Sunday, January 23, 2022

Learning at home school COVID closures

Learning at home during school COVID closures

As the Omicron variant of COVID-19 continues to rage on, causing what appear to be mainly larger urban school districts to make the decision to close in-person learning, whether for several days/a week at a time or for longer periods, many students and families find themselves suddenly left without a solid, reliable learning plan in place. Some districts and individual educators are trying to do all they can with the virtual tools and other resources they have at their disposal, while some districts and individual educators are simply closing shop altogether. As one parent whose daughter's large urban school district recently closed for a week told me, "Some teachers are going above and beyond, while others are treating this like a vacation. They're not meeting with students virtually, and they've assigned no work." And a high school in a nearby district decided to cancel semester final exams altogether because of COVID-19.
 
The data is pouring in on how COVID-19 has impacted learning for K-12 students.

Whether you're a student reading this, or a parent, guardian, other relative, or fellow educator deeply concerned and frustrated by this truly tragic situation of lost time and learning, I offer a number of resources, ideas, and strategies here, in no particular order, to help you design your own at-home learning plan when you find yourself not provided with one by your school system and/or teachers. The following suggestions can also certainly serve to enhance and reinforce the assigned learning from school if you are, hopefully, receiving regular instruction virtually.

BrainPOP - I make use of BrainPOP, a subscriber-based learning platform, quite frequently during my typical day in the classroom. I highly recommend it. With a very clean layout that is easy to navigate, the BrainPOP family of websites offers young learners video lessons on a wide range of curriculum-aligned subjects, as well as quizzes and activities that can be completed for deeper engagement with, and understanding of, the material presented in the video lessons. Check the BrainPOP homepage frequently for various specials and discount offers that run from time to time. You can purchase your own home-based subscription, or see if your school or district already has a subscription that you can use to log in with. A very high-quality, fun, and engaging learning tool.  

Think about possible careers and professions - Check out this career readiness resources page I put together a while back, featuring previously-published posts here on this blog, as well as content from other sites. If you're thinking about entering a trade and you reside in Wisconsin, learn about the Wisconsin Apprenticeship System.

Explore volunteer opportunities - Check out this previous post I wrote about the many benefits of volunteer work. Volunteering can provide a wealth of opportunities for learning new skills, strengthening skills, making meaningful connections through networking, gaining new perspectives, sharing talents, and making a difference in the lives of others.

Prepare for the ACT and/or SAT - It's never too early to begin preparing for these tests. Check out this page I put together a while back with various resources, ideas, and strategies to help you prepare for these very important college admissions tests and ultimately get the best score(s) you can. If you start early enough, even years earlier, then your preparation work won't feel like a burden, you'll perhaps even improve your overall grades and performance in your classes, and you most likely won't have to worry about retakes! And yes, these tests are still relevant.

Learn a new language, or make the time and effort to strengthen and deepen your existing language skills - The ability to communicate in another language is a highly-desirable, and hence marketable, skill to have.

Research a country - Is there another country whose people, culture, cuisine, history, language, and economy capture your curiosity? Gather facts, photos, and relevant video links, and put together a nice presentation on your chosen country using a slide deck format like Google Slides or PowerPoint. Give a presentation to your family just as you would to your classmates or any other audience. This is a wonderful learning opportunity allowing you to build on a variety of relevant life and career skills, like research and fact-finding, conveying information and ideas, public speaking, writing, creativity, and educating others.

Let's plan a trip! - I took this idea from a wonderful social studies course by the same name (Let's Plan a Trip!) that I assisted in during my district's summer school this past summer (you can read more about that here). Similar to the above idea of researching a country, but with a slightly different focus. With this idea, you research one or more countries as if you're getting ready to actually visit them as a tourist. Where will you stay? How will you get there, and how much will this transportation cost you (for example, your flight ticket)? Who will you bring with you on the trip? What's your overall budget? What kind of activities and sightseeing would you like to do?
 
Take courses on Udemy - Udemy is an awesome site. You can read my review of this wonderful learning platform here.

Learn financial literacy - Financial literacy is so very, very important. Learn how to save and budget. Learn how to plan for emergencies. Learn how to spend wisely. Learn about investing and preparing for retirement. Understand how the decisions you make today about money will impact the rest of your life, either positively or negatively. The earlier you begin learning these crucial lessons and begin implementing good strategies and habits, the better for you and your loved ones. The personal finance category here at my blog helps keep track of my posts about money, saving, wise spending and looking for deals, retirement planning, etc. 

Work on SMART goals - Use this precious time to write and begin work on career-related, education-related, health and fitness -related, and life goals using the SMART goal format
 
Make sure to work your local public library into your learning routine - Are there book clubs or reading programs you can join? Makerspace opportunities? Upcoming speakers and presentations that capture your interest? Art contests? Possibilities and opportunities are virtually endless at the good ol' local public library.

Explore AmazingEducationalResources.com - This website, now listing nearly 2,000 resources, was first launched in the early days of COVID-19, back in March-April 2020 or so. My blog is listed on the site, too. You can search by grade level (Pre-K on up to Adult Learning) or by category/academic subject. You'll discover a large, assorted variety of learning games, lesson plans, video content, ideas, and activities to engage with. Most resources listed in this powerful and growing directory are free, while some you'll have to pay for. Other resources may offer a combination of both. 
 
Worksheets, worksheets, and more worksheets - There are many websites out there offering worksheets, workbooks, complete lesson plans, learning activities and games, etc. Here are some sites I'm familiar with in my daily work, and can, therefore, highly recommend: Education.com, MathWorksheets4Kids.com, TLSBooks.com, Math-Aids.com, and WorksheetWorks.com. Some of these sites are free, while others are subscription-based at very reasonable prices. 
 
What are some other ideas, resources, and strategies that can be utilized during these tragic times of school closures and lost learning? What are we missing here? Please feel free to share in the Comments section below!

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Calculating discounts and markups

These two basic math formulas are typically taught in, or at least reviewed in, seventh (7th) grade math these days.

Use these simple math formulas for a variety of everyday situations, like figuring out tips on a restaurant meal or other service, other markups, increases or decreases in productivity, clearance and sales price discounts in percentages, etc., etc.

For calculating percentage decreases (practical examples: percentages off a product or service, decreases in productivity by percentage)

1) Subtract the original amount (the original price, the original number of people, the original amount of productivity, etc.) from the new amount (new - original).

2) Take the answer to step 1, and divide that number by the original amount (new - original / original).

3) The final number you come up with (after completing the first two steps): multiply this number by 100 for your final percentage (new - original / original x 100).

For calculating totals after a known percentage increase is factored in (practical examples: tip on a product or service, increases in productivity, other markup increases)

1) Take the original amount (the original price, the original number of people, the original amount of productivity, etc.), and multiply this number by the known percentage increase.

2) Take the answer to step 1, and add that number to the original amount to get your final answer.

Example: A meal cost $25.50 at a restaurant. To figure out the final cost after a 20% tip is factored in, we take the $25.50 and multiply it by 20% (25.50 x 0.2). By doing this, we figure out that the tip itself is going to be $5.10. We then simply add the tip to the original cost of the meal, and we discover that the final cost will be $30.60.

Mixed numbers to improper fractions

How to convert mixed numbers (also called mixed fractions) to improper fractions

A skill typically taught in, or at least reviewed in, seventh (7th) grade math these days.

1) Multiply the denominator (the bottom part of the fraction) by the whole number.

2) Take the answer to step 1, and add that number to the numerator (the top part of the fraction).

3) The final number you come up with (after completing the first two steps) becomes your new numerator. The denominator stays the same.

Example:

mixed number to improper fraction

As we can see from the above example, we take the denominator (2) and multiply it by the whole number (which also happens to be 2). 2 x 2 = 4. We then add the numerator (1) to our answer of 4. 4+1 = 5. Therefore, 5 becomes our new numerator, while the denominator remains the same.

Career guide for persons with disabilities

Technology to Jumpstart Your Career: A Guide for Persons with Disabilities

Career guide for people with disabilities
Photo credit: Pexels.com

Persons with disabilities are historically underrepresented in the workplace, but the good news is that things are looking up. As the National Science Foundation reveals, technology is accelerating disability inclusion in the working world. If you are a person living with a disability, you can harness the power of cutting-edge innovations to improve your job opportunities and climb the career ladder. Presented by Mr. Robertson’s Corner, the following guide explains how persons with disabilities can use cutting-edge tools to get ahead in their professional lives.

Leverage technology to start a home-based business

Commuting to an office can be difficult if you have a physical disability that impedes your mobility. Why not work from home by starting your own business? Rolling Without Limits offers a list of home business ideas for disabled persons, from online trading to selling handmade crafts on Etsy.

When running a home-based business, the right software and hardware can make things easier. For example, a voice-activated assistant can help with everyday tasks like dictating messages. Small Biz Daily provides a roundup of useful technologies for home-based businesses, including time tracking tech, cloud-based storage, and collaboration apps. These innovations will save you time by streamlining your daily operations.

Whatever business endeavor you pursue, consider how you can use your disability to your advantage. Tuts+ explains that you have a competitive edge thanks to the unique life experience you possess. Make the most of it. For example, you may have a one-of-a-kind perspective on problems in your community or be able to identify unmet needs that you can address with a special product or service.

Rely on internet innovations to hire freelancers to support your business

Many entrepreneurs get hung up on the idea of doing it all themselves. The fact is that if you take a total DIY approach to your business, you're bound to burn out. Hiring freelancers such as web developers via online platforms can help alleviate the burden. If you’re unsure of freelance web developer rates, do a little research online; on average, freelance web developers make between $15 and $30 per hour, though these rates will vary.

Collaboration is also critical when managing a freelance team. Technology can help here too. Invision App provides a list of the top collaboration tools for remote workers. Options include the chat app Slack, video conferencing tool Zoom, and project management tool Trello. Git Lab explains that these technologies can support asynchronous communication, which may be necessary for remote teams.

Gain the skills you need to thrive as an entrepreneur via remote learning

Starting your own business can be scary at times. Equipping yourself with the right knowledge and skills will help quell any anxiety you may be having. According to the World Economic Forum, remote learning opportunities have increased since the COVID-19 pandemic. This is excellent news for people with disabilities. You are no longer reliant on physically accessible spaces to get the education you need.

You can rely on digital education to sharpen your accounting skills, improve your leadership abilities, or enhance your marketing knowledge. There are many opportunities for growth. Technology doesn't just connect you with digital classrooms. It can also help with the practical aspects of learning. For example, if you have impaired vision, a screen reader can help you get information from your computer screen so you can keep up with your classes.

As a person with a disability, you face unique challenges in the working world. However, you also have a one-of-a-kind perspective that you can use to your advantage. The right technologies can help support your business’s success.

Monday, October 18, 2021

College students with disabilities

Why Young People With Disabilities Should Consider a Business Career
 
College students with disabilities
Image via Pexels

No matter what you are interested in, there is probably a business out there related to it. If you're looking for a career with great earning potential, flexibility, and a variety of options, consider a business career. As Mr. Robertson’s Corner details, enrolling in an online Master of Business Administration program can be an optimal pathway for young adults with disabilities to launch a successful career in business.

Benefits of Online MBA Programs

An MBA is an advanced degree in business administration. Students usually pursue an MBA after obtaining a bachelor's degree in a business-related field of study. Popular areas of focus include marketing, accounting, research, and economics. MBA programs are popular among working adults who have been in the industry for several years and are seeking to boost their careers. Graduates with an MBA earn a median salary that is 75% higher than employees with just a bachelor's degree, according to a recent survey. Possible career options for MBA graduates include business administration, business management, and general management.

One of the top benefits of an online MBA program is flexibility. If you are working a full-time job and taking care of a family, it may be difficult to find the time to take on-campus classes. Most online coursework can be completed on your schedule from the comfort of your home. Additionally, no commute to campus means no dealing with parking or buildings with accessibility issues. Online programs are often more affordable than traditional on-campus options. Online MBA programs are designed to be adaptable to the needs of students.

Choosing a Major

Before you can pursue your MBA, you first need to obtain a bachelor's degree. Some of the top-earning majors for business degrees include information systems management, finance, marketing, and supply-chain management. Students who pursue these majors are well-positioned to find jobs in some of the fastest-growing industries, such as environmental management, healthcare management, marketing, and finance.

Finding an Internship

Internships help students gain experience, make connections and build their resumes. Additionally, internships can sometimes lead to entry-level jobs. Businesses that offer internships to people with disabilities are 4.5 times more likely to hire people with disabilities, according to research. In addition to the usual sources of internships, such as college networking events and job fairs, some programs specifically seek to match people with disabilities with internship opportunities.

Landing Your First Job

Many job seekers fear that interviewers will judge them negatively or ask awkward questions because of their disability. Preparing for your interview will help build your confidence. Know your rights. Interviewers are not permitted to ask you about your disability, though some may anyway. If your disability may impact your ability to perform all required job tasks or you will require accommodations, you may be required to disclose this. Otherwise, it is up to you how much or if you talk about your disability. If you choose to talk about it, focus on the positives and explain how you can overcome any challenges you have. Research the company and your interviewer. Practice your answers to common interview questions, including any information specifically related to your disability.

The world of business offers a variety of flexible, adaptable, and high-paying job opportunities. Pursuing an MBA is a great way to set yourself apart from other candidates and boost yourself into the top-tier of whichever industry you choose.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Are the ACT and SAT still needed?

The ACT and SAT tests - still relevant?

Lately, there's been a lot of talk circulating about a growing number of colleges and universities across the country scrapping ACT and SAT test scores as part of their admissions requirements. Indeed, according to an article that appeared in a special section of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel back on September 26, 2021, citing data from the educational consulting firm IvyWise, a whopping, "Seventy-two percent of colleges and universities adopted test-optional policies for the 2021-22 school year, and some schools are now extending that policy for the next one to two years..." (College & Career Guide, 2021, para. 5).

The article explains that the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly played a role in all of this, but that the practice of forgoing these test scores in the admissions process is not entirely new. In fact, according to the article, citing information from an education-focused financial planning resource called Edmit, "Since the mid-2000s, various universities have included test-optional clauses in their admissions policies" (College & Career Guide, 2021, para. 3).

Among the many colleges and universities that have eliminated, for now, ACT and SAT test score requirements, are, "...Cornell University, Penn State, Williams College, Amherst College, Boston College, and Columbia University" (College & Career Guide, 2021, para. 5).

But whether or not your top college choices are taking ACT / SAT scores into consideration at this time, it's still to your benefit to take the test(s), and to put forth your best effort with adequate preparation.

Even if the schools on your shortlist aren't looking at these test scores, the scores may still open doors to you in other ways. Try to see the test(s) more as a standalone, independent credential that can help pave the way to other academic and financial rewards and opportunities, rather than simply another standard item to check off on the college admissions "to do" list. Let's dive deeper and explore some examples.

The ACT / SAT and scholarship money

Many outside scholarship contests not affiliated with your chosen college(s) still look at these scores to differing degrees when determining who they are going to award. Many of these scholarships are local, coming from organizations like your own community's chamber of commerce; Lions, Kiwanis, Rotary, Moose, and Elk service clubs; neighborhood businesses and perhaps even your parents'/guardians' employers; etc. In short, many organizations and businesses that award scholarships are still taking these test scores into consideration. Some may weigh test scores less or more so than others, but nonetheless, they are being taken into some consideration. It's to your advantage, then, to still take these tests seriously. Not doing so may cause you to leave serious scholarship money on the table.

A possible resume builder?

A noteworthy test score(s) can potentially be used to your advantage on your resume/CV, at least for a time being early on, during the remainder of your high school years and into your college years. Combined with some solid work and service experiences, an excellent score(s) can be an additional way you demonstrate to employers and academic institutions/opportunities that you mean business.  

An objective, proven measure of skill mastery and academic potential

While test scores are far from being the only tool to measure knowledge, ability, and potential, they arguably provide a more objective, at-a-glance, snapshot of your capabilities. Noteworthy scores demonstrate in a quick and easy-to-understand format that you not only possess a good amount of academic knowledge, but also, and perhaps more importantly, that you can think critically and act strategically, as well.

Preparing you for college

Finally, a solid score on the ACT, and/or the SAT if you choose to take this test, demonstrates that you are indeed prepared to handle college-level work. Now, even if the schools you're seeking admission to are not considering these test scores as part of their admissions requirements, at least demonstrate to yourself - for yourself - that you are prepared for college-level work. At the end of the day, you're the one responsible for ensuring you're capable and up to the task. It's not the school that's responsible. You may be admitted to your dream college or university without having to submit these scores, but you can just as easily find yourself burning out and perhaps even dropping/flunking out. That's the stark reality of it. Take the test(s) seriously, to the absolute best of your ability, and do it for you, if for no one else. Do it for you.

Now, doing well on the ACT demonstrates that you have at least been keeping pace with grade-level work all these years. In other words, you're where you should be at, generally speaking. You're performing at grade level. Doing well on the SAT, meanwhile, shows that you're generally performing above grade level.        

Conclusion

While many colleges and universities across the country are not taking ACT and SAT test scores into account at this time when deciding on who to admit, it is clear that these tests are still relevant, for a variety of reasons. Solid test scores can still come in handy when competing for outside scholarships. Scores can potentially be used as a resume builder, demonstrating to employers and various academic institutions/opportunities that you take your work seriously. And finally, if for nothing else, noteworthy scores will show you that you're ready to handle college-level work. 

Reference

College & Career Guide.  (2021, September 26).  Colleges extending test-optional practices.  College & Career Guide section, p. 5S.  Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Monday, October 4, 2021

Tips for avoiding burnout in college

Tips for avoiding burnout during your first year of college

Your first year of college is likely to be filled with new and exciting experiences. Unfortunately, with this significant lifestyle shift also comes the possibility of burnout. Here are three tips that can help you avoid burnout during your first year of college so you'll better succeed in your studies.

1. Keep your partying to a reasonable amount.

It's easy for students to fall into the trap of partying too often - especially if they live on campus. While the occasional party is a great way to release pent-up stress, too much fun can lead to burnout if you aren't careful. To avoid burnout during your first year of college, be sure to keep your partying to a reasonable amount.

2. Avoid all-nighters whenever possible.

It can be tempting to hold all-night study sessions when trying to excel in your classes. Unfortunately, such demanding study schedules often do more harm than good, as lack of sleep can make learning less efficient and burnout more serious. In a previous post that I wrote a while back, I go into more detail about how cram sessions/all-nighters are often useless and not worth it. To keep yourself from becoming burned out during your first year of college, try to maintain a regular sleep schedule with few all-nighters.

3. Don't sign up for too many extra-curricular activities and clubs.

Now, I'm a strong proponent of clubs and activities. The learning opportunities and the potential for building valuable networking connections and lifelong friendships that come with such participation are tremendous. But while extra-curricular activities and on-campus clubs can be both loads of fun and meaningful, joining too many can leave you feeling stretched too thin. It really is a delicate balancing act. To avoid burnout during your first year of college, limit yourself to joining only the clubs and activities for which you feel most passionate.

Burnout is a genuine issue for many first-year college students. Because of this, students should always keep the problem in mind and take the necessary steps to avoid it if possible. Hopefully, by following the advice outlined above, you will be better prepared to avoid burnout during your first year of college.