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Putting An End To “Overtesting” Students

(NAPSI)—Don’t stress the dreaded standardized test: Some experts suggest schools test less and teach more.

The Dilemma

Although gathering student performance data is a critical part of education, “testing day” remains one of the most dreaded—and costly—events on the school calendar. In a recent national survey, educators indicated they spend on average more than four weeks a year testing reading skills. Furthermore, students in grades pre-K through 5 spend an average of eight entire days taking reading tests.

An Answer

To spend less time testing and more time teaching, many educators are looking into a new approach known as “Assessment Without Testing.”

More than 13,000 schools are using this innovation in educational technology that provides teachers with student performance data without having to stop to give a test.

What it Does

The software, called Lexia Reading, combines individualized student learning and targeted teaching strategies to help students improve their reading ability. The system lets students work at their own pace, gathers student performance data without a test and saves teachers’ time by prioritizing the students who need the most help and providing teaching strategies customized to each student’s individual needs.

Gathering meaningful student performance data is critical to guide classroom instructional strategies, educators say, but, they add, the best way to measure student progress is to observe their abilities while they are learning.

How it Works

Students using this system work independently on activities that build reading proficiency as the software gathers performance data in real time based on their responses to each question.

In contrast, traditional testing methods rely on a snapshot of reading performance—taken when students are often nervous and not performing at their best—and can result in false high or low scores based on how each student reacts to the test on a given day.

Districts are finding they can reclaim weeks of instructional time and thousands of dollars typically spent testing, while the resulting data and the instructional strategies help improve student performance and reduce stress.

Where to Learn More

For further information, teachers, parents and others can visit www.lexialearning.com or call (800) 435-3942.

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Ten Tips To Help Stay Connected In Today’s Always-On World

(NAPSI)—The reality of today’s always-on world means that life and work must keep moving. So when you can’t be where you need to be due to unplanned events such as bad winter weather, a family situation or a surprise meeting, let Microsoft Office help you stay productive no matter where you are.

“More and more, it seems the daily routine is anything but,” said Alisa Swann, productivity solution specialist at Microsoft. “While we can’t always anticipate what might come along and derail our day, we can be prepared for it. With tools from Office, it’s easy to stay connected to people and information, anytime, anywhere.”

Swann recommends the following 10 tips to stay productive no matter what:

1. Be a packrat. Store important documents for free on the Web so you can access them over the Internet or from a computer, iOS device or Windows Phone.

2. Let Office be with you. Create, view, and edit documents from any Mac or PC connected to the Internet, with the free Microsoft Office Web Apps.

3. Seize the moment. Make a quick list, capture images and audio, in Microsoft OneNote on a Windows Phone or iOS device, then access and edit those notes on the Web.

4. Be as good as there. Use Microsoft PowerPoint 2010 Broadcast on the Mac or PC to present ideas to people in different locations. Participants can even view on their mobile phone.

5. Work together when you’re not together. Make revisions with others at the same time using co-authoring in Microsoft Word 2010 and the Word Web App on the Mac or PC.

6. Take people with you. Store contact information for all the important people you know in your Microsoft Outlook Address Book—so you’ll never be without a number, email or address.

7. Mind your time. Manage your calendar and setup, move or cancel appointments on the Windows Phone with confidence.

8. Don’t make them wait. Set an automatic reply from Outlook on your PC or Windows Phone to let people know you’re out.

9. Turn information around on the go. Receive, read, edit and send Office documents from virtually anywhere on a Windows Phone.

10. Enhance your blog. Publish your “marooned manuscript” in a blog and enrich your story by embedding a PowerPoint slideshow.

Now it’s time to gear up, settle in and prepare to keep life moving. For more tips and resources, visit www.office.com/snoworshine.

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Four Strategies For Conquering The Fear, Returning To The Classroom

(NAPSI)—Once you have determined that completing your degree is the best way to achieve your life goals, you’ve probably done your research. You’ve figured out how to make the time, how to pay for school and what degree to pursue. One thing, however, may still be holding you back-fear.

It can be scary walking into a classroom full of strangers. What if things are completely different from when you last set foot on a campus? What if everyone in the class is in their teens and you can’t relate?

“Being nervous about returning to college is not necessarily a bad thing,” said Dr. Mary Hawkins, president of Bellevue University. “Your apprehension shows your desire to do well. More than 2.5 million people over the age of 30 currently attend college in the U.S. Don’t let fear take away the chance to accomplish the new goals you’ve set for yourself.”

Research the Learning Environment

“Familiarizing yourself with the situation will help alleviate some of the tension,” Dr. Hawkins suggests. A good place to start is the National Center for Education Statistics at nces.ed.gov. The site’s College Navigator tool allows you to search more than 7,000 schools and view enrollment statistics, including age breakdown, on each. This will give you a good picture of whether the school you are considering attracts more adult learners or more traditional students.

Speak With Current Students and Alumni

Next, call the schools at the top of your list and ask for referrals to students who have taken or are currently enrolled in the program you might enter.

“This is the best way to get a firsthand account of the experience you will have,” Dr. Hawkins continued. “Students and alumni have nothing to gain or lose by being honest about their experiences. Make sure to speak to more than one individual to get a more balanced view of the student experience.”

If you feel more comfortable with an indirect route, you can pose your questions to any alumni groups the school may have on social networks such as Facebook or LinkedIn.

Consider Online Learning

If the classroom is too intimidating still, look into online learning, which you can complete from the comfort of your own home.

“Due to responsibilities, including family, work and community commitments, many working adults find this way of learning is the right fit,” Dr. Hawkins said. “If you are considering this option, include both students who have studied online and in class in your research so you can compare how the experiences vary.”

Give Yourself a Deadline

Simply putting your plan in writing or talking about it out loud can give you the momentum and accountability to get moving. Give yourself as much time as you need but set a firm deadline. Determine a specific date by which you plan to begin your coursework. Tell family and friends who, you feel, will be supportive. You can also put your plan into writing at www.makeithappennow.org, which offers expert advice on staying motivated.

“Remember, most of your classmates will be as nervous as you are,” Hawkins said. “Much like going to the gym after years away or going to the doctor for your yearly checkup, the anticipation is often worse than the actual experience.”

Don’t let fear hold you back; once you overcome it, you are on your way to a more promising future.

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Protecting Your (Digital) Valuables

(NAPSI)—Most people have experienced that uneasy feeling when they lose something valuable: a ring, a phone, money, even a credit card. But how would you feel if you woke up one day to find that you’d lost your entire library of photos, videos or the digital music library you’d spent so much time—and money—creating? It could happen. In fact, if you ask the experts, it will happen. All computers will fail eventually. So what can you do about it?

Digital storage devices such as hard drives from Western Digital (WD) are one solution that provides great value and reliability. In a recent survey, nearly 55 percent of consumers said they do not back up or protect the digital content on their computer because either they don’t know how or think it’s too difficult. What makes this statistic more interesting is that nearly 60 percent of the same survey participants said they would miss their computers and its contents most if lost or stolen.

Today, the process of backing up important data on your computer is a simple plug-and-play process, so why take the risk?

There are a variety of inexpensive, reliable and easy-to-use solutions that are available to suit your lifestyle. For active and mobile consumers, the My Passport portable drives by WD are an ideal solution, small enough to fit in your pocket but large enough to store and protect thousands of photos, dozens of movies and your entire music library.

My Book external hard drives offer larger capacities (up to 3 terabytes), sit on your desk and copy all your files for protection against computer crashes and general failures.

For the network-connected home, the My Book Live personal cloud device plugs directly into your wireless router and allows content stored on all computers in the home to be backed up on the single drive. And, because it is attached to your router, you can access all the content from your laptop, iPad, iPhone or other mobile device from anywhere in the world using WD’s WD 2go mobile application for iOS, Android and laptops.

People insure cars, homes and lives. Using a digital storage device, such as those made by WD, can be a smart way to protect all your precious digital assets as well.

For more information, visit www.wdc.com.

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Facebook Is About Connecting With Friends, Sharing Pictures And…Buying Homes

(NAPSI)—Whether it’s reuniting with old friends, sharing pictures or asking for recommendations, people are relying on Facebook more and more to manage their daily lives. According to Nielsen’s State of the Media: Social Media Report, Americans spend more time on Facebook than any other website. With 800 million active users who average more than six hours a month on the networking site, it’s no surprise that Facebook is affecting how we connect with other people, seek out advice and even buy homes.

“For today’s homebuyers and sellers, one of the most convenient ways to identify, research and connect with a real estate professional is through Facebook,” said Bev Thorne, CMO of Century 21 Real Estate LLC. “When you think about it, Facebook is all about relationships, a very important thing when you’re searching for someone to guide you through one of the most significant moves you’ll make in life.”

Giving Homebuyers and Sellers Real Estate Tools Online

Today’s new generation of homebuyers is increasingly turning to social networks to begin searches rather than walking into an office and seeking the help of a real estate professional. Whether they realize it or not, users are single-handedly making Facebook the latest word-of-mouth marketing powerhouse. These devoted users, 50 percent of whom return daily, aren’t just sharing gossip and pictures with friends-they’re asking for and sharing advice.

Buyers and sellers can rest assured-real estate professionals are taking notice of their desire to connect via Facebook. Realtors recognize the impact Facebook can have on their business and are putting more effort into their presence in order to connect with potential clients and develop relationships through the site, often through the use of specialized applications (apps).

For example, the CENTURY 21® Application for Facebook lets CENTURY 21® Brokers customize their landing page and connect with existing and potential new clients directly through Facebook. With information on current listings and homebuyer and seller toolkits, the app provides people with all the information they need to start their homebuying or selling process, without ever leaving Facebook.

Tips for homebuyers and sellers using Facebook:

• Ask your friends for input. Facebook is a way to reach out to several friends and neighbors all at once to ask for their advice on local real estate professionals they’d recommend.

• Check out local real estate agents’ Facebook pages. Before deciding whether or not you want to reach out to a real estate professional, spend some time on their Facebook page—it should give you some insights into their services and specialties.

• Pay attention to content. A sign of a reliable, knowledgeable real estate professional is that they regularly share local market news and trends while consistently engaging with their network.

• Look for additional resources. Many real estate professionals will offer tools, such as the ability to view current listings and mortgage calculators, making Facebook your one-stop shop for real estate research.

For more information, visit www.facebook.com/century21 to find an agent or begin your property search.

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A “Smart” Way To Access Cloud Programs

(NAPSI)—There’s good news for those who have to take care of business while on the go. Two new software applications from Infor, a leading provider of business software and services, make it possible to have access to cloud-based programs when outside the office.

Both are designed to provide fast, reliable connections to office systems through smartphones and tablets, such as the iPhone and iPad, regardless of location.

One app, Infor10 Road Warrior, was created to empower sales productivity by sending mobile alerts, approvals and tasks, allowing users to make better, faster business decisions.

The other app, Infor ION ActivityDeck, helps solve the critical problems that arise when users are on the road and have no visibility into pressing issues going on in the background, enabling them to remain connected and keep business in motion.

To learn more, visit www.infor.com.

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Transform Photos Into Amazing Videos While On The Go

(NAPSI)—Parties, holidays, trips and even everyday moments—you’ve collected hundreds of photos on your iPhone, but what do you do with them? Now there is an easy way to transform all those photos into personalized videos that can be shared with family and friends—right from your iPhone.

Share your video easily via e-mail, text, Facebook and Twitter.

The Animoto iPhone app is free for 30-second videos or users can upgrade to Animoto Plus to create longer videos for $4.99 a month/ $29.99 a year. You can learn more and see sample videos at www.animoto.com/iphone.

Download the FREE app today at www.itunes.com.

 

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Mobile broadband is paving the way for Internet users on the go

(NAPSI)—If you’re out and about and need to connect to the Internet, you basically have two options: public Wi-Fi or mobile broadband.

Public Wi-Fi hotspots, usually provided by coffee shops, restaurants and airports, give people with Wi-Fi-enabled devices the ability to connect to that business’s Internet connection. Sometimes the business provides the hotspot for free and sometimes it charges customers to log on.

There are pluses and minuses to Wi-Fi. On the plus side, you can go online relatively cheaply from a number of places. And increasingly, businesses, especially hotels and restaurants, are providing free Internet access to attract customers. In some places, once you log on, you can stay online as long as you like and use as much data as you want.

On the minus side, you can only use Wi-Fi while you’re at the café, restaurant or airport that is providing it. And because it’s an unsecured public Internet connection, data transmitted over the network, like credit card numbers and other personal information, can be vulnerable to hackers and data thieves. Lastly, public Wi-Fi connections can be slow, especially when many users are logged on to the shared network.

The second option is mobile broadband, which continues to expand to additional cities nationwide. With a mobile broadband device and a monthly data plan, you can access the Internet with your laptop, netbook or tablet anywhere within that service’s coverage area. Whether you are waiting for the kids to finish practice, sitting in the park on a sunny afternoon or waiting for your next flight, mobile broadband puts the Internet at your fingertips. Plus, mobile broadband provides a private, encrypted connection, making user data much safer than it would be on a public Wi-Fi network.

Mobile broadband is still evolving. It can be expensive, sometimes up to $70 a month, and many plans require a long-term contract, but that’s changing. In fact, a new service from NetZero® offers superfast 4G mobile broadband data plans for as little as $9.95 per month with the purchase of an access device. Customers have a choice of two devices: the NetZero 4G HotSpot™, which can connect up to eight Wi-Fi-enabled devices simultaneously, or the NetZero 4G Stick™, which connects one user at a time via a USB port. With the purchase of either device, you can even try the service for up to a year for free. You can find out more about mobile broadband from NetZero at www.NetZero.com.

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