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.
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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.
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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.
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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
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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/
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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.
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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
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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/
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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
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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.
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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/
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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
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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).
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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
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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
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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.”
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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
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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/
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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.
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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
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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 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.
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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.
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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.”)
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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.
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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
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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/
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I always love to hear about new study apps for students. Some good ones are featured here.
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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
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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.
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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.
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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
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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
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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
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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.
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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/
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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
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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.
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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.
Please forward this site to anyone you think might be interested!