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Effort to Teach Kids Practical Financial Skills

What is the biggest criticism of our schools today? Okay… that is too big of a bear to tackle… what is one of the biggest criticisms about our schools today? The failure to teach real life skills you need to be successful not only in a job but in life. (I’ll go out on a limb and say this is historically the biggest criticism of law schools.)

Richmond public schools in Virginia are trying to help bridge the gap between learning and the real world, partnering with New Generations Federal Credit Union to give students real world financial experience. The theory? Students will learn while working at the bank how to deal with their own finances as an adult.

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BoBo Explores Light is a Must Buy Education App

BoBo Explores Light is a new iPad app that has exploded to top echelon of educational iPad apps. Listed in the “Book” section by Apple, BoBo Explores Light provides the two things I am looking for in an iPad application: education and entertainment.

The app provides children with a fun and education way to learn about nuances of science such as how the human eye and lasers work and fundamental science that you children will see again and again throughout their education: reflection, refraction, photosynthesis, bioluminescence, aurora borealis and much more.

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Okay, my kids and I have probably looked 25 times for new Bartleby 2 app now. We are going a little nuts. But I really think they are getting close. Here is blog post and video showing off what we can expect from the new Bartleby Book of Buttons.

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Some people are moved by love, beauty, and justice. Some people are moved by money. If you are the latter, this post is for you. According to a new study, “Globally Challenged: Are U.S. Students Ready to Compete?” by Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance, our inability to compete in education with the rest of the developed world may be costing us a trillion dollars a year.

A trillion. I know with all of the numbers being tossed around in our budgetary debacles, a trillion seems like the new billion. One trillion one dollar bills would go about 94 million miles which is further away than the sun.

U.S. students, this study found, fall behind 31 countries in math proficiency and behind 16 countries in reading proficiency. We seem to be beating most of Europe in reading. Then, again, pick up a newspaper. The European economy has bigger problems than we do. Maybe this is not a coincidence.

The reading does scare me more than the math. There is no question that math is important. But the U.S. is still churning out great mathematicians. I think it is more important to have great mathematicians than to raise median averages. Most of us know enough math to do our jobs.

But reading is a different story. Many more people need to be able to read, understand and comprehend. We need students with developed logical reasoning skills.

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American University has a story about a dinosaur camp in Hyattsville, Maryland. This is just incredibly cool. The camp is taught by a paleontologist which gives you an indication that there will be some real learning. While calculating how long and burdensome it would be to send my kids to this camp next summer, this stopped me in my tracks:

    Along this industrial cul de sac in Hyattsville, Md., there is a strip club, a bakery, and a construction site. This is an unlikely place for a classroom, but it is where Dr. Peter Kranz is leading a group of children and their parents on a journey through time.

Ah, I think that has half of the ingredients of my biggest fears as a parent. I think I’ll head back to Danny and the Dinosaur.

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The great iPad geography game, Stack the Countries, which I can’t believe I have not done a review for yet, has added South Sudan to the game.

I’m giddy about this for two reasons. First, for all of the trouble it faces, the birth of South Sudan promulgates hope in an area of the world where hope is rarer than Haley’s Comet. May God bless them all.

But, on a lighter note, it is a NEW COUNTRY! That’s cool! I’ve been talking to my kids about the vote for independence in South Sudan and how a new country will be formed. We even drew in South Sudan on old maps. To see all of that talk manifested into a game they play, that’s just awesome. And it underscores that power of the iPad and the Internet. I still remember having encyclopedias that I’m sure were outdated when they were being printed.

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Bartleby 2 is on its way, according to Monster Costume’s Twitter post last week. Literally, my kids have me look on the iPad every day to see if the new Bartleby 2 is out yet.

You can read about my love for all things Bartleby here.

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teachingHistorically, there has not been a lot of honest assessment about the quality of our school teachers in Maryland. It is too sensitive, too subjective, etc.
But times are changing. Why? Because kids in too many other countries – China comes to mind – are outperforming us by whopping margins. To make meaningful change, we have to do things that are hard. Being honest – brutally honest – is just plain hard.

With that intro, the National Council on Teacher Quality ranked a random sample of three colleges in each state. The lucky Maryland winners were Mount St. Mary’s University, Salisbury University, and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Actually, UMBC comes out looking pretty good, getting a “good” ranking. Mount St. Mary’s? Salisbury? Not so well. They were ranked “poor” in training their teachers.

Honesty is tough. This report is part of a much larger study that most colleges renounced even before the first report came out. No one wants to be judged and we don’t want to judge. One byproduct is that it indirectly maligns the good teachers that come out of these schools. But if you think these schools and principals and school officials who hire teachers are not paying attention to this report, I think you are kidding yourself.

The Baltimore Sun publishes this story, using a positive spin with the title “UMBC gets high marks for student teacher training programs.” Potential headlines such as “Don’t let your kid get taught by someone from Mount Saint Mary’s or Salisbury” or “Bad teacher alert” were apparently rejected.

I think most people would say that UMBC is a better school – statistically speaking – than Mount Saint Mary’s or Salisbury. (If you dispute this, you or your kid graduated from there.) That’s no knock by the way on either school. Steve Bisciotti and Frank Perdue graduated from Salisbury and Mount Saint Mary’s produced a number of smart people (that, admittedly, I have never heard of).

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redridinghoodIdeal Binary last iPad book, Rapunzel, was a book I complained about because the plot is beyond awful. But the 3D pop-up special effects made the book a keeper. We just sucked up the fact that good guy in the story sold off her first born child for some flowers after he got caught stealing them – in spite of his efforts at deception -off someone else’s property.

So when Ideal Binary came out with Little Red Riding Hood, I ignored the $3.99 price tag and bought it immediately and trotted in out for my youngest son last night. As advertised, great 3D interactive fun – just what an iPad should be.

Well, grandma ends up cutting up the wolf and making a carpet. Really? This is a kids’ book. It is no longer 1968. We are still stupid but we are not that stupid. Why can’t the story have a theme of love and reconciliation? Why blindly follow this idiotic plot?

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George WashingtonWhat is the capital of South Sudan? I was excited to teach my kids this week the birth of a new country, South Sudan. The capital is Juda. Tonight, we are going to try to handwrite in on our maps the border between Sudan and South Sudan. (Hopefully, with a new border comes a new era of peace for the Sudanese people and that South Sudan has their own George Washington.)

Don’t get wedded to Juda, though. South Sudan is searching for a new capital because they do not believe Juda is the best city in the long haul to be the capital of the country. So when you teach Juda as the captial of South Sudan, make sure you let your kids know that it comes with an asterisk of “could be changed soon.”

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