Tag Archives: K-12

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.

Education Roundup XXXIX: better games, math enrichment, the importance of silence and more

 

Quick summaries and links for dozens of education tips, resources, research items and more (I scour the Internet so you don’t have to!)

Reporter and researcher Oliver Roeder has found that some of the most beloved childhood games – Candy Land, Shoots and Ladders, Monopoly – aren’t very good for the young brain. He says that the best games require meaningful action and decision-making rather than merely blind luck. He recommends a diverse array of lesser-known board and card games including The Little Orchard and Richard Scarry’s Busytown: Eye Found It! for under age 7 and Galaxy Tracker, Puzzle Strike Shadows, BattleCon: Devastation of Indines and Wings of Glory for older kids, all of which are available on amazon.com. tinyurl.com/gvfbcj5

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It can be really difficult to amuse a bored kid when they need to wait around with you for any reason. Here are a handful of great ideas (with more available at tinyurl.com/jqbnm8g).

– Guess what’s in my purse!

– What’s missing? (Place 10 items from your purse on a table. Your child tries to remember what is missing as you remove a few at a time).

– Two truths and a lie.

– How many can you name? (Name a category and your child has 10 seconds to name as many things as possible).

– Penny drop. (Take out a penny and try and drop it so it lands on your shoe without falling off).
– Scrap of paper drop. (Drop a small scrap of paper. Kids try to catch it with two fingers before it hits the ground).

– Would you rather? Ask each other questions which begin “would you rather”?

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For teens who love math puzzles, a mathematics professor at Carnegie Mellon University has founded a website called Expii that is sure to keep them engaged. Each week, five free math teasers (that get progressively tougher) are posted on Expii.com/solve. Rather than emphasizing rote memorization and drill-and-kill exercises, these problems focus on logic and critical thinking. Here is one for you:

You live in the south-west corner of Any City, where the streets are laid out as square city blocks (the avenues are the same length as the streets). It is a warm February day and you decide to go out for a walk. At each intersection, you randomly go north or east. If you walk for 20 blocks, how many times more likely are you to be 10 blocks north and 10 blocks east from your starting place, compared to 20 blocks directly north? expii.com/solve

A new free app called “Help Me” helps all ages, from 7 to 97, in emergency situations. I just set it up in seconds on my own phone. A big “Help Me” button sounds a warning and sends off a text to two numbers of your choosing with your last known GPS coordinates. The app is offered by the Daniel Morcombe Foundation in honor of the young man by that name who was abducted in Australia in 2003. danielmorcombe.com.au

Is silence a key to learning?: When mice are exposed to a few hours of silence each day they develop new cells in the hippocampus (the region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning), according to new studies. Scientists also found that while noise may cause stress and tension, silence releases tension in the brain and body. A study also found that two minutes of silence can be more relaxing than listening to relaxing music. tinyurl.com/j8foz2n

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A new study from Columbia University says moderate video game use is associated with better academic functioning and sociability in grade-schoolers. The study found that kids ages 6 to 11 who played video games five or more hours a week did better in school and suffered no emotional or mental health problems. tinyurl.com/z4wgtdt

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For students who have a valid college ID or college email address, there are some great opportunities for big savings. The list includes Top Shop, J. Crew, Apple, Microsoft, Amtrak, Spotify and dozens more. Students should always ask retailers, museums and fast food places if they offer discounts, because sometimes those are not posted. tinyurl.com/hmpv4rf

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Banking giant Citigroup has announced new programs aimed at attracting young workers by offering them (largely paid) sabbaticals to pursue charitable work. Nine incoming analysts this year are participating in Citigroup’s new service year, in which employees spend a year working with one of 40 organizations. The analysts will earn 60 percent of their normal banking salary and, once the service year is finished, they’ll start work at Citigroup. The bank is also offering employees the opportunity to participate in a four-week program in Kenya on microfinance initiatives. The Wall Street Journal expects other companies to follow. tinyurl.com/j6vnbh2

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“The Collapse of Parenting” is a controversial New York Times bestseller that suggests there has been a dramatic transfer of authority from grown-ups to kids over the past decade. Author Leonard Sax argues that rising levels of obesity, depression and anxiety among young people – as well as the explosion in prescribing psychiatric medications to kids – can be traced to parents letting their kids call the shots. He also believes that there has been a troubling breakdown of the traditional alliance between the school and the home. Sax believes that the collapse of parenting is aided and abetted by the culture of disrespect and by American pop culture and he believes that these forces are undermining academic engagement and school achievement. Leonardsax.com.

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A registered dietician suggests a quick, easy and free way to test if you or your child really has an intolerance to gluten. She calls it the Spelt Litmus Test. Spelt is an ancient grain and it is a perfect test food to help clarify whether someone’s adverse reactions to wheat-containing foods likely result from a gluten intolerance or a fructan intolerance. People who are truly gluten intolerant should react badly to spelt. People who are not gluten intolerant should tolerate spelt just fine. She suggest buying a primarily spelt food like spelt pretzels, spelt matzoh or spelt “rice cakes” and to eat a few ounces at breakfast or lunch. If there’s no reaction, it’s likely that a person doesn’t have a gluten intolerance at all, but rather just a digestive system that is sensitive to effects of a particularly poorly digested carbohydrate. A full explanation is at tinyurl.com/hgm3yvj.

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The “dumb blonde” stereotype is wrong according to a large new national study. White women whose natural hair color is blonde had an average IQ score within 3 points of brunettes and those with red or black hair. They found blonde-haired white women had an average IQ of 103.2, compared to 102.7 for those with brown hair, 101.2 for those with red hair and 100.5 for those with black hair. tinyurl.com/j8llkb9.

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While 86 percent of colleges enroll students with learning disabilities, only 24 percent of them say they can actually help those students “to a major extent.” Ten colleges are known to do a particularly good job with these students: Marist College, University of Connecticut, Lynn University, Northeastern, American University, University of Iowa, Curry College, University of Arizona-Tucson, Beacon College and Landmark College. tinyurl.com/jcrhpmj.

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College admission officers and potential employers are scrutinizing what high school students say and do on social media more than ever before. A new survey from an online reputation-management company, found that more than two-thirds of admissions officers admitted to looking up applicants on Facebook. In 2012, only 25 percent of admissions officers at top colleges said they used Facebook and Google to vet applicants. tinyurl.com/z4qoak7.

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It can be painful to fight with a child over homework. There is a good video online explaining why your child shouldn’t come home and sit at a desk to do homework. They say, “Ditch the desk.” It is too similar to how children spend their (long) day. Let them work someplace else like the kitchen table or the floor on a mat. tinyurl.com/z3dzm7s.

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I was interested to learn the 17 verbal habits of likable people. The complete list is at tinyurl.com/zkq6ltl and it includes:

– They are polite when they can be.

-They acknowledge small favors.

– They offer meaningful praise.

– They express sincere empathy.

– They offer to help.

– They share useful information.

– They express their faith in others.

– They make introductions.

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More to worry about: I haven’t given much thought to the ingredients in the products that our family puts on their faces but I guess it is now well known that certain types of makeup, shampoos and lotions can contain high levels of hormone-disrupting chemicals. A new study out of Berkeley found that even a short break can lead to a significant drop in these levels. The bad ingredients to look out for are phthalates, parabens, triclosan and oxybenzone. They have been shown in animal studies to interfere with the body’s endocrine system. tinyurl.com/zzu55r6

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ELSA is a cool new mobile app for language learners to improve pronunciation and reduce accent, utilizing in-house speech recognition, automated feedback and deep learning technology. elsanow.io.

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For anyone who has ever considered going back to school to get their MBA (master’s in business administration), the cost was likely a deterrent. The two-year degree program ranges from $25,000 at public colleges to over $100,000 at places like Harvard and Stanford. University of the People has just launched the world’s first tuition-free and online, but full accredited, MBA degree. Uopeople.edu.

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There is a move on to teach philosophy in grades K-12. Teachers in England are big believers in the value of the course of study and, according to a new two-year study conducted among 3,000 kids in 48 schools across England, philosophy classes lead to better literacy and math skills. I love the idea of these kinds of courses – ones that get kids thinking about life’s big questions. Because of philosophy’s cross-curriculur appeal, more teachers are thinking about how to weave its content and concepts into class conversations. tinyurl.com/z9la8nk.

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Female students are more likely to pursue STEM fields in college if their high school had female math and science teachers, according to a recent study. The authors found “a positive and significant association between the proportion of female math and science teachers in high school and young women’s probability of declaring a STEM major.” There was no link between teachers’ gender and the probability of picking a STEM major for young men. tinyurl.com/hydpbzo.

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Around 70 percent of children in the U.S. are dropping out of organized sports before the age of 13, according to new research from Michigan State. And girls drop out of sports at six times the rate of boys. This trend is particularly concerning because there is a strong correlation between girls’ success in sports and success in the business world (and female athletes are more likely to graduate from college). tinyurl.com/of9mfyo

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Peanut and tree nut allergies nearly tripled between 1997 and 2008. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine found giving peanuts to kids early on can protect them from developing a peanut allergy. In the study and a new follow up, high-risk babies under 12 months who were fed a peanut mush were about 80 percent less likely to develop a peanut allergy by age 5, and thereafter. tinyurl.com/jmkdz4d.

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A UCLA neuroscience researcher suggests four rituals that can make you happier: 

1. Ask yourself “what am I grateful for?”

2. Label your negative feelings. Give them a name – angry, anxious, sad?

3. Make a decision. The act of deciding reduces worry and anxiety

4. Touch people, hug loved ones, as much as possible.

5. And send thank you emails to start an upward spiral of happiness. tinyurl.com/jawn8j6

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A new portable food allergy detector can detect food allergens in just two minutes. You put a small amount of food or drink in a test capsule and the devices provides a smiley face or a frowny face to tell you whether it is safe to eat. Right now, it can only detect gluten but milk and peanut allergy tests are coming out in 2017. ($199 to $249) nimasensor.com.

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We’re all going blind: I have a daughter who is exceptionally farsighted (+8) so I was surprised to learn that scientists anticipate that half of the world’s population will be nearsighted by 2050. The number of people with vision loss is expected to increase seven-fold because of environmental factors like lifestyle changes resulting from a combination of decreased time outdoors and increased “near work” activities, according to researchers. The Journal of Ophthalmology suggests reduced time spent on activities like electronic devices that require constant focusing up close. tinyurl.com/h9k22u5

I have been binge watching the TV series “Child Genius” on Lifetime. To be honest, it is somewhat like “Dance Moms” but I guess for the well-educated and driven. The competition segments are fascinating. The competition was created in cooperation with American Mensa, and it takes place over 10 weeks and tests a dozen child prodigies on their knowledge in math, spelling, geography and current events. The show is hosted by former NASA astronaut, Leland Melvin. mylifetime.com/shows/child-genius

Early childhood educator Erika Christakis from Yale has written a new book that is an impassioned plea for educators and parents to put down the worksheets and flashcards, and to let children play. “The Importance of Being Little: What Preschoolers Really Need from Grownups” is getting rave reviews and the Washington Post said, this is “a bracing and convincing case that early education has reached a point of crisis . . . her book is a rare thing: a serious work of research that also happens to be well-written and personal . . . engaging and important.”

There is a new free mindfulness computer program and app for kids and adults called Headspace. The app purports to “make meditation easy, in 10 minutes a day” and boasts 5 million users already. You can listen to Headspace on the go and download sessions to use offline. On your computer, you can play any session, any time. You choose your session length and can learn how to apply mindfulness to everyday activities. headspace.com

In an impactful Ted talk, Ali Carr-Chellman cites some distressing statistics about boys in school today.

– for every 100 girls who are expelled from school, there are 335 boys

– for every 100 girls in special education, there are 217 boys.

– for every 100 girls with a learning disability, there are 276 boys.

– for every 100 girls with an emotional disturbance diagnosed, there are 324 boys

– for every 100 girls with ADHD, there are 400 boys. (source: Hundred Girls project)

And… all of these numbers are significantly higher if you happen to be black, if you happen to be poor, if you happen to exist in an overcrowded school. She also notes that as universities approach a 70 percent female population, administrators are nervous, because girls don’t want to go to schools that don’t have boys. She points the finger at that fact that 93 percent of elementary school teachers are female; most schools have zero tolerance policies; and that “kindergarten is the old second grade.” She says that students are now expected to write legibly in kindergarten and to read fluently in first grade, and if they can’t, they are diagnosed as having a developmental delay.

A survey by the “Today” show proved what I, a mother of three, have always suspected to be true – parents of three children are more stressed out than parents of fewer, or more, children. As “Today” put it, “Call it the Duggar effect: Once you get a certain critical mass of kids, life seems to get a bit easier.” TODAY.com and Insight Express also found:

– 46 percent of moms say their husbands/partners cause them more stress than their kids do.

– 72 percent of moms stress about how stressed they are.

– Biggest cause of stress: 60 percent say it’s lack of time to do everything that needs to get done.

– 60 percent of moms say raising girls is more stressful than raising boys.

– Nine out of 10 moms stress about staying fit and attractive. tinyurl.com/hphp2he

Newsela, the free app that lets students of all reading levels access appropriate news content, is getting a lot of press. Readers can see new articles every day from such top news sources as the Associated Press, Washington Post and Scientific American, and adjust the reading level of their articles with a simple two-finger swipe. The company is focused on “unlocking literacy” for all students, and is currently used in 70 percent of schools. More and more schools are appreciating Newsela’s availability of trusted news sources in five different reading levels for students in grades 2 to 12. See more at tinyurl.com/hj7ou2z.

Can you accurately predict a child’s adult height? Doctors typically predict the adult height of a boy by combining the height of both parents, adding five inches and dividing by two. For girls, they combine the height of the parents, subtract five inches and divide by two. Is this true in your family? I was also interested to learn from the New York Times recently that adult height tends to decrease in younger siblings, and younger children may grow more slowly. These held true in our family. tinyurl.com/jfd6z86

Math competitions and math camps are growing in popularity and Atlantic reporter Peg Tyre says that America’s most advanced math students are more advanced than ever before. She says that their parents, many of whom make their living in stem fields, typically supplement or replace what they see as the shallow and often confused math instruction offered by public schools (particularly in the younger grades). The article includes some intriguing enrichment resources. tinyurl.com/z4rb4ps

Back to math … Amazon has launched “With Math I Can,” an initiative intended to push the “growth mindset” in math classes. The site includes a free online collection of resources defining what a growth mindset is. If your student swears that he or she is not good at math, the site is worth a look. amazon.com/gp/withmathican

Students who experience test anxiety can be helped in the following ways:

1. Using music to relax and to help a student to feel strong and energized (think “We Will Rock You”).

2. Identifying with a celebrity can help with self-esteem. (“Justin Timberlake has ADHD and it didn’t stop him from achieving his dreams.”)

3. Using powerful posture and sitting up straight to feel more confident. Teach your child about body language.
4. Some kids can feel better with a “lucky charm.”

5. Cute images (think baby animals) can make a child calmer and more productive.

6. Taking a moment to list or remember past achievements can give children the confidence they need to move forward in tough circumstances.

7. The simple act of smiling can slow a child’s heart rate when they are anxious.

Read more at tinyurl.com/jdjrbyr.

Because Los Angeles is one of the largest school districts in the country, the decisions made there are closely followed elsewhere. Single-sex schools, expanded choices of foreign language programs and a greater emphasis on science and math education are among the initiatives that the new superintendent there is expected to pursue. tinyurl.com/zsrgbwh

If you have a sophomore or junior who just got PSAT scores back (Preliminary SAT) you might have been surprised by the following changes:

1. The scale has changed. Perfect on a section is no longer 800. It’s 760.

2. The scores for National Merit award consideration will now equal the math score plus 2x reading.

3. You’ll see two percentiles. The Nationally Representative Sample percentile shows how a score compares to the scores of all U.S. students in a particular grade, including those who don’t typically take the test. The User Percentile — Nation shows how your score compared to others who took the test.

That said, the main value of the PSAT is feedback so students should look at their test booklets to see what they got right and wrong and worry less about their score.

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Education roundup XXXVI: Resilient kids, spoiled kids, picky eaters, happiness, the new SAT, ‘A’ colleges for ‘B’ students and more

In his new book, “The Success Disconnect: Why the Smartest People Choose Meaning Over Money,” author Bill Connolly suggests that nine principles repeatedly surface in individuals who feel successful in life:

1. Create often. Successful people report a cathartic and meaningful feeling from being responsible for something new in the world.

2. Understand the self. Truly successful people understand themselves, both their positive and negative traits, including their motivations.

3. Have fun. Incorporating a consistent emphasis on plain old fun and happiness is key to feeling as if you’re building a life you can be proud of.

4. Suspend judgments. Spending time learning from mistakes is productive, but spending time judging yourself or others for mistakes drains valuable energy better used elsewhere.

5. Seek challenges. Failure is not the opposite of success; stagnation is. Push your limits. 6. Pursue meaning. Whatever path you must take to find meaning, take it.

7. Make change work for you. Making the most of the hand you’re dealt is imperative to making progress and achieving success.

8. Develop resilience. Bounce back from setbacks. Find and surround yourself with positive, supportive individuals.

9. Constantly improve. What are the ways that you set up your life in order to grow, achieve and enjoy what you do? You define the narrative of your legacy.

• • •

On the top of my nightstand is “The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous and Smart About Money.” Author Ron Lieber explains how talking openly to children about money can help parents raise modest, patient, grounded young adults who are financially wise beyond their years. Lieber is both a parent and a personal finance columnist, and he provides nuts and bolts advice on dealing with the tooth fairy, allowance, chores, charity, saving, birthdays, holidays, cell phones, checking accounts, clothing, cars, part-time jobs and college tuition.

• • •

If you have a teen who is a freshman, sophomore or junior and plans on attending a four-year college, you probably have questions about the new SAT. Starting in March, the new test will have two sections, not three (just math and a combo reading/writing). Scoring will return to a 1600 point scale (like it was in my era). There won’t be a penalty for guessing anymore (don’t leave anything blank!) and there will only be four answers to each question, not five. Also, the essay will now be optional. More importantly, the content is going to be quite different – better aligned with the Common Core benchmarks now taught in Sonoma Valley schools. For more information, the New York Times recently ran a great overview article on the changes. tinyurl.com/qdadx92

• • •

Eric Greitens, a former U.S. Navy Seal, thinks he knows the secret to increasing resiliency in children. In an interview with Bill Murphy of Inc. magazine, he had 10 tips:

1. Set a great example. If you hope to inspire others, such as your children, it’s crucial.

2. Take responsibility. There are things you can’t control, sure – but know the difference. “Teach your children early not to pass the blame or make excuses, but to take responsibility for their actions,” says Greitens.

3. Seek to serve others. Besides positively affecting the rest of the world, service to others emphasizes that life really isn’t about just one person (you). The act also helps you increase resourcefulness and empathy.

4. Practice daily gratitude. This is one of the things that the most successful people do under any circumstance. Expressing gratitude to others frames your mind to appreciate the things you’ve been given. Because, let’s face it, even on your worst days, you are probably better off than most.

5. Let others solve their own problems. “Your children should know that you’re always there for them,” says Greitens. “But give them the opportunity to learn to solve their own problems.”

6. Be a mentor – not a savior. Sometimes the best thing that can happen is to make a big mistake and live with the consequences. It’s better to learn from smaller mistakes while we’re young.

7. Embrace failure. It’s almost a cliché among entrepreneurs, but failure is a prerequisite for success. Nobody accomplishes anything great if he or she is afraid to fail. As Greitens says, “(Through) failure, children learn how to struggle with adversity and how to confront fear.

8. Encourage risk-taking. Risk-taking and failure go hand-in-hand. “To be something we never were, we have to do something we’ve never done,” says Greitens.

9. But assert your authority where it’s sensible. “Not every risk is a good risk to take,” Greitens says. Sometimes we all need more experienced, authoritative people to show us the better way.

10. Express your love for the people you care about. Resilient people know that they rely on the love and care of others in their communities. One of the best ways to reinforce this is to express how you feel to those people often. tinyurl.com/nbartjz

• • •

If you haven’t yet seen “Most Likely To Succeed,” I hope that you get a chance to see the film on cable TV or Netflix. The movie really seemed to resonate with the more than 100 local teachers and parents in the audience. Here is my attempt to sum up the key points.

• The schools to which we send our children are based on a model that was developed more than 125 years ago, when times were very different.

• Cramming our kids heads with facts – and judging success based on their ability to spit those facts back – is dumb because they are easily forgotten within months. In addition, memorizing facts is less important now, as they are always at your fingertips.

• We need to focus on teaching kids the things that can’t be done by computers – like creativity, problem solving and people skills.

• Kids are much more likely to be engaged by – and remember – what they learn by “doing” (projects).

• Teachers are happiest when they have a lot of control over how and what they teach.

• Parents are among the first to freak out when schools suggest eliminating textbooks, testing and grades. Learn more at mltsfilm.org

• • •

The 30 kids honored as Time Magazine’s “Most Influential Teens of 2015” will make great dinner table conversation. The diverse but debatable list includes actors (who your child will recognize even if you don’t), inventors, entrepreneurs, athletes and even a restaurateur. time.com/4081618/most-influential-teens-2015/

• • •

A very controversial study was released last week that is purported to have found that kids who are religious are meaner and less generous than their non-religious peers. A study in the journal Current Biology looked at the behavior of Christian, Muslim and atheist children. Researchers found that children from non-religious households are more altruistic, as measured by their acts of generosity toward others. The study looked at 1,100 children ages 5 to 12 in the U.S, China, Canada, Jordan, Turkey and South Africa. The findings came from a game in which children chose their favorite stickers, were told there weren’t enough for all and given the opportunity to share or not share. The researchers believe that “moral licensing” may come into play – if you believe that you are moral because you are devout, perhaps you are less concerned with your day-to-day behavior. It is worth reading more at tinyurl.com/qbx6cr7. Interesting fact: Currently 84 percent of the 5.8 billion people on earth identify themselves as religious.

• • •

A new Economist “highest value” college ranking focuses less on prestige and selectivity and more on how much students earn after graduation. Its formula is based on test scores, majors, wages and other factors, resulting in an anticipated median wage for alumni of each school 10 years after graduation. That anticipated figure is compared with the actual median wage of graduates ten years out. Colleges with graduates who outperformed expected earnings by the most ranked the highest. Looking at ten years out is a bit of a problem as students may be in graduate school during that time, and the dataset only includes students on financial aid for some reason. But – there are very different names at the top, which I love to see. The top ten are Washington and Lee, Villanova, Babson, Bentley, Otis College of Art and Design, Alderson Broaddus University, Lehigh, Texas A&M, International University and California State University-Bakersfield. economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2015/10/value-university

• • •

If you are concerned that your child’s screen time is overtaking his or her book time, you will want to read “Tap, Click, Read.” According to this new book, the key is for adults to steer kids toward media that promotes literacy instead of undermining it. The book suggests new ways to teach literacy that incorporates technology. The accompanying website provides resources and research like app and website tools and reviews – as well as what parents should look for as they evaluate preschools and elementary schools. Tapclickread.org. Interesting fact: Today, two-thirds of American fourth-graders are not reading at grade level.

• • •

If you have a young Star Wars fan in your house, Code.org has a brand new tutorial for the Hour of Code 2015, in partnership with Disney and Lucasfilm — featuring Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Ages 6 and up can learn to program with Java Script to control droids and create their own Star Wars game. For younger learners, a tablet-friendly, drag-and-drop version will be available soon. Code.org offers a variety of code-teaching games for all ages.

• • •

Women now make up 40 percent or more of MBA students at the top graduate business schools in the country – Harvard, Wharton, Yale, Northwestern, Dartmouth and MIT, according to a new study by the Forte Foundation. Women have only been accepted into MBA programs since the 1970s, so that is pretty good progress. t.co/RFjIIIolsK

• • •

There are some new apps designed to help kids explore their social and emotional sides. The hope is that these apps can help students to practice the skills that are important to emotional intelligence. Sesame Street offers an interesting one called “Breathe, Think, Do” in which characters practice keeping calm and regulating their emotions. “Touch and Learn Emotions” helps kids to read body language and identify facial clues. “Emotionary” encouraged introspection by giving kids the chance to draw a selfie of how they are feeling. Middle schools students might enjoy “IF, the Emotional IQ Game” and “Middle School Confidential.” Edutopia.org

• • •

Here is a gift idea for the stressed out adults in your life. Grown up coloring books are all the rage now. These detailed books with complicated patterns are a popular way to relax or alternately, multi-task while watching TV. Amazon has an entire section of its site dedicated to 42 different options. Search “adult coloring books.”

• • •

Bitsbox is an awesome birthday or Christmas gift idea for kids who are interested in learning how to code. Each month, they get a box with dozens of projects, ranging from simple to advanced. They learn to create apps for any mobile device. The cost ranges from $20 a month for a virtual box to $30 to $40 a month for a box with apps, toys, stickers, trading cards and an activity book. bitsbox.com.

• • •

New screen time research from Common Sense Media has found that:

1. Media use is off the charts – teens use an average of nine hours of entertainment media a day, tweens use six – not counting using media for school or homework.

2. Boys spend more time on video games and girls spend more time on social media.

3. While most teens use social media every day, only 36 percent say that they enjoy it a lot (compared with 73 percent enjoying music a lot and 45 percent enjoying TV a lot).

4. The vast majority of kids just consume media, very few are creating content. tinyurl.com/prfk6sx

• • •

If you have a child in college or new to the workforce, their chances at quick employment have improved. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employees, 42 percent of employers ranked the job market for students as very good or excellent right now, up from 18 percent just two years ago. NACE also found that the employers surveyed plan to hire 11 percent more new college graduates from the class of 2016 for their U.S. operations than they did from the class of 2015. tinyurl.com/q5ah4sf

• • •

The number of Americans who read regularly continues to plummet across all formats (books, audibooks and ebooks). According to Pew Research, only 72 percent of Americans report having a read a book in the past YEAR, down from 76 percent last year. Kudos to our young adults (ages 18 to 29) who were the MOST likely to have read a book (80 percent); and to women – who read an average of 12 books a year, as opposed to men – who read nine. tinyurl.com/px4svrm

• • •

Many students think faster than they type. Google docs now features a pretty cool option under “Tools” called “Voice Typing.” A microphone will appear on the left side of your Google document. Allow Google to access the microphone on your device and your spoken words will turn into text on the document. You must be using the Chrome browser, however.

• • •

Experts seem to agree that Motion Math’s nine online games are the best out there. They have been downloaded four million times and won a ton of awards. You can buy the bundle for $26 but the very best to try seem to be Zoom, Hungry Fish and Pizza. They do a good job of presenting some of the trickiest Common Core standards in a truly engaging way and they are excellent for students who are struggling in math. motionmathgames.com

• • •

The number of international students studying in the U.S. grew by 10 percent last year – the most of any year in the past three decades. Almost one million international students are enrolled in U.S. universities. These students added an estimated $30 billion to the U.S. economy last year. China sends the most students, followed by India. NYU hosts the most international students, followed by USC, Columbia and Arizona State. California attracts the largest numbers overall, followed by New York. tinyurl.com/odsuuza

• • •

You have heard of Instagram, but have you heard of Finstagram? Teens love documenting their life on Instagram but the photos tend to be gorgeous shots depicting the very best aspects of their social life. New to the scene are Finstagrams, private accounts that you only let your closest friends follow. (I gather Finstagram stands for fake Instagram.) Limiting their followers to a handful of closest friends makes sharing more comfortable. Fun fact: More than half of the 92 percent of teenagers ages 13 to 17 who go online daily use Instagram.

• • •

If your student is taking the SAT in March or later this spring, they will be taking the new SAT. And frankly, they should really be preparing for it now. Practice tests are now available online at collegeboard.org and Khan Academy already has a host of tutorial videos to help students prepare. It is hard to be the test pigeon, I feel for the students who will be first to take the new test.

• • •

The U.S. government estimates that it will cost almost a quarter of a million dollars to raise a child born today. U.S. News suggests the following ways to cut costs:

• Breastfeed and use cloth diapers

• Furnish a nursery simply, consider used furniture that will suit the child as they get older

• Buy gently used clothing, toys and equipment, wherever possible

• Keep birthday parties simple or save parties for milestone years

• Do the math on child care and pencil out if having both parents work is most cost effective

• Let kids share a room

• Limit extracurriculars to one per season. Kids will appreciate the free time to play.

• Ask others to pitch in whether it is grandparents or through community fundraising

• Focus on less expensive options, typically community colleges and local state public universities

Most importantly, “kids don’t need things; they need you,” said Denise Daniels, psychologist. tinyurl.com/qjcmews

• • •

I was surprised to learn that two nearby school districts have implemented a new grading system that make it almost impossible to receive a failing grade. At most schools, anything lower than a 60 percent is an “F.” Under the new system, anything lower than a 20 percent is an “F.” That seems like a big change to me and teachers agree that it sets the bar very low for student success. In the new “equal interval scale,” grades rise in 20-point increments. A score of 20 to 40 percent is a D, 40-60 is a C, 60-80 is a B and 80-100 is an A. So your son’s 80 percent on a math test is now an A-, not a B-. What’s more, students who do not hand in homework, automatically get a 50 percent, no lower. Getting credit for work not done seems to me very counter to life in the real world. Also, I imagine that college admissions officers will be horrified and do their own, quite different, GPA calculations and the discrepancy will upset parents. A Press Democrat story on the change quoted Rancho Cotate English teacher Lanny Lowery as saying, “This is just incomprehensible. I don’t have words.” tinyurl.com/pduetce

• • •

What should parents know about Vine? Vine is a social video-sharing website and app of 10-second videos created by its users. Most Vines are designed to be funny, and many are staged for the camera. Kids and teens love to follow, comment on, and share their favorite Vines. Most of the content is harmless but there is no filter in place. For younger kids, there’s a curated version of the service called Vine Kids that serves up only age-appropriate content. Kids should be made aware that their videos and comments are all public by default; they need to adjust their settings for any privacy. vine.co

• • •

Facebook has launched a new site called Tech/Prep to help students understand what programming is, different jobs programmers can have, and how to gain the skills they need to become one someday. It’s a collection of information, resources and videos tailored to a variety of ages. techprep.fb.com

• • •

I keep hearing great things about the award- winning YouTube channel Vsauce created by Michael Stevens. He posts videos relating to various scientific and philosophical topics, as well as gaming, technology, culture and other areas of general interest. Is the 5-second rule true? What is deja vu? How big can a person get? Why do we have two nostrils? youtube.com/user/Vsauce

• • •

October is National Dyslexia Month. As a parent of a dyslexic daughter, I’m happy that awareness is increasing and students are being taught to view dyslexia not only as a challenge, but as a gift. If you think your child might be dyslexic or are just interested in learning more, I recommend the movie, “The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia,” which is available for free on HBO or you can buy a download for $10 at gumroad.com/l/ObnC. There is a free Dyslexia Detector app on the iTunes store but I would recommend just using it as an informal first step. The Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity has a great site with recommended app and computer programs. dyslexia.yale.edu. In California news, a new law signed by Gov. Brown last week (AB 1369) mandates that “program guidelines for dyslexia to be used to assist regular education teachers, special education teachers, and parents to identify and assess pupils with dyslexia, and to plan, provide, evaluate and improve educational services, as defined, to pupils with dyslexia.” This is a big deal because some states still refuse to recognize dyslexia as a learning difference.

• • •

Filed under the category of things that I wish had existed when I had babies … There is a new LED light bulb that inventors claim provides a very calm environment for babies (and adults) who wake in the night and then are trying to go back to sleep. I gather from the Time magazine article that the blue wavelengths in regular bulbs (and in our smart phones) cause our brains to be more alert. tinyurl.com/og84fcq

• • •

A new graphic novel for ages 8-12 teaches computer code. Gene Luen Yang is a National Book Award Finalist, an Esiner award recipient, as well as a long-time computer science teacher. His latest work is called “Secret Coders,” and it is a compelling plot combination reminiscent of Harry Potter and the Matrix that teaches kids binary and other foundations of coding.

• • •

Looking for A+ colleges for B students? U.S. News & World Report has a good list of 50 to consider. These schools have high rankings but also high admit rates. The six schools in California on the list include: University of San Francisco, Pepperdine, University of the Pacific, Westmont College, Thomas Aquinas College and University of San Diego. The complete list is at http://tinyurl.com/nh8jlju.

• • •

The Peace Corps this year received the highest number of applications in four decades. Applications to join the international service organization jumped 32 percent, with the 23,000 applications received marking the largest number since 1975. Back in 1960, U.S. Sen. John F. Kennedy challenged students to give two years of their lives to serve the developing world in 1960, leading to the creation of the Peace Corps.

• • •

As part of its Storybook Project, National Pubic Radio (NPR) asked successful authors, actors, politicians, philanthropists, scientists and musicians to share their five favorite books they’ve read to their kids. On the resulting Tumblr page each week you can see the lists added (Melinda Gates, Ani DiFranco, Maz Jobrani, Adam Scott, Jamie Oliver and more) nprstorybook.tumblr.com. A few books that show up on more than one list are: “Caps for Sale,” “All The World,” “The Story of Ferdinand” and “The Giving Tree.”

• • •

“What if you could cut your college costs by $10,000 a year … but doing so raised the risk your kid would drop out by as much as 20 percent?” asked Money magazine recently. That’s the dilemma families face when their freshman is debating living at home versus on campus. Room and board at any college now costs around $10,000 a year, but studies have showed definitively that students who live on campus get more out of their college experience and are more likely to graduate. Saving money by living at home saves parents nothing if the student later drops out.

• • •

More than 80 leading colleges and universities have announced potentially big changes in how they accept applications. The universities are creating new online portfolios for high school students, designed to have ninth graders begin thinking about what they are learning or accomplishing in high school and so that they, too, emerge in their senior year with a body of work that could be used to help identify appropriate colleges. These colleges include every Ivy League university, Stanford University and dozens more.

• • •

I love the idea of brain foods and I imagine that I think and write better when I am eating healthy foods. USA Today’s College Blog printed a new list of the top 10 brain boosting super foods, and they are: avocados, beans, blueberries, dark chocolate, eggs, oatmeal, salmon, spinach, walnuts and yogurt. tinyurl.com/ns3kcor

• • •

Here are 10 great rules for parents of picky eaters (courtesy of Sally Sampson and Natalie Muth, M.D.):

1. As parents, we will be good role models. We will only ask the kids to eat foods that we are willing to eat ourselves.

2. As parents, we will decide what foods are offered, when, and where. As kids, we will decide of the food that is offered, what we will eat and how much.

3. We will value the process of learning to be more adventurous eaters. We will be willing to try new foods, even if it is just a tiny bite.

4. We do not have to clean our plates. We will listen to our bodies and let hunger be our guide.

5. We will not offer food rewards. In other words, we do not have to “eat our vegetables” in order to get dessert. We will not reward good behavior with sweets and “treats.”

6. Mealtimes are a family affair. As often as we can, we will shop, cook and eat together.

7. We are one family, and we will eat one meal. We will not make separate meals. But we will be sure to include at least one thing each family member likes at each meal.

8. We will learn together about food, nutrition, farming and cooking.

9. We will have fun, play and experiment with new foods.

10. We will be consistent in following these rules, but not rigid.

Sampson and Muth also suggest parents not negotiate, bribe or pressure their kids. Ignore their pickiness, don’t give them attention for it; make sure they are hungry when they arrive at the table; and involve them in the preparing the meal. tinyurl.com/q7afdx2

• • •

Khan Academy, the popular source of thousands of school topic videos (including free SAT prep), has redesigned its free iPhone app and finally added an app for Android phones. Available at Google Play and in the Apple App Store.

• • •

I love tips on happiness (for adults and kids) and UCLA neuroscience researcher Alex Korb’s book “The Upward Spiral” offers these tips:

• The most important question to ask when you are feeling down is “What am I grateful for?”

• Label your negative feelings. Are you sad, anxious, angry?

• Make the decision that is weighing on your mind, it will alleviate your worry and anxiety.

• Touch the people you are close to and enjoy the oxytocin released through contact. tinyurl.com/ozyhfxu

• • •

The Junior Academy is a free, virtual program open to exceptional STEM students ages 13-19 around the world. The ideal student is an enthusiastic learner and problem solver with a passion for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). He or she has a desire to learn more about the universe, and aspires to help address the world’s most pressing challenges through research. Applications are due Thursday, Oct. 15. thejunioracademy.org

• • •

With all the amazing advances in technology, the TI-83 graphing calculator accounts for 93 percent of all graphing calculator sales and it has been the gold standard for almost 20 years. That’s about to change as there are new web-based calculators that are finally giving Texas Instruments a run for its money. If you haven’t bought one yet or your student tends to lose or forget his/hers, check out desmos.com/calculator.

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Education Roundup XXXIV — Summer learning, free SAT/ACT apps, raising a happy child, high school athletes…

Two ways to keep your kids’ brains engaged this summer: The (now) free TenMarks Summer Math website runs students through a diagnostic test then tees up a personalized curriculum of videos, word problems, games and more. www.tenmarks.com. The free and self-paced BrainFlex summer program uses simulations, interactive lessons and PLIX techniques to engage kids in a wide range of math and science topics. ck12.org/summer.

• • •

I have been reading about the book “The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous and Smart about Money” by Ron Leiber. He suggests the following:

• Don’t pay children to do chores. Adults don’t get paid to help around the house and neither should children. Take away privileges when they don’t do their chores, not their allowance.

• Do, however, give children money on a regular basis and use allowances as a teaching tool. Give kids the chance to spend foolishly and to feel regret, and a sense of accomplishment when they save.

• Do toasts around the dinner table. Have everyone raise a glass to something or someone awesome.

• • •

There seem to be a lot of new teen drivers on the road. The DMV proposes a great (optional) Parent-Teen Driving Contract on the dmv.ca.gov website. The contract includes both teen responsibilities – “I will not let anyone else use the vehicle entrusted to me.” As well as parent responsibilities – “I will serve as a good role model when operating a vehicle.” It also gives parents a place to spell out who is responsible for what aspects of vehicle upkeep. The only thing it lacks, that I have seen on others contracts, is specific repercussions for breaking the contract.

• • •

High schoolers struggling to analyze themes in literature might benefit from LitCharts. This site, from the founder of Spark Notes, aims to make more than 200 great works of literature, from “Anna Karenina” to “1984,” more accessible through its interactive data visualizations which visually track themes, symbols and plots in a story. litcharts.com

• • •

A British toy company called Makies allows kids to customize 3-D-printed dolls in all different sizes, shapes, colors, hair types, and more. The company has announced a new line of accessories so kids can design dolls with disabilities and/or birthmarks. This includes hearing aids, a walking stick and scars. They are really gorgeous dolls that will appeal to all, and maybe make a child who feels very different feel a little bit less so. mymakie.com/campaign/toylikeme/

• • •

Everyone wants to know the secret to raising a smart, happy child. One blog’s extensive research (marcandangel.com) suggests the following tips:

• Walk the talk — always set a great example. BE who you want them to be.

• Reduce the stress level in the household. Parental stress weakens children’s brains, depletes their immune systems, and increases their risk of other unhealthy mental and physical ailments.

• Believe in your children. The simple act of believing that your child is capable and worthy makes a big difference.

• Praise your children for their effort, not their intelligence.

• Don’t read TO your children, read WITH them.

• Eat dinner together as a family as much as possible. Research suggests that children who enjoy family meals have larger vocabularies, better manners, healthier diets and higher self-esteem in the long run.

• Create logical, reasonable rules and boundaries for your children. Children don’t do well in a free-for-all environment.

• Give your children an opportunity to make healthy peer relationships. Who your children associate with has an enormous effect on their long-term happiness and educational aspirations.

• Make sure your children get enough sleep every night. There is a direct correlation between average nightly sleep and grades.

• Help your children maintain a gratitude journal. Children who keep a gratitude journal are happier, more optimistic and healthier.

• • •

I can’t resist sharing the list of the most popular baby names of 2014. I just love this kind of thing. Boys (rank 1 to 10): Noah, Liam, Mason, Jacob, William, Ethan, Michael, Alexander, James and Daniel. Girls (rank 1 to 10): Emma, Olivia, Sophia, Isabella, Ava, Mia, Emily, Abigail, Madison and Charlotte. tinyurl.com/ope537x

• • •

You probably know about the SAT Question of the Day, but did you know that there is also an ACT Question of the Day provided for student practice? Here’s a recent question – A vendor has 14 helium balloons for sale: 9 are yellow, 3 are red, and 2 are green. A balloon is selected at random and sold. If the balloon sold is yellow, what is the probability that the next balloon, selected at random, is also yellow? actstudent.org/testprep/

• • •

For the first time ever, Khan Academy has teamed up with the creators of the SAT to create free, personalized SAT practice for anyone, anywhere. The program will prepare students for the new SAT, which launches in March 2016. Students can get personalized practice recommendations and instant feedback on how they’re doing. Watch their short video about how the new SAT is different. khanacademy.org

• • •

I was surprised to learn that youth baseball participation in the U.S. has declined 41 percent in the past 15 years. In 2002, nine million boys played baseball. Today, that number has declined to 5.3 million. Major League Baseball is concerned, as the biggest predictor of a fan base is whether you played the game as a child. A recent Wall Street Journal article notes that basketball and soccer have experienced declines as well with the trend of concentrating on one sport year round possibly to blame (travel league enrollments are up). Source: National Sporting Goods Association.

• • •

A new study has found that police officers with college degrees are less likely to use force against citizens. Michigan State researchers analyzed thousands of cops across seven major metropolitan regions. Because so much of law enforcement is social work, the researchers believe that college coursework psychology and sociology might make these cops more adept at addressing potentially explosive issues. thefreethoughtproject.com/study-cops-college-degrees-force-citizens/

• • •

Abortions are declining in almost every state in the U.S. The pro-life side credits a shift in societal attitudes, pro-choice advocates credit greater access to effective contraceptives. Whatever … under the heading of “great news,” abortions are down 12 percent since 2010 and teen pregnancy is at its lowest rate in decades. tinyurl.com/oydtagy

• • •

I love this flyer for students titled: “I took a photo of my friend that I want to share … now what?” Ask yourself:

• Is it a good photo?

• Would my friend agree?

• Could it get my friend into trouble?

• Is it going to cause drama?

• Am I aware that anyone can share it once I do?

• Would I be OK with my grandma seeing it?

• A year from now, will I feel good about making this public?

If you answer YES to all these, go ahead, share. (Courtesy of Common Sense Media).

• • •

A recent study from Cornell University found that former high-school athletes are more likely to go on to have higher-status careers and earn anywhere from 5 to 15 percent more than participants in other extracurricular activities, like band or yearbook. According to this study, this earnings advantage doesn’t seem to exist for any other extracurricular activity. Researchers are still trying to figure out exactly why. The question is whether high-school sports transform the leadership skills and self-confidence of regular kids, or if kids who already possess leadership skills and other “successful” attributes gravitate toward sports. bigteams.net/main/article/id/764

• • •

The University of San Francisco will be the first college to implement Callisto, a new online reporting system for campus sexual assaults. Callisto was designed by the nonprofit organization Sexual Health Innovations as a third-party online reporting system. The system allows an alleged victim to hold back on submitting a report unless someone else reports the same assailant, or to save their file with a timestamp and come back at a later point to turn in their report. The hope is that the system will make victims more likely to come forward. Colleges across the country are examining the adoption of online reporting systems for sexual assaults. tinyurl.com/ogn49vj

• • •

Because I have a soft spot for these kind of lists, I enjoyed “40 Things You Should Never, Ever Say to Your Teen” from the family blog www.themid.com. Just a few to get you started:

• You look nice.

• Are you in a bad mood?

• Can I go with you?

• How was school?

• You can’t possibly be hungry.

• You’ll understand someday.

• Who’s that?

• And my personal favorite … “Hi.”

tinyurl.com/pyp6588

• • •

Elementary school students using standing desks observed over the course of a year were found to be more attentive and engaged than their seated counterparts. Results showed 12 percent greater on-task engagement in classrooms with standing desks. Engagement was measured by behaviors like answering a question, raising a hand or participating in active discussion and off-task behaviors like talking out of turn. The desks had stools nearby, enabling students to sit or stand during class at their discretion. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health. tinyurl.com/oyngjk7

• • •

Every public and private high school in America is getting a free DVD of the Oscar nominated movie “Selma,” courtesy of Paramount Pictures. The movie is about Martin Luther King Jr.’s march from Montgomery to Selma, Alabama. Teachers can also request companion study guide, as part of an extended “Selma for Students” initiative. time.com/3833493/selma-dvd-high-schools/

• • •

Check with your local pubic library about their offerings beyond books. Most libraries now provide students with access not only to books but also digital resources which they can access 24/7 from any device with an Internet connection. Just of few things you can do with your card:

• download audiobooks and ebooks at home

• access free SAT and AP study guides

• read book reviews and recommendations

• access animated, talking picture books in Spanish and French.

• • •

The app WriteReader offers students a way to write mini-books as they learn to read. Preschool and elementary school students can use the iPad app to record and tell a story in their own words, which is then transcribed into text through a speak-to-text feature – that way, students hear the correct pronunciation while looking at the correct spelling of their words. Adults can “publish” the books, to either a private or public audience. The first book is free, buying the app to create unlimited books is $4.99. writereader.com

• • •

I will close this column with some of the best lines from 2015 commencement speeches at colleges across the country (courtesy of Bloomberg Business):

“It’s OK to map out your future, but do it in pencil.”

– Jon Bon Jovi, musician

“It is your difficult but great and challenging responsibility to help change things and set us right again. Let me apologize in advance on behalf of all of these people up here: We broke it, but you’ve got to fix it.”

– Ken Burns, filmmaker

“It really is a true honor to be with all of you … as you embark on this exciting and challenging journey of being sober during the day.”

– Maya Rudolph, actor

“History rarely yields to one person. But think – and never forget – what happens when it does. That can be you. That should be you. That must be you.”

– Tim Cook, CEO, Apple

“Make sure you know something about something.”

– Samantha Power, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations

“Life isn’t all that complicated. Things are what they are. Don’t read into everything, just do your best, and try to do no harm.”

– Meredith Vieira, journalist

“They say with great power comes great responsibility. Not true. Responsibility is entirely optional. You can coast if you want to. But don’t you dare coast.”

– Ed Helms, actor

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.

• • •

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

• • •

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

• • •

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

• • •

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

• • •

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.

• • •

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

• • •

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

• • •

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

• • •

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

• • •

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

• • •

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

• • •

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/

• • •

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

• • •

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.

• • •

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

• • •

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

• • •

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/

• • •

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

• • •

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.

• • •

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

• • •

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

• • •

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.

• • •

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.

• • •

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

• • •

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

• • •

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

• • •

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

• • •

“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

• • •

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.

• • •

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

• • •

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

• • •

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

• • •

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.

• • •

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

• • •

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

• • •

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

• • •

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

• • •

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/

• • •

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

• • •

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

• • •

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 Round-Up XXXII — SXSWedu Edition

In four short years, SXSWedu in Austin has established itself as perhaps the most influential education conference in the world. More than 6,000 educators, school administrators and ed-tech entrepreneurs gather to compare best practices, to try out new ed-tech software and hardware, and to debate the changes taking place in education in America, from preschool through college.

Faced with the choice of more than 300 sessions over four days, I crammed in as much as I could on a wide array of topics. My takeaway this year – 10 major trends that you will be hearing more about in the national media in the near future:

1. America must figure out why its college completion rates are so low and develop strategies for improving student success. Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden speaks frequently on community college issues, and her keynote focused on why 45 percent of students who start at four-year colleges do not finish within six years (the lowest rate among developed nations). She also discussed access and equity, and the new accountability that is catalyzing change in higher education.

2. Mindsets and the role of a growth mindset in college completion will continue to be a hot topic. Two McKinsey consultants presented their research on some low-cost and high-impact interventions that can move the needle on completion rates. It can be as simple as hearing other students share how they overcame challenges in school. Meanwhile Google recently announced that it is more interested in hiring students who exhibit a “growth mindset” than those with high GPAs. Social, emotional, purposeful learning and mindfulness were also hot topics.

3. There is a growing disconnect between what students learn in college and what skills employers want in new hires. Why are so many jobs going unfilled while so many recent graduates are unemployed? Employability was a hot topic, as was tapping industry to get involved in both high school and college course planning as a means of boosting career readiness.

4. Right now learning is measured largely by seat time (a year in ninth grade, a year in tenth grade, etc.), but the idea of digital badges (think Boy Scouts) and “credentials” were a hot topic. Some schools now advance students based on competency tests (when you master geometry you move up, no matter what grade you are in). Credentials can also signal achievement and specific knowledge and skills to potential employers (Photoshop, Powerpoint, Java, corporate finance and accounting, etc). The concept is already popular among job seekers switching careers or re-entering the workforce who are investing in new skills.

5. Schools must figure out a way to balance data collection with student privacy. Data is very useful in tracking student progress and boosting college completion rates. Knowing a student’s socio-economic background and parent education levels can help put support in place, but sharing that knowledge and tracking based on a student’s background is controversial. Can innovation and privacy coexist?

6. Technology isn’t going to replace teachers but it can help them be more effective in their jobs. There is no question that technology is here to stay. The ways that it can help teachers to differentiate instruction and make learning more engaging and relevant (adaptive, engaging educational games, for example) were hot topics in almost every session. Will teachers shift from being “content experts” to “curriculum facilitators”?

7. Unique and boldly different new schools are cropping up across the country. Many center around bringing fun into the classroom. I heard presentations about:

• Beaver Country Day, which integrates computer coding into every class taught at the school
• Quest to Learn, a high school in NYC that revolves around games and game design
• High Tech High, a high school completely dedicated to project-based learning = Less talking and more doing. The documentary “Most Likely To Succeed” features the school.

8. Districts are increasingly relying on crowd funding and community donations. One keynote speaker was Charles Best, the founder of Donorschoose.com. Since 2000, DonorsChoose has featured projects from 63 percent of all public schools in the country. The site is a new great way for teachers to avoid red tape around procuring edtech tools. DonorsChoose can also calculate the most-requested books or craft material in a particular area, and can share this data with local districts for planning purposes.

9. A maker space and a coding dojo are coming your way. A good balance to the emphasis on technology is the recognition that kids love to use their hands to make things – and that students should create media, just not consume it. Sonoma Valley High and a dozen other schools in Sonoma County have jumped on the bandwagon with actual maker labs where students have tools to create. CoderDojo and Girls Who Code are launching volunteer-led coding clubs for young people across the country.

10. And finally, and most concretely, the physical classroom space is due for a dramatic makeover. Students need to collaborate, teachers need classroom design flexibility and students should not be sitting all day. I saw a fantastic new chair from Steelcase that holds a backpack underneath, swivels and rolls for collaboration and features a pivoting desk that holds a laptop, tablet or iPhone. Also featured were standing desks and whiteboards that served as room dividers.

As usual, I left SXSWedu with as many questions as answers. But in each auditorium and breakout room, the audience of education thought leaders seem to agree that the sharing of ideas and debate felt very much like the very best classroom imaginable.

Read more at http://www.sonomanews.com/news/education/3762181-181/sxswedu-trend-watch-education#cDelMr4Tqt58WLg8.99

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Education Roundup XXXI: The best resources, tips and research for parents, students and teachers

Experts are figuring out a lot about how we learn. In a post that originally appeared in the Crew blog, author Belle Beth Cooper summarized six things you should know about the brain and how it takes in and retains information. The entire article is worth a read for the complete explanations.

1. We take in information better when it’s visual

2. We remember the big picture better than the details

3. Sleep largely affects learning and memory

4. Sleep deprivation significantly reduces your ability to learn new information

5. We learn best by teaching others

6. We learn new information better when it’s interweaved.

tinyurl.com/mv8sfxe

• • •

Each year, hundreds of colleges and universities administer a freshman survey to hundreds of thousands of entering students during orientation. The survey covers educational and career plans; and values, attitudes and beliefs. The 2014 survey found a few interesting new trends:

• freshmen are increasingly distancing themselves from religion

• freshmen arrive at college having partied less in their high school years

• freshman have more mental health and emotional issues than in the past

Most critically, the emotional health of incoming freshmen is at its lowest point in at least three decades. Students say they are spending more time studying and less time socializing with friends. tinyurl.com/mm83dsm

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Happiness is a consequence of our actions, not a goal in and of itself. When we say, “I just want my kids to be happy,” we’re actually emphasizing the result. In other words, I may have been going about it all wrong. Read more in this great public radio report: www.kqed.org/a/perspectives/R201502170643

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I recommend that high school students getting ready to apply for their first jobs create a Linked In profile (you can help for sure). There are some easy tips here on setting up a page. My favorite — claim your unique url (www.linkedin.com/in/lornasheridan) before someone else claims it.

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What happened to those college kids who Peter Theil paid $100,000 to drop out? At every cocktail party when the conversation turns to the value of college, someone will bring up the Thiel fellows. Here is a balanced update on those students now.
http://chronicle.com/art…/The-Rich-Mans-Dropout-Club/151703/

• • •

University professor Christopher Blattman offers ten things that he wishes someone had told him to do in college. You can read the entire piece at vox.com.

1) Try careers on for size

2) Develop skills that are hard to get outside the university

3) Learn how to write well

4) Focus on the teacher, not the topic when choosing courses

5) When in doubt, choose the academic path that keeps the most doors open

6) Do the minimum foreign language classes (do immersion instead)

7) Go to places that are unfamiliar to you

8) Take some small classes with professors who can write recommendations

9) Unless you’re required to write a thesis, think twice before committing to one

10) Blow your mind (He said, “At the end of each year of college, you should look back at your thoughts and opinions 12 months before and find them quaint. If not, you probably didn’t read or explore or work hard enough.”)

• • •

We should all be lifelong learners. Next time you’re watching reality TV on your seat-front screen on a long flight, consider choosing to watch a college lecture instead. Jet Blue and Virgin America have both begun streaming recorded lectures from some of the nation’s top colleges, including marketing classes from Penn’s Wharton School, a Brown University archeology class, and an introduction to guitar and rhythm from the Berklee School of Music. While these aren’t true online courses because they lack a key interactive element, you will also gain valuable insight into the national conversation about online learning.

• • •

CNNMoney/PayScale have developed a ranking of the “Top 10 Best Jobs In America” for 2015, based on growth, great pay and satisfying work. And they are:

1. Software architect

2. Video game designer

3. Landman (oil and gas worker)

4. Patent agent

5. Hospital administrator

6. Continuous improvement manager

7. Clinical nurse specialist

8. Database developer

9. Information insurance analyst

10. Pilates/yoga instructor

While this list shouldn’t convince students to head in one direction versus another, hopefully trend pieces like these provoke interesting conversations in your house. tinyurl.com/pogpf4p

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The central purpose of the new Common Core State Standards is to help today’s students think critically, rather than just memorize (and later forget) facts. To that end, Common Sense Media has developed a list of games and apps that don’t just have right and wrong answers, but encourage kids to experiment and consider the shades of gray in problems. You can search for recommendations by age, but the very highest marks went to: Number’s League (age 7), Wenonauts Internet Academy (age 8), Gamestar Mechanic (age 10), Super Scribblenauts (age 10) and Budget Hero and Historypin (ages 13 and up). commonsensemedia.org

• • •

These findings are very controversial, but study after study came to very similar conclusions. Your college major is a very good indication of how smart you are. Education majors are furious!  http://qz.com/334926/your-college-major-is-a-pretty-good-indication-of-how-smart-you-are/

• • •

I always love to hear about new study apps for students. Some good ones are featured here.

• • •

This list is a good starting point if your high school student is looking for a paid internship this summer.  If your student has done one that should be added, please comment below. http://people.rit.edu/~gtfsbi/Symp/highschool.htm

• • •

Why are teens so prone to impulsiveness and addiction as why is it so important that we help protect their still-developing brains?  NPR ran a great interview here with neuroscientist Frances Jensen, author of The Teenage Brain, and she runs through the topic at length. I can not wait until my kids successfully make it to 21.

• • •

It was only a matter of time – and such a good idea! Google has partnered with Disney to make a new cartoon series, “Miles from Tomorrowland,” to inspire kids to code. The show is set in space but works in coding, teamwork and critical thinking. Some pretty famous actors voice the characters including Olivia Munn, Adrian Grenier, Mark Hamill, George Takei, Bill Nye and Wil Wheaton. The series premiered on Feb. 6 on the Disney Channel. There is also a Tomorrowland app to accompany the series.

• • •

Slate’s Jordan Weissmann pondered last week why around 15 percent of 25-to-34-year-olds still live with their parents, despite an improving economy and job market. He suggests that greater student debt is to blame, as is the fact that young adults are getting married later. He notes that marriage rates have declined most among Americans who never went to college, that same group among whom living with parents is commonest and has grown fastest. tinyurl.com/nlcnbbh

• • •

The commonly used pesticide deltamethrin may increase the risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children, according to a new Rutgers study. Researchers found that mice exposed to deltamethrin while in the womb and via breastfeeding exhibited features of ADHD. These findings have been deemed to provide strong evidence. More boys are diagnosed with ADHD than girls, and in this study, the male mice were affected more than the female mice. Products that contain the pesticide include Raid Max Bug Barrier, Harris Flea & Ticket Killer, Delta Dust and dozens more. In a related study, the Centers for Disease Control Prevention (CDC) found that kids with high levels of this pesticide in their urine were more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with ADHD. tinyurl.com/ogcyu6t

• • •

Less access to after-school programs is pushing disadvantaged kids further behind, according to a major study featured in a recent Atlantic magazine article titled “The Activity Gap.” The study examined trends in extracurricular participation among kids in the U.S. from the 1970s until today. The researchers described their findings as “alarming.” While upper- and middle-class students have become more active in school clubs and sports teams over the past four decades, the participation rates of their socio-economically disadvantaged peers started plummeting in the ’90s, the study found. Why do extracurriculars matter? “Extracurricular activities instill the skills and values that matter most for upward mobility,” said the researchers. Those skills and values they refer to – self-esteem, resilience, leadership, engagement, etc. The entire article is worth a read: tinyurl.com/n3vmj8c

• • •

Filling out the FASFA (the federal financial aid form) as soon as possible after Jan. 1 increases applicants’ chances of getting the best financial aid packages. Those who file the form from January through March receive, on average, twice the amount of grant money as those who file later, said Mark Kantrowitz, of the financial aid website Edvisors.com.

• • •

There are at least 10 new apps offering ways for parents to easily create an online baby book. Many parents are hesitant to post baby photos on Facebook so these apps fills that gap of providing an easy way to upload cute photos from your phone (rather than print them out to make an album) while still keeping the images private. hongkiat.com/blog/record-baby-daily-life/

• • •

If you are looking for some cool educational games for your child to play online, check out BrainRush. The site has lots of free options for a wide variety of games, on topics from the periodic table to grammar to state capitals to the water cycle. The games are challenging because they adapt to student success and students are prompted to review concepts after play. brainrush.com

• • •

If your child is an avid reader who is always looking for book recommendations, they should explore Bookopolis.com. This site provides an online community for young readers to find new books and connect with each other for peer recommendations.

• • •

I am a sucker for great news outlets, particularly ones that might get students interested in current events. The Tween Tribune produced by the Smithsonian is one such site. Content is grouped by grade (K-4, 5-8 and 9-12) and also available in Spanish. Some of today’s topics – the top sellers on iTunes, how color is used as a hidden persuader by advertisers and humpback whale sightings near New York City, tweentribune.com

• • •

Khan Academy is gearing up to a free comprehensive SAT prep class. This month they are seeking a few thousand high school students to beta-test the online tool. Students will have access to an unreleased SAT practice test. bit.ly/KASATalpha

• • •

The blog Momastery posted some great suggestions by teens for teens who find themselves in tricky situations and don’t know what to say to extricate themselves. Here are a few:

• When someone offers you a beer: “No, thanks. I’m allergic to alcohol. Totally blows.” (Then go fill up a cup with water and nurse that all night to avoid 40 million more questions.)

• When someone offers you weed: “My mom used to smoke pot when she was younger and now she can smell it from a mile away. She checks my clothes every night. Can’t do it, man.”

• You find yourself in a sexual situation you’d prefer not to be in: “Hey, I like you too much for this to go down this way.”

• A kid is being teased by another kid in the hallway: “Hey. I don’t want anybody to get in trouble here. Why don’t you follow me out of here? I’ll walk you to class.”

• Someone is about to drink and drive: “Don’t risk it, man. My dad’ll get us home – no questions asked. He’d rather pick us up here than in jail.” momastery.com

• • •

New studies show that binge drinking among teens and young adults impairs the body’s ability to heal from injuries and also disrupts a healthy immune system. Study participants drank four or five shots of vodka. Measured at two hours and five hours after peak intoxication, their immune systems had become AND STAYED less active than when sober. The study was published in Alcohol, an international, peer-reviewed journal. tinyurl.com/lvmdoda

• • •

I’m going to keep reminding everyone that the time is now to research great summer programs for your teen. Summers are a great chance for them to practice being away from you, explore an interest and meet students outside of their comfortable circle. The best programs are those that cost the least. Here are some to get you started. If the link is broken (some change every year) then just Google the program name.

 https://educationroundupnational.com/2014/02/28/expanded-meaningfulenriching-summer-programs-on-a-shoestring-for-ages-12-25/

Please forward this site to anyone you think might be interested!

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/

• •

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/

• •

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.

• •

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.

• •

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.

• •

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.

• •

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

• •

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.

• •

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.

• •

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)

• •

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

• •

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

• •

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

• •

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/

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.

• • •

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/.

• • •

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.

• • •

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

• • •

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

• • •

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.

• • •

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.”

• • •

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

• • •

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

• • •

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

• • •

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

• • •

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.

• • •

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.

• • •

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.

• • •

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

• • •

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.

• • •

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/

• • •

Education Roundup XXVII

According to The Wall Street Journal, new research suggests that a summer internship helps a student’s career prospects more than perhaps anything else in their college years. In research conducted with potential employers, the study found that majors didn’t matter, a higher GPA didn’t matter much, all that really seemed to matter from the college years was whether students had a summer internship (work experience). Reporter Brett Arends said, “Candidates whose résumés could point to pre-graduation work experience in the industry they were applying for were 14 percent more likely to get an interview. An English major with an average GPA and a summer internship in a bank was more likely to get a job interview at a bank than an outstanding finance major who spent the summer touring Europe.” Read more here.

Ready for some good news? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released a comprehensive report that shows that teens are behaving better today than any other time since the federal government began collecting data. Teen pregnancy is way down and high school seniors are drinking less, smoking less, barely using cocaine and they are exercising more. http://tiny.cc/d0m3gx

According to Ed Surge magazine, today’s college students arrive on campus with an average of seven devices AND 80 percent of these students will carry and use a mobile phone every waking hour of the day. While the device count includes phones, tablets, e-readers, TVs, printers, laptops, game consoles, video cameras, etc. I still found the number disturbing. http://tinyurl.com/l3hk2kv

New research published in an academic journal about sleep has found that college students who are poor sleepers are more likely to earn worse grades than healthy sleeping peers. The study also found that sleep problems have about the same impact on a student’s GPA as binge drinking and marijuana use.http://tinyurl.com/m9tdewr

If you get annoyed by people who confuse their and there, you will love the free new website quill.orgTeachers can also sign up their class and monitor student progress. The site provides fun editing challenges and it covers all of the grammar concepts from the Common Core State Standards for grades 1 through 8.

Do you have a teen or pre-teen who has trouble staying organized? Suzanne Shaffer (Countdown to College) suggest a few apps to help:

1. Evernote. Create virtual notebooks, organize important deadlines and track key documents.

2. GoogleDrive. Create documents, spreadsheets, and presentations and collaborate with others in real time. You can access your documents anytime, and all changes are saved automatically. There isn’t even a save button.

3. Remember the Milk. To do lists with priorities, due dates, time estimates, repeating lists, tags. Get reminders via email or text.

4. inClass. Keeps track of classes and homework and organizes video notes, audio notes, photo notes.

          And she recommends these free apps to help students prep for college:

1. Evernote.  Takes notes, captures photos, creates to-do lists, records voice reminders – and makes these notes completely searchable across all your devices.

2. Find colleges.  Search for information about U.S. colleges and universities.

3. Collegeconfidential.  Read and interact with other users on topics like financial aid, college life, test preparation and more.

4. Quad2Quad.  Curate and assemble the most important college data.

5. College visits.  Search and find schools to add to your list, rate your college visits, keep personal notes on each visit.

6. SAT question of the day.  Real SAT questions and SAT preparation materials from the test maker.

7. StudyBlue.  Review class notes or make flashcards whenever you have a minute to spare.

8. Khan Academy.  More than 4,200 videos on a massive number of topics.

9. Scholarship advisor.  Find money for college.

10. Scholarships.com.  A database of 2.7 million local, state and national college scholarships.

Teens seem to think that borrowing or buying “smart drugs” – ADD and ADHD medicines like Ritalin and Adderall – is not a big deal, but studies are finding that the possible short-term boost in mental performance may come at the cost of a long-term decrease in brain plasticity, which is necessary for task switching, planning ahead and behavioral flexibility. http://tinyurl.com/kgstq9z

A recent study suggests that students who work or study abroad are “smarter.” Students become more open minded when they live abroad and researchers have found that these students are better able to make connections among disparate ideas. Research has also found that the more engaged a student is in multicultural pursuits, the more job offers they receive after their program ends.  http://tinyurl.com/lpuccuw

According to a recent article in the New York Times, new data proves that college is worth the investment and in fact has never before been more valuable. There was been a lot written about the rising cost of college, but according to MIT economists, the true cost of a college degree today is about negative $500,000 – not going to college will cost about half-million dollars. The pay gap between college graduates and non-grads reached a record high last year, according to Labor Dept. statistics. Americans with four-year college degrees made 98 percent more an hour on average in 2013 than people without a four-year degree. That’s up from 64 percent in the early 1980s. Said reporter David Leonhardt, “College debt may still be a real fear and hardship, but it’s a relatively small cost in the long term. The average $25,000 in student debt doesn’t hold a candle to the $500,000 to be made over a lifetime.” http://tinyurl.com/pabbakr

Stanford University’s d.school is re-imagining a college education. “What if you were admitted to college not for four years at age 18, but for six years you could use at any time in your life? What if you declared a “mission” rather than a major? What if your transcript displayed not the courses you have taken, but the skills and ideas you have put to work in the world?” This is the first time the university’s famous d.school has applied its “design thinking” processes to the undergraduate experience. The results should be interesting. http://tinyurl.com/lvls44l

News coming out of a related study: less than 2 percent of U.S. employers said they actively recruit liberal arts majors, and most companies feel that cultural fit is more important than GPA when deciding on new hires. Employers said that they have the most openings for engineering and computer information systems majors, followed by jobs for those in medicine and nursing. http://tinyurl.com/nxrwyxf

Scholastic’s Teachers website offers forth some great ideas to encourage children to read over the summer:

Join a library summer reading program (the competition, log and incentives can encourage children).

Create a calendar with fun activities for students to complete while reading (examples: make a tent and read under it, read to a pet, read to the oldest or youn­gest person you know).

Launch a summer book club. Read the first book of an engaging series, as the summer is a good time to pursue a complete series.

Plan a book swap.  Ask everyone to bring books they are done with and trade books as well as recommendations.

Try out an audio book with babies and toddlers, as well as with children and teens.  Play the book during naptime or convince your teen to try exercising or doing chores to a book instead of music.

In a novel idea for a reading contest this summer, The New York Times will ask teens, “What interested you most in the paper this week?” Anyone 13 to 19 years old can post an answer, and every Tuesday winners will be published on the blog The Learning Network, and all related posts are accessible without a digital subscription. http://tinyurl.com/lj25h5t.

A student blogger recently posted tips on how to stay focused in class for students of all ages:

— Practice active listening and take notes.

‘;l– Sit in the front section of the room.

— Sit in the same seat every day (It will help you to remember what you learned in the class).

— Avoid sitting in the same seat for multiple classes.

— Participate in class.

Read his full explanations at http://tinyurl.com/kv27ycp.

As you search for summer reading, movies and websites to amuse your children, don’t forget to check out Common Sense Media. The site can help you find age-appropriate movies, books, apps, TV shows, video games, websites and music with more than 20,000 reviews by age, entertainment type, learning rating and genre. commonsensemedia.org

There is a 99-cent app that might get your kids outside. When you hold The Night Sky app up to the sky, the app identifies the names of the planets, stars and constellations.

There have been interesting shifts in undergraduates’ choices of majors over time, and the shifts don’t really reflect where the jobs are. Among the majors less popular since 1970: education (down from 21 percent of degrees awarded to 5.9 percent in 2011-12); English (7.6 percent to 3 percent); social studies and history (18.5 percent to 10 percent); math and statistics (3 percent to 1 percent); physical sciences and science technologies (2.5 percent to 1.5 percent); and foreign languages, literatures and linguistics (2.5 percent to 1.2 percent). The majors that have gained the most share: business (13.7 percent in 1970-71 up to 20 percent in 2011-12); health professions (3 percent to 9.1 percent); and communication and journalism (1.2 percent to 4.7 percent). http://tinyurl.com/mepem2v

In related news, very few of America’s new teachers took undergraduate coursework in teaching. Today, only around half of all new teachers have an undergraduate teaching degree versus 88 percent prior to 1980. According to the National Center for Education Information, the teaching force is changing due to an influx of people from non-traditional backgrounds. America’s teachers are still mostly white and female (the share of men in the profession fell from 31 to 16 percent over the last 25 years) but they’re getting younger, and studies are finding that they are more open to school reform initiatives, like eliminating under-performing teachers and tying pay to students’ test scores. http://ht.ly/wdR2C

Fewer teens are having babies (or abortions). Teen pregnancies, births and abortions have dropped to new lows. In 2010, among teens age 15 to 19, pregnancies are down 51 percent from the peak in 1990. While teen pregnancies declined in all 50 states, New Mexico has the highest rate and New Hampshire the lowest.

I was surprised to learn that only 15 percent of current college students are between the traditional ages of 18 and 22, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. My perception of college is out-of-date with today’s reality. This demographic shift is one of the reasons that the entire notion of how higher education is delivered is being reexamined.

I read a helpful article recently on red flags to look for in teens that might indicate depression, drug use or just general cause for concern. Some are obvious (excessive moodiness, social isolation) but others less so (changes in eating or sleeping patterns, unexplained aches and pains). The complete list and accompanying discussion is helpful. http://tinyurl.com/lqmjo7b

It can be hard for teens to ask for help in person. Crisis Text Line is a new free service designed to help teens through their hardest times: family issues, stress or suicidal thoughts. Trained counselors text back and forth with advice and resources. Teens text “LISTEN” to 741-741. crisistextline.org

Ben Carpenter is author of “The Bigs: The Secrets Nobody Tells Students and Young Professionals About How to Find a Great Job, Do a Great Job, Start a Business, and Live a Happy Life.” http://tinyurl.com/lf8k5k9. He offers 22 pieces of advice as students look toward the future:

• Do what you’re good at.

• Try out different fields when you’re young.

• Always ask yourself, What’s my edge?

• Think of your boss and your company before yourself.

• Be creative and bold.

• Comfort and success rarely go hand in hand.

• Stay in the driver’s seat of your career.

• Don’t agree to anything you don’t fully understand.

• When you’re upset, choose to look forward, not back.

• Learn to appreciate diverse work styles.

• Know when to look after your own interests.

• Own your mistakes.

• Be a good steward of the “little” things.

• If you want to be a leader, act like one.

• Do what you say you’re going to do, when you say you’re going to do it.

• Don’t let anyone have anything negative to say about you.

• Don’t complain about your job to your coworkers.

• A single act can ruin your great reputation.

• Don’t pick fights you can’t win.

• Don’t badmouth your coworkers.

• Live within your means.

• Don’t forget to have fun.

Kitestring is a new, free service that alerts your emergency contacts if you don’t respond to its check-ups. The website was founded by an MIT grad student who was worried about his girlfriend traveling alone. Here’s how it works: You or your child start a trip on Kitestring (either on the website or via SMS), and the site texts you later to make sure you’re OK. Reply to the message within five minutes and all is well. If you don’t check in, they alert your emergency contacts that you set up ahead of time. Of course, you can always extend your ETA or check in early. www.kitestring.io

According to the U.S. Department of Education, only 59 percent of full-time, first-time students, who began seeking a bachelor’s degree at a four-year institution in fall 2005, completed the degree at that institution within six years. Students assume they will complete college in four years, and calculate tuition based on that assumption, but the numbers suggest that finishing in four years is unlikely for many. nces.ed.gov/

Researchers at Stanford have found that walking boosts creativity. A person’s creative output increases by an average of 60 percent when walking, as opposed to sitting. Facebook and Apple executives are famous for meeting while walking, which now doesn’t seem so crazy. Indoors vs. outdoors does not matter. news.stanford.edu/news/2014/april/walking-vs-sitting-042414.html

All the rage among teens across the country is a new game you play on your phone called 2048. My teens love it. Beating the game involves math and strategy. It is better than the pointless Candy Crush type apps, but equally addictive. tinyurl.com/qehy38n

Most people agree that apprenticeships are the best way to get employees the skills that companies seek, but apprentice programs have been declining in the U.S. while growing more common in other countries. In Germany for example, there are 17.4 apprentices per 1,000 people, while in the U.S. there are currently 0.9. According to the Department of Labor, formal programs that combine on the job learning with mentorships and classroom education fell 40 percent between 2003 and 2013. Earlier this month, President Obama set aside $100 million to encourage apprenticeships in high-growth industries. Maybe that will help.

The rising cost of college tuition is a hot topic, but only a third of all students at four-year public and private schools actually pay the published price at a college. For the typical student at a private nonprofit college, the net cost of school is less than half the sticker price. While the sticker price at public colleges grew more than 35 percent over the past 10 years, the average out-of-pocket costs for your typical student only grew by 16 percent. At private, nonprofit four-year universities, it was even less. tinyurl.com/ksk7yca

For the first time, more Latino than white California students have been offered admission to attend the University of California system as freshmen. For next year, around 29 percent of students admitted to a UC campus will be Hispanic, compared to about 27 percent white. Asian students still made up the largest group admitted, at 36 percent.

In related demographic news, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, over the next ten or so years there will be a 16 percent decrease in white students but a 23 percent increase in Asian students and a 64 percent increase in Hispanic students who graduate from high school. http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2014/2014051.pdf

Need five good reasons to take your child to the library? Christine French Cully, editor of Highlights magazine, offers these:

Regular visits to the library inevitably lead to more reading.

When you visit the library, you expose your child to more books and magazines than you can afford to buy.

Your local librarian can recommend books that you might not think to suggest, broadening your child’s tastes, mind and vocabulary.

Library time is active, not passive.

Owning a library card teaches kids responsibility.

Read the complete list at http://tinyurl.com/ktz266h and visit your local library.

For what it’s worth, the new ranking of the best public high schools in America is out, courtesy of U.S. News & World ReportThe methodology is “based on the key principles that a great high school must serve all of its students well, not just those who are college bound, and that it must be able to produce measurable academic outcomes to show the school is successfully educating its student body across a range of performance indicators.”  http://www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools/national-rankings

Every Apple computer store will now recycle any old Apple product for free. They will also hand you a gift card if you turn in something that they think they can resell. Announcement of the new initiative was timed to Earth Day.

The Department of Education offers a handful of tips for anyone who is taking out or currently had a student loan:

Keep close track of what you are borrowing (detailed records of the different loans, repayment dates and interest rates).  At nslds.ed.gov, select “Financial Aid Review,” log in, and view all federal student loans in one place.

Make interest payments while still in school. Even though a grace period is available, if you have a part-time job in school, paying back at least some of your student loan interest while you’re in school can save you a lot of money in the long run.

Keep your loan servicer in the loop. Make sure they always have up-to-date contact info for you.

Figure out what your monthly loan payments are going to be before you go into repayment. The same website above has a repayment estimator that allows you to pull in your federal student loan information and compare what your monthly payments would be under the different repayment plans that are offered.

A new study has found that the longer kids spend watching television, the less sleep they get, according to Mass General Hospital for Children and Harvard School of Public Health.Young children who had a TV in their room lost an average of 30 minutes of sleep a night. Previous research has found that even a slight lack of sleep can have repercussions on behavior, learning ability and memory. http://tinyurl.com/olzmpug

Based on the sample questions released last week, it looks like the new SAT will be a harder test. In addition, math will now account for half of a student’s score (800 out of 1600 points) and calculators will no longer be allowed. Students will begin taking the test in spring 2016. You can look at the sample questions at College Board’s site, deliveringopportunity.org.

A mobile app to help combat jet-lag was released recently by mathematicians who have found a way to help travelers better adjust to new time zones. “Overcoming jet lag is fundamentally a math problem and we’ve calculated the optimal way of doing it,” said Danny Forger, a math professor at the University of Michigan. The free iPhone app, called Entrain, is perhaps the first to take a mathematical approach to “entrainment,” the scientific term for synchronizing circadian rhythms with the outside hour. The researcher/developers calculate ideal light adjustment schedules for more than 1,000 possible trips, a specialized plan and predict how long it will you take to adjust. entrain.math.lsa.umich.edu

A new study has shown that using marijuana even just a few times a week may be enough to cause damage (The Journal of Neuroscience). It turns out that not much research had previously focused on casual pot smoking (fewer than four times a week) but researchers at Northwestern and Harvard in this small study found volume, shape and density changes in two crucial brain areas that control emotion and motivation, and some types of mental illness are affected by even infrequent pot smoking. The more marijuana the students smoked, the more their brains differed from the non-users. As a result, researchers now say they are very concerned about the long-term impacts of even minor marijuana use on the developing brain. http://tinyurl.com/lgdcp5x.

Scientists seem to agree that green tea has many positive effects on health, including enhanced cognitive functions, in particular the working memory. Researchers also think that green tea may help treat cognitive impairments in psychiatric disorders such as dementia. http://tinyurl.com/kxy59l4.

“In the past generation, the rising preoccupation with children’s safety has transformed childhood, stripping it of independence, risk taking and discovery. What’s been gained is unclear: rates of injury have remained fairly steady since the 1970s, and abduction by strangers was as rare then as it is now. What’s been lost is creativity, passion and courage” – said author Hanna Rosin in a recent cover story in The Atlantic titled, “The Overprotected Kid.” She goes on to say that playgrounds are so safe they are boring, and to quote Ellen Sandester, who said, “When (children) are left alone and can take full responsibility for their actions, and the consequences of their decisions, it’s a thrilling experience.”

Please do recommend this site to others who might be interested and send any interesting news you see my way at lornasheridan@gmail.com.  Happy summer!

Education Roundup XXVI (links fixed)

You have likely seen age progression drawings in news coverage about missing children. Well, Google and Intel have funded the development of a new computer program that seems able to accurately age a small child so that families will soon be able to quickly and inexpensively know what their kindergartner will look like as an adult. For some reason, I find this very disturbing and sad.

Does it make you cry to calculate how much you have spent on LEGOs for your child over the years? A company called Pley is offering Netflix-type subscriptions for LEGOs. Unlimited rolling access to the large LEGO sets is $39 a month, $25 for medium sets and $15 a month for small sets. Why is this such a good idea? Well, LEGO sets are expensive to buy and it is the building, not the owning of the sets that is fun for children. Pley says it will sanitize each set before sending it out and weigh each package to detect missing pieces. Customers can lose up to 15 pieces without incurring any penalty. pley.com.

Is your child more likely to pick up a book than a LEGO? A new service offers children 12 and under a monthly library of more than 2,000 books available on the iPad for $9.95 a month. The company’s mission is to encourage kids to use iPads for something other than games. For adults, there is already Oyster, an e-book service aimed at adults for $9.95 a month. Meanwhile, Amazon has Kindle Free Time Unlimited that gives families unlimited access to e-books, movies, TV shows, educational apps and games aimed at the under 8 crowd.

 In researching her latest book, author Jessica Lahey asked countless teachers, “What one thing would you want your students’ parents to know?” The same five points came up over and over again:

1. Your kids can do much more than you think they can do.

2. It’s not healthy to give your child constant feedback.

3. We promise not to believe everything your child says happens at home if you promise not to believe everything your child says happens in our classrooms.

4. Your children learn and act according to what you do, not what you say.

5. Teach your children that mistakes aren’t signs of weakness but a vital part of growth and learning.

Her complete write-up on this at tinyurl.com/q92aruk is excellent. Her book, “The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed,” comes out next year.

If you think that computer science should count toward graduation as either a math or a science credit (it does not currently in most states), then visit code.org/action/make-cs-count, to sign a petition now. 

In what is sure to be the wave of the future, Stanford University last week announced what it called a “re-imagining of the humanities.” Stanford has created two new “joint majors” that will allow students to earn a bachelor of arts and science in one of two combinations – computer science and English, or computer science and music. The school hopes to redefine what it means to experience a broad liberal education in the 21st century.http://tinyurl.com/m7b49w7

Babies and young children make giant developmental leaps all of the time and it turns out that napping plays a crucial role. Sometimes it seems like babies make huge strides in development overnight. New research has found that infants who nap are better able to gain new skills, and preschoolers are better able to retain learned knowledge, after napping (bonus – mom gets a much-needed break). http://tinyurl.com/moab8ju

Parents have a lot of questions about the new SAT, even though it is not going to be unveiled until 2016. You can see some sample questions here.  To summarize what is known at this time:

• Vocabulary will focus on words widely used in college and career.

• Students will be asked to use source documents to support answers.

• There will be an optional essay, measuring ability to analyze evidence and build an argument.

• The math section will focus on topics that contribute to college and career training.  Math will account for half of the total score instead of 1/3.

• New questions will ask students to analyze text and data.

• Each exam will include passages drawn from either founding documents or key global writings.

• Wrong answers will no longer cause score deductions.

Georgetown professor and MIT Ph.D. Cal Newport predicts that the ability to get and stay focused will be the superpower of the 21st century. He writes a popular blog called Study Hack, and he suggests five tips to improve your attention span:

• Reduce stress, as it makes you frazzled and stupid.

• Work during your prime hours.

•  Dedicate true blocks of time to a project.

• Do one thing at a time.

• Meditation is weight lifting for your attention span.

More specific suggestions can be found at calnewport.com/blog.

Don’t forget that your public library card can get you and your children free or discounted passes to most of your area attractions (children’s museums, science museums, etc.)  You must usually obtain the passes in advance, at your library or online. You need your library number and you can use your last name as your PIN.

Did you know that you are able to lend any book you have purchased for your Kindle or Nook to another person for up to 14 days? Each book may be lent once to anyone else with the same type of device.

Without question, keyboard skills are increasingly important for students. There is no need to buy an expensive typing program as there are many great free typing games available. For beginners, try KeyMan and KeyBricks. For students who can identify the keys on the keyboard, try Trash Typer, Alpha Attack. To increase speed, try Desert Typing Racer, Typing Chef and Spacebar Invaders.

UCLA received a record high 99,559 undergraduate applications this year (including 19,087 transfer-student applications) – more than any four-year university in the country. For specifics on UCLA and other colleges’ admissions figures, visit thechoice.blogs.nytimes.com.

A poll by Scholastic and the Gates Foundation found that the top five websites used by teachers are: You Tube, Discovery, Scholastic, PBS and Pinterest. Ninety-one percent of teachers use websites to find or share lesson plans, 65 percent to gain professional advice and support and 57 percent to collaborate with teachers they wouldn’t otherwise know.

Khan Academy now offers free Common Core-aligned, adaptive math exercises. Thousands of new, interactive math problems are fully aligned to every standard from K-12 and will be much more similar to what Sonoma students will see on future assessments. The math problems focus on conceptual understanding, procedural fluency, and real-world application – and they were created and reviewed by 40 math educators. If you are eager to prevent summer slide with your student, this might be a good first stop – khanacademy.org/commoncore.

Autism diagnoses are up 30 percent in the last year alone. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that one in 68 children have autism spectrum disorders. The CDC added that the criteria used to diagnose, treat and provide services have not changed. The study focused on “peak age of identification,” which is age 8. You can read more at tinyurl.com/kk8x444.

There is a new free app for mobile devices that enables people to evaluate their abilities to perceive, understand and control emotions. The MEIT test (Mobile Emotional Intelligence Test) is a skill test to evaluate the ability to perceive emotions, the understanding of these emotions and the ability to manage them. emotional-apps.com.

Sleep is so important for teens. Youth athletes who sleep eight or more hours each night are 68 percent less likely to get injured, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Hanging out at the Google lounge at the SXSWEdu conference, I fell in love with the new, white 11-inch Google Chromebook. Besides being a great-looking and inexpensive device at $259, I am thinking there may be advantages to having the same device for home use that a student uses at school.

Despite what feels like significant evidence to the contrary, a new study suggests that our children have no more homework today than we had in 1984. The Brown Center on American Education found that the percentage of 17-year-olds who say they have more than two hours of homework each night has remained unchanged over the past 30 years at 13 percent. Backing up the finding is a UCLA study that found the number of seniors who said they had more than six hours of homework a week dropped from 50 percent in 1986 to 38 percent in 2012. http://time.com/28433/brookings-institute-study-30-years-unchanged/

A number of studies in recent years have attempted to clarify what makes someone mentally tough. A cognitive psychologist boiled down the findings to 12 key attributes of mental toughness in sport, ranked in order of importance:

• Unshakeable self-belief in your ability to achieve competition goals.

• Unshakeable self-belief that you possess unique qualities and abilities that make you better than your opponents.

• Insatiable desire and internalized motives to succeed.

• Remaining fully focused on the task at hand in the face of competition-specific distractions.

• Regaining psychological control following unexpected, uncontrollable events.

• Pushing back the boundaries of physical and emotional pain, while still maintaining technique and effort under distress during training and competition.

• Accepting that competition anxiety is inevitable and knowing that you can cope with it.

• Not being adversely affected by other’s good and bad performances.

• Thriving on the pressure of competition.

• Remaining fully focused in the face of personal life distractions.

• Switching sport focus on and off as required.

I found these relevant for everyone, not just athletes. Read the complete piece at Scientific American at linkis.com/com/l7UhQ

Should would-be parents be able to “design” their perfect baby? “Preventing a lethal disease is one thing; choosing the traits we desire is quite another,” suggested Thomas H. Murray in a commentary in Sciencemagazine. New techniques are making it possible for parents to do more than screen for lethal diseases. Interestingly, sex selection is prohibited in at least 36 countries, but not in the U.S. http://tinyurl.com/llhp53w

Up on my Facebook page recently popped a photo of an annoyed teenage girl holding a handmade sign that read, “Mom is trying to show me how many people can see a photo once it’s on the Internet.” The photo was dated March 18, 2014. By the time I came across it that same evening, 1.2 million Facebook users had “liked” it, I assume in support of the mom making a good point about her daughter needing to be careful with what she posts online.

K-12 teachers can request free classroom online and print edition subscriptions to USA Today. Grants are awarded on a first come, first serve basis. usatodayeducation.com/k12/usa-today-education-grant-request.

Have you ever said to your son, “Be a man!?” Jennifer Newsome’s newest project is a documentary film called “The Mask You Live In,” which explores how we are failing our boys every time we urge them to “be a man.” Why is she so worried? “Compared to girls, research shows that boys in the U.S. are more likely to be diagnosed with a behavior disorder, prescribed stimulant medications, fail out of school, binge drink, commit a violent crime, and/or take their own lives.” Source: therepresentationproject.org/films/the-mask-you-live-in/.

How about a free app that helps your child to explore different careers? Build Your Future allows students to explore 100 careers; determine what levels of education are required and learn about potential salaries. Teens are given a Return on Investment (ROI) score between 1 and 5 for various careers. A score of 1 means it will be difficult to pay off the debt accrued based on future income; a score of 5 means they should have no problem paying off debt with estimated future income.

Children from families with regular family routines exhibit greater social-emotional health, according to researchers.Specific results showed that children who participate in five weekly family routines are more than twice as likely to have high SEH and for each additional routine that a parent and child do together, there is an almost 50 percent greater likelihood of having high SEH. Routines include eating dinner together, singing songs, reading books, telling stories and playtime. http://tinyurl.com/mzp6e9u

A study out of Berkeley has found that preschoolers can do a better job of figuring out unusual gadgets and toys than college students, perhaps because their brains are more flexible and less rigid about cause and effect. http://tinyurl.com/m243qx3

Author Hilary Wice has spent the last year researching and writing a book about the six key character strengths that children need to live happy, successful lives. Number one? A love of life. Two through six? Resilience, courage, kindness, honesty and self-control. You can read the thinking behind her research at http://tinyurl.com/mlljxva

I am a big fan of the new College App Map. Students and parents can click on a grade level and, for example, see all the resources that a sophomore might find useful with regard to testing, researching colleges and researching career paths. collegeappmap.org.

I can’t say for sure how well it works, but the free website admitted.ly allows students to take fun personality quizzes and get matched to colleges that are supposedly ideal for their personality, interests and goals.

I read an article recently on the benefits of foreign films for instilling global citizenship in our children/teens. I can be hard to choose the right films because many aren’t rated or widely reviewed. Here are six that are highly recommended by Homa Tavangar, the author “Growing Up Global”:

“Ponyo” (all ages) – Japan

“My Neighbor Totoro” (all ages) – Japan

“Like Stars on Earth” (“Taare Zameen Par”) (all ages) – India

“The Red Balloon” (all ages) – France

“The Cave of the Yellow Dog” (age 7 and up) – Mongolia

“The Story of the Weeping Camel” (age 7 and up) – Mongolia

There were two big announcements last week concerning SAT testing for college. First, there will be sweeping changes to the SAT, taking effect in two years (2016). Scoring will go back to 1600 from 2400, the writing section will no longer be required and the content of the questions will be different, and more aligned to the new Common Core State Standards. Also, the College Board, which administers the SAT, announced a major partnership with Khan Academy to offer completely free SAT prep to all students to level the playing field for low-income students who can’t afford prep classes. http://tinyurl.com/mwkr7hv

Did you know that Amazon.com will give a percentage (.05 percent) of every purchase you make to the nonprofit of your choice? I signed on the moment I heard about it. The program is called Amazon Smiles, most purchases qualify, and you can sign up quickly and easily at smile.amazon.com. After you sign up, the donations are automatic.

I played a crazy new video game on my phone recently that teens might just enjoy. The free app, developed by an ex-con who went on to graduate from the University of Texas, is called SaulPaul’s Dream in 3D. A young guy runs through the halls of his high school dodging babies (who symbolize teen pregnancy), liquor bottles and pill bottles. The babies cling to your legs and slow down your progress (my favorite part) and the liquor makes you weave so you can’t move as accurately and the pills kill you if you don’t avoid them. There isn’t a lot more to it than that but that didn’t stop Flappy Bird from being a hit. http://wedreamin3d.com/

I saw two documentaries at SXSWEdu that I highly recommend (available On Demand or online). Both could be watched by all ages. “American Promise” follows two African American boys from age 5 to 18, navigating life at an elite private school in New York City. The other, “Ivory Tower,” is a fascinating look at the insanely high cost of college, and whether today’s students are really getting anything out of college (spoiler – some really are, some are totally wasting their parents’ money). I also saw the documentary, “Girl Rising,” but I didn’t love it. I am all for improving girls’ access to education worldwide but the hyper-stylization of the film really bugged me. If you loved it, let me know.

TED Talks can be fun for the entire family (7 and up perhaps) and spark great discussions. Blogger Travis Wright is striving to watch every TED Talk (there are thousands now). He recently created a list of “12 seminal TED Talks that every human being should watch.” Why bother? He describes TED Talks as, “the greatest repository of speeches and presentations by the most brilliant minds, most fascinating people, education radicals, tech geniuses, medical mavericks, business gurus and music legends of our time.” http://technorati.com/technology/article/12-ted-talks-that-every-human/

While we are only now getting our winter, now is the time for students to apply to summer programs. I have assembled a database of ideas of low-cost programs for students ages 12 to 21 that can be found on my website at: educationroundupnational.com or http://tinyurl.com/mgve58c.

If you have a smart phone, you have likely heard of Flappy Bird, the app that challenges players to guide a little bird through an obstacle course of vertical pipes. It was a huge hit before the creator stopped offering new downloads. Code.org has resurrected Flappy Bird with a free tutorial that allows kids to code their very own version of the game.

Studies show that we can train our minds to be happy or unhappy. Furthermore, careers such as accounting and law that focus on catching mistakes and errors can result in a pervasive pessimism that carries over into one’s personal life. Eric Barker writes in The Week that you must teach your brain to seek out the good things in life. Specifically, he suggests that listing three things you are thankful for each day can make a big difference. He also says that one of the reasons old people are happier is because they remember the good and forget the bad. http://m.theweek.com/article.php?id=256206

It is hard to sustain optimism about the state of education today when I spend my days reading articles like: “What’s Holding Back American Teenagers?: Our high schools are a disaster.”This recent piece in Slate by a psychology professor (Laurence Stein) who has written extensively about teens, states, “It’s not just No Child Left Behind or Race to the Top that has failed our adolescents – it’s every single thing we have tried. The list of unsuccessful experiments is long and dispiriting … Over the past 40 years, despite endless debates about curricula, testing, teacher training, teachers’ salaries and performance standards, and despite billions of dollars invested in school reform, there has been no improvement – none – in the academic proficiency of American high school students.” http://tinyurl.com/mjaa3jp

The blogger Emily Mendell has compiled a list of 31 things that your son (or daughter) should be able to do on their own before heading off for college. Rather than make you click a link, here is the complete list: Write a check; pay a bill; make travel arrangements; navigate an airport, train or bus station; deal with a canceled flight; take a taxi; catch the subway; plunge a toilet; change a tire; check the oil; shave with a razor; withdraw cash from an ATM; pay for dinner; self-prescribe over-the-counter meds; call a doctor; cook a meal; cancel a membership; buy clothes; return a purchase; pack a suitcase (without inspection); do the laundry; iron a shirt; go food shopping for themselves; negotiate a deal; make hospital corners; sew a button; remove a stain; replace a fuse; remove a splinter; enjoy a drink responsibly; and say “no” with confidence.

I have been slow to get on the all-organic bandwagon but a recent report by CNN has done the trick. Scientists (including finally the FDA) are now suggesting that certain chemicals may be triggering the recent increases in neuro-developmental disabilities among children – such as autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and dyslexia. Harvard researchers say a new global strategy to control the use of these substances is urgently needed. The list of suspected chemicals is a long one. You really need to read the full article yourself here: http://tinyurl.com/kqv26xn

My kids can’t live without Quizlet. This online learning tool was created by a high school sophomore in Albany, and it is now perhaps the most popular study tool out there. Students can create or share flashcards, track their progress and give themselves graded quizzes. Best of all, it is free. Quizlet.com

Signing on to a college’s Pinterest account is a fun way for potential and future students to learn more about a school.Check out Chapman University’s page to get an idea of what I mean: pinterest.com/chapmanu/

Does your middle-school daughter or her friend ever use baby talk? Why do girls do that? A former teacher writing for The Atlanticfeels it is crucial for teachers to discourage this trend before it becomes a habit. She writes about them developing their outer voices – the ones the world will hear and judge as girls make their way out there.http://tinyurl.com/mvkjsf5

Finally,  interested in what the classroom of the future will be like?  Read the feature story I wrote about the SXSWEdu conference in Austin.  Education technology is completely transforming our children’s education!

Please share this post with friends!  

Education Roundup XXV

Welcome to this month’s Education Roundup (National Edition)…

My very favorite academic exercise in my entire K-12 career was speed-reading … an activity that has truly gone by the wayside. But a new website called spreeder.com is a free service designed to help students to improve their reading speed and comprehension. I clocked in comfortably reading at 525 words a minute on the site. See if you can top my score. I can see the usefulness of this as a periodic assessment device, but for speed-reading instruction I think they offer a companion computer program that costs money. All things being equal, however, life is easier if you can read quickly. spreeder.com

Kid trackers are a hot topic, and I recommend that you start young if you are interested, as it is very difficult down the road to convince a teenager to submit to this kind of oversight. For the smallest children, the Toddler Tag ($30) beeps if your child moves more than 30 feet away from you. The Filip ($200) bracelet lets your child call you with a press of a button and displays location. And for students getting their first phone, Life360 (free) looks pretty good, as it enables you to keep precise track of your child (via the phone) at all times, whether the app is open or not and whether or not he or she accepts your call.

The blogger Emily Mendell has compiled a list of 31 things that your son (or daughter) should be able to do on their own before heading off for college. Write a check; pay a bill; make travel arrangements; navigate an airport, train or bus station; deal with a canceled flight; take a taxi; catch the subway; plunge a toilet; change a tire; check the oil; shave with a razor; withdraw cash from an ATM; pay for dinner; self-prescribe over-the-counter meds; call a doctor; cook a meal; cancel a membership; buy clothes; return a purchase; pack a suitcase (without inspection); do the laundry; iron a shirt; go food shopping for themselves; negotiate a deal; make hospital corners; sew a button; remove a stain; replace a fuse; remove a splinter; enjoy a drink responsibly; and say “no” with confidence.

Teens are seriously stressed out, according to new research. And this stress is negatively affecting every aspect of their lives. More than a quarter (27 percent) say they experience “extreme stress” during the school year and 34 percent expect stress to increase in the coming year. They aren’t just stressed out by school though. They also cite their friends, work and family. The concern is that they aren’t using healthy ways to cope with stress and they may be setting themselves up for future chronic stress and chronic illness. Researchers haven’t really looked at teen stress before so the report is worth a read if your teen struggles with stress. http://tinyurl.com/l4st9kt

I have been slow to get on the all-organic bandwagon but a recent report by CNN has done the trick. Scientists (including finally the FDA) are now suggesting that certain chemicals may be triggering the recent increases in neuro-developmental disabilities among children – such as autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and dyslexia. Harvard researchers say a new global strategy to control the use of these substances is urgently needed. The list of suspected chemicals is a long one. You really need to read the full article yourself here: http://tinyurl.com/kqv26xn

My kids can’t live without Quizlet. This online learning tool was created by a high school sophomore in Albany, and it is now perhaps the most popular study tool out there. Students can create or share flashcards, track their progress and give themselves graded quizzes. Best of all, it is free. Quizlet.com

Signing on to a college’s Pinterest account is a fun way for potential and future students to learn more about a school. Check out Chapman University’s page to get an idea of what I mean: pinterest.com/chapmanu/

Does your middle-school daughter or her friend ever use baby talk? Why do girls do that? A former teacher writing for The Atlantic feels it is crucial for teachers to discourage this trend before it becomes a habit. She writes about them developing their outer voices – the ones the world will hear and judge as girls make their way out there. http://tinyurl.com/mvkjsf5

Badges are a hot topic in education. Imagine a marriage between the Girl Scouts and LinkedIn. Prognosticators expect that within a few years, every résume will have badges on it that signify expertise or competency in relevant skills. The badges serve as a hyperlink to details (relevant coursework, honors won, etc.) Read more about it at http://tinyurl.com/orz3t8v.

Work experience during high school is playing a key role in admissions to highly selective colleges these days, as well as quick and relevant employment after graduation from college, according to a recent survey of businesses and students. More and more students are looking for work experience through internships or volunteering. Hiring companies state the most important factors for them in hiring students are the reputation of the high school, high academic performance and references. Go to http://tinyurl.com/kc3hwbd.

A student’s GPA and the rigor of their course load is more important in college admissions than any other factors this admissions season, according to a survey of college admissions officers (National Association for College Admission Counseling). In other news from NACAC, for-profit colleges and two-year public colleges saw declining enrollment while public and private nonprofit colleges continued to grow. http://tinyurl.com/lgsxptl

In the new book, “All Joy and No Fun,” journalist Jennifer Senior looks at all the ways that having children changes parents’ lives. Using sources in history, sociology, economics, psychology, philosophy and anthropology, she questions our beliefs about parenting, what it adds to our lives and what it takes away. It is next up on my nightstand.

More 18- to 31-year-olds live with their parents today than at any other point in the last 40 years (Pew Research). Perhaps today’s teens should be a little nicer to their parents? Those young adults with more schooling were less likely to be living at home. http://tinyurl.com/ktmksnu

I was surprised to read in the Wall Street Journal last week that fewer children are playing team sports today than four years ago. Losing the most ground are basketball, baseball and soccer (all down 7 to 8 percent) while ice hockey is up 64 percent and lacrosse is up 158 percent. Experts can’t agree on why. Some blame video games and others the time pressure of high school extra-curriculars. http://tinyurl.com/mxehxvo

The latest issue of National Geographic is all about the science of the brain. How we learn is a hot topic and scientists seem to be making impressive strides in better understanding brain function, all of which bodes well as educators apply that knowledge in our classrooms. The February issue underlines the point that “scientists are learning so much about the brain now that it’s easy to forget that for much of history we had no idea at all how it worked or even what it was.” Also on the magazine’s website are some great brain games and activities pegged to current events, like the Olympics. education.nationalgeographic.com

Tiger Mom Amy Chua is back in the news with a new book with this thesis: “For all their diversity, the strikingly successful (cultural) groups in America today share three traits that, together, propel success. The first is a superiority complex – a deep-seated belief in their exceptionality. The second appears to be the opposite – insecurity, a feeling that you or what you’ve done is not good enough. The third is impulse control.” The groups she cites as strikingly successful are: Indian-Americans, Iranian-, Lebanese- and Chinese-Americans and Mormons (she cites the fact that Indian-Americans earn almost double the national figure). She also mentions that while “Jews make up only about 2 percent of the United States’ adult population, they account for a third of the current Supreme Court; over two-thirds of Tony Award-winning lyricists and composers; and about a third of American Nobel laureates.” Her new book is “The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America.”

The Atlantic magazine tackles the subject of teenage risk-taking in a long piece that is both comforting and terrifying for those of us with teens. In a nutshell, the increased natural dopamine being released in the adolescent body “can give adolescents a powerful sense of being alive when they are engaged in life. It can also lead them to focus solely on the positive rewards they are sure are in store for them, while failing to notice or give value to the potential risks and downsides,” said the author, UCLA psychiatry professor Daniel Siegel.tinyurl.com/lfyvb3q.

Researchers have quantified what we have suspected for some time – kindergarten is the new first grade. “In less than a decade, we’ve seen the kindergarten experience essentially transformed,” said Dahna Bassok at University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education. “Academic skill-building has really taken center stage in today’s kindergarten classrooms, in a way that just wasn’t the case” before the late 1990s. Today’s kindergartens now feature homework, worksheets and an emphasis on learning to read by the end of the year.phys.org/news/2014-01-kindergarten-grade.html

There are dozens of fellowships, workshops, seminars and service trips for teachers who are interested in traveling overseas this summer (at no cost). If you know of a teacher who might be interested, forward them this link:http://tinyurl.com/m6ebjme

There is a growing body of research that questions the merit of stand-alone middle schools (as opposed to K to 8 schools). Educators were previously enamored with the middle-school model but now many are challenging the notion that grouping students in the middle grades is the right approach. (Only 2 percent of sixth- and seventh-graders in private schools attend a stand-alone middle school.) According to a professor at Columbia, “In the specific year when students move to a middle school (or to a junior high), their academic achievement, as measured by standardized tests, falls substantially in both math and English relative to that of their counterparts who continue to attend a K to 8 elementary school. What’s more, their achievement continues to decline throughout middle school. This negative effect persists at least through eighth grade, the highest grade for which we could obtain test scores.” educationnext.org/stuck-in-the-middle/

If your student age 13 to 21 is interested in the visual or performing arts, the best list of summer programs around the country and around the world that I have come across is atda.org/podium/default.aspx?t=117646.

Parents spend their time wondering if their sons are geniuses and if their daughters are fat, according to some depressing research conducted by a reporter at the New York Times. Seth Stephens-Davidowitz analyzed Google searches and found that parents are two-and-a-half times more likely to Google “is my son gifted?” than “is my daughter gifted?” (despite the fact that girls are surpassing boys in classrooms across the country). And parents are twice as likely to Google “is my daughter fat?” than “is my son fat?” tinyurl.com/pt3hcmw

The British government is requiring that programming (computer coding) be taught in every K-12 classroom in England starting next year. The United States, thanks to Silicon Valley, is the world’s premier technology powerhouse, so it is baffling to me that England has beaten us to the punch. You can read more about England’s coding curriculum at http://tinyurl.com/pdtzvqu.

I am a big fan of audiobooks, both for myself and for children who don’t love to read. While I favor audible.com, there is a site called tales2go.com that streams thousands of name-brand titles from leading publishers and storytellers to students’ mobile devices and desktops. The family subscription is $99 a year for up to five devices. The app and a seven-day trial are free.

Are you interested in game-based learning? If so, you may need to get yourself a Pinterest account just to follow the Game Based learning board. The page offers up dozens of great sites and resources for students and classrooms. pinterest.com/edutopia/game-based-learning

“Giving our kids the option to quit celebrates the idea that they should have the chance to try out new things without the expectation that every new thing will fit,” said author Kristin Levitahn, who is quoted in an article about letting kids quit things (at theatlantic.com). There has been a lot of talk about the value of persistence but she offers forth a valuable argument for being okay with quitting as well.

If you have had the misfortune of spending much time combing through stock photos online, you know how lame most of the pictures are under the category of women or mothers. Lots of cookie baking and sundresses. Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In Foundation has partnered with Getty Images to change all that and ensure that when a child needs an image for a poster board of professional women, old-fashioned stereotypes can be avoided. As Sandberg explained, “When we see images of women and girls and men, they often fall into the stereotypes that we’re trying to overcome, and you can’t be what you can’t see.”

I have a new favorite website for instructional support and cool new learning tools and resources. Check out edtune.com. My favorite thing about is that you don’t need to register to use it.

Schools in the 40+ Common Core states across the country will take new computer-based standardized tests this year. Because they will be administered on computers, the new assessments will allow for a broader range of test questions than the multiple-choice exams given in the past. They will emphasize critical thinking, reasoning and problem-solving – modeling the kind of teaching and learning needed to prepare all students for the demands of college and the modern workplace. No student, school or district scores will be produced from this year’s field test because its purpose is to “test the test” – to determine how well the test questions and technology work.

Studies show that we can train our minds to be happy or unhappy. Furthermore, careers such as accounting and law that focus on catching mistakes and errors can result in a pervasive pessimism that carries over into one’s personal life. Eric Barker writes in The Week that you must teach your brain to seek out the good things in life. Specifically, he suggests that listing three things you are thankful for each day can make a big difference. He also says that one of the reasons old people are happier is because they remember the good and forget the bad. http://m.theweek.com/article.php?id=256206

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The BBC (British Broadcasting Corp.) has a great Spanish-language game website for elementary students. Students choose an aspect of the language to explore, and are presented with a list games and learning tools to help with mastery. BBC.Co.UK/Schools/PrimaryLanguages/Spanish

Lots of parents are very casual about pot use but a new study has found that exposing adolescent rats to the primary ingredient in marijuana can lead to molecular and behavioral alterations in the next generation of offspring, even though progeny were not directly exposed to the drug (according to researchers at Mount Sinai). “Our study emphasizes that cannabis [marijuana] affects not just those exposed, but has adverse affects on future generations,” said Yasmin Hurd, Ph.D. “Finding increased vulnerability to drug addiction and compulsive behavior in generations not directly exposed is an important consideration for legislators considering legalizing marijuana.” http://tinyurl.com/mp4phb4

It is hard to sustain optimism about the state of education today when I spend my days reading articles like: “What’s Holding Back American Teenagers?: Our high schools are a disaster.” This recent piece in Slate by a psychology professor (Laurence Stein)  states, “It’s not just No Child Left Behind or Race to the Top that has failed our adolescents – it’s every single thing we have tried. The list of unsuccessful experiments is long and dispiriting … Over the past 40 years, despite endless debates about curricula, testing, teacher training, teachers’ salaries and performance standards, and despite billions of dollars invested in school reform, there has been no improvement – none – in the academic proficiency of American high school students.” http://tinyurl.com/mjaa3jp

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I just learned that nearly a quarter of American adults did not read a single book last year (and this counts audiobooks, Kindle books, everything). Furthermore, the number of non-book-readers has nearly tripled since 1978. The good news? The typical American did read five books last year. http://tinyurl.com/lzhzmzq

The new school analysis site Niche.com surveyed 909 public and private high schools between 2012 and 2014, and ranked schools by students’ average SAT/ACT scores (close to 80,000 score results over two years). The chart is interesting just to see which public and private schools across the country come out on top by this measure.  Check out the ones in your area.  While a lot of people hate to lend weight to SAT scores, a recent study by Case Western Reserve found standardized test scores to be a valid measure of general cognitive ability and these scores still do play a huge role in college admissions.

I am off to the huge South by Southwest Education Conference (SXSWEdu) in Austin, Texas, March 2-6. Last year, attending more than a dozen panel discussions on innovation in education really opened my eyes to changes headed our way. I hope to learn as much this year.

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Education Roundup XXIV

Welcome to this month’s Education Roundup (National Edition)…

 

Do you ever wonder what it would be like to be the mother of an Olympic athlete?  What those early years are like? Think…  a lot of driving but also some challenges you might not expect. You can read the complete article at http://tinyurl.com/m59msz4.

Have you ever walked in to find your children watching a TV show that you KNOW they have seen before? It makes me crazy. There is a cool website that features more than 300 mind-expanding documentary films, many of which are appropriate for all ages.  These are also a great classroom resource. Check out the list atdiygenius.com/mind-expanding-documentaries/.

Common Sense Media recommends five important media resolutions that every family should make in 2014.

• Make a detailed schedule that ensures a balance of screen time and other activities.

• Get to know your child’s favorite device. Have them show you their favorite games, apps, etc. You will understand their interest better and you will be better able to assess needed safety and privacy controls.

• Review behavior do’s and don’ts with first-time users. They should have to ask you before they go online and should understand a site’s rule and how to recognize red flags (like someone asking them for private information).

• Establish a charging station in your bedroom and make sure kids hand over all their devices before bed.

• Model the right behavior by never texting and driving or it is hard to expect them to do the right thing when they are alone behind the wheel.

I wish I had thought of these when my children were younger as the longer you wait to establish truly common-sense guidelines like this, the harder it is. I suggest you link acceptance of these guidelines to every new device you purchase. I wish I had.

A new set of studies has found that high praise can actually make some children feel worse about themselves. The name of the study is: “That’s Not Just Beautiful – That’s Incredibly Beautiful: The Adverse Impact of Inflated Praise on Children with Low Self-Esteem.” While it might be counter-intuitive, researchers found that when adults give excessive compliments to children with low confidence, the children were less likely to pursue challenges. http://tinyurl.com/qx4yjmc

A recent Wall Street Journal story came to the conclusion that kids who understand gratitude get better grades and are less likely to get depressed. The author, Diana Knapp, suggests that gratitude is a muscle that must be exercised and saying thanks at dinner on the 364 days a year that are not Thanksgiving can help. The author cites a study from 2008 where sixth- and seventh-graders were assigned to list five things they were grateful for every day for two weeks. It found they had a better outlook on school and greater life satisfaction three weeks later, compared with kids assigned to list five hassles. Depressingly, the author also cites a recent large-scale study that tracked materialism among high school seniors and found that desire for lots of money has increased markedly since the mid-1970s, while willingness to work hard to earn it has decreased. http://tinyurl.com/npkd88j

If your student loves science, there is a very inspiring story about the young winner of the Intel Science and Engineering Fair in 2012 in this week’s Baltimore SunJack Andraka is 16 years old, he is openly gay and he attends public school in Maryland. He invented an early-stage test for pancreatic cancer. His parents speak eloquently in the article about their strategies to encourage their son and to expose him to as much as possible, while still letting him be a kid and enjoy his interests. http://touch.baltimoresun.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-78754377/

San Francisco Unified School District made the national news last week for its innovative school mediation program. While 61 percent of its student population qualifies for the federally funded free or reduced lunch program, the district’s standardized test scores continue to rise and meet yearly state and federal benchmarks. Is it possibly because of a new approach to tackling student stress? Since 2007, the district has included transcendental meditation lessons into twice-daily “quiet time” periods – 15-minute breaks in all classrooms. Other benefits include reductions in truancy and discipline problems to which they credit this program.

Disaster Hero is a free online game designed to teach children (grades 1 through 8), parents, and teachers how to prepare for disasters. The goal is to ensure that kids know what to do before, during, and after a disaster. Disasterhero.com

While I am still not exactly sure what it is, I keep reading about studies that tout mindfulness training as crucial to academic success. The latest study looked at college students (who are notorious for high levels of distraction and stress). Mindfulness training can focus attention and improve learning, according to a new study by University of Miami researchers. Mindfulness is a mental state in which a person pays attention to the present experience without ruminating about the past or worrying about the future. Mindfulness training emphasizes attention-building exercises and learning to observe the activity of the mind.

Do you know of a student ages 14-26 who is, or might be, interested in economics? Last summer my teenage daughter attended an economics seminar put on by the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). She lived in a dorm at St. Louis University and attended workshops with dozens of other high school students. Best of all, the seminar was free (room, board, books and tuition all covered, you just have to get there). FEE has just posted their summer 2014 seminars, and topics include: “Making Innovation Possible: The Role of Economics in Scientific Progress”; “Are Markets Just? Exploring the Social Significance of a Free Economy”; and “How Economic Thinking Can Create a Better World.” The closest campus being offered for the program this year is Chapman University (near Los Angeles). Schedules and applications are at fee.org/seminars. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, so apply early.

A happy parent raises a happy child (in most cases). Here are 10 science-based ways to be happier, courtesy of Beth Cooper (at Buffer.com)

1. Exercise: Exercise has a profound effect on our happiness and well-being. It can help you relax, increase your brainpower, and even improve your body image, even if you don’t lose any weight.
2. Sleep more: Sleep helps our bodies recover from the day and repair itself, and that helps us focus and be more productive. It turns out sleep is also important for happiness.
3. Spend more time with friends/family: Social time is highly valuable when it comes to improving our happiness, even for introverts. Several studies have found that time spent with friends and family makes a big difference in how happy we feel.
4. Get outside more: Spending time in the fresh air can improve your happiness. Spending 20 minutes outside in good weather not only boosts positive mood, but also broadens thinking and improves working memory. Interestingly, studies have also found that happiness is maximized at 57 degrees, so there is even an upside to winter.
5. Help others: To make yourself feel happier, you should help others. In fact, studies suggest that 100 hours per year (or two hours per week) is the optimal time we should dedicate to helping others in order to enrich our lives.
6. Practice smiling: Smiling can make us feel better, but it’s more effective when we back it up with positive thoughts, according to this study. Smiling can also improve our attention and help us perform better on cognitive tasks.
7. Plan a trip: As opposed to actually taking a holiday, simply planning a vacation or break from work can improve our happiness – the effect of vacation anticipation can boost happiness for eight weeks.
8. Meditate: Meditation is credited with improving focus, clarity and attention span, as well as helping to keep you calm. It turns out it’s also useful for improving your happiness as well. Meditation literally clears your mind and calms you down.
9. Move closer to work: Our commute to work can have a surprisingly powerful impact on our happiness (or lack thereof).
10. Practice gratitude: Taking note of things you are grateful for each day can improve your mood. Research suggests that a conscious focus on blessings may have emotional and interpersonal benefits. http://tinyurl.com/kx4nozf

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New research indicates that parental involvement is more important than any other factor in positively influencing the health, growth and even IQ of children. Involvement and family time also plays a huge role in decreasing the stress in a child’s life. While this sounds like another plug for family dinners, what researcher Gail Gross found is that academic and social performance in 3-to-17-year-olds increases significantly with even small increments of focused time with parents. The key, she says, is not the activity you do together, it is simply being fully present. http://tinyurl.com/n53f9dg

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Reading has a positive impact on the brain that researchers are only just now beginning to understand. In a recent experiment, students brains were scanned each morning after having read sections of a thriller novel over nine nights, and then again daily for five days after they finished the book. The scans revealed increases in connectivity in the students’ brains following the assignments, which persisted for the five days after finishing the novel. The parts of the brain associated with language comprehension, sensations and movement benefited the most. http://huff.to/1dkcBoD

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The Hour of Code last month was tremendously successful, with more than 20 million students across the country gaining exposure to coding. The students I spoke to who have tried coding at school have loved it. If you are looking for coding classes or summer camps, you can visit code.org to search for possibilities. http://aws.code.org/. If your child’s classroom is exploring coding, email me the details atourschools@sonomanews.com.

If your kids enjoy science, there is a great list of 60 popular free science games online covering some of the most popular topics within biology, geology, physics and chemistry.stumbleupon.com/su/1phjd9

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Busuu is a community-based language-learning site that offers games, groups, exercises and other free resources for learning Spanish, French, Italian, Brazilian Portuguese, German, Russian, Polish, Turkish, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese or English.The site has a nice look with illustrations and animation. Like many of the best language sites, after an initial free period, it costs money; membership options range from $20 a month to $150 for a two-year membership. But Busuu’s best feature is free – conversational practice that involves typing and chatting live with native speakers of your language of choice. busuu.com

DragonflyTV is a PBS science education television series for middle-school students, and its website features viewable episodes, games, resources and more. There are fun games and experiments as well as science-based multimedia experiences. Also cool is a science-center locator which returns a list of science museums near your location.

The site Sumdog provides free educational games that make math and reading practice fun for students K-8. Students will like competing against other students of similar ability around the world. But the more they play, the more the games adjust to their skill level. Sumdog automatically begins to present more difficult questions while limiting the allotted time for answers. In addition, a student who incorrectly answers questions on a given topic receives more of those types of questions in ensuing rounds. There are both free and paid versions at sumdog.com.

There is a tabletop board game called Robot Turtles that teaches youngsters ages 3-8 the fundamentals of programming, without words. http://buy.robotturtles.com Children act as programmers, putting instruction cards down, driving the turtles through the maze, but the grownup is the computer, executing commands on the board.

In honor of the winter break, here is a list of 30 of the best educational computer games to amuse your children. Some are new, some are old favorites. The complete list is at:edsurge.com/guide/gaming#View-Product-Comparisons but some of new ones I have not mentioned before worth checking out include: The Oregon Trail ($5), Sokikom ($10), Brain Age ($16), Garry’s Mod ($10) and Second Life (free).

If you are looking for books for the new year, here are 17 ways to get your hands on free books: stumbleupon.com/su/2uCgjG. On the list are lots of websites worth checking out including: Bibliomania, Zunafish, Bookins, BookMooch and Childrens Books Online. Another great article I found offers up ways to get almost any book, study guide, reference text or magazine in the world for free (legally). Read it here: stumbleupon.com/su/1m4OvT

Parents can be very casual about marijuana smoking (“it is just pot”) but new studies are showing that pot smoking among teens can permanently reduce the size of the growing brain. Researchers at Northwestern University found that the section of the brain related to working memory actually reduced in size from pot smoking (which coincided with the teens’ poor performance on memory tasks). The shrinkage was more advanced in people who started smoking marijuana younger. Read more at http://tinyurl.com/mrskfw4.

I felt very guilty after reading an article in the New York Times on “Parenting While Plugged In.” The author suggests that while everyone is worried about the effect of screen time on children, we should also be looking at how our own extended screen time affects our relationships with our children. One researcher spent five years conducting 300 interviews and she found that children can be jealous and hurt, competing with a screen for their parents’ attention. While parents say they need to have their device on because of work, they are actually just engrossed in their connectivity, in the same way that kids are with their devices. It all comes back to the idea of quality time.

A new HBO documentary shines a light on parental obsession with youth sports. If you get HBO, consider taping “Trophy Kids” and watching it with your children. An interesting discussion might result. Without any voiceover shaping the dialogue, filmmakers allow the parents and children to speak for themselves about their emotional investment in organized sports … and the result is tense and emotional. HBO is producing an entire series called “State of Play,” which will examine a variety of sports themes as they influence our society. “Trophy Kids” is playing daily and also available on HBO on Demand.

I was surprised to learn that California teachers are paid more than teachers in any other state in the nation. California teachers have the highest average salary at $64,424 and South Dakota brings up the rear at $36,374. The other states in the top five are New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Illinois. stumbleupon.com/su/2h29Rs

How do you “create good students”? A principal suggests on the website Edutopia that several conditions must exist: more hands-on learning (less time drilling and droning); higher level engagement; articulated learning goals; the right curriculum and technology tools; knowledge of the best way that each individual student learns; learning extended into the home; publishing of student creations; pursuing what students want to explore; and fun (if a teacher isn’t having fun, it is likely the students aren’t either). edutopia.org/blog/creating-great-students-ben-johnson

Class Central is a free online course aggregator from top universities such as Stanford, MIT, Harvard and others. You can search all the MOOC (massive open online course) providers for the topics that interest you. This is great for students who might want to explore a field of study not available at their school or for adults who like the idea of being lifelong learners. class-central.com

A fun exercise to do with your whole family is to take a learning style quiz and discuss and compare results. Quick and easy free ones are available here: edutopia.org/multiple-intelligences-learning-styles-quiz or here: educationplanner.org/students/self-assessments/learning-styles.shtml

Have you heard about the teen who will serve no jail time despite killing four people in a recent drunk driving accident because his lawyers claimed he is a victim of “affluenza”? His attorneys argued that he was so coddled and spoiled that his parents never taught him right from wrong. He had a blood alcohol level of .24 – triple the legal driving limit for an adult – and was on Valium when he crashed his truck, injuring 11 people and killing four. While intelligent, he was estimated to have the emotional age of a 12-year-old.

I was surprised to learn that even the most rigorous computer science courses do not currently count toward core high school graduation requirements in California and neither the UCs nor CSUs count computer science as fulfilling a mathematics or science requirement. As of right now, 14 states do count computer science as a math or a science, and hopefully California will soon follow. http://tinyurl.com/lr6o94p

Need book ideas for kids of all ages? Check out Amazon’s list of the top 20 most popular books in each category for readers of all ages: baby-age 2 | ages 3-5 | ages 6-8 | ages 9-12. You can see the full list in best-selling order at http://tinyurl.com/k3uw8cb

Along the same lines, greatschools.org released its list of the all-time best book series for kids, by grade level. Some of its top picks: “Maya & Ruby,” “The Elephant & Piggie,” “Peter & The Starcatchers,” “The Babysitters Club” and “Artemis Fowl.” Read the complete list here: http://tinyurl.com/n46nu4q

If you are worried that your teen is smoking cigarettes, I recommend you show him or her the images at http://tobaccobody.fi/n_en.php. It is an absolutely horrifying high-tech, high-def look at how each part of your body is affected by cigarette smoking. I am still cringing.

If you can’t get enough of all things education, there is a list of the best-selling education books of 2013. The top five: 1. “America the Beautiful,” by Ben C. Carson; 2. “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” by Daniel Kahneman; 3. “How to Read Literature Like a Professor,” by Thomas C. Foster; 4. “How Children Succeed,” by Paul Tough; 5. “The Last Lecture,” by Randy Pausch. My favorite is Paul Tough’s book.http://tinyurl.com/kxh4cs3

An app I have written about here more than once, Duolingo, was just named Apple’s choice for App of the Year. Considering how many apps are out there, that is quite an honor. Duolingo is free, and offers fun language instruction and practice in six languages – Spanish, French, German, Italian, English and Portuguese. The app is like a game and it uses images and your smartphone’s microphone to help you learn words, recite them and write them out. Duolingo.com

A study has found that listening to music can interfere with short-term memory and can be a terrible idea for students doing homework or studying for tests. Students were tested recalling a series of numbers, while listening to different kinds of background music. Interestingly, it didn’t matter if the student loved or hated the music being played. edutopia.org/blog/dont-listen-music-while-studying-david-cutler

I can’t wait to try The Big History Project. Pulled together by a tech guy and a historian, this free online initiative aims to challenge the way history is traditionally taught. Formerly only available to educators, the free game is now open to the public (and it is backed by Microsoft and Bill Gates). There is also a companion TV series on the History Channel. The goal? To bring the full story of humanity to life via a game by viewing history not as a straight line, but as a complex, interconnected web. bighistoryproject.com

Which colleges produce the most ambitious students? Inc. Magazine was curious. Using data from personality tests to gauge ambition, it decided that students from the following colleges are the most ambitious: UC Berkeley, UCLA, Harvard, U. Penn, Stanford, Vanderbilt, London School of Economics, Oxford, University College London and Boston University. Kudos to laid-back California for having three of the top 10 schools. You can read the details here:http://tinyurl.com/ndm4s4m

“IF…,” is a very unusual new online game that asks kids ages 6 to 12 to employ empathy and social-emotional skills in a game setting (for ex. helping cats and dogs in tribes to get along). The game will be available as a free iPad app in January and you can sign up to receive it when it goes live. A lot of attention is paid to the academic development of children, IF … will focus on the 20 or so specific related to self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationships and decision-making. Ifyoucan.org/exsel-stats

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Roundup XXII

If you are frustrated by your middle schooler’s obsession with computer games, here are five games that a panel of educational experts think have the most potential to educate, engage and empower students: DragonBox, Scribblenauts, Portal 2, Gamestar Mechanic, Minecraft. You can read about these games and others at the great non-profit Institute of Play web site at instituteofplay.org.

In honor of Digital Citizenship Week, here is a helpful visual for students to keep in mind regarding their digital profile (on Facebook, Twitter, texting, etc.). Think….

T – is it true

H – is it helpful

I – is it inspiring

N – is it necessary

K – is it kind.

Hmm, not bad tips for grown-ups too. My least favorite of the new social media sites might just be ask.fm. This digital question and answer site is a haven for bullies who can post anonymously. Ask your teen about it.

I just came across a listing of 50 great resources for the parents and teachers of gifted and talented students (teachthought.com): organizations, blogs, twitter feeds, articles and more. The complete list is here.

Ninety percent of K-12 schools in the U.S. don’t teach computer science, says Code.org. By the end of 2013, it wants to flip that stat around so that 90 percent do teach it. The nonprofit wants 10 million students to participate in the “Hour of Code” during Computer Science Education Week Dec. 9 to 15. Free participation kits are available for schools, community organizations and even local officials.

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The website “Dear Teen Me” made me laugh and cry. Famous authors and other notables submit letters to their teen self. They are all beautifully written and many are sure to strike a chord. dearteenme.com.

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There is a controversial article in the new Harper’s magazine that contends algebra cannot be learned by everyone — that it just can’t.  And that U.S. schools should stop jamming algebra II, in particular, down every student’s throat. The author interviews experts, many of whom are math teachers, who say forcing all teens to take algebra and algebra 2 is disastrous and unfair to students, most of whom, the author contends, will never need that particular math in their lives. (tinyurl.com/lf7cg9o)

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A recent article in the Atlantic Magazine says that ninth grade is the most important year in high school. Educators are finding that how freshman year goes determines whether a young person will move on or drop out of school. I was surprised to learn that nationwide, ninth-graders have the lowest GPA, the most missed classes, the majority of failing grades and get in more trouble than any other high-school grade level. Researchers have found that repeating ninth grade can have terrible results in terms of a child’s motivation and self-esteem and a disproportionate number of ninth-graders who are held back drop out.

What is the hottest job skill today? Translators and interpreters are expected to be two of the 15 fastest growing occupations in the nation (Department of Labor). There are projected to be 25,000 new jobs for interpreters (who focus on spoken language) and translators (who focus on written language), between 2010 and 2020. According to CNN, in the last week alone, roughly 12,000 jobs posted on Indeed.com included the word “bilingual.” In government jobs, being bilingual in Middle Eastern languages such as Arabic, Farsi and Pashto (Afghani) pays the best. In the private sector, employees bilingual in Scandinavian and Asian languages are the highest paid. Read more here.

Stanford Alumni Magazine recently devoted a few thousand words to “what it takes to get into Stanford” and after reading it, I feel slightly nauseous and still can’t tell you the answer. But it is an interesting and detailed look at the process at what is now the most selective university in America. You can read the entire article here.

Time Magazine’s Idea section recently suggested three things that schools can do to better help boys succeed. Quoted is psychologist Michael Thompson, who I think hits the nail on the head when he said, “Girl behavior is the gold standard in schools. Boys are treated like defective girls.” The three suggestions are:

• Bring back recess. They cite research that since the 1970s, schoolchildren have lost almost half of their unstructured outdoor play time, and that boys seem to react worse to “recess deprivation” than girls.

• Turn boys into readers. Find books that appeal to boys, have a male reading model and help parents support boys’ literacy.

• Encourage the young male imagination. Boys read, write and draw differently. Consider assignments from the point of view of boys.

Read the entire piece here.

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Did you know that you can adjust your iPhone or iPad settings to read all text to you (including choosing what kind of accent, speed, etc.)? You go to “setting” then “accessibility,” then “speak selection” and make your voice and speed selections. After you change the settings, you open a page of text (on Safari, email, anywhere) and highlight the text and click “speak.” I amused myself tremendously having an Irish voice read me my email this morning. Not only might this be terrific for struggling readers, but also to listen to documents while driving, etc.

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My new favorite website is litpick.com and it is perfect for students in grades 4 to 12 who love to read. The site is an online community that offers free electronic books. LitPick receives courtesy copies of new young-adult books from publishers and authors and makes these review copies available to students. As young reviewers, students are asked to offer their opinions of the books in anonymous book reviews posted on the site. This year, Litpick.com was named the best website for teaching and learning by the U.S. Librarians Society. The site is free for eBooks and $15 a year to get print books as well.

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I have lived in five different school districts since our youngest child was born and our children have attended public school, private school, boarding school, parochial school and Montessori. Having peeked under the covers of very different schools across the country, I am fascinated by case studies of successful initiatives at the district and school level. Earlier this fall, the nation’s 2013 Blue Ribbon schools were announced. These 286 elementary, middle and high schools offer promising ideas in very different settings. You can read one-page profiles of each school (including student demographics and exactly why the school was honored) at http://tinyurl.com/kl2geha.

SimCity has launched a new educational game for middle-school students called SimCityEDU: Pollution Challenge. The game, which was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation, is designed to engage students while developing real-world skills. Students play the role of mayor in a “real” city, where they must address issues such as reducing pollution while not ignoring other societal impacts such as maintaining employment levels and citizen happiness. Teacher dashboards provide data on student performance and feedback on results so teachers can assess performance in real time.

A company has invented facial recognition software called  Engage-Sense that applies algorithms to what the cameras have recorded during a lecture or discussion to interpret how engaged the students are. The camera captures if students were confused, bored, smiling, focused or looking around. Teachers can then be provided with a report, based on the facial analysis, to learn what aspects of the class were most and least engaging. They expect that in five years, teachers all over the country will be using it. Learn more here.

I have spent countless hours compiling a list of dozens of free (or very low cost) summer programs for students ages 12 to 25. These are free programs overseas or cool offerings on college campuses, with accommodations included. Many of the best ones have deadlines coming up in the weeks ahead so it is not too early to start thinking about next summer,  educationroundupnational.com.

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One terrific program I included is for students ages 15 to 18 (and for teachers) that provides them with as three weeks in Singapore and Malaysia as well pre-and post trip enrichment and training. The American Youth Leadership Program with Singapore and Malaysia is sponsored by the U.S. State Dept. and is completely free. The deadline to apply is Sunday, Dec. 1 – culturalvistas.org/aylp/info.htm. Why am I so excited about these kinds of programs? I have seen first hand how they have changed the lives of several Sonoma students.

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If your child loves the “Captain Underpants” books, you might want to read the scathing review of the books’ misogyny here.  It is pretty compelling.

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Our children need it and perhaps we do as well … SelfControl is a free app that lets you block your own access to distracting websites, your mail servers, or anything else on the Internet. You set a period of time to block for, add sites to your blacklist, and click “Start.” Until that timer expires, you will be unable to access those sites – even if you restart your computer or delete the application.

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I love the premise of the book “Raising Children that Other People Like to be Around” because when it comes right down to it, that is really the end goal. Author Richard Greenberg organizes the process around five basic behavioral “musts” based on the word SMART:

1. Set an Example – Behave as though everything you do will be mimicked by your child – because it will be! And reflect on the examples set for you by your own parents, and discuss them with your spouse or partner.

2. Make the Rules – Decide what values you think are most important to you and your parenting partner. Remember that “rules are the arms in which your children can embrace themselves.” Explain why you created a rule, and the logic behind it, so that your children understand that we weren’t just making them up for fun.

3. Apply the Rules – Once you’ve decided what’s important, you have to stick to your guns. Little children will test boundaries, which is their job. By saying “no” together with an explanation of your reasons, you show them you care. Remember also that every rule you create is a rule you have to enforce and too many rules make life very complicated.

4. Respect Yourself – This one is a biggie. You need to lead with the confidence that generates admiration and respect. Your children are passengers in your cab. You should be far better informed about the local roads than they are. And even if you’re not, you need to make them think you are, for their comfort and safety.

5. Teach in All Things – If you see your child as an “Adult In Training” and you know it’s your job to be their teacher, then everything you do will be informed by an underlying lesson. Once our kids catch on, they begin to see the lessons themselves.

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If you are unclear about the new Common Core State Standards and why your school district is excited about them, there is a very clever three-minute video worth watching at commoncoreworks.org.

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Why are so few girls interested in computer science? It is so puzzling to me. A new report says although 57 percent of all undergraduate degrees are earned by women, women account for only 14 percent of the computer science degrees at major research universities. And furthermore, this number is falling – it was 37 percent in 1985. Today, only 0.4 percent of female college freshmen say they intend to major in computer science.  Read more here.

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Because it is that time of year, I’m offering forth yet another college ranking… this one focused on affordability, future earnings, diversity and student activities (Newsweek’s The Daily Beast). Kudos to California for snagging five spots in the top 15. There are a few names that will surprise you. From #1-15: Yale University, MIT, Stanford University, Harvard University, Columbia University, Princeton University, U.C. Berkeley, Williams College, U. Virginia, U. Pennsylvania, Vanderbilt University, Rice University, Cal Tech, Pomona College and U.C.L.A. The list goes to 200 here.

What should parents be looking for in a preschool? Tips from Ed Source and the Stanford Children’s Center suggest: 1. Look for signs of purposeful teaching – ask what the teacher is doing and why. 2. Inquire whether teachers have a B.A. or higher, though only a Child Development Associate Permit is required in California. 3. Gravitate toward well-organized, clean, childproofed classrooms with clear sight lines. Low shelves should be well-stocked with creative play items. 4. Ask teachers how they track and communicate child development and screen for potential problems. Ask for the school’s curriculum. 5. Look for engaged teachers and children who show sign of trust and cooperation. Read more here.

Watching movies and educational videos with the captions switched on improves student comprehension, recall and class discussion according to researchers at SF State. Captions are frequently used for English language learners and students with learning disabilities but this study found captions beneficial to all students.  Read more here.

New data out suggests that the teaching profession is attracting “a more academically successful group of people compared to previous years,” according to researchers at the University of Washington. They found that more teachers have their master’s degrees (26 percent in 2008 versus 17 percent in 1993) and the average SAT score for a first year teacher climbed slightly from just below the national average (45th percentile) to the national average 50th percentile. http://educationnext.org/gains-in-teacher-quality/

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