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Going back to school? Tips to choose the right degree

Education - Wed, 07/30/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - For many, earning a college degree opened the door to the working world; it may have even been instrumental in landing your current job. But are you applying what you learned in college to your current career field? A recent survey suggests this might not be the case.

Only 35 percent of college-educated workers consider all or most of what they learned in college to be applicable to their current jobs, according to a survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of University of Phoenix.

Today, many working adults are returning to college to either complete a degree that better aligns with the skills required for their current job or earn a second degree to gain additional experience for a potential career change. The National Center for Education Statistics reports an estimated 8.7 million adults over the age of 25 were planning to enroll in college in 2013, up nearly 37 percent from 2000.

“There is significant progress being made in higher education to adapt to the needs of the employment market and tie curriculum to careers earlier in a student’s education,” says University of Phoenix School of Business Executive Dean Ruth Veloria. “It is critical to choose the right degree program so you know the knowledge you glean from coursework can be applied to the career you desire.”

Veloria offers these tips to help you get the most out of your educational experience:

* Research degree programs with a career in mind – Don’t wait until you are enrolled in college to determine your career path. Research specific positions, develop learning plans with an academic advisor and take career and skills assessments. Phoenix Career Guidance System is designed to help any student – from those just starting to those looking to advance their careers – research jobs related to different degree programs and discover which fields best fit their interests and personalities.

* Go straight to the source - If you know someone currently working in the career field in which you are interested, schedule an informational interview to learn more about the skills and experience required for that line of work. Don’t know anyone? Veloria recommends joining industry associations and attending networking events as a way to make new contacts and learn more about a new career field or job.

* Communicate with your boss – Your return to school will most likely benefit your company, so share your education plans with your boss, including how your classroom learning can benefit colleagues and special projects in the workplace. If your manager feels invested in your goals, it could be a source of support and motivation for you. Additionally, contact your human resources department to see if the company offers education reimbursement benefits to help pay for school.

* Consider certificate programs that lead to a degree – Many working adults balance school with workplace and family priorities, so it can take additional time to earn a college degree. University of Phoenix’s StackTrack certificate option allows you to move core courses toward the front of your degree program as you earn your degree. This program allows you to earn certificates along the way to degree completion to help you gain the knowledge needed to elevate your career.

“Researching and planning the education path you need to achieve your career goals is very important,” says Veloria. “You want to know that the skills you learn in college are the skills you need to advance your career to the next level.”

Categories: Lifestyle

Healthy lunch and snack ideas for back to school

Education - Wed, 07/30/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - If schools and parents received report cards on the lunches they’re serving kids, most wouldn’t receive a passing score. Many lunches, whether served at school or brought from home, are made with bleached flour, artificial sweeteners, food coloring, high-fructose corn syrup, artificial preservatives, hormones and trans fats. Studies have shown that these ingredients are linked to weight gain, defects in insulin and lipid metabolism, hyperactivity, increased risk of tumors, cancer, digestive issues, asthma, premature heart attacks, diabetes, and overexposure and resistance to antibiotics. Some of these ingredients are even banned in other countries.

As a parent, what can you do to keep your child healthy? Life Time – The Healthy Way of Life Company, suggests checking in with your child’s school to learn where foods are sourced, the nutritional values and ingredients in order to make informed decisions.

“The more highly processed foods are, the more likely they are to contain the seven unsavory ingredients. Meaning they are foods it’s best to find alternatives for,” says Laura Burbank, a registered dietitian with the Life Time Foundation.

“We encourage parents to speak with school nutrition directors and cafeteria managers about reducing the amount of highly processed and artificial items served in their lunch rooms, in favor of wholesome, real foods, and we’re able to help parents throughout that process,” Burbank says.

Until changes are made, Burbank advises actively engaging kids - starting when they’re young - in packing lunch at home. “Getting kids involved in packing their lunches makes them more likely to eat and enjoy them,” says Burbank. “They feel helpful and they’re learning along the way.” She says it’s important to include a protein, whole grains, fresh fruit, vegetables and healthy fats with every meal, and provides some ideas below.

Lunch box option one:

* Lunch: turkey or ham sandwich with avocado and spinach on whole grain bread. Look for meat that is free of hormones, antibiotics, nitrates, artificial preservatives and other additives.

* Snack: orange slices and string cheese.

Lunch box option two:

* Lunch: grilled chicken breast, avocado and roasted bell pepper or shredded carrots in a whole grain pita with a Greek yogurt based dressing or pesto.

* Snack: apple slices and almond butter. If your child’s school has a strict nut-free lunchroom guideline, include Greek yogurt with vanilla and/or honey.

Lunch box option three:

* Lunch: a wholesome PB&J made with almond butter and 100 percent fruit preserves on whole grain bread.

* Snack: hard boiled eggs, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers with Greek yogurt based vegetable dipping sauce, or pita chips and peppers with hummus.

Healthier lunch room choices

Burbank notes that sometimes making lunch at home isn’t a viable option. If that’s the case, she suggests parents discuss healthy lunch room options with their kids, as studies have shown that in addition to nutritional benefits, healthier diets also associate with higher academic performance. Things to consider include:

* Choose a salad when available to include more vegetables in the meal.

* Choose white milk over chocolate milk to cut down on sugar intake.

* Choose 1 percent milk over skim or non-fat milk, the higher fat content is more satiating.

* Choose whole grain pasta over bread which may contain bleached flour and preservatives.

* Choose red pasta sauce (vegetable-based) over cream sauce (high in fat).

* Choose fresh fruit over canned fruit which may contain artificial colors, preservatives and sweeteners.

Parents should also be encouraged to talk to the nutrition directors and cafeteria managers about reducing the amount of highly processed and artificial items in the school meals. The Life Time Foundation is a great resource for more information on this.

The Life Time Foundation partners with schools to help them remove highly processed and artificial ingredients from school meals by providing resources and assisting with menu development. For more information on how your school can get involved, visit www.ltffoundation.org.

Categories: Lifestyle

Going home again: A great office is a key to success for new home-based workers

Education - Wed, 07/30/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Whoever first said, “You can’t go home again,” probably wasn’t considering the 38 million home-based businesses in the United States, or the approximately 37 million households that have active home offices. More workers are plying their trade from home, as employers recognize the value of flexibility for their work force and more employees decide to enter the ranks of American entrepreneurship.

It’s not just small business owners or lucky full-time employees who are working from home, either; the Bureau of Labor Statistics says 24 percent of people employed outside the home work at home at least some of the time. If you’re poised to become home-based, here are some things to consider as you’re putting your home office in order:

Location is key

Without the need to fight rush-hour traffic during a twice-daily commute, you may think the location of your home office isn’t that important. Actually, it is. Where your office is located in your home can affect your productivity and even your personal life.

Choose a room that’s in your home’s heavy traffic lanes, and you could face frequent interruptions. Park your desk in the game room over the garage and you may feel isolated from the rest of the house. Try to stuff a desk in a corner of your bedroom and you’ll spend most of your life stuck in the same room – you may even feel less inclined to sleep there if you’re always working in your bedroom.

You’ll need to balance personal and professional priorities in order to decide which room in the house makes the most sense for your home office.

Good lighting sets the stage for success

The harshness of artificial lighting is a common complaint among people working in offices outside the home. A window in one’s office has long been a sign of prestige in cities across the country, and having abundant natural light in a home office is one of the many advantages of working from home. Natural lighting has a mood-boosting impact that’s been well-documented, making office workers feel happier, healthier and more productive. What’s more, use of natural light can help reduce reliance on artificial lighting and trim utility bills accordingly.

If the space you’ve chosen for your home office is short on windows and adding them isn’t practical, skylights can be a good alternative, not only for lighting but also to save valuable wall space for other uses. Adding Energy Star-qualified skylights, like those manufactured by VELUX America, can be as cost-effective as installing quality vertical windows, without creating the hassle of opening a wall. If you opt for a remote-controlled fresh air skylight, you can also use it to enhance the indoor air quality of your home office. Additionally, many of the features that make skylights appealing in other areas of the house – such as privacy in a bathroom or space conservation in a small bedroom – also make them a good choice for a home office.

Finally, skylights can be a good investment for your home-based business. Adding no-leak solar-powered fresh-air skylights and energy-efficient solar-powered blinds to your home office can qualify for a 30-percent federal tax credit on both products, including the installation costs. And from now until Aug. 15, there’s also a $200 cash rebate from VELUX on solar powered skylights. Visit www.veluxusa.com or energystar.gov to learn more about energy-efficient skylights.  Want to see how skylights would look in your home?  A free skylight planner app is available to show you, room by room, what’s possible with skylights.

Furnishings create a foundation

Considering how much time you’ll spend in your home office, it’s important to invest in furnishings that will be functional, comfortable, inspiring and in step with your lifestyle.

If you prefer to sit while you work on a computer, the comfort of your office chair will be key. Prefer to get in a bit of healthful exercise while you work? Consider an ergonomic desk that allows you to stand while you type. Many versions of standing desks also can be lowered for use while seated.

Desks should incorporate storage and easy access to electronic components. Office chairs should be comfortable and ergonomically correct. Be sure your furniture choices not only fit your needs, but the room’s, too. A huge desk may make you feel like a Wall Street CEO, but your enjoyment will evaporate if you don’t have space to walk around the desk in a small office. It’s important to keep office furniture appropriate to the scale of the room you’ll be working in.

The number of people working from home continues to grow, according to Census Bureau statistics. One study by a Chinese travel website found that working from home increased employee productivity by nearly 14 percent, according to the Harvard Business Review. Ensuring your home office is set up to inspire can help you achieve greater productivity and satisfaction as you work from home.

Categories: Lifestyle

4 reasons to make the move to a medical home

Community Cares - Wed, 07/30/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - The American health care environment is rapidly changing. One model of health care that’s expanding across the country is the patient-centered medical home. A medical home is not a physical location, as the name implies, but a team-based model of health care delivery led by a physician or other qualified provider (for example, a physician assistant or nurse practitioner) that emphasizes a life-long, personal relationship between patient and physician from birth to old age.

“From sick visits to chronic conditions, patients really benefit from the team-based care approach,” says John Burke, PhD, president and CEO of the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC), an accrediting body for health care organizations. “However, there are a variety of aspects and options to consider when determining if a medical home is the best choice for you.”

Focus on the patient: Medical homes help patients and families to manage, organize and participate in health care decisions as fully informed partners in their care. This leads to patients seeking the right care, from the right place, at the right time.

“Whether visiting your primary care doctor or a specialist, your entire family’s health records are centrally located to be quickly and easily accessed by any provider, from childhood through old age,” says Burke. “As your needs and care changes, your primary care could co-locate with a specialist needed, like an OB/GYN.”

Comprehensive coordination: In a medical home, a team of care providers is wholly accountable for the patient’s physical and mental health care needs, which includes the entire spectrum of care from prevention and wellness to chronic, long-term care. Physicians and nurses ensure care is organized across the broader health care system, should patients require a hospital stay or visit to a specialist, like a cardiologist.

This level of comprehensive coordination means patients are less likely to seek care from emergency settings, delay care or leave conditions untreated. It also means providers are less likely to order duplicate tests or procedures, which can lead to lower costs and more efficient treatment for patients.

Accessibility: Medical homes have been shown to reduce wait times, increase patients’ access to their doctor and keep better electronic health records. A more accessible doctor means a patient is more likely to receive preventive care, reducing the incidences and severity of chronic diseases.

Commitment to quality and safety: Knowing how patients fare after leaving the doctor’s office results in fewer future hospitalizations and readmissions. So physicians and staff are tasked with monitoring quality improvement goals and using the data to track their patients’ outcomes.

Also, electronic health records and medication management allow doctors and staff to let patients know when it’s time for vaccinations, check-up appointments or physical exams. The result is a bigger focus on wellness and preventive care, instead of a patient only seeking care when they are sick or injured.

How do you know if a medical home is meeting quality standards and clinical outcomes? AAAHC offers a comprehensive medical home accreditation that grades providers on how well they meet standards of care – including continuity and accessibility of care, clinical records and health information and the quality care patients receive.

“We look for and evaluate requirements in a medical home, like the relationship among the patient and their providers,” says Burke. “Becoming a medical home is a transformative process, and the only true way to assess a medical home is at the point of care and from a patient perspective.”

For more information, visit aaahc.org/medicalhome.

Categories: Lifestyle

Going home again: A great office is a key to success for new home-based workers

Business/Careers - Wed, 07/30/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Whoever first said, “You can’t go home again,” probably wasn’t considering the 38 million home-based businesses in the United States, or the approximately 37 million households that have active home offices. More workers are plying their trade from home, as employers recognize the value of flexibility for their work force and more employees decide to enter the ranks of American entrepreneurship.

It’s not just small business owners or lucky full-time employees who are working from home, either; the Bureau of Labor Statistics says 24 percent of people employed outside the home work at home at least some of the time. If you’re poised to become home-based, here are some things to consider as you’re putting your home office in order:

Location is key

Without the need to fight rush-hour traffic during a twice-daily commute, you may think the location of your home office isn’t that important. Actually, it is. Where your office is located in your home can affect your productivity and even your personal life.

Choose a room that’s in your home’s heavy traffic lanes, and you could face frequent interruptions. Park your desk in the game room over the garage and you may feel isolated from the rest of the house. Try to stuff a desk in a corner of your bedroom and you’ll spend most of your life stuck in the same room – you may even feel less inclined to sleep there if you’re always working in your bedroom.

You’ll need to balance personal and professional priorities in order to decide which room in the house makes the most sense for your home office.

Good lighting sets the stage for success

The harshness of artificial lighting is a common complaint among people working in offices outside the home. A window in one’s office has long been a sign of prestige in cities across the country, and having abundant natural light in a home office is one of the many advantages of working from home. Natural lighting has a mood-boosting impact that’s been well-documented, making office workers feel happier, healthier and more productive. What’s more, use of natural light can help reduce reliance on artificial lighting and trim utility bills accordingly.

If the space you’ve chosen for your home office is short on windows and adding them isn’t practical, skylights can be a good alternative, not only for lighting but also to save valuable wall space for other uses. Adding Energy Star-qualified skylights, like those manufactured by VELUX America, can be as cost-effective as installing quality vertical windows, without creating the hassle of opening a wall. If you opt for a remote-controlled fresh air skylight, you can also use it to enhance the indoor air quality of your home office. Additionally, many of the features that make skylights appealing in other areas of the house – such as privacy in a bathroom or space conservation in a small bedroom – also make them a good choice for a home office.

Finally, skylights can be a good investment for your home-based business. Adding no-leak solar-powered fresh-air skylights and energy-efficient solar-powered blinds to your home office can qualify for a 30-percent federal tax credit on both products, including the installation costs. And from now until Aug. 15, there’s also a $200 cash rebate from VELUX on solar powered skylights. Visit www.veluxusa.com or energystar.gov to learn more about energy-efficient skylights.  Want to see how skylights would look in your home?  A free skylight planner app is available to show you, room by room, what’s possible with skylights.

Furnishings create a foundation

Considering how much time you’ll spend in your home office, it’s important to invest in furnishings that will be functional, comfortable, inspiring and in step with your lifestyle.

If you prefer to sit while you work on a computer, the comfort of your office chair will be key. Prefer to get in a bit of healthful exercise while you work? Consider an ergonomic desk that allows you to stand while you type. Many versions of standing desks also can be lowered for use while seated.

Desks should incorporate storage and easy access to electronic components. Office chairs should be comfortable and ergonomically correct. Be sure your furniture choices not only fit your needs, but the room’s, too. A huge desk may make you feel like a Wall Street CEO, but your enjoyment will evaporate if you don’t have space to walk around the desk in a small office. It’s important to keep office furniture appropriate to the scale of the room you’ll be working in.

The number of people working from home continues to grow, according to Census Bureau statistics. One study by a Chinese travel website found that working from home increased employee productivity by nearly 14 percent, according to the Harvard Business Review. Ensuring your home office is set up to inspire can help you achieve greater productivity and satisfaction as you work from home.

Categories: Lifestyle

Ideas for awesome classroom enhancements

Education - Wed, 07/30/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - The approach of the school year has parents seeking out the best deals on back-to-school supplies, and teachers everywhere are preparing their classrooms to give students the best educational experience possible. From decorations designed to create engaging learning environments to having extra supplies on hand for students, the back-to-school shopping season requires a bit of planning by teachers.

On average, teachers spend more than $400 of their own money each year to purchase supplies and decorating materials for their classrooms. This year as they stock up on those needed materials, teachers can use them to create awesome rooms where students will love coming to learn.

* Elementary rooms – Picture books, numbers magazines, puzzle books and a large collection of crafting supplies are often needed in elementary school classrooms to create the perfect learning environment for younger children. Plastic containers, shelving dividers, colorful hanging tote bags and boxes – all decorated with fun shapes and colors – are the perfect way to keep the classroom organized. A teacher could create a puzzle corner to provide challenging word, mathematical or even scientific puzzles to stimulate their students’ minds. Keep extra paper, pencils and calculators in this area so students have the materials needed to stay engaged.

* Middle school rooms – In middle school, students tend to rotate from classroom to classroom to study different topics. It’s good to keep them moving in the classroom as well to engage their interest. Teaching history? Use media photos and crafting paper to create a timeline of historical events wrapping along the walls around the room. Are you an English teacher? Paint a door with chalkboard paint and provide colorful chalk for students to create short poems or words of inspiration for their classmates. Challenge them to create art with their words on the chalkboard and print out finished pictures of projects to decorate the board. At the end of the quarter or semester ask the students to vote on the most creative project.

* High school rooms – At high school, students need less action, but they still appreciate stimulation. Math students can use graphing calculators to create graphs of different trig functions, and then print those graphs on paper to create colorful and beautiful wall designs. Physics teachers can set up plastic boxes of problems featuring subjects their students are interested in. Namely, the cars they drive to and from school or the sports teams they support on Friday nights. Fill the boxes with different situations related to these subjects, and have the students apply the laws of physics to calculate what will happen to the car, or if the sports player will make the play.

Teachers can save money on their classroom supplies and decor by enrolling in the Staples Teacher Rewards program. Those who are enrolled will receive a coupon for 25 percent off any purchase of $10 or more to be redeemed during the Teacher Appreciation Event Aug. 1 – 3, alternatively they can provide their Staples Teacher Rewards Number at checkout. These savings are only available for teachers, and exclude any technology items. Educators who are not currently Teacher Rewards members can sign up at any Staples store, Aug. 1-3, and receive 25 percent back in rewards during this special Teacher Appreciation event. Exclusions apply, see store for details. Visit StaplesRewardsCenter.com to learn more.

The school bell will be ringing soon, which means teachers need to get their classrooms in order for a great year of learning. Whether they’re looking for materials to support a room theme or extra supplies to have on hand for student use, Staples has the school supplies needed.

Categories: Lifestyle

Help your kids make the grade with healthy back-to-school snacks

Education - Wed, 07/30/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - School means big adjustments and big demands for everyone involved: shopping for supplies, shuttling here and there, studying – or overseeing the studying – special projects, and more. It’s easy to forget nutrition in all the hustle and bustle.

Make a pact to embrace healthful eating, whether breakfast on the run, packed lunches or after-school snacks. In other words, plan now to fuel those little bodies with something better than potato chips and cookies and to nourish at regular intervals to avoid big dips in energy and focus.

The first step is to start the day off right. Eating breakfast helps the brain to function and has been shown to improve performance in school. In fact, children who eat breakfast score higher on cognitive tests than those who don’t. With a little forethought, you can stock your pantry with breakfast staples, and orchestrate a fresh and healthful breakfast that is also tasty and quick.

One of the easiest options is to simply mix yogurt with granola and top with California grapes for a balanced and nourishing boost to the morning. Pump up the good stuff even more with a Yogurt Power Bowl.  This breakfast-in-a-bowl combines Greek yogurt, fresh grapes, walnuts, chia seeds and flax seeds with a touch of cinnamon. The yogurt serves as a great source of protein, the walnuts, flax and chia seeds offer healthy omega-3 fatty acids, while the fresh grapes offer a fresh flavor boost and contribute beneficial antioxidants and other polyphenols that support a healthy heart.

Yogurt Power Bowl with California Grapes
Serves 4

Ingredients:

1/2 cup nonfat vanilla Greek yogurt

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

1 teaspoon chia seeds

1 teaspoon flax seeds

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

3 cups red, black or green seedless California grapes, halved

Directions:

Mix the yogurt, walnuts, chia, flax and cinnamon in a large bowl. Toss the grapes into the mixture to coat. Serve chilled.

Next, keep your child’s brain-power on a roll at lunch time by offering a balanced variety of foods. Grapes from California are an easy component of packed lunches; they complement sandwiches, salads and soups as well. Plump, juicy clusters of grapes help to hydrate and refresh, and won’t likely be traded off for something else. Grapes are easy to share, so you might just want to pack extra.

After school, kids need to refuel and recharge to accomplish the slate of afternoon activities, whether homework, sports, enrichment classes or simply a playdate. They aren’t alone, actually: according to a recent study by Technomic, 71 percent of people enjoy a snack in the mid-afternoon, with some 50 percent stating that healthfulness is important to them in a snack.

Fresh grapes are the quintessential healthy, but oh-so-tasty snack. They are the perfect finger food, easy to eat, convenient and portable. Grapes play well with other foods too, complementing cheese, crackers, nuts, yogurts and granola bars. Grapes from California are available May through January, with a wide selection of grape varieties available throughout the fall.

Consider these super snack ideas:

* Let the kids make their own no-brainer burritos: Spread a tortilla with whipped cream cheese, a sprinkling of cinnamon sugar, and line the center with grapes. Roll up for a tasty fruit-filled burrito.

* For a savory roll-up, spread cream cheese on a sun-dried-tomato tortilla, and top with sliced turkey.  Roll it up and slice to enjoy.

* Smoothies are a great way to add wholesome fruits and vegetables into your child’s diet. Enhance it with a spoonful of nut butter for extra staying power.

* Set out a platter of hummus, pita bread and fruit. Remember that hummus, while traditionally made from chickpeas, can be made from any type of bean, from black beans to white beans to pinto beans, and edamame (soybeans).

* Top an open-face peanut butter sandwich with bananas and grapes.

* Create a fresh trail mix with nuts, cheese cubes, chocolate chips and fresh grapes instead of raisins.

* Pair almond butter with fruit. Spread directly on apple slices or mix with a little honey for a peanut dip for colorful grape skewers.

* Frozen grapes are always a cool treat.

* Sometimes it is OK to play with your food! Create some grape caterpillars by threading green grapes onto bamboo skewers. To make eyes on the end grape, place a dot of cake icing on the back of each of two mini chocolate chips and stick them to the grape.

Categories: Lifestyle

Teenager danger: Five rules for young drivers

Education - Wed, 07/30/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - If you’re feeling nervous about handing the car keys to your teenager for the first time, you’re not alone. It’s a common sentiment given some sobering statistics. According to teendriversource.org, 20 percent of all 16-year-old drivers will be involved in an accident during their first year behind the wheel.  And studies show more teenage motor vehicle fatalities happen during the summer than any other time of year. But there are some things you can do to help keep your teenager from becoming a statistic. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) has some tips and tools to keep your teen safe.

Though auto accidents are a fact of life for most drivers, even a minor fender bender can impact insurance rates, costing parents and teens for years to come. The good news is research shows teen drivers who follow rules are half as likely to get in an accident. Before your teen hits the road, consider establishing some simple guidelines to protect his or her safety and your wallet:

1. Set a driving curfew. More than 40 percent of teen auto deaths occur between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. Set a curfew to keep your teen off the road during these times.

2. Limit passengers. A teen’s relative risk of being involved in a fatal crash increases with each additional passenger. More passengers equal more potential distractions.

3. Make the cell phone off limits while driving. Talking and texting can double the likelihood of an accident. If your teen must use the phone, instruct him or her to pull over before doing so and be sure to set a good example when you are behind the wheel.

4. Empower your teen to exercise his or her rights as a passenger. Only 44 percent of teens say they would speak up if someone were driving in a way that scared them. Remind your teens they are just as vulnerable in an accident as the driver, so they should speak up if they feel unsafe.

5. Be Prepared. Arm your teens with the knowledge of what they should do if they do get into an accident. Mobile apps such as WreckCheck can help take the guesswork out of a tense situation, guiding users through a step-by-step process to create an accident report. WreckCheck uses your device’s location service, camera and audio recorder to document all pertinent information about the incident and provides tips on how to file and follow up on a claim.

A Teen Driver Contract is a simple way to keep your teen accountable. It establishes basic driving ground rules and clearly lays out the consequences associated with driving privileges. The NAIC has developed an online tool to guide parents through building a customized Teen Driver Contract. There’s also a downloadable sample contract to help get you started.

Educating yourself and your new driver about the risks and insurance implications of unsafe driving can save lives and money. As your teen begins his or her journey on the roadways, take time to speak openly and candidly about your expectations for behind-the-wheel behavior.

Categories: Lifestyle

Teenager danger: Five rules for young drivers

Automotive - Wed, 07/30/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - If you’re feeling nervous about handing the car keys to your teenager for the first time, you’re not alone. It’s a common sentiment given some sobering statistics. According to teendriversource.org, 20 percent of all 16-year-old drivers will be involved in an accident during their first year behind the wheel.  And studies show more teenage motor vehicle fatalities happen during the summer than any other time of year. But there are some things you can do to help keep your teenager from becoming a statistic. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) has some tips and tools to keep your teen safe.

Though auto accidents are a fact of life for most drivers, even a minor fender bender can impact insurance rates, costing parents and teens for years to come. The good news is research shows teen drivers who follow rules are half as likely to get in an accident. Before your teen hits the road, consider establishing some simple guidelines to protect his or her safety and your wallet:

1. Set a driving curfew. More than 40 percent of teen auto deaths occur between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. Set a curfew to keep your teen off the road during these times.

2. Limit passengers. A teen’s relative risk of being involved in a fatal crash increases with each additional passenger. More passengers equal more potential distractions.

3. Make the cell phone off limits while driving. Talking and texting can double the likelihood of an accident. If your teen must use the phone, instruct him or her to pull over before doing so and be sure to set a good example when you are behind the wheel.

4. Empower your teen to exercise his or her rights as a passenger. Only 44 percent of teens say they would speak up if someone were driving in a way that scared them. Remind your teens they are just as vulnerable in an accident as the driver, so they should speak up if they feel unsafe.

5. Be Prepared. Arm your teens with the knowledge of what they should do if they do get into an accident. Mobile apps such as WreckCheck can help take the guesswork out of a tense situation, guiding users through a step-by-step process to create an accident report. WreckCheck uses your device’s location service, camera and audio recorder to document all pertinent information about the incident and provides tips on how to file and follow up on a claim.

A Teen Driver Contract is a simple way to keep your teen accountable. It establishes basic driving ground rules and clearly lays out the consequences associated with driving privileges. The NAIC has developed an online tool to guide parents through building a customized Teen Driver Contract. There’s also a downloadable sample contract to help get you started.

Educating yourself and your new driver about the risks and insurance implications of unsafe driving can save lives and money. As your teen begins his or her journey on the roadways, take time to speak openly and candidly about your expectations for behind-the-wheel behavior.

Categories: Lifestyle

5 packing tips to make the back-to-college move easier

Education - Tue, 07/29/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Back-to-school season has thousands of college students packing their childhood rooms into cars, vans and moving trailers to transport into dorms and off-campus apartments. While college students usually don’t have a lot of belongings that need to be moved, the process can be exhausting and overwhelming.

Whether you're moving to college for the first time or the third, you'll find there are ways to make your move smarter and, believe it or not, more enjoyable. There are many resources available to make the move to college much easier. One of the most practical things you can do is to rent a moving truck. Since college moves often mean traveling long distances, it can be hard to get a lot of people to help with the move. Rather than stuffing gear into multiple vehicles, a truck is a good, simple solution.

Rather than relying on guesswork, take some tips from the experts at Penske Truck Rental:

1. Condense. College apartments are small and dorm rooms even smaller. Especially if you have a roommate. Everything you own will not fit, so make the effort before you start packing to take only the essentials. Pare things down by considering what you need most. For instance, if you have some clothes you like for special occasions but wear rarely, it is best not to bring them. Instead, take the clothes, shoes and personal items you wear time and time again. As for what you'll need, see if your college has a checklist of essential items; this can be used as a guide.

2. Tackle packing bit by bit. Last-minute packing leads to stress and the potential to either over pack, or forget something. Start early and create a running list of items you need to bring but are unable to pack until it’s time to leave. Also keep a box open and waiting for additional items as you think of them. When moving day finally comes, make sure you have sturdy boxes in a variety of sizes, along with foam "peanuts" and bubble wrap to protect your fragile items, as well as a good supply of packing tape and bold markers for labeling boxes. Moving blankets and hand trucks will make the experience easier, so be sure you've got them on hand.

3. Mark and group. Label the outside of your boxes as you pack. Try making a generalized list of what's in the box. It's also a good idea to label the box with your first name or a symbol that'll help you recognize what's yours, particularly if you have roommates or are moving into a dorm. In the hectic whirlwind of thousands of students moving in at once, it's important to cut down on confusion.

4. Plan ahead. If you're renting a moving truck, it's essential to reserve it at least two weeks in advance. Because it's a busy moving season, delaying could leave you stuck without transportation. Most movers find the 12- or 16-foot truck perfect for moving a few large items or the contents of a small apartment. For guidance with truck selection, visit www.PenskeTruckRental.com.

5. Safety and security. Trucks are taller, wider, heavier, and they require more stopping distance than the vehicle you are used to driving. Take extra precautions, especially when the truck is loaded. Watch out for low-hanging tree branches and building overhangs, and use extra caution when cornering. To protect your belongings, park in well-lit areas and padlock the rear door, especially if stopping for the night. If possible, back the truck up tight against a building wall to prevent access to the storage area. This can be particularly important when moving to college, as thieves have a ripe opportunity to take advantage of the hectic moving days leading up to the start of the academic year.

One final packing tip is to keep the important documents like registration information and dorm confirmations, as well as credit cards, driver’s license, drinks and energy snacks in a bag that doesn’t get packed for easy access. For a complete list of moving tips, visit www.PenskeTruckRental.com.

Categories: Lifestyle

Growing your business: Tips for applying for small business loans

Education - Tue, 07/29/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - The outlook for small business is up with many business owners feeling good about the future of the economy, their financial positions and their plans for growth, according to Capital One’s Spark Business Barometer. But for many business owners looking to secure capital to either start or expand their enterprise, the process can be challenging, particularly for those with a limited or negative track record, or poor personal credit. Fortunately, there are a variety of products and programs designed to help address those challenges and enable business growth, one of which is offered through the U.S. Small Business Administration (or SBA).

SBA loans offer a number of key advantages, including longer payback terms and higher borrowing limits, which can be useful when financing necessities like real estate and equipment. For example, Freshbikes, a bicycle shop based in the Washington, D.C., area, worked with Capital One to refinance debt it incurred by expanding its business and opening new stores. This resulted in an improved payment schedule and additional working capital for the now-thriving business.

Unfortunately, despite the many benefits SBA loans offer, few small businesses take advantage of them, and those who do say they find the process for applying for SBA loans “complex and confusing.” In fact, Capital One’s latest Spark Business Barometer found that a majority (79 percent) of small-business owners are aware of SBA loans, but only 9 percent have actually applied for one (and most business owners who did apply found the process complicated.)

There are a number of ways to simplify the SBA loan application process, and given the SBA recently announced that they will extend fee waivers for loans meeting certain requirements, now is a great time to understand how these loans can work for your business and consider applying for one.

Capital One has a few tips to keep in mind when applying for an SBA loan:

* Know your business. The first thing any lender wants to know is how well you know your business. Do you know your cost of sales, gross margin, payroll expenses off the top of your head?

* Look for a Preferred Lender (PLP status). Preferred lenders have more experience and authority in processing SBA loans, which is critical when it comes to navigating the SBA’s requirements and procedures. Working with a lender who fully understands the process and can explain it to you will make life a lot easier. Since they are experts in this area, typically your loan will close more quickly, as well. Preferred lenders are usually listed on the SBA website for your state. You can always contact the SBA directly as well.

* Come prepared. SBA loans require comprehensive document packages. Be prepared with full copies of your personal and business tax returns for the last three years, current financial statements and projections and personal financial statements. Check the SBA’s website at www.sba.gov for required documentation for the product that interests you. Having a complete package up front can save a lot of time.

* Consider applying for a smaller loan. In an effort to streamline the application process, the SBA recently announced plans to maintain current fee waivers to make it easier to secure smaller loans for small business, including a 2 percent fee waiver for loans $150,000 or less. If you want to reinvest in your business, now is a great time to act.

Capital One is committed to helping small-business owners achieve their financial goals by offering SBA loans with features or opportunities that might not be available through conventional loans, and helping small-business owners to navigate the application process. For more helpful information on managing a small business, visit www.capitalonesmallbusiness.com.

Categories: Lifestyle

Growing your business: Tips for applying for small business loans

Business/Careers - Tue, 07/29/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - The outlook for small business is up with many business owners feeling good about the future of the economy, their financial positions and their plans for growth, according to Capital One’s Spark Business Barometer. But for many business owners looking to secure capital to either start or expand their enterprise, the process can be challenging, particularly for those with a limited or negative track record, or poor personal credit. Fortunately, there are a variety of products and programs designed to help address those challenges and enable business growth, one of which is offered through the U.S. Small Business Administration (or SBA).

SBA loans offer a number of key advantages, including longer payback terms and higher borrowing limits, which can be useful when financing necessities like real estate and equipment. For example, Freshbikes, a bicycle shop based in the Washington, D.C., area, worked with Capital One to refinance debt it incurred by expanding its business and opening new stores. This resulted in an improved payment schedule and additional working capital for the now-thriving business.

Unfortunately, despite the many benefits SBA loans offer, few small businesses take advantage of them, and those who do say they find the process for applying for SBA loans “complex and confusing.” In fact, Capital One’s latest Spark Business Barometer found that a majority (79 percent) of small-business owners are aware of SBA loans, but only 9 percent have actually applied for one (and most business owners who did apply found the process complicated.)

There are a number of ways to simplify the SBA loan application process, and given the SBA recently announced that they will extend fee waivers for loans meeting certain requirements, now is a great time to understand how these loans can work for your business and consider applying for one.

Capital One has a few tips to keep in mind when applying for an SBA loan:

* Know your business. The first thing any lender wants to know is how well you know your business. Do you know your cost of sales, gross margin, payroll expenses off the top of your head?

* Look for a Preferred Lender (PLP status). Preferred lenders have more experience and authority in processing SBA loans, which is critical when it comes to navigating the SBA’s requirements and procedures. Working with a lender who fully understands the process and can explain it to you will make life a lot easier. Since they are experts in this area, typically your loan will close more quickly, as well. Preferred lenders are usually listed on the SBA website for your state. You can always contact the SBA directly as well.

* Come prepared. SBA loans require comprehensive document packages. Be prepared with full copies of your personal and business tax returns for the last three years, current financial statements and projections and personal financial statements. Check the SBA’s website at www.sba.gov for required documentation for the product that interests you. Having a complete package up front can save a lot of time.

* Consider applying for a smaller loan. In an effort to streamline the application process, the SBA recently announced plans to maintain current fee waivers to make it easier to secure smaller loans for small business, including a 2 percent fee waiver for loans $150,000 or less. If you want to reinvest in your business, now is a great time to act.

Capital One is committed to helping small-business owners achieve their financial goals by offering SBA loans with features or opportunities that might not be available through conventional loans, and helping small-business owners to navigate the application process. For more helpful information on managing a small business, visit www.capitalonesmallbusiness.com.

Categories: Lifestyle

Promoting peer engagement through afterschool programs

Education - Mon, 07/28/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - As summer winds down, inevitably kids’ nerves begin to show with the thought of the upcoming school year. The changes that lie ahead, be it a new school, teacher or a grade level, can create anxiety in many children.

Interacting with their peers in an afterschool classroom setting can help alleviate some of those fears. Whether a child excels at athletics, academics, is a musician, or an artist, finding the right enrichment program does not have to be a daunting task. Many parents are familiar with S.T.E.M. terminology and with the inclusion of arts in the mix, STEM has evolved into STEAM. With science-, technology-, engineering-, arts- and mathematics-focused programs, children have the opportunity to learn afterschool what many curriculum cuts have depleted during regular school hours.

One standout program, Bricks 4 Kidz, helps to boost self-esteem in children with an award-winning, STEAM-based curriculum that boasts both learning through creative play and playing to learn with LEGO Bricks. “Engaging with their peers in afterschool classes, students collaborate outside of their structured class, allowing for a broader scope of retention and participation,” says Dan O’Donnell, COO of Creative Learning Corporation, the franchise developer of Bricks 4 Kidz.

Integrating these condensed classes into busy back-to-school schedules should be a priority for parents looking for project-based programs designed to improve social interaction, in-classroom engagement and academic performance.

When signing up for an afterschool program, look for one that:

* Emphasizes cognitive development, while building self-esteem in a fun environment.

* Implements relatable tools for children to learn with, such as LEGO Bricks.

* Allows children the opportunity to work with peers as well as individually.

* Promotes creativity through engaging lesson plans.

“Our certified teachers guide students through model builds using cooperative teaching techniques as well as allowing for individual construction time for visionary thinkers,” says Michelle Cote, founder of Bricks 4 Kidz. “Every new school year gives us a perfect chance to expose children to more creative learning with our proprietary model builds that we develop throughout the year.”

LEGO Bricks have become the ultimate afterschool teaching tool, illustrating the principles and methods of engineering with age and skill-appropriate lessons ranging from kindergarten through middle school. With the addition of gears, motors and robotics, children grasp technology through hands-on participation in these enrichment classes. Hours that were once lost to afterschool boredom can now be filled with a multitude of learning opportunities.

After-school enrichment programs with an emphasis on STEAM-based fundamentals allow children to collaborate with their peers, teaching teamwork and organization while improving fine motor skills.

To find a Bricks 4 Kidz program in your area, visit the interactive map at www.bricks4kidz.com. You can learn more about the programs and new afterschool programs by searching for a location by state or zip code.

Categories: Lifestyle

Strategic tips to save money on back-to-school deals

Education - Mon, 07/28/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - The cost to send children back to school increased 5.3 percent for elementary and middle school students and 9.5 percent for high-schoolers last year, according to Huntington National Bank's annual Backpack Index. When prices increase that much from year to year, it’s a good idea to plan ahead and look for ways to save.

Before the back-to-school sales are posted, start creating lists of the supplies your children will need so you can keep an eye out for when they go on sale. There’s a good chance your school district already has a supplies list posted on the district’s website. Next, put these strategies to use to save even more money:

* Buy in bulk – No. 2 pencils, notebooks, 3-ring binders and folders are items that have been on school-supply lists for decades, and even with the advancement of technology, they will probably still be required long after your children graduate. If you have the storage space, stock up on these items to take advantage of bulk discounts; you’ll have access to the supply for many years to come. If you don’t have the storage space, contact friends with children, and ask if they want to go in with you on a bulk purchase, helping everyone save some money.

* Shop online – Coupon codes and discounts for free shipping are readily available during the summer months. Ebates.com has thousands of deals via online retailers, providing you with plenty of opportunities to save on all your back-to-school shopping needs. In addition to offering discounts, Ebates.com also has a cash-back program. For example, if you decide to purchase school supplies from Target.com, you can earn up to 2.5 percent of your total purchase, providing you with additional savings.

* Use an app – Price-comparison apps are making it easier for parents to take advantage of back-to-school sales. Most of them are set up for you to type in a product’s name, and they provide you with the store and price of the item. Some also have alerts to notify you when a price drops or when a price is listed at the amount you want to pay for the item.

* Membership discounts – If you belong to travel membership clubs, wholesalers clubs or other clubs that offer membership perks, ask about discounts for your back-to-school shopping list. Keep in mind that your children will probably need new clothes for the school year, and clothing discounts can add up to significant savings.

The Backpack Index estimates families of elementary students spent $577 on school supplies last year. That amount rose to $1,223 for high-school students. These strategies for finding discounts can help your family significantly reduce those costs, while still sending your children to school with the supplies they need.

Categories: Lifestyle

Expert tips for making peer learning part of your child's academic success

Education - Mon, 07/28/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - As students young and old head back to school, attention turns to getting good grades. Smart parents know that positive study habits boost success in the classroom, but finding ways to encourage kids academically can be difficult. A growing body of evidence proves peer learning and study groups are main drivers for academic success.

“Parents want children to succeed across all academic facets. Peer tutoring, a teaching strategy used regularly in classrooms, has been found by research to optimize student performance in all academic areas,” says Dr. Michele Borba, an internationally recognized expert and author on children, teens, parenting, bullying and moral development.

“Not only does it boost achievement, but it also helps students learn critical life skills like communication, goal-setting, teamwork, cooperation and more,” says Borba. “For today’s tech-savvy generation, it’s also a wonderful opportunity to boost face-to-face time and it’s a fun way for kids to stay connected with peers as well as meet new friends.”

According to the National Education Association, “Peer tutoring is a beneficial way for students to learn from each other in the classroom. While one student may excel in math, another student may be top-notch in English. These two students can work together to help each other understand difficult concepts, while deepening their own knowledge of the subject.”

Borba explains that having a study buddy can change the dynamic of homework and study time. For the overscheduled child, the procrastinator or the one who hates homework, parents often find themselves nagging less when children encourage each other and learn together.

Borba suggests five tips for adopting peer learning, encouraging positive study habits and positioning kids for academic success:

Find a buddy
Encourage students to find a classmate to exchange phone numbers and emails with should they be absent or miss a lesson. In this case, modern forms of communication like text messaging and emails are an acceptable way to ask for help.

Stay organized
Cooperative group work promotes creativity and teamwork. Offer helpful tools like products from the Post-it Study collection to help make time spent working more effective. The Post-it Study Notebook Kit attaches inside back covers of text books, notebooks or planners and folds out allowing for easy access to notes and flags while studying. Students can also use note tabs to write down key facts and information from textbooks and then remove the notes from the book to use them as study cards while reviewing for a test.

Reduce stress factors
Social situations at school, tests and academic concerns, and worries about the future are just some sources of anxiety for teens. You can help your child work through this stress by teaching coping skills, healthy study habits and good social skills that can carry them through future stages of life.

Encourage peer study
Peer interaction can help reduce stress, so encourage your child to interact with others in a positive way. For example, students can create study groups and communicate with one another about tests, assignments, group projects and more. Use Post-it Study products to make time spent together efficient and fun. Students can write down questions and key facts that are guaranteed to be on the test on Post-it Study Notes and rotate them amongst the group to test one another. Building relationships can make school work more enjoyable and the school a safer environment.

Find a mentor
Parents play a key role in a child’s healthy development academically and beyond, but it’s also important for kids to have role models outside the household. Consider matching kids with mentors who are a social and academic fit. Ask your school guidance counselor for a tutor who is slightly older, as students often look up to those who are a peer group ahead of them.

For more information and additional study tips from Dr. Michele Borba, visit www.post-it.com/study.

Categories: Lifestyle

Carpools and school buses: tips for arriving to school safely and on time

Automotive - Mon, 07/28/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Your children are getting older and with each new grade level they want more independence. You’re OK with that, but you still get a little worried when you think about them getting to school safely each day. Whether they drive themselves, ride in a carpool or they take the bus, safety is paramount.

Follow these safety precautions and you’ll make sure your independent student is there and ready to focus on schoolwork each and every morning.

Tips for traveling by car

* Take your time. Leaving plenty of time to arrive at school ensures no one will be late. It also prevents the driver from speeding, or failing to look before changing lanes or pulling into an intersection.

* Wear your seatbelt. This one’s easy if you’re driving the carpool – everyone buckles up. If your teen is driving alone however, make sure you stress the importance of seat belts. Research shows 17,000 people a year died in crashes, who could have been saved if they had worn a seat belt. No one wants to join that list.

* Make sure the car is ready. Sometimes the weather conditions are less than optimal. That’s why it’s important to have your car ready for any weather. Rain-X Latitude Wiper Blades offer virtually streak-free visibility in rain, sleet or snow, assuring no matter what Mother Nature is doing outside, you or your teen will have clear visibility. And to keep the rain from collecting on your windshield in the first place, use Rain-X 2-in-1 Glass Cleaner with Rain Repellent. It automatically repels rain, sleet and snow, improving your wet weather visibility. Better visibility means better response time. In tests conducted by a major university, response time improved up to a full second or more. At highway speeds, that is almost four car lengths of extra stopping distance.

* Don’t drive distracted. Focus on something other than the road and you or your teen risks causing an accident. When operating a motor vehicle, there’s no place for cellphones, tablets, eating or anything else that might shift focus away from the road. It all can wait until you or your teen reach the destination.

How to keep the bus ride safe and simple

* Head out early. Make sure your kids give themselves plenty of time to get to the bus stop in the morning. Rushing to the stop can lead to accidents, especially if kids must cross a street or two.

* Help the driver. Children should stay 10 giant steps away did this recommendation come from the bus as it pulls up to the stop. This will enable the driver to see them and prevent accidents.

* Dress appropriately. Wearing a hood at the bus stop makes it more difficult for children to see or hear the traffic around them. Ask your child to keep his or her hood down until they get on the bus.

* Wait their turn. Children who run toward the bus as it is pulling into the stop risk falling under or in front of the bus. Instead kids should wait for the bus to come to a complete stop and open its door before walking – slowly – to get on.

A new school year means more responsibility for your child. Whether that responsibility includes getting on the bus by themselves or driving their own car to school, following the proper safety procedures will ensure everyone arrives safely and ready to learn.

Categories: Lifestyle

Easy ideas you can use to grow your child's imagination

Community Cares - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Albert Einstein once said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” It’s a pretty amazing statement when you consider just how much knowledge Einstein possessed. Today’s world always has a spot for creative, imaginative people. Whether they are designing the next dot com or the latest menu sensation, imaginative people are thriving everywhere.

So how can you help to strengthen your little one’s imagination and ensure they are as creative as possible? From analog to the digital, there are more fun, innovative ideas that can foster imagination than ever before. The following tips can help you grow your child’s imagination while creating some enjoyable, long-lasting memories along the way.

* Create the scene. Playing dress-up doesn’t have to be exclusive to tea parties. Encourage your child to dawn a costume and create a character based on that costume. The costumes can be lavish enough to include make-up or as simplistic as a new hat or mask. The important thing is that your child creates a new character or takes an existing character – depending on the costume – in a new direction using his or her imagination. Just make sure you dress up, too; this production needs a supporting cast.

* Travel with them to a faraway place. The genre-defining Skylanders video game series is best known for the innovation of bringing toys to life with games like Skylanders SWAP Force, Skylanders Giants and Skylanders Sypro’s Adventure. Now coming in October, Skylanders Trap Team, will continue to expand the bounds of your child’s imagination with an all-new adventure that reverses the magic of bringing toys to life and enables kids to pull characters out of the digital world into the physical world.

With Skylanders Trap Team you and your child have the opportunity to play together to seek out and defeat the most wanted villains in Skylands, pulling them out of the game and into living rooms by capturing them in magical Traps. Players can then send villains back into the game where they play as them in the fight for good.  You’ll enjoy exploring and working together to capture each villain and you’ll see your child’s imagination grow as the gameplay options expand.

* Encourage ad-libbing during story time. Reading to your child is a great way to strengthen their love of books and their reading comprehension skills. If you want to grow their imagination as well, make reading more interactive. Before you flip the page, ask your child what they think will happen next. They’ll create the story in their own mind and the answers may amaze you.

* Give them room to make their masterpiece. Art is one of the easiest ways to allow your child to develop their imagination. Create an environment that supports their artistic interests by setting aside space for a mini-studio. Make sure to include paints, crayons, markers and a big roll of paper to serve as their canvas. Line the area with newspaper because even the most determined little artists still make a mess from time to time.

* Take time to explore. These warm-weather months are the perfect opportunity for that nature hike or trip to the park. Turn the trip into an expedition by asking your child to create their own archeological adventure. This will make the warm-weather journey more enjoyable for both of you.

A child’s imagination opens their mind to limitless possibilities and no matter where their imagination takes the two of you, you’ll enjoy spending the time together.

Categories: Lifestyle

Take these steps to keep your kid's information secure on school computers

Education - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - A lot has changed since you were in school. Your children don’t listen to the same types of music you enjoyed, and they certainly dress differently despite your protests.

They learn differently as well.

Today’s classrooms are no longer focused on chalkboards and lectures. Digital devices tied to curriculum leveraging big data technology are becoming more central to learning and are key to creating dynamic classrooms that support personalizing learning for every student. This new approach is helping students to learn at their own pace and aids educators to deeply engage with students in their learning process. These new technologies rely upon access to student data to provide more informed instruction and individualized approaches to helping all students succeed.

But with the gathering of more data, schools have more responsibility to ensure a student’s privacy is safeguarded. Many parents are now asking schools about how their kid’s data is being secured. There are Federal laws in place to guide districts on protecting student privacy. These include  FERPA, COPPA, PPRA and even HIPAA regulations that help give districts some guidelines on privacy and security, but many of these regulations were created before the massive adoption of technology in schools and the laws haven’t kept pace with classroom realities. This places the burden of creating more modern plans for minors’ privacy and security on states and districts.

“While these laws are important for schools to understand and comply with, they alone will not ensure the privacy of student data,” says David Hoffman, director of security policy and global privacy for Intel. “It’s up to district officials, teachers and parents to ensure privacy and security are top priorities in school districts.”

As a parent, you know that new technology is the key to furthering your child’s educational development. But how can you be sure your child’s district is protecting student privacy? It’s simple, get involved. You can do so by asking your district these six questions about data security:

* What data are the school district collecting? Understanding what data are being collected makes you more knowledgeable about what your child’s school is doing with the data and allows you to better assess the risk if a breach occurs.

* Are district staff allowed to store student information on personal laptops, smartphones or tablets? These devices may not have the same level of secure protection as a district owned device and they will leave the district grounds, increasing the risk that they could be lost or stolen. If the district is allowing student information to be stored on personal devices, ask to see copies of all applicable policies requiring district staff to secure the information.

* What is the district doing to protect district owned devices? Ask what security measures have been used to encrypt data on district computers and whether there are guidelines regarding where district staff can take and use these district owned devices.

* What is required of the district should a data security breach occur? Should a data breach occur, the faster it is recognized, the better for all students possibly affected.  Ask to see the district’s policies regarding staff’s requirement to report such a breach and how quickly reporting must occur.

* Has the district experienced a data breach in the past? If the answer is yes, then ask what policies the district has changed to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

* Does the district use online service providers to host applications, such as websites, student information system, school cafeteria management, etc? If so, ask what data are being collected and how is it being used? Also, ask if there is a contract to cover responsibility for students’ personal information.

Technology is fast becoming essential to teaching and learning in schools everywhere. Making sure your child’s school is following robust data security protocols by asking the right questions can ensure a successful learning experience for everyone involved. You can learn more by visiting www.k12blueprint.com/privacy and following @IntelK12Edu on Twitter.

Categories: Lifestyle

6 tips for a safe and enjoyable summer

Community Cares - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Summer is all about spending time outdoors – either at home or away. Whether you’re hitting the road or taking a trip to the local park, it’s time for fun in the sun. And when you’re preparing for fun outside, remember that there are safety concerns to consider as well.

With that in mind, Master Lock offers these six tips to help make the season a safe and enjoyable one for everyone in your household:

* Make your backyard a safe place. Remember to put garden tools and lawn mowers away in a locked place after use. Un-stored tools could cause a fall or be used by young children as toys. Secure your shed or garage door with a high-security, weather-resistant padlock. Not only does this deter kids from using tools as toys, it also guards lawn equipment from theft.

* Sleep safely with the windows open. Sleeping with open windows provides a cool breeze for pleasant rest and helps many people sleep better. What’s more is that it lessens the chance of succumbing to carbon monoxide poisoning, a dangerous nighttime killer. Unfortunately, it also provides intruders with easy access to your home. Before enjoying this summertime routine, take proactive measures to ensure you do so safely. If you have a home security system (only 14 percent of North Americans do, according to the recent Safety and Security Survey), make sure it provides window security coverage. Otherwise, use a window-blocking device that prevents windows from opening more than 6 inches, and ensure windows cannot be accessed from outside. While you’re sleeping, ensure all doors are locked and safeguard patio doors from intruders with Master Lock’s Door Security Bar.

* Designate a family meeting spot. More than half of North Americans have not designated a meeting spot in case of a house fire. Choose one with your family now so you’re prepared in case of a fire. It’s also good practice to designate a meeting spot whenever you’re away from home. Whether you are at a carnival, park or away on vacation, always come up with a plan of where to meet. This will give you peace of mind in case someone in your family is separated from the group.

* Check your smoke detectors. Properly installed and maintained smoke detectors save lives and protect against injury and loss due to fire. Yet, survey results showed that only 7 percent of North Americans test smoke detectors monthly – the recommended frequency to ensure they’re always working correctly. Replace batteries yearly or as soon as you hear a low-battery warning sound - usually a chirping noise. Smoke alarms themselves should be replaced every 10 years.

* Create backups. With busy summer schedules, it’s easy to forget your keys before leaving the house. To avoid being locked out of your house, make extra copies of your keys and keep them in a secure spot. A lock box allows you to store your extra key and make it accessible only to those who know the combination.

* Prepare for the unexpected. Technology today makes it easier than ever to ensure you’re never without important information, such as your child’s insurance details or passwords to your online accounts. Store digital copies of your family’s important medical and identification information in a secure app such as the Master Lock Vault for access whenever you need them.

By taking the proper safety precautions, you’ll enjoy a safe and worry-free summer. To learn more about the products available from Master Lock, visit www.masterlock.com.

Categories: Lifestyle

How to change careers in 5 simple steps

Education - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - A teacher transitioning to a job in the corporate world. A stay-at-home mom rejoining the workforce. A baby boomer choosing a new career over retirement. There are countless individuals every day that carefully weigh the pros and cons of making a major career change. Are you one of them?

Driven by passion and the desire to have more satisfying work, eager individuals are taking the leap of faith and switching to an entirely new career this year. If you’re contemplating a career change, there are some important things to consider so you can plan and position yourself for success. These five tips will help you gain confidence in your decision to transform your work.

1. Define your passion
What do you truly love to do? It could be cooking, working with children, gardening, number-crunching, etc. Start by defining what you’re passionate about and realistically look at how that passion can be tapped so you can make money doing what you love. It’s also wise to analyze the reasons why you want to make a career change. Long-term dissatisfaction with your work might be a good reason to consider a new career, but isolated issues that have taken place recently might not necessarily be the best reason to make such a big life change.

2. Think outside the box
You may already know what you love to do, but finding a way to make it a career might be a more complex task. Think creatively and don’t be afraid to go outside the typical 9-to-5 job options. If you have an entrepreneurial spirit, starting a franchise can be a rewarding opportunity. For example, if you enjoy helping children learn and want to play a role in shaping the future of growing minds, consider being an owner/operator of a Kumon Math and Reading Franchise. By building a career with the world’s largest after-school math and reading academic enrichment program, you’ll be a business owner who is also a driving force for social good by having a profound impact on the lives of children in your community. Visit kumonfranchise.com to learn more.

3. Make time to plan
Changing careers is a huge step that can be challenging. It is not something that should be done impulsively, and you must give yourself time to plan. You’ll want to be sure you are mentally and financially prepared for what’s next. Setbacks are bound to occur along with the successes, and with thorough planning you’ll position yourself for even more positive outcomes.

4. Be practical and research
Changing careers is a journey, not a race. Being practical about decisions and making changes in stages can be helpful. Explore opportunities that are attractive to you and talk with others who work in that industry. They can provide the best insight into what the day-to-day responsibilities would be, including the pluses and drawbacks of the job. Remember to research the outlook for different industries and career paths as well. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook is a great resource.

5. Build a support network
Having supportive friends and family can be a key factor in successfully making a major career change. Make sure you have a network of supportive individuals who will be there for you through it all. Professional support can make a big difference, too. Franchise owners at Kumon join more than 2,000 individually owned and operated centers across North America, meaning they have the support of many other people who know the industry and what it takes to succeed. Additionally, having a mentor, no matter what career path you pursue, can provide you with expertise and counsel to help position you for a bright future.

Categories: Lifestyle
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