Road Trip of a Lifetime

This infographic was supplied by Danny Dodd, a Clonlara School guest blogger (***Clonlara School does not endorse or recommend any product/service in connection with this author***).

We know that many of you travel and coordinate that as part of your schooling.  A few things to keep in mind…….

Are you and your family planning the road trip of a life time? As exciting and thrilling as road trips can be they can turn into a real bummer if you are ill prepared. Prior to leaving for your road trip vacay there are some tasks you should check off your to do list. Make sure all regularly scheduled maintenance is completed on your vehicle such as oil changes, tune ups, or changing of brake pads. Be sure tire pressure is at an acceptable level and tires are free of bulges and tears. If your battery has build up on the terminals clean it off. Now that you have completed car maintenance tasks go ahead and pack up the vehicle, do not forget your first aid kit in case of emergencies. Remember delicious snacks and movies for the kids. When routing your route with your GPS check out rest stops you may want to stop at along the way. Once you are on your way practice excellent road manners and your defensive drivingskills to ensure your road trip is a safe one.

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About the Author:  Danny Dodd is a defenstive driving instructor with a passion for helping people become better, safer drivers.  

Forget Marble Notebooks: High Tech Is Coming To A K-12 Classroom Near You

Written by Dawn Papandrea , a Clonlara School guest blogger  (***Clonlara School does not endorse or recommend any product/service in connection with this author***).

All across the country, K-12 students are settling into the school year, which more than ever probably includes the sort of technology you’d expect to see in a corporate office or college classroom. From video and web conferencing to handheld devices for all students to online testing, the days of number two pencils and teachers writing notes on the blackboard could soon be a thing of the past.

Take a look at some technologies coming to (or already at!) a K-12 classroom near you…

Incorporating Technology Into Every Lesson

Remember when the big excitement at school was getting to watch a video, or if you’re really old, those slideshows that had accompanying records that beeped to prompt you to the next slide? We’ve come a long way when one considers that 52 percent of teachers say they use interactive whiteboards in their classes, and 40 percent have a class wiki or website, according to the Pew Report “The Impact of Digital Tools on Student Writing and How Writing is Taught in Schools.”

Even when it comes to test preparation for the SAT, the days of flipping flashcards are over. One company, Benchprep, for example, uses an interactive gaming approach to appeal to high schoolers who are prepping for the college admissions exam.

Testing Online

Unless you’re living under a rock or in one of only 5 states that hasn’t adopted the Commor Core, you’re probably aware that by spring 2015, states must administer a mandatory online assessment to test student proficiency in math and English. Online testing means more students sitting at computers during the school day. As such, public schools are beefing up their IT offerings. In fact, says a CDW-G survey, 83 percent of public school district IT professionals surveyed cited Common Core as one of their top three IT priorities.

Paper and Pencil Is So Retro

Just as many have gotten used to using e-readers instead of hard copy books, the same may happen with school textbooks. In fact, 37 percent of teachers in a “Styles of Learning” survey by Enterasys Secure Networks said they planned to transition to digital textbooks within the next one to five years. At home, students are already getting used to making the switch to digital, as 31% of middle school students say they use tablets to complete homework assignments, according to a Verizon Foundation study.

The World Is Their Classroom

Thanks to video and web conferencing, some lucky students are able to watch presentations, experiments, and other learning events in real time from anywhere in the world. Think of it as the modern day field trip. For instance, some zoos, museums, ­libraries and other organizations have distance learning ­programs specifically designed for schools.

This technology is especially helpful for rural areas that are too far from cultural centers for students to frequent. One such school district in Oklahoma has been using mobile video conferencing with great success, according to an article in EdTech Magazine.

It’s just a matter of bringing video conferencing equipment into schools as companies like InterCall do to facilitate educator’s needs.

Online Courses

Beyond technology in the classroom, many K-12 students are taking courses right from their own homes via online learning. For example, Iowa Learning Online is currently serving 800 students, and has plans to expand and grow the program. Teachers broadcast to students via webcams or use technologies like Skype or Adobe Connect.

Technology in learning has come a long way in a short time, and will likely continue improving as it becomes more accessible and user friendly. Just imagine what the classroom will look like five years from now!

About the author: Dawn Papandrea is a Staten Island, NY-based writer specializing in education, careers, parenting, and personal finance. Her work has appeared in publications including Family Circle, Parents, WomansDay.com, CreditCards.com, and more. She has a master’s degree in journalism and mass communications from New York University. Connect with her on Twitter and Google+.

Special Ed Goes High Tech

This infographic was supplied by Wendy Turner, a Clonlara School guest blogger (***Clonlara School does not endorse or recommend any product/service in connection with this author***).

Students with special needs face challenges that may not be apparent to the rest of the world. They work hard to improve certain skills so that they can act as members of society, and it is important to give them the tools that they need to succeed. Unfortunately, the federal government only provides a total of 15 percent of the cost associated with caring for a child with special needs. Parents are left trying to cover the expensive costs of tutoring services or technology programs that can assist in the educational development of a special needs child.  Students can have a wide range of special needs for which they require supportive educational services and technology programs. Some students suffer from speech impediments, while other students may suffer from emotional disorders. Some students may have hearing or visual impairment. A student may be mentally retarded or have learning disabilities that make it difficult for him or her to adapt to a school environment. Those who have had a traumatic brain injury may also be considered special needs children.  It is important for school communities to embrace those who have disabilities. Students should feel like they are members of the community and should feel accepted. They should feel a sense of joy in attending school and not view their specific classes as punishments for a disability. Students who have disabilities have certain rights that are codified into law, and it is vital that school systems recognize these rights. Even if a school budget must expand to meet the costs of schooling special needs children, this should not be a major concern of school boards. School boards should be ready and willing to meet the expenses that are associated with educating a child who has special needs.  Students who have special needs should also have access to the latest technology in the classroom. They should have access to laptops and net-books that can enhance their educational experience. Digital textbooks can also make learning more enjoyable and fun for those who have disabilities. School districts should seriously consider making these investments in technology to meet the needs of disabled children.  Source: http://www.special-education-degree.net/technology

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The Battle Between Book Binding and the eBook – Which is Most Suitable for the Classroom?

Written by Cheryl Luzet, a Clonlara School guest blogger (***Clonlara School does not endorse or recommend any product/service in connection with this author***).

The book is a familiar friend to many of us; a book can be a place where we can meet wonderful characters and immerse ourselves in their worlds, or it can be a teacher to educate us about our favourite subjects. The book has been around in one form or another for many centuries but the format we recognise today was probably born in India, where the craft of book binding was pioneered. The first books to benefit from the technological advances which enabled book binding were religious texts, and the binding process used to create them was subsequently taken into Persia, China and beyond by Buddhist monks around the first century BC. The techniques of book binding spread throughout the world thereafter, and though the processes have evolved over the centuries, the end result is similar and instantly recognisable to all of us.

But now the book which we know so well has a competitor: the eBook. This latest technological development certainly has convenience on its side; an eBook reader is light and portable and can hold several thousand books, something that could only be done with the help of a large truck in the case of traditional books! So is it likely to take over from its paper counterpart and, more particularly, how do the two match up in the classroom?

The eBook certainly has its advantages: it gives students the ability to search for particular words or sentences when they want to locate a particular quotation, and it allows them to view dictionary definitions of any words they need help with in an instant. On the downside, it is more difficult to read from the screen and limits the ability for children to share their books. And, given their natural curiosity, there’s a tendency for kids to get distracted by other apps and tools on the reading device, which could be a disruption to learning. Naturally, cost is another major consideration. A move towards eBooks would require significant investment in technology which may be prohibitive for schools; children could easily lose their reading devices, or the devices themselves may not prove robust enough to withstand the constant wear at the hands of pupils which use in the classroom would expose them to.

The bound book has been a mainstay of the classroom for generations. Its physical form makes it easy to flick through and read; its size and format make it convenient for students to share in the classroom if there aren’t enough copies to go round, and it certainly doesn’t cost anywhere near as much to replace if it is lost or damaged. When compared to the eBook, however, it does lose out from being self-contained and having no other inbuilt learning materials such as a dictionary. The result is that students are likely to have to carry several different text books, and could lose time and concentration when they have to switch between them to look up information.

We must conclude then that, as is usually the case when technology vies with traditional media, there is a place for both. We may one day see a move to 100% eBook usage in the classroom but we would need to get the devices in place first and thoroughly stress test them in that environment. For the present, the printed book is a convenient classroom companion which lets teachers supervise more easily, so it’s likely it will not lose its place just yet.

Guest blog by Binding Store www.bindingstore.co.uk/ who sell business solutions for a wide variety of binding and printing finishing needs.

6 Practical Ways to Improve Your Grades

Written by Ruth Dunn, a Clonlara School guest blogger  (***Clonlara School does not endorse or recommend any product/service in connection with this author***).

Although grades are not the major focus of our academic environment, they are important to some of our learners and families.  The below tips not only could impact a student’s grades, but also impact participation and engagement (which are important to our entire community).  Never bad skills to practice?!

6 Practical Ways to Improve Your Grades
Getting good grades is a wonderful investment in your future, as high marks set you up for scholarships that help pay for college. You may even be offered a free ride for a great school if your grades are high enough. Here are some tips provided by Shoreline Learning to help you improve your grades.

Get Organized

Write all of your assignments down in a planner as soon as they are given to you. It’s best to list them on the day they due. Refer to your list at least once per week so you don’t forget a project that isn’t due for several weeks. Using a different colour ink for each subject is a great way to organize your assignments. This makes it easy to see which books you need to bring home at the end of each school day. Just turning in your homework on time goes a long way toward improving your grades.

Take Notes

It is easy to get distracted when you’re sitting in class listening to a long lecture, but listening and understanding everything your teacher says is much better for your learning and development. Taking notes forces you to focus on what’s being said. It also gives you something to refer back to when you’re completing a homework assignment or studying for a test.

Read Ahead

Another way to help you focus during a long lecture in class is to read the material before the teacher talks about it. Write down any questions that you have while you are reading the chapter so you can ask the teacher about them later. Understanding the material is key if you want to do well on tests and get good grades on your report cards.

Study With A Group

Studying with a group will help you remember the material and bond with your classmates at the same time. Spend a few hours quizzing each other about everything you learned in class. It’s easier to remember the information you need to know during a test if you have repeated it out loud.

Sit in Front

Sitting in the front of the classroom is helpful for several reasons. One is that it’s easy to get distracted by what’s going on in front of you, so sitting in the front row minimizes distractions. Another reason to sit in the front is because it’s easier for you to see everything the teacher is doing if it’s happening right in front of you.

Talk to Your Teachers

If you find yourself struggling with a class, it’s smart to sit down with the teacher and make a plan to improve your grade. They may offer you extra credit assignments or give you the name of a student who would be willing to tutor you. Teachers are much more willing to work with students who talk to them about improving their grades than those who ignore a worsening grade and aren’t actively working to improve it.

Getting Students Excited About an Online Education

Written by Nicole Foster, a Clonlara School guest blogger  (***Clonlara School does not endorse or recommend any product/service in connection with this author***).

One advantage to being a student (and family) of Clonlara School is – community.  While many of our readers have students in the K-12 grades, we also like to support our students who are heading onto higher education.  Maybe those in the upper grades, or our recent graduates, might find this interesting when considering further educational options.

Getting Students Excited About an Online Education

Students are enrolling in online classes in droves — in 2011 more than 30 percent, or six million U.S. students, took at least one online course. Higher education is adapting by steadily increasing online programs and funding to meet student demand.

Yet there is still a lot of skepticism towards online education in academic and professional circles, despite considerable technological advancement and innovation in the field. This leaves many students questioning the quality and reputation of an online education.

Misled by false information from all sides, students need help identifying and debunking common misconceptions. We’ve set out to address the assumptions of online education by pointing to the realities. As the inaccuracies get debunked, and the reality of what online education has to offer settles into place, it becomes clear there is a compelling case to be made for some form of online education for everyone. Here’s our rundown of the major misconceptions:

“Online degrees are looked down upon by potential employers, the rest of the education community and peers.”

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Support for online education is evident across the corporate sector. According to a Western Governors University publication, Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, said that discounting a job candidate “based on an online degree may be shortsighted. People working all day and studying online all night have the kind of grrr most companies could use.”

This sentiment is echoed by human resource directors in a recent survey from Inside Higher Ed. Sixty-two percent of hiring managers who described themselves as “very familiar” or “familiar” with distance ed programs believe online degrees are just as credible as campus-based degrees. Another Edudemic study found that 82 percent of hiring managers felt that online programs were just as rigorous as their traditional counterparts.

Many companies pay for their employees to advance their education through online programs. A 2007 Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) survey showed that 71 percent of companies reimburse their employees for online degrees earned from regionally or professionally accredited higher education institutions.

The opinions of established academics remain some of the more stubborn, but evidence suggests the reputation of online credentials is improving. Some studies show, in certain fields, online doctoral degree recipients are beginning to experience better job prospects than their peers graduating from traditional universities.

The Sloan Consortium recently found the perception among traditional university staff is split between faculty and administration. While just 30.2 percent of chief academic officers believe their faculty accept the value and legitimacy of online education, 65 percent of higher education administrations now say online learning is a critical part of their long-term strategy.

“Since online education is cheaper, the quality of the information you receive will be cheapened. The same goes for who teaches the class, who participates in the class, etc.”

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It is almost impossible to make generalizations about online learning because there is so much variation across institutions, programs and degrees. Yet most institutions do agree on one fundamental principle of online learning: the opportunity to provide education for all, without sacrificing quality.

For many universities, online education isn’t always significantly cheaper. The tuition difference between online and traditional course work is less than $200 per credit hour at some top-tier research institutions like Arizona State University. That’s because ASU believes the student experience should be the same for its online and on-campus programs. Therefore the costs are similar, since all students are instructed by the same world-class faculty, with access to the same resources, expertise and assistance.

“Online education is only good for basic degrees. Not bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorates.”

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Most institutions of higher education with online degree programs have offerings that span the spectrum, from bachelor’s through doctorates — clearly disputing the notion that online learning is limited to certificate or two-year programs.

The U.S. News and World Report directory lists over 300 online doctorate and PhD programs, 200 master’s degree programs, and 625 bachelor’s degree programs. There are currently 277 accredited online universities, and that number is only expected to grow, according to Edudemic.

“Online classes are fundamentally easier than brick and mortar classes, regardless of subject.”

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The majority of academic leaders disagree with this statement. In fact, 77 percent of them believe learning outcomes in online education are the same or superior to the outcomes of traditional courses, according to a Sloan Consortium survey.

Unlike with most traditional universities, experts in online higher education are investing in research to understand exactly how the science of teaching can be perfected to increase student outcomes. Carnegie Mellon’s Open Learning Initiative is employing teams of cognitive scientists, technology consultants, designers, and disciplinary specialists to help design a new wave of challenging, interactive courses.

Experts plan to continually refine coursework, delivery and online tools to maximize the student experience. Researchers are dedicated to ensuring that online learning deploys the latest in technology to ensure a quality learning experience.

“Online degrees are often in irrelevant fields — I’m better off earning an in-demand degree at a four-year institution.”

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Online learners are actually interested in many of the same fields as those in traditional four-year institutions. In fact, four of the top five degrees earned online, are the same degrees earned most often in brick and mortar schools, according to Edudemic.

“I will miss out on the interactivity of an actual classroom. I will be less engaged.”

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The online student portal at Western Governors University is just one example of the many ways the classroom is reimagined online. As a gateway to student communities, the student portal provides chats, message boards, virtual classrooms, video conferencing and small group learning sessions to support cooperative learning.

In fact, many experts believe that using technology to engage with online learners around the world actually provides a richer experience than a classroom. Plus, students get experience using technologies to connect with others across the world.

Top-notch institutions, like the Penn State World campus, are use real-time video streaming and smart phone apps. Students can connect with others outside of their online courses through online student-based organizations and alumni networking through the World Campus chapter of the Penn State Blue & White Society.

“There aren’t ‘real’ exams or in-class essays, meaning it’s easier to pass an online class with less effort”

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The lack of a physical classroom doesn’t mean instructors have fewer options to ensure rigorous coursework. In many ways, the Internet actually provides more methods to assess and instruct students.

The curriculums of distance courses taught at the Harvard Extension School are detailed and rigorous; equally demanding of students as a Harvard classroom. Technology can be used in innovative ways to test language, for example. Many online programs now deploy audio, video and recording assessments to develop student skills and provide real-time assessment.

“I won’t get any interaction or support from faculty”

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A recent article in The University of Wisconsin-Madison, for example, takes professor response time seriously: it was one of the factor’s in its high ranking of online programs through the U.S. News and World Report.

There are so many misperceptions about online education, it’s only natural students have reservations. But once you work through the false ideas one by one, online education starts to look like a credible and effective option.

About the Author:  Nicole Foster is currently finishing up my communications degree and spending my free time getting some real world experience by helping out and contributing to BestCollegesOnline.com.

The Implications and Treatment Options of Mental Illness in Children in the UK (part 1)

Written by Amy Fry a Clonlara School guest blogger  (***Clonlara School does not endorse or recommend any product/service in connection with this author***).

Grazed knees, a runny nose and measles may be the most popularly expected ailments that parents can expect their children to face, not mental illness. However according to government data , 1 in 10 children aged between 5 and 16 years has a mental health problem.
two young girls laughing behind another girls back

Photo courtesy of Zalouk Web Design on Flickr

With the issue of mental illness in children being a relatively unexplored concept, it could be difficult to identify. Therefore what is being done to distinguish a mental health disorder in a child, and what help is available?

Identifying mental illness in children

Mental disorders commonly associated with children such as Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder can be detected through disruptive behavior. Experts have recently stated that if bad behavior goes beyond being naughty, and parents suspect their child may be suffering from ADHD , then they are probably right.

For example, it is normal for a child to let off steam when they come home, but if they struggle to concentrate or fail to learn from their mistakes, then they may be suffering from ADHD.

However ADHD is only suspected to affect 2% of children, and not all mental health issues will be as simple to diagnose. For example, recent figures from the Office of National Statistics show that 4% of children suffer from anxiety and depression, and 6% will struggle with a behavioral disorder.

Identifying these illnesses has been proven to be difficult; recent figures show that between 60-70% of children and adolescents with significant mental health problems were not offered necessary interventions at the earliest opportunity.

The effects of a delayed diagnosis

Professor Kamaldeep Bhui wrote for the Guardian that untreated mental health issues in children can lead to unemployment and poor levels of education later in life, so it is important to adapt a public health approach to this area in future to provide support where necessary. Currently less than 0.001% of the mental health budget is used for prevention, and Professor Bhui says this must change to improve the future of children’s mental health.

A lack of diagnoses and support of young people with mental health issues could have a damaging effect on their future; figures show that around a quarter of young offenders have a learning disability, 60,000 have difficulty communicating and a very large proportion have mental health demands. It does beg the question that if a preventative and supportive approach towards mental health disorders in children was applied, could prison have be avoided all together for these individuals?

Treating mental illness in children

To address the high figures of mental illness in children, the government is now investing an additional £22 million into providing more mental health care services for this age group, on top of the £32 million already dedicated to therapies as set out in the Mental Health Strategy. This extra financial support is to help a those who may have before “suffered in silence” due to lack of understand or resources.

In the meantime, there are a range of methods to treat mental health which can range from therapy to medication. Prescriptions are often only administered as a last resort, and a course of psychological treatment may be recommended first. This can include consulting with a psychiatrist to take part in cognitive behavioral therapy, or a form of talking therapy such as counseling.

Creating a safe, supportive and trusting environment for a child with a mental health illness is imperative to encourage a stable future and steady recovery. By seeking help as soon as possible for a child with mental health problems means that necessary treatment can be administered, therefore hopefully halting the damaging effects that can be caused by a delayed diagnosis.

Amy Fry writes for a variety of industries, but specializes in personal well-being, lifestyle and health issues. Amy lives and works in Brighton, UK and spends her spare time strolling by the seafront and going to art galleries.