can create narcissistic tendencies. Parents are really divided on this topic as the trend in recent years has been unwavering praise and installing in children a sense of how special they are. How do you walk the fine line between promoting healthy self-esteem and creating entitled kids who think the world revolves around them? NPR had a good story on the issue here: tinyurl.com/lw8sndp

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“Serial” got many teens (and their parents) interested in podcasts. Teachers around the country are using podcasts in the classroom because better listening skills is a critical Common Core educational goal, and students love the format. Studies have found that students can listen to content two-to-three grade levels higher than they can read. Interested in more ideas? Check out Listen Current which has resources to “teach your students to listen with the power of public radio.” listencurrent.com. If you haven’t tuned in, Serial’s first season consisted of 12 40-to-45-minute “chapters” narrated by a reporter, involving interviews with former witnesses, detectives, lawyers and classmates of a teen who was convicted of the murder of his ex-girlfriend. serialpodcast.org

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I speak with a lot of parents who are interested in seeing as much data as possible about their child’s school. One easy way to learn more is to look at the School Accountability Report Card that every public school in America must prepare each year. Your school’s 2014 report can be found on the district website. The information contained is very interesting, as it includes proficiency rates by grade, gender, race and income, a-g completion rates, fitness levels, suspension/expulsion information, average teacher salaries and more. It is an informative look inside your child’s school.

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A new report from PayScale found that what you study matters a lot more than where you go to college when it comes to the ROI (or return on your investment) in your college degree. In an article in The Economist, the study authors found that engineers and computer scientists do best, i.e. they get the highest 20-year return on their college fees. Engineering graduates from moderately priced colleges do only slightly worse than those from highly selective ones. Business and economics degrees also pay well, delivering a solid 8.7 percent average return. On the other end of the spectrum, an arts degree from the Maryland Institute College of Art had a hefty 20-year net negative return of $92,000. tinyurl.com/l7bmobm

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It was truly disheartening to read The Economist’s article on college completion rates in the same issue. Researchers have found that wealth now predicts whether a child will graduate university better than eighth-grade test scores. “Kids in the richest quarter with low test scores are as likely to make it through college as kids in the poorest quarter with high scores,” found Robert Putnam, author of “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis.” Something else I found interesting is that in the 1970s there were no socio-economic differences in the amount of time that parents spent talking, reading and playing with toddlers. But today, the children of college-educated parents benefit from 50 percent more time engaged in these activities. Marriage rates, cultural norms and single parent households all play a role. As The Economist concludes, “a problem this complex has no simple solution.” econ.st/1H8faqA

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Beyond Minecraft, I know that parents are curious which video games are “good” for their children and which have no redeeming value. Teach Thought evaluated hundreds of games and rated each based on playability, cognitive load and innovation. The unranked list of the 50 best (most educational) includes: Empire Total War, Civilization, Bridge Constructor, Plague Inc., World of Sand and dozens more. tinyurl.com/q2xvnnd

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As part of the White House’s recent ConnectED initiative, it has convinced several prominent tech companies to provide their expensive software to students. If you visit whitehouse.gov/issues/education/k-12/connected, you can access free design, drafting and engineering software from Autodesk; online AP classes and college courses from elite institutions through edX; and data mapping software from ArcGIS Online Organization.

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In an effort to get all kids creating, collaborating and learning to code, Connected Camps is partnering with Institute of Play to offer a low-cost, four-week online Minecraft camp, beginning July 6. Campers, ages 9 to 13, will be taught everything from the basics of building to coding skills in a safe multiplayer environment. Participants can login from home and the camp features live broadcasts, online discussions with experts, and collaborative design events. Participants can sign up for advanced coding instruction for a fee. The camps will be staffed by trained Minecraft experts.connectedcamps.com

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If your student is interested in computer coding (or you are!), just in time for summer, EdSurge has produced a great resource guide of coding camps, online programs, clubs and tools. tinyurl.com/lzsrw2m

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Students who are stressing out over their schoolwork might explore the DeStressify app. The app reminds kids of tried-and-true stress remedies including eating right, sleeping well and getting exercise. It offers a way to keep these coping tools in mind, from five-minute yoga exercises to a nutrition pop-up reminder at lunch. destressify.com

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Because it is the hottest topic in schools today, Edutopia has developed a resource roundup of videos, interviews and articles for adults who are looking to build resilience and grit in young people. Whether it is sticking it out during a challenging freshman year in college or surviving a tough situation at home, everyone seems to want the magic answer: How do you nurture resilience? These resources are a start: tinyurl.com/n4xthu7

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There is a great free collection of “ScienceTake” videos for students created by the New York Times. Each video explains the science behind some cool idiosyncrasy of everyday life. If your student enjoys the Natural History Museum, they will love these videos.nytimes.com/video/sciencetake/

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As you shop for toys to keep your children amused this summer (perhaps on long car trips or plane rides), you might browse Amazon.com’s new dedicated STEM toy shop. You will find a variety of items that encourage kids to develop science, technology, engineering and/or math-related skills. The site explains why the toys were chosen and groups toys into useful categories (like top picks in circuit toys). Don’t forget to enter the site via smiles.amazon.com to have a portion of your sale go to a school or nonprofit of your choice. smiles.amazon.com/STEM

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When a country as well-respected for its educational system as Finland announces changes, the world takes notice. Finland is transitioning from subject-specific lessons (an hour of history in the morning, an hour of geography in the afternoon) to “phenomenon” teaching – or teaching by topic. For instance, a teenager studying a vocational course might take “cafeteria services” lessons, which would include elements of math, languages (to help serve foreign customers), writing skills and communication skills. More academic students will be taught cross-subject topics such as the European Union by merging elements of economics, history (of the countries involved), languages and geography. The other major change is that Finnish classrooms will no longer feature rows of students passively listening – students will work in smaller groups to solve problems while improving their communication skills. tinyurl.com/qe8mzs2

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If you are trying to find a residential summer academic camp for your teen, post what you are looking for in the comments and I am happy to help. I have a directory of hundreds of camps and workshops lasting one-five weeks that are still accepting applications.

“Nothing will determine our success as a nation in the 21st century more than how well we educate our kids.”

– President Barack Obama

Education Roundup XXVIII: free books, playing sports in college, budding artists, apps for toddlers, badges, standing desks

Here are some sobering statistics for high school athletes from the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) and the Department of Education:

• 59 percent of high school football and basketball players believe they will get a college scholarship.

• 98 out of 100 high school athletes never play collegiate sports of any kind at any level.

• Less than one out of every 100 high school athletes receive a scholarship of any kind to a Division I school.

According to their data, the hardest sport to play at the college level is basketball. The point of this is not to squash dreams, but to highlight the importance of athletes not neglecting their academics. Great data on this and more is at ncaa.org.

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Do you have a budding writer or artist in your house? There are a number of terrific places where students can submit art and writing to be published. These publications are real, not the kind that are out to get your money. For high school artists taking their work to the next step, aiming for publication can really make a difference with colleges. Information about the 16 or so places that publish student work appears at: cultofpedagogy.com/publish-student-art-writing/.

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The Maze Runner” by James Dashner is one of the most popular books for teens right now. Many students are scrambling to get a copy before the movie comes out later this month. Did you know that book and thousands of other popular titles are available at your local public library not only in print but also as an audiobook on CD, as a downloadable audiobook and as an ebook for readers like Kindles and iPads? Check out your library’s web site for details.

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Was the transition to school morning start schedules painful in your house? The American Academy of Pediatrics announced last week that it wants all U.S. middle and high schools to permanently delay their opening times to 8:30 a.m. or later. Currently, only 15 percent start after this time. Widespread sleep deprivation among teenagers coincides with the tendency of puberty to turn teens into night owls. A later start time has been shown to result in fewer car accidents, higher grades and test scores, and a lower risk of depression, moodiness and obesity. Studies have shown that 59 per cent of middle school students and 87 per cent of high school students aren’t getting the recommended 8.5 to 9.5 hours sleep on school nights. http://tinyurl.com/k3wz2fg

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The possible applications of 3-D printing seem truly endless and now the technology is being used to allow visually-impaired children to experience illustrated storybooks. The Tactile Picture Books Project at University of Colorado Boulder is creating versions of children’s books like Goodnight Moon and Harold and the Purple Crayon with 3-D images in place of typical illustrations. Visually impaired kids can feel the images and get the full experience of picture books. Eventually, parents will take pictures of pages from books and send them to a 3-D printer, and make their own copies of books tactile. http://tinyurl.com/mukkkyp

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Washington Monthly’ has a unique means of ranking colleges, focusing on “bang for the buck.” Check it out here:  http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/college_guide/2014.php

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In other college ranking news, the e-transcript web site Parchment has analyzed which colleges students tend not to say “no” to. It is called yield, as each college hopes that its offers of admissions yield a “yes” from accepted applicants (that they don’t choose to go elsewhere). The College Choice study is based on enrollment decisions from more than 27,000 U.S. in-bound college students at 700 universities. Stanford topped the list for the second consecutive year. One interesting trend was more students choosing military schools over Ivy League institutions, as the U.S. Air Force Academy ranked higher than Columbia, Brown and Dartmouth this year, perhaps suggesting the growing, undeniable appeal of a free education. parchment.com/c/college/college-rankings.php

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My book recommendation of the week?  I really enjoyed Dave Eggers’ new book “The Circle” (now in paperback) and recommend it as a great discussion starter for teens and parents. The plot centers on a young woman working at a Facebook/Google-like company that is secretly aiming for world domination.

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I was surprised to learn that 27 percent of children in the U.S. live apart from their fathers. If you are interested in the role of fathers, there is a great new book on the science of fatherhood by Paul Raeburn called “Do Fathers Matter?” Raeburn also writes the About Fathers blog at psychologytoday.com/blog/about-fathers.

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Here is a great quote on the value of arts education from Pixar President Ed Catmull:  “My view is that the purpose of art is not to teach us how to draw but how to see. To observe. That’s really what art is about.  When you take art classes you are observing the world. You’re capturing … you’re paying attention to what’s going on. And if you develop those skills of observation and seeing what’s going on, then that skill is useful in science. In medicine. And engineering. And that’s the value of it.”

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Apps are being created aimed at younger and younger children. Let’s Play is a free app for parents of ages 0 to 3 that suggests fun activities, organized by age and routine, to help support their young child’s early learning. zerotothree.com/tips-for-play

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Tween geeks perhaps can take comfort from a new study showing that tough times lie ahead later in life for the coolest kids in middle school. The study, published in the journal Child Development, followed socially precocious cool kids for a decade and found that their social status often plummeted in high school and they began struggling in many ways. It seems to be a student’s longing to impress friends and subsequent brazen behavior can lead to difficulties with intimate relationships, alcohol and marijuana. tinyurl.com/kdt89ut

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Sheet music can be expensive. Mutopiaproject.org offers arrangements of classical pieces for free download. The site offers 1,272 pieces that are in the public domain, including works by Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Handel, Mozart and many others for piano, guitar, cello, voice and more. http://www.mutopiaproject.org

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The free smartphone app Word Lens enables you to point your phone at a road sign or restaurant menu in another language and see an immediate translation from six languages, including Spanish. No Internet connection is needed. This would be handy when travelling but might also be fun to try out with your kids in restaurants.questvisual.com

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Teachers around the country are flocking to Google Classroom. This new tool for creating and managing online assignments may be the next big thing, particularly for Chromebook users. Google Apps for Education are really catching on – it is a platform for free, web-based email, calendar and documents for collaborative study anytime, anywhere. Imagine no more assignments left at home, no more excuses for not knowing what the homework is. google.com/apps/education.

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Did your student find the best part of girl scouts or boy scouts to be the badges? If so, they will absolutely love diy.org. The site offers badges for exploring interests and completing challenges. Whether your child is an actor, angler, animator, or an archer, an architect, an astronomer or an athlete – you get a sense of the fun from just the A category.

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Studies of students who transfer between two-year colleges and between two and four year colleges have found that 39 percent of transferring students lost all their credits in the switch, and 28 percent were only able to transfer some credits. The takeaway for me was that students interested in transferring should get qualified help and advice early in the process, and only take courses at fully accredited institutions. Source: National Center for Education Statistics.

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It is a popular classroom tool right now for teachers to ask students to instruct each other on material learned in class. Studies have found that even just telling a student that they will later be teaching the information changes their mindset enough so that they learn and recall better. http://tinyurl.com/k5s3t6f

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Schools across the country are adding standing desks as a means of increasing alertness and fighting childhood obesity. More than one third of American kids are now overweight or obese according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A research team out of Texas A&M found that students in standing-desk classrooms love them and burned more calories per hour than sitting students. Teachers loved the desks, seeing greater focus, improved student behavior and classroom performance. The study was funded by United Way and the CDC and was published in the American Journal of Public Health. Researchers expect standing desks to be more common in classrooms in the next three to five years.

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OK, here is my App of the Week: Bookster is a free, read-along storytelling app that reads to your kids, records and plays their voices, and teaches vocabulary along the way. It has turn-able pages that let kids move at their own pace, and the pages are interactive with tap-able words. It is easy to use and seems quite engaging. imaginelearning.com/programs/bookster/

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