Currently browsing success at school posts

6 Ways Kids Can Use Technology to Improve Their Grades

With schools back in session, I thought I’d use this opportunity to show how kids can use technology to improve their grades. As someone who taught at the college level for more than 10 years, I often made these same recommendations to my students. Remarkably, many of them tell me that they were completely unaware of these resources.

1. Using Boolean Operators in Search Engines

Search engines use algorithms based on both logic and popularity, which is why Wikipedia is often at the top of the results from most search engines. Since most people rarely go through more than one or two pages of results, it’s important that the results are as helpful as possible. Boolean operators will help accomplish that for you.

For example, when searching for information on Alexander Hamilton, you will get different results based on what is typed into the search engine:

  • Alexander Hamilton will return pages that contain either word.
  • “Alexander Hamilton” will return pages that contain an exact match.
  • “Alexander Hamilton” and “Maria Reynolds” will return pages that contain both exact matches, likely related to their affair and the subsequent blackmail by her husband, James.

There are plenty more Boolean operators available and the results will definitely be better for the student.

2. Google Scholar

As popular as Google is, it is subject to results based on popularity. Google Scholar, on the other hand, will provide research quality results and have better search criteria tools, including dates, patents, authors, and more. Those kinds of results rarely show up using traditional search engines.

Not that Google doesn’t have those features, but Google Scholar puts them front and center so that the student is more likely to use them. That’s not to say that the popular version of Google isn’t sometimes a better option, as it would miss out on many reliable sources because they don’t fit academic standards, such as news sources and trade journals.

3. Khan Academy

Parents of younger children may already be aware of Khan Academy. Our daughter was using it at an early age after using it in grade school. For those that haven’t used it, Khan Academy is a non-profit organization that provides free lessons and educational videos for students of all ages.

4. Wikipedia

My students were always surprised when I told them that they could actually use Wikipedia to help write their papers for my classes. They were never allowed to cite Wikipedia, as it could very well be providing false information, but it is often right – probably even right more often than it’s wrong. The trick is to take advantage of the work done by the people who wrote the pages by looking down at the bottom of the page at their references. Many of them include links to other sources and if those sources are reliable, then Wikipedia was helpful even if it wasn’t listed as a source itself.

5. Microsoft Word References

I found that one of the best kept secrets that my students didn’t know about was how much Microsoft Word can help students by making sure that their papers are written to academic standards, including APA and MLA requirements. Almost all my students were in at least their sophomore or junior years, but many knew nothing about how Word can take out most of the “grunt work” when it comes to writing a paper to APA or MLA standards. This is especially true when it comes to listing all of their sources.

Students should always check with their teacher/professor about which optional information should be included as well. For example, I always required that students include the URL link to any online sources even though it’s not an MLA requirement. Using Word’s Reference features will make their papers much easier to do and help ensure that they meet the technical requirements of the assignment.

6. But What about ChatGPT?

My students always liked that I never gave tests. I never considered them to be realistic, as no boss ever told me to clear off my desk and take a test. They gave me assignments and I had to complete them. That’s what artificial intelligence platforms like ChatGPT can do, but at the expense of having the students learn, which is the real reason the students are in school. Additionally, these sites are not infallible, especially if the request isn’t written in the proper way. That means that students still need to qualify the results provided by them. So, like Wikipedia, it may provide some benefit, but it should never be accepted at face value or used as provided by the platform.

And even if ChatGPT is accurate, students still run the risk of being discovered as not having done the work themselves. Faculty have access to a host of AI checkers – here is just one example. Additionally, what comes out of an AI will not be written in the student’s “voice” and will be easy to identify as such.

In one of my first semesters as an adjunct professor, I had a student submit a paper that clearly wasn’t written by her. The grammar and tone were more like a doctoral thesis. With a quick search, I found three sites that were selling the exact same paper for less than $10. All of them had disclaimers that they were meant as a guide but should not be used in place of a student’s work. As a result, she failed the assignment.

Where AI platforms like ChatGPT can help students is by helping them brainstorm ideas, a critical part of most assignments, especially in the early stages of the work. For example, when I entered, “give me a list of 5 topics related to global warming for a high school report” into the platform, I was provided with five solid ideas that I could use to write a paper or create a presentation. It all depends on how you phrase your query and students should be prepared to try variations on their original query to see how it affects the results.

The Bottom Line

The benefits that technology can provide to students are very real. On top of that, most of what’s shown here uses technology that is already familiar to most students. By using any of these resources, students can generate better quality work in less time than they would otherwise.

Send Your Kids Off to School Without the Morning Chaos

family morning chaosWe’ve all been there, maybe you were even there this morning. Kids won’t get out of bed, your boss called, he wants the project plan today and you forgot to get groceries last night.

“It’s all gonna be fine”, you tell yourself. That’s right, use those positive self-talk sentences. Research shows that speaking kindly to yourself actually increases helpful neurochemicals. They’ll boost your mood.

Now for those kids… you’re in a state of mild emergency so your main goal is to remain calm, get them up and out the door and off to school with lunches, water, back-packs and homework in-tact. Tonight you can reflect on what needs to change to make things go better tomorrow.

THIS MORNING: think about creating a smooth-entry into the day by gently waking the kids up. If you stress, they’ll stress. AND that means an avalanche of cortisol, a hormone you don’t want a lot of for mornings to go well.

1. Start any task your kids might be able to simply complete so that they have a head start. Like their out-the-door readiness tasks. Grab those back-packs, shoes and socks, put them right by the kitchen table so now they can eat breakfast, pack em and putt em on.

2. Stave off those mid-morning “Mom I forgot telephone calls,” by going through your morning checklist with them.

  • Calm-Mindset“Jason!” “Yes, mom he says through a mouthful of Cheerios.” “Morning Check-off READY …dirty clothes in hamper, meds, lunch, homework, lacrosse equipment.” “Yup all done.”
  • “Okay, Sarah! Morning Check-off READY.” “Yea, mom,” she says half-way to the door cause she’s your task completer, in fact, she probably should be your family manager. But we’ll think about that another day. “Lunch, homework, field trip slip, reading book.” “Yup, got it mom, now let’s go.”

3. For you, put a few drops of aroma therapy on your wrists take a deep breath and drive your kids to school. Work can wait at least until you replenish your relationships with your kids. Remember family first.

4. Grab a Bloom mantra from your mantra case, hold on tight and say it over and over, “Even when we are late, I’m loving and kind.” You did it! AND You can do it again.

With more planning from the Morning Mayhem chapter in Bloom, you’ll get out of damage control a little day by day. In the meantime pat yourself on the back cause you’re a mom, and you’re human.

*********************************************************************************************************************

bloom cover - 140x208Written for real parents with anxious, angry and over-the-top kids, Bloom is a brain-based approach to parenting all children. Taking its lead from neuroscience and best practices in early childhood mental health, it offers parents, teachers and care providers the words, thoughts and actions to raise calm, confident children, while reducing the need for consequences and punishment. The first book of its kind, it provides pages full of printable mantras you can carry with you, hang on your fridge or use in your classroom to raise emotionally competent kids. Stop second-guessing the way you handle misbehaviors, and learn why they occur in the first place. Bloom is available at amazon.com

4 Tips to Take the Stress Out of Back-To-School

While somewhere, somehow, there are families happily waltzing back into their school-year routine, most face these first few weeks with a healthy dose of anxiety. “The start of school means the return to a more rigid schedule … the return of homework. In essence, it’s about change, and change is something that is hard for most people,” says Joe Bruzzese, author of A Parent’s Guide to the Middle School Years.

Change is most dramatic for children starting a new chapter — kindergarten, middle school, a move to a new school district. But even returning to what’s familiar can rattle kids. “A child who struggled with math during the previous year can approach the new year with a good deal of anxiety. Kids who have had a rough time with their friends at the end of the year may feel like, ‘Here we go again,’” says Diane Peters Mayer, a therapist in Doylestown, Pa., and author of Overcoming School Anxiety.

So how can you help? First, be calm — even if your child isn’t. Then, try these tips for a smooth ride into the new school year:

Simplify your mornings Scrambling to get your kids — and yourself — out the door can make for a pretty frenetic scene. “It’s crucial for parents to look at their mornings and ask themselves how they can make them better,” says Peters Mayer. Do all you can the night before — make sure backpacks are packed, school forms are signed, lunches are made. You can even ask younger kids to help you set the table for breakfast the next morning. Equally important, get yourself ready the night before so you can connect with your kids in the morning. If you have young children struggling with separation anxiety, it’s the perfect time to go over with them what they can expect for the day, and what Mom and Dad will be doing too.

Create a smart yet flexible after-school routine Sit down with kids and hammer out a schedule that works for all of you. Doing homework right after school may sound good to you. But some kids really need time to decompress, so you could work it out that they play at the school playground for an hour before they begin their homework. “Also, help your child figure out where she’ll do her schoolwork,” says social worker Connie Hammer, a PCI Certified Parent Coach based in Maine. “If she wants a study area to call her own, have fun setting it up with her.” Some kids prefer to be closer to where the action is when they do their homework … and that can work, says Peters Mayer. “As long as homework is completed, be flexible. It shows them you are open to their ideas and teaches kids to be able to say ‘Yeah, I can do this,’” adds Mayer.

Reach out at school There’s no need to wait for parent-teacher conferences or even back-to-school night to meet with your child’s teacher and get the lay of the land. “Much of the anxiety kids feel is their uncertainty about what their new teachers expect of them: ‘What is she going to want, how is she going to grade me?’” explains Hammer. If your child is struggling with significant anxiety or is having social difficulties or separation issues, you may also want to meet with the guidance counselor. “The more the school knows, the better it will be for the child,” says Hammer.

Keep the lines of communication open As kids get older, they often clam up — especially if they are struggling socially or are having a problem with their grades. “Typical parent questions like ‘How was your day?’ generally get a less-than-informative response because they are just too general. Kids don’t really even know how to respond,” says Mayer. Instead, try asking specific questions that show you’re interested in what they’re learning and doing. And once they start talking, just listen. “They may begin to open up about things you didn’t expect,” says Hammer. “Let them know: ‘I believe you can do this. I know we can solve this problem together.’”

Healthy Back to School Lunches Kids Will Want to Eat

For many kids across the country, school is starting and that means kids will be eating lunch away from home. Proper nutrition is important for physical health and brain function.

A child who does not get enough nutrients in her lunch or has a sugar crash shortly after lunchtime may have a harder time focusing and learning. But how do we get kids to eat healthy at school whether they are choosing from the cafeteria foods or taking a lunch from home?

Here are some ideas I shared on Oklahoma City’s KOKH Fox 25 morning show to help your kids choose or take healthy lunches they will actually want to eat and won’t trade with their friends.

Get Kids Involved in Choosing What to Eat

Kids who are given choices about what goes in their lunchbox will be more likely to eat what is packed. The key is giving two or three choices among healthy options. Would he prefer whole grain bread or a whole grain tortilla or pita pocket? Broccoli or carrots? Grapes or an apple? Milk or water?

Teach your kids what different foods do for the body and how our body needs nutrients offered by these foods to fuel it so we can do the things we need to do and the things we enjoy. Does your kid like sports or have a favorite athlete? Point out how athletes (such as all our great Olympic champions) eat healthy foods and avoid junk foods so they have the energy and the strength to participate and excel at their sport. When kids understand how healthy foods can benefit them (make them stronger, faster, and even smarter) then they will be open to eating those foods.

If your child eats the school cafeteria’s food, get a menu for the week or month and have your child make some choices from the menu before going to school. This way, you can help guide the choices. If there is not a healthy option listed for a certain day, you can plan to pack a lunch that day.

Packing a Balanced Lunch

A balanced lunch is one that consists of a serving of protein (think lean meats, low-fat cheeses, nuts or nut butter, beans), a vegetable, a fruit, a serving of whole grains (whole grain bread, whole grain tortilla or pita pocket, whole grain rice, etc.), and a dairy serving (if able to have dairy).

Let your child help choose the foods he will take to school and help assemble his lunch. Kids who make their own lunch will want to eat it. Guide the choices when needed and praise healthy choices. And remember, it is okay to pack a little sweet treat too. A small cookie, fun-size piece of candy, or other small treat helps kids learn that these foods are okay in small portions and not with every meal. All things in moderation! As long as it is a small treat, even if she eats it first, she’ll still have room for the rest of her healthy lunch.

Add some WOW Factor to Make Lunch Fun

Another way to get kids to enjoy eating healthy lunches is to make them visually appealing and fun. Think outside the boring sandwich box! Cut foods into fun shapes with cookie cutters or fun-shaped sandwich cutters. Or consider making lunchtime kabobs using wooden skewers or thick big pretzels and alternating meat cubes, cheese cubes, and cherry tomatoes or a variety of fruits and veggies. Mix up some healthy trail mix to eat instead of chips or fries or pack some pita chips, wheat crackers, or crunchy carrot sticks. The more colorful the fruits and veggies, the healthier they are, so make a colorful lunch salad with dark leafy lettuces, spinach, cucumbers, carrots, cherry tomatoes, and pack a side of a low-fat, low-calorie dressing.

Do your kids love pre-assembled lunchable-type lunches? Make your own healthier version with whole wheat crackers, lean meats and low-fat cheeses cut down to size and in fun shapes. Do they like to dip their foods? Veggies and fruits can be dipped into low-fat yogurt or veggie dip. Do they like bite-sized foods? Cut up everything and pack them into separate compartments or put them in small snack-sized sandwich bags. Love a variety of fruits? Cut them up and mix to make a yummy fruit salad. Like to grill or cook-out? Make “campfire” foil packets with their favorite lean meat and veggies, grill until done and pack for lunch. Make it fun and they will be excited to eat their lunch and won’t be tempted to trade!

What Happens at Home CAN Cause Problems at School

Can your child get into trouble at school for what they do online at home?

While the answer to that question depends on where you live, the most likely answer to this is that a school can discipline a student for off-campus activities in some cases. The majority of U.S. states allow for it, reports the Cyberbullying Research Center. The rationale for this is for when activities off-campus negatively effect on-campus life beyond a reasonable amount.

That means that when a student engages in inappropriate behavior online, such as bullying a student or sending out racy images of another student, the school may have the right to take disciplinary action. While students (and parents) may argue that their actions don’t fall under the school’s province, the courts have decided otherwise.

And this is not just limited to actions taken by students. The same rules apply to staff/faculty as well. In my own county, a teacher was fired for comments made on her blog under an assumed identity that was derogatory towards her students. Her lawyers argued that she had the right to free speech, but a federal appeals court agreed with the school district for firing her, saying that her actions were “so disruptive at school as to tip the Pickering balance in the school district’s favor.” The Pickering balance refers to a 1968 case that determined that an employee’s right to free speech is protected IF it is a matter of public concern AND if the employee’s interest outweighs the public employer’s interest in an efficient workplace.

When my daughter was in sixth grade, I spoke with the vice-principal about this: kids using social media and how it affects the school environment. He told me that a day didn’t go by when he didn’t have students in his office, discussing something that happened online that caused a problem when the students saw each other again.

What makes that even more troublesome is that this was a grade school, going up to sixth grade. At this point, the students are almost certainly no older than 12 years old. This is important because most social media companies out there require that users be at least 13 years old to use their apps in order to avoid violating the Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Rule of 1998, more commonly known as COPPA. This act was designed to limit the amount and type of data that companies can data-mine from them. In reality, it is one of the most broken laws we have, as millions of minors use apps that they should not be using.

How to Avoid Problems

Let’s be honest – most children have at least one incident through their school years that requires the school to take corrective action of some kind. One way to minimize that from happening is to follow the T.H.I.N.K. Principle, as recommended by Fifty Shades of Purple against Bullying, an organization designed to help families who have been affected by bullying in any form. The T.H.I.N.K. Principle helps teach everyone to avoid doing or saying something that could cause problems for them later by focusing on five key points:

  • TRUE Is what I’m saying True?
  • HELPFUL Is what I’m saying Helpful to the situation?
  • INSPIRING Is what I’m saying Inspiring to others?
  • NECESSARY Is what I’m saying Necessary?
  • KIND Is what I’m saying Kind?

It always amazes me as to what I see people post online, especially on Twitter. People say things online that they would never do in person, sometimes hiding behind the anonymity of an app. If we can’t honestly answer yes to these five questions, then we probably shouldn’t post it.

Maybe a better way to consider it is that we should dance like nobody else is watching, but post like we expect it to be read in the principal’s office or even open court someday.

Back-to-School Tips for Special Needs Kids and Caregivers

back to school pencils 2It’s back to school time! For some kids this is an exciting time – seeing former school friends, getting new clothes and prepping for an exciting school year. But for special needs kids and their caregivers, transitions can be challenging. Kids with social issues may dread going back to a room full of people. Other special needs kids, as well as typical ones, may not be looking forward to ending the summer days of play and going back to long days of work – and homework.

To help the child transition:

  • Get kids involved in school supply shopping. Let them choose notebook colors, lunchbox characters, eraser shapes and juice box flavors. This may help them get excited about returning to school. Even if you are annoyed by Annoying Orange, that silly face may make your kid smile. Also, check in with your child about food preferences – last year’s favorites may be considered yucky today.
  • Brainstorm lunch and dinner ideas. Some kids like looking forward to a special treat in their lunches. It also may help some kids get through the week by counting off until Taco Night, Spaghetti night or whatever food fits into your child’s special diet.
  • If safe, set up playdates with school friends your child hasn’t seen in a while so they can reconnect outside of campus. If that’s not possible, review pictures or yearbooks to see last previous year’s classmates.
  • If school hasn’t started yet, visit the school to refresh your child’s memory. If you can’t get on campus, just drive by. If your child is visual, make a map of the route to school or of the campus. Try letting your child “drive” to school on Google Earth.
  • Meet the child’s new teacher ahead of time. Or look up your school’s website and find a picture of the them. Some sites even have little bios of teachers. Help your child send an email or write a letter to the teacher.
  • Start school bedtimes and mealtimes a week before the first day if possible. Start earlier if your child takes longer to adjust.
  • Print out some worksheets or let your child play online educational games to get those brain gears engaged. If you can get a copy of this year’s reading list, visit the library and browse the books to get your child interested in the stories.
  • Play school. Let the child have a turn as the teacher.
  • Start a rewards system for homework, daily behavior, reading time or any other issues specific to your child. Get suggestions for rewards from the child for extra motivation. There are a number of sites that offer printable rewards charts for everything from doing homework to not picking their nose. You can also make your own as a craft project or print personalized ones with your computer. Or do the marble method (add marbles to a glass or jar, when a certain mark is reached the reward has been earned), paperclip chain or anything else that appeals to your child.

For caregivers:

  • Watch your language. Be sure you are talking up school in a positive way.
  • Be sure all medications, permissions and arrangements have been set up with the school.
  • Do as much as you can the night before. Here are some suggestions:
    • Prep ingredients for lunch and/or dinner. Dust off the crockpot if needed.
    • Set up the coffee pot. This is a big one for me!!
    • back to school bus 2Pre-pack lunchboxes with non-perishables.
    • Lay out clothes. Cut off tags or prewash with fabric softener if your child has sensory issues.
    • Check for signed forms, paperwork and homework.
  • No matter how much your child fusses, stay calm. Save your tears and frustration for when you get back into the car alone, or meet up with other moms for coffee after drop off so you can vent.

Next Page »