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Updated: 38 min 37 sec ago

Level up! Selecting the best video games for your children

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Kids love video games - they're exciting, fun and engrossing. While games can promote learning and growth, too much video gaming - or playing inappropriate games - can lead to negative consequences. What should parents know to make good game choices for their children?

“The video game rating system works well and is pretty accurate,” says Richard Fiore, an instructor in game art and design/visual effects and motion graphics at The Illinois Institute of Art – Schaumburg. The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) provides ratings from “Early Childhood” to “Adult Only.” Fiore says that while these ratings are accurate, it is up to the parent to pay attention to them.

For young children, Fiore says tablets are the way to go, because they are very tactile. He adds that it is important to get your child acclimated to technology, and tablets are great for children’s hand-eye coordination. “Leapfrog makes tablets that are tough enough for kids to play with,” he says. These tablets make age-appropriate games and provide children with technology that resembles what their parents have.

Ken Kavanagh, visual and game programming instructor at The Art Institute of Vancouver, says education software and software that makes a child think is better than twitch games, where children are simply moving a character around. “You can start a child on software earlier as long as you are adamant on it being educational,” he says.

As children grow, you can continue this with games that encourage creativity and imagination. He says a lot of online education games and storybook software are prominent for young children, where they have some interaction with the story.

Fiore recommends Disney online gaming for young children. All safety features are turned on so there is no chatting with strangers. He likes Club Penguin, because it is somewhat educational and fun. It allows children to play with other children around the world, with preloaded things they can say to each other. “It’s enough for kids to feel like they are playing real video games and being part of a community,” says Fiore. For online games, Kavanagh likes Hooda Math, which offers fun flash games that have an educational spin on them.

Children 6 and older can start to appreciate sandbox-type games such as Minecraft. Games such as this, with very few limits, “really fosters the kids’ imaginations,” says Fiore. “There’s a whole process that kids need to learn to build and create. I think those games are way better, because you aren’t simply racing a car or collecting coins or fighting.” He warns that the most important thing to remember is to turn off the chat function because it is the most dangerous part for children.

While educational games are great for children, Fiore says playing a game for fun every now and then is totally fine. Limiting a child’s screen time is also a way to ensure your child is experiencing other things outside the gaming world. Fiore allows his son to have one hour of screen time a day, but he can earn another hour by reading for an hour.

When looking at consoles, Fiore recommends Nintendo. “It seems like Nintendo has more appropriate games for kids,” he says. For instance, the violence in a game like the Mario games isn’t real violence, but cartoon violence. He also says a lot of children enjoy the Nintendo 3DS. It’s tough and doesn’t scratch. Fiore says if a group of children are sitting together with 3DSs, they are all probably playing the same game. This way children aren’t playing alone.

Fiore sees virtual reality as the future of gaming, but not necessarily a good idea for children. “I see that being a problem for kids, and I say keep them out of it.” He says children’s eyes are still growing and the virtual reality glasses can cause a lot of eye strain.

Once children start buying their own software, it is important for them to have been taught what they should buy, Kavanagh says. “You have to care what your children are interacting with.”

Categories: Lifestyle

Seizing a second chance: More adults going back to school to earn degrees

Mon, 12/15/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Henry Ford had three companies fail before he launched the game-changing Model T. Abraham Lincoln failed in business, lost multiple elections and had a mental breakdown before being elected the country’s 16th president. America is a land of second chances made good – which could explain the ongoing trend of more adults returning to college.

Between 2000 and 2012, the number of people 25 and older attending college increased by more than 2.1 million, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). By 2021, NCES predicts that number will grow by an additional 1.6 million-plus, bringing the number of older college students to more than 10.1 million.

“Adult learners return to college to gain advanced degrees or complete unfinished programs for many reasons, and enhanced marketability in the workplace and increased earning potential are just two factors,” said Tracy Lorenz, president of Western International University (West). “They are also doing it for personal satisfaction and to be better role models for their children.”

Among women, personal achievement is the strongest motivator, according to a survey by West. Nearly eight in 10 of the 1,000-plus women who participated in the online survey also said having a college degree is important to being a role model for their own college-bound children.

Ample data supports the belief that a college degree enhances one’s job and earnings prospects. The median wage for people with bachelor’s degrees is $457 more per week than workers who have a high school diploma, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Their unemployment rate is also significantly lower – 4 percent versus 7 percent for high school graduates, the BLS reports.

Research also backs the impact a college degree can have on one’s family. For example, working mothers who have bachelor’s degrees spend about 51 percent more time with their children than moms who only have a high school diploma, according to the College Board. Children of college graduates are also more likely to go on to college themselves, according to PostSecondary.org; 85 percent of children whose parents had a bachelor’s degree or higher went on to attend college.

Ease of access is also drawing more Americans back to school.

The rise of distance learning and online degree programs means you no longer have to live near a school – or relocate your family – if you want to return to complete a degree or earn an advanced degree. Online programs can also offer greater scheduling flexibility and lower ancillary costs to adult learners, many of whom work full time and juggle financial commitments like mortgages or rent and childcare costs. In fact, in the West survey, respondents said cost, accreditation and flexibility were primary considerations when choosing a higher education program.

“Colleges and universities are recognizing that there is a large shift occurring in the type of students that are looking to earn degrees and are offering programs that meet the needs of working adults,” said Dr. Benjamin S. Pryor, provost and senior vice president of Western International University.

Online degree programs like those offered by West cater to adult learners. Course content, cost and schedule flexibility are designed to make returning to college an accessible option for busy professionals. Adult learners enrolled in online programs are better able to fit weekly coursework into their schedules, and at West, receive instruction from faculty who not only teach, but are also currently working in their field of expertise.

As the number of adult learners continues to grow, more professionals will seek degree programs that meet their educational and professional goals, schedules and lifestyles. To learn more about Western International University, visit www.west.edu.

Categories: Lifestyle

New year, new career: Four growth industries for career-changers in 2015

Wed, 12/10/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - In early January 2014, 21 percent of American workers said they planned to change jobs within the next 12 months, according to a CareerBuilder survey. Introspection is common at the turn of the year, and people who plodded along in less-than-fulfilling jobs for the preceding 11 months begin thinking about what they can do differently in the new year. Many will turn to their education options to help improve their job prospects.

Earning a bachelor’s or master’s degree can help make you more marketable to employers, improve your chances for promotion, and enhance your earning potential. A degree can also help you change careers. Many working adults turn to competency-based universities, like Western Governors University (WGU), to earn a degree. Competency-based education lets students focus on what they need to learn and move quickly through what they already know, giving working adults the scheduling flexibility and cost savings they need to balance work and family while mastering the skills required for a degree. At WGU, the average student is 37 years old, and students attend from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

If you’re thinking about switching careers in 2015, WGU points to four growth areas to consider:

STEM education

Salaries for workers in science, technology, engineering, and math fields rose between 2000 and 2013, and the shortage of STEM professionals continues, US News recently reported. As demand for STEM workers has increased, so has the need for teachers who can prepare students to pursue STEM careers. Institutions like WGU’s Teachers College, which is the nation’s No. 1 producer of STEM teachers, specialize in degree programs that equip graduates to teach math and science at kindergarten through 12th grade levels.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts job growth of 12 percent for teachers in elementary and middle schools, and 6 percent for high school teachers between now and 2022, with demand for math and science disciplines higher than average.

Health care

With more baby boomers reaching retirement age and more Americans covered by health insurance, demand for health care professionals is set to increase significantly over the next 10 years. For career-changers, health care offers many well-paying jobs that require just two- or four-year degrees, and these are growing at a faster rate than other industries.

For example, according to the BLS’ Occupational Outlook Handbook, the industry will need to add more than 64,000 dental hygienists by 2022 in order to keep pace with rising demand. The job requires just a two-year degree and median pay is about $70,000 per year.

Information technology

Information technology affects nearly every aspect of modern life. The BLS notes that IT professionals are instrumental in keeping systems running, maintaining networks, creating new software, and keeping information systems secure. The industry shed fewer jobs during the recession and is expected to grow far more quickly than other industries, the BLS reports.

Most IT jobs – such as computer network architect or software developer – require a bachelor’s degree in information technology. WGU offers several bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in information technology, most of which include industry certifications as part of the coursework included with tuition.

Business

Demand continues to be strong for managers in all areas of business. Certain business occupations are poised to grow faster than the overall economy. For example, demand for medical and health services managers will increase 23 percent between now and 2022, the BLS predicts. The profession requires a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

Skilled managers will also find opportunities in IT, human resources, accounting, sales and marketing, and administration.

To learn more about Western Governors University and online bachelor’s and master’s degree programs that can lead to careers in these four growing areas, visit www.wgu.edu.

Categories: Lifestyle

Office ergonomics: Is your job literally a pain in the neck?

Mon, 12/08/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Millions of people work in an office environment every day, but that doesn’t mean their fate has to include back aches and joint pain. Correct office ergonomics can help prevent some of the most common issues associated with sedentary jobs, especially for hardworking small-business owners who typically put in many more than 40 hours per week.

Unfortunately, the message about the importance of office ergonomics often goes unheard. In fact, many small-business owners and their employees are sitting in pain, according to a new study released by Staples and Steelcase. The study shows that 88 percent of small-business owners say office chairs impact employee productivity, yet 13 percent say their chair is so uncomfortable it prevents them from doing their job to the best of their ability.

On average, employees spend 5.3 hours per day sitting, which means the chair is the foundation of a healthy office environment. Because the average office chair is 7.2 years old, the integrity of the chair’s support and functionality might be jeopardized due to its age. Furthermore, the chair may no longer be a good fit for the employee’s needs as the body can change over time.

When investing in a new office chair, ergonomics should be just as important as appearance. Seat height should be adjustable so the worker can have his or her feet flat on the floor and bent arms even at the height of the desk. Beyond an adjustable seat height, stylish office chairs from Steelcase also feature adjustable lower-back support for the lumbar and adjustable arm rests for personalized comfort. The chairs allow the worker to sit in contact with the backrest at all times, allowing for even pressure on both the lower and upper back.

In addition to a quality office chair, monitor placement is a key part of ergonomic office design. The height and distance of the monitor should feel comfortable at all times. The monitor should be directly in front of the worker about an arm's length away, recommends MayoClinic.org. This distance generally measure 18 to 28 inches, with the top of the screen slightly below eye level.

Keyboard and mouse position is another concern. The wrists should be kept in a straight, natural position when typing as much as possible, which is why many people choose to use an ergonomic keyboard that is designed for such positioning. The location of the mouse should be within easy reach and also should keep the wrist straight when in use.

In addition to having an ergonomic office environment, it’s important for workers to be aware of their body and health throughout the day. Ergonomic experts agree that taking short breaks for standing and walking throughout the day will increase blood flow and relieve tension. When typing, sit up straight rather than hunching over. Finally, the screen’s light should never cause eye strain; adjust the settings or purchase an anti-glare monitor screen to help. Try to give eyes and wrists a break at least once an hour by looking away from the screen and resting your hands.

A few simple steps will ensure the office is not only a place of productivity, but one of health as well. Start with the chair and expand from there so all workers can feel their best while on the clock.

Categories: Lifestyle

Continuing education provides competitive edge for job-hunters

Tue, 12/02/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - More Americans than ever are going back to school, continuing their education to add skills and credentials to their work portfolio. For many, keeping their expertise current with continuing education gives them the edge in a competitive job market.

Continuing education is not the same as going back to school to complete an unfinished degree, notes Dr. Marianne Greenfield, program chair at Argosy University, Atlanta.

“Continuing education generally refers to any type of post-secondary education for the purpose of keeping current with changes in a particular field of study or for preparation to obtain a certification,” she says. “Some professions require that you earn continuing-education credits in order to maintain a license. The goal of continuing education is to offer adults who already possess a college or university degree further opportunity for learning without having to enroll in a degree program.”

“Now more than ever, it’s important for employees and professionals to keep up with all the latest skills and relevant knowledge necessary to compete in today’s workforce,” says Dr. George Spagnola, chair of the College of Education at Argosy University, Sarasota. “While a traditional education is necessary in today’s workforce, it is also a cornerstone upon which one can build a better future through continuing education.”

Greenfield agrees.

“As more people obtain academic degrees, candidates whose skills and knowledge are current and relevant in the workplace will have the greater advantage,” she says. “Continuing education is especially important in areas such as human resources, engineering, technology, finance and health care, where rapid advances occur, leading to constantly evolving practices.”

Many professions require candidates to have certifications and licenses to qualify for employment opportunities, so continuing education is important for job-seekers and professionals in those fields.

Fortunately, it’s easier than ever to continue your education.

“Advances in technology have made continuing education more accessible,” says Spagnola. “You can pursue continuing education online, at a physical location or in a combination of both. Technology can help you continue your education and advance your professional knowledge while working and raising a family.”

Given the number of people raising families and working, that flexibility of education can be key to achieving success. Look for an institution or provider that can meet your educational needs while still allowing you to meet your personal and professional obligations.

“Seek out a student-centered institution that meets your needs both academically and non-academically,” says Spagnola.

“Although many course providers cater to those seeking continuing education, it is important to find an accredited institution to ensure your efforts yield results,” says Greenfield. “Look for programs that offer you access to and learning from quality instructors with real-life experience in the specific field of study. Make sure that the program you are considering is compatible with any requirements you will face for licensure.”

And while educational costs are always a concern, many people can find financial assistance in the form of tuition-assistance programs offered through their employers.

“Tuition-assistance programs are of huge benefit to employees and the company,” says Spagnola. “As an employee, you receive financial assistance for your education. Your employer, in turn, gets an employee who is advancing their knowledge and skills and applying them to the organization.”

“The benefits far outweigh the expense and many private sector employers will pay for or reimburse the expense if a compelling case is made for the added competitive advantage for the organization,” agrees Greenfield. “And if your employer isn’t able to assist you with the costs, the Internal Revenue Service allows you to deduct a portion of qualifying continuing-education expenses on your federal tax return. If you pay the expense on behalf of a spouse or a dependent child, you can also claim the deduction.”

For more information about Argosy University, visit argosy.edu.

Categories: Lifestyle

Head of the class: How to get accepted to the school of your choice

Tue, 12/02/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - With tuitions at an all-time high, the cost of college and the increasingly competitive job market have become major considerations for aspiring college students and their parents. Students are not only focusing on where they can get in, but where they can get the best education that will set them up for a desirable career. The most challenging part of the journey to success is oftentimes the first step – gaining admissions.

Where it was once considered common practice to only apply to three or four colleges, today’s students apply to 10-15. So how should today’s students tackle the daunting college admissions process?

There is a lot that aspiring college students and parents can do to prepare, according to Dr. Katherine Cohen, LinkedIn Higher Ed expert and Founder and CEO of IvyWise. As one of the nation’s top college admissions consultants, Dr. Cohen offers tips on maximizing college preparation, including leveraging your network, to get you onto the path towards acceptance into college, and ultimately your dream job:

Make the most of your college prep – start early, be prepared, and stay organized: The key is to start early and think ahead. Take the most rigorous courses available at your high school, particularly in the field of your intended major or in something that might interest you. If you think you might be interested in going into social work, take a psychology class. The same applies to extracurricular activities, select a few that are of interest and engage deeply. Admissions teams consider fit as well, and want to attract students who they feel will thrive and contribute to the campus community.   Perhaps the most important way to prepare is by doing careful and extensive research. A college should be a great fit for your career aspirations, as well as your academic, social, and financial goals. Don’t limit yourself to just a short list of name recognition universities.

Leverage available resources: There are a number of new online resources available to help guide you and your family as you tackle the college decision-making process. LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional online network, offers a range of new higher education tools that provide aspiring students and young professionals with the opportunity to make informed decisions on which universities, majors and skills will help them achieve personal and professional success in years ahead.

* University Rankings helps students identify and rank universities that are launching graduates into their desirable jobs in key industries, based on career outcomes of alumni from the more than 332 million LinkedIn members. Say you are interested in Advertising; did you realize that the University of Pennsylvania is one of the top schools for you?

* Decision Boards is a great new tool that helps prospective students organize their school search in one place. It also helps students make well informed decisions by enabling friends, family, alumni, and current students to provide advice and insight on a school that might interest you.

* University Finder helps students achieve their career goals by easily identifying schools that meet their interests based on desired area of study, companies of interest and preferred location.

Connecting, connecting, connecting is king: Even though students don’t have decades of professional experience, they can still develop strong relationships with their network of teachers, family friends and coaches – to help provide insight into suggested schools, how to tackle college applications and to provide recommendations.

Don’t forget to also connect with admissions officers, they hold the keys. Introduce yourself at college fairs, on college visits, and request their contact information in order to establish a line of communication. Ask meaningful questions but don’t bombard them – you don’t want to be remembered for the wrong reasons.

Use connections to seek out internships or volunteer opportunities to get hands-on experiences in a particular field. Students can achieve this by connecting with others on LinkedIn, and exploring possible connections through the LinkedIn University pages. Tap into the resources available to develop meaningful and influential relationships that can help you make an informed college decision.

Finding, applying, and gaining admission to the best fit college for you is an incredible challenge, particularly as it pertains to your job prospects and career path once you graduate. However, by following these tips and using the online resources available, you’ll not only find the best college for your academic and career goals – you’ll get in, too.

For more information, visit LinkedIn University pages: www.linkedin.com/edu/.

Categories: Lifestyle

Navy Reserve provides a great career option for medical students

Mon, 12/01/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - The schooling needed to become a doctor is extensive and expensive. There are four years of undergraduate studies, four years in a medical school, and then several years of residency, depending on the medical field the student wants to pursue. For doctors who want to pursue a specialized field, a fellowship is also needed, and this can add another one to three years of schooling.

The costs for this schooling can quickly add up, which is one reason medical students want to get as much paid experience as they can. One area where medical students are needed is the Navy Medical Reserve. Health-care professionals will gain experience helping others around the world at sea or at top medical facilities. They’ll be exposed to advanced training and technology so progressive, the civilian sector may not even be aware of it yet.

There are many medical career opportunities available in the Medical Reserve. You could work behind the scenes, or be on the front line of health care delivery. You could care for the health and mental needs of service members, or expand into the local community of a third-world country that’s been hit by catastrophe. Thousands of people serve in Navy Health Care, researching a better way of life or guarding against threats to human health.

Medical students who join Navy Medical Reserve may do the following:

* Use the latest techniques and technology in state-of-the-art facilities, such as a national naval hospital.

* Collaborate with skilled, dedicated colleagues using unrivaled resources.

* Support medical relief and education efforts around the globe.

* Take on leadership roles among leaders, giving students unrivaled management experience.

In addition, the Navy Medical Reserve is a team made up of professionals facing unique experiences that will improve your skills and increase your knowledge, which is something you won’t be able to find in the civilian world. Plus, you can get this experience while living at home, or just about any place around the world, on a schedule that fits your life.

As you contemplate the future years of schooling you’ll need to complete your medical degree, consider how serving in the Navy Medical Reserve can influence your career. You’ll discover high respect and admiration from the nation for your service.

For more information about opportunities to serve in the Medical Reserve, visit www.navyreserve.com/careers/healthcare.html.

Categories: Lifestyle
Michael Conochan’s Pro Football Recap- Week 15 Thursday Night Football 12/11/14 Arizona (11-3) 12...
On Monday, Dec. 15, the Glen Rose Lady Beavers took a road trip to Bismarck to face the Lady Lions...
On Tuesday, Dec. 16, Poyen High School hosted conference foe Mountain Pine for a set of games,...
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