Back to school prep for parent volunteers

As summer vacation comes to a close, students are not alone in their back-to-school preparation. Parents are readying their committee phone trees and snack schedules (nut-free, please) in an effort to stay involved with their children’s education. But the world of school volunteers has morphed over the last 15 years. Security concerns, technology shifts and shrinking education budgets have made volunteering harder, easier and more important than ever.

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Fairness in Education: Helping Boys Catch Up to Girls

Girls have surpassed boys in the educational arena. Girls earn better grades, beginning in kindergarten. More girls who enter college finish college, and women hold a majority of college degrees in the United States. In fact, the educational gender gap favors women so heavily that educational research has flipped from focusing on how to promote educational success for girls to why boys fell behind.

Women battled for this victory. Brave women fought to be valued in challenging academic fields that had long been dominated by men. This success in education presents an opportunity to continue to level the gender pay gap.

Still, in the spirit of leveling any gender gap, the fair-minded reaction to boys falling behind girls in school is a determination to help. After all, women are the mothers and teachers of boys and the partners and friends of men, and women have enjoyed the support of enlightened men in their own struggle. So after a toast to the women who made such lofty educational success possible, the boys deserve attention.

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Traditional Colleges Offer Best Options for Online Degrees

While unemployment creeps back from the brink of catastrophe and the economy gingerly takes steps toward recovery, the world of higher education, unfazed and even bolstered by the financial ups and downs of the last decade, welcomes ever-growing numbers of hopeful students into its fold. Educational institutions have met the glut of students seeking a degree with an excessive array of options, especially in the form of online degrees. While such degrees garnered little respect in the past, more students now choose the online route because they prefer the flexibility in scheduling and location. A breakdown of the types of online degrees as well as the pitfalls and dangers of online educational institutions shows that advantageous online options exist alongside risky and even illegitimate options.

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Intelligence Squared hosted a debate on April 2, 2014, with the motion More Clicks, Fewer Bricks: The Lecture Hall is Obsolete. Anant Agarwal, CEO of edX and professor at MIT, argued for the motion. Jonathan Cole, Provost and Dean Emeritus at Columbia University, argued against the motion.

Listen to the full debate on Intelligence Squared’s website.

Murky Future of Federal Education Funding Only Hurts Students

On March 1, President Obama put his signature on the sequestration cuts that loomed over Congress and the White House since the budget debates last August. Although Obama announced the need for more inclusive public preschool education and availability of post-secondary education through federal grants and loans in his State of the Union address in January, federal education funds took a big hit from the new cuts. Sequestration puts Obama’s education plans in jeopardy, but Republicans who oppose expanding federal funding for education, especially higher education, plan deeper cuts to the Department of Education in their proposed budget. In short, schools across the country must prepare for major cuts in the next few years, and students will feel the brunt of those cuts.

Sequestration, a White House fact sheet states, eliminates Title I funds for 2,700 schools and 1.2 million students affecting about 10,000 teachers and aides. The Title I program provides funding for schools serving high percentages of children from low-income families to help them meet academic standards. Cuts to special education drop federal funding for 7,200 teachers, aides, and other staff for both preschool and school-aged teachers. Preschool services, known as Head Start and Early Head Start, lose 14,000 teachers, assistants, and other staff through the sequester. Schools on military bases and Native American reservations, who cannot raise funds through property taxes, may close entirely since they depend largely on federal funding.

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Our Children Need Safe Schools, Not Prisons

Every child deserves to feel safe at her school desk. Gun control may divide the nation, but educators, parents, and politicians place a high premium on the safety of our school children. Unfortunately, consensus on the best way to ensure safety in our schools eludes everyone involved; proposals from arming teachers to continuing the status quo enflame each side. Installing armed security officers in every school emerges as the most popular solution, but even this answer draws ire from some corners. The discord boils down to one basic question: What should schools change in order to ensure the safest possible environment for students?

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Educational Regret Undone

My education disappoints me. I surprise even myself writing that line. But looking back at my post-high school choices, I feel I missed something, somewhere. Vaguely. I missed opportunities. I let potential slip by. I rushed too much. I only understood what I wanted from my education after it was finished.

What an introduction! Here it is, my first column, an education column no less, and I lead with my disappointing education. But I want transparency. I refuse the pretense that I possess the greatest expertise in the field of education. I possess passion for education. I possess experience in pursuing an education and providing an education. I possess a great many opinions regarding problems and solutions for the country’s educational system, top to bottom. But an expert I am not. I want to showcase successful educators, failing systems, students of all ages who are changing their world, and educational research and legislation. I will address education in all its facets. First, however, I address educational regret.

Read more from the WomanScope website or on page 26 of  the March 2013 edition of WomanScope News Magazine.

Analyzing LiveScience.com: Target Market, Competition and Online Strategy

LiveScience.com is an online science news magazine that publishes only science news, a narrower audience than most news magazines, and it is one of very few science news magazines to be online only. This market is unique because it is so narrow and focused. The average news consumer will get their science news from a broader news source: 24-hour network news, a newspaper, a Facebook feed, or the news blurb on the radio on the drive to work.

Two Target Markets

However, LiveScience isn’t just targeting their web readers. Aside from the website, LiveScience’s stories are syndicated to major news outlets like Yahoo!, MSNBC, Fox News, and AOL. LiveScience is targeting mainstream channels with their news via syndication. But with the website, LiveScience picks up readers that will visit their website to read the science news that isn’t picked up in the mainstream channels or to get more information about the science news that does get 15 seconds of fame on CNN. A bar across the top of their page helps readers find the most popular news by highlighting their trending stories. The website also takes advantage of social media with links to share their articles on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+. Readers can follow them on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ and they have an RSS feed.

LiveScience’s website says it has 8 million monthly visitors, claiming to be one of the largest science sites on the Internet. The journalistic but fun writing on the site focuses on clear explanations of science discoveries and innovations. The site also includes reviews of health-tech products.

Tech and Consumer-Focused Purch Publishes LiveScience

LiveScience is published online by Purch, based in Ogden, Utah, whose other brands are mostly review-driven websites like Top Ten Reviews, Tom’s Guide, Mobile Nation, Tom’s Hardware, Laptop, Buyer Zone, and Tom’s IT Pro. With Purch’s focus on tech and buying guides – their main site’s header is “We make buying decisions easier” – I’m interested to know how they got into publishing news. Their other news-driven sites are Space.com and Business News Daily, and they also publish How-To Geek and Wonder How To.

LiveScience.com’s site is high-volume but visually appealing, pairing beautiful images with every article. The light journalistic tone makes the news on the sight seem trustworthy, reliable and unbiased. LiveScience.com includes ads, mostly for tech products, including an ad that has to be closed before the site can be viewed. The ads, however, are integrated well with the site, and besides the popup, they aren’t too distracting. In fact, they are beautifully designed (even the popup). I wonder, with the tech ads and the tech websites Purch owns, what the connection is between the ads on LiveScience.com and the content on their other websites.

Stiff Competition

LiveScience’s subject and target audience are similar to DiscoverMagazine.com, PopSci.com, or ScientificAmerican.com, all online science news magazines targeting a popular audience. But those magazines also have print editions. The only other online-only science news magazine I can find is Seed Magazine. In a side-by-side comparison, Live Science would win the popular visual appeal contest although Seed Magazine’s content (current science news) and tone (journalistic reporting) are very similar Live Science. Seed Magazine’s news is not syndicated, and the site does not use ads. Although they have links to share their articles on Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Reddit, or via e-mail, their readers can only follow them on Twitter, a less popular social media site than both Facebook and Google+.

Tough to Pitch

The website does not have instructions for pitching a story, and two emails through the Contact portal of the site yielded no answers. Jeanna Bryner is the editor for Live Science, and her bio page on the Purch website lists her private LinkedIn page.

Photo credit: LiveScience on facebook