Latest research reveals the more you hug your kids – the smarter they get.

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Are you the kind of parent that’s always hugging your kids? If the answer is yes then don’t stop doing what you’re doing.

According to new research, physical affection during a baby’s development period is even more important than we thought. 

The more you hug a baby, the more their brains grow, according to a recent survey from the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio.

125 babies, both premature and full-term, were included in the study, which looked at how well they responded to being physically touched.

The results indicated that premature babies responded to affection less than babies who were not born premature. What was also revealed however, was that babies that were subjected to more affection by parents or hospital staff showed stronger brain response.

According to researcher Dr. Nathalie Maitre, this last revelation tells us that something as simple as body contact or rocking your baby in your arms will make a big difference in how their brains develop.

“Making sure that preterm babies receive positive, supportive touch such as skin-to-skin care by parents is essential to help their brains respond to gentle touch in ways similar to those of babies who experienced an entire pregnancy inside their mother’s womb,” Maitre tells Science Daily.

Basically, affection is vital for the development of the brain. So, cuddle and hug your babies as much as you can – and don’t forget to share this research to show everyone out there how important it is to be loving to our children!

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Late Bloomer or Seasoned Pro?

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d48ed900e79fa9547169c26138b4cd8d_XLEvery entrepreneur at some point looked in the mirror and said, “Lots of other people have succeeded…and so will I.”

I believe in myself especially because I am willing to work hard and persevere and I have years of experience to prove it. So I too looked in the mirror and said to myself, “Start putting all that to work for my own endeavor and not for someone else.”

An article in Inc. Magazine now sheds new light on older entrepreneurs like me with statistics that prove my experience, my skills, my connections, my expertise, and yes, my age, are on my side.

A 50-year-old startup founder is 2.8 times more likely to found a successful startup as a 25-year-old founder.

And if you want a really fun statistic:

A 60-year-old startup founder is 3 times as likely to found a successful startup as a 30-year-old startup founder and is 1.7 times as likely to found a startup that winds up in the top 0.1 percent of all companies.

There are plenty of reasons, but one key factor is the difference between ideas and execution. 

Ideas are great, and I have plenty of them, but execution is everything. The same is true with strategy: Strategy matters, but tactics–what you actually do–is what helps companies grow.

It’s much harder to execute well when you have limited experience. It’s much harder to develop a sound strategy when you have limited experience. It’s much harder to make smart tactical decisions–especially when you need to make a number of decisions every day–when you have limited experience.

Think of it this way: People love to say, “You need to know what you don’t know.” The only way to decrease the number of things you don’t know–and have a reasonable grasp of which things you do well, and which you don’t–is by gaining experience.

That’s especially true where leadership experience is concerned.

So what about those who succeed later in life – the late bloomers.

Is it better to be an early achiever or a late bloomer? That’s the same as asking if it is better to start Facebook at 19 or IBM at 61?

For the world at large it does not matter. Perhaps Facebook could never happen if IBM did not exist. Should Charles Flint have felt himself too old when he organized IBM out of a time-card punching technology firm at the ripe age of 61? Those time card punchers turned out to be early prototypes of computers.

Perhaps you have not heard much about Flint, but the device you are using to read my blog right now is possible in part because of what Flint started at 61. A later bloomer? Perhaps. Too late for him at 61? Never too late.

So, if you’re in your 50s and you want to start a business, do it.  And even if you’re in your 60s…do it.

Successful entrepreneurs don’t have some intangible entrepreneurial something (ideas, talent, drive, skills, creativity) that we so called “seasoned” professionals don’t. Their success only seemed inevitable to me in hindsight.

End of the lullaby as younger parents eschew the bedtime ritual, survey finds.

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I just read an article in the Telegraph by Camilla Turner that amazed me. She wrote, “It may once have been seen by parents as a staple of the bedtime regime – but now it seems that lullabies are falling out of favour as younger parents eschew the ritual.”  

Just over a third (38 per cent) of parents sing lullabies to their children aged under five, according to a YouGov poll of over 2,000 adults.  

But the vast majority – 70 per cent – of those who sing lullabies are aged over 45-years-old, suggesting that the practice is less popular with younger parents. Maybe that explains my shock as I am a grand parent now and would still sing to my grandchildren.

The poll shows that women are more than twice as likely to sing to their children every night than men.

Research carried out at Great Ormond Street Hospital has previously shown that lullabies help to make children feel better.  

They sang the songs to a group of children under three, some of whom were waiting for heart transplants, and monitored their heart rates and pain perception.  

Results of the study, published by the journal Psychology of Music, showed that a group of child patients at the hospital experienced lower heart rates, less anxiety and reduced perception of pain after they had lullabies sung to them.  

A separate study, published by the National Literacy Trust last year, found that singing songs and rhymes with your baby and young child support language development and reading skills by encouraging children to listen carefully to predict.

Laura Jane-Foley, a soprano singer and ambassador for the Lullaby Trust which aims to prevent unexpected deaths in infancy and promote infant health, said: “Singing to children is just as important as reading to them.

“The musical three R’s of rhythm, rhyming and repetition are crucial to a child’s mental and emotional development and, by participating in the shared activity of singing, parents are strengthening the bonds between parent and child.”

I am preparing to work on two early childhood literacy programs within NICU units. Hopefully we will gain some insights there as well. Find out more about the power of singing to infants at http://www.talkwithmebaby.org.

Here is a classic in case you need a prompt.

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Lurie Children’s Hospital Offers Kids Virtual Escape from Intensive Care Unit.

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From scuba diving to snowboarding, patients in the pediatric intensive care unit leave the hospital behind with virtual reality For the first time in a pediatric intensive care unit (PICU), patients get a chance to scuba dive, snowboard, and go on a safari or other adventures, all from their hospital bed.

The 360 degree immersions into virtual environments were extremely well received by PICU patients and their parents, according to results from a pilot study from Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago that were published in Pediatric Critical Care Medicine. All 32 study participants, ages 3-17 years, reported that they enjoyed using virtual reality. All of their parents agreed, with over 80 percent reporting that virtual reality experience calmed their child.

“We conducted this study to make sure that it is feasible to introduce virtual reality into a pediatric intensive care setting and that kids respond well to it,” says senior author Marcelo Malakooti, MD, from Lurie Children’s who also is Assistant Professor of Pediatrics-Critical Care at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

“We are now introducing virtual reality more broadly to critically ill children on the unit who are often alert, but stuck in bed just passively watching TV. Such minimal engagement with their environment over prolonged hospitalization can lead to delirium or other cognitive and emotional impairments. We hope that the stimulation and interaction that virtual reality offers will mitigate that risk and improve outcomes for these children.”

Based on the positive results of the pilot study, Dr. Malakooti, lead author Colleen Badke, MD, and colleagues at Lurie Children’s are now conducting a larger study to examine how virtual reality use in the PICU impacts pain, anxiety and physical factors like blood pressure and heart rate variation, among others. Research at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago is conducted through the Stanley Manne Children’s Research Institute.

The Manne Research Institute is focused on improving child health, transforming pediatric medicine and ensuring healthier futures through the relentless pursuit of knowledge. Lurie Children’s is ranked as one of the nation’s top children’s hospitals in the U.S.News & World Report. It is the pediatric training ground for Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Last year, the hospital served more than 212,000 children from 49 states and 51 countries.

Language Nutrition

Just as healthy food nourishes a growing baby’s body, language nutrition nourishes a baby’s brain. Quantity and quality of nourishing language, like healthy food, is critical to brain development.

Language-rich adult-child interactions, beginning at birth, have a direct impact on social-emotional and cognitive development and language and literacy ability.

The impact of adult-child interactions on the brains of infants and toddlers is unparalleled by any other stage of development, as this is the time when they are forming the neural “connections that build brain architecture – the foundation upon which all learning, behavior and health depend” (Center for the Developing Child, Harvard University).

cropped-screen-shot-2018-04-05-at-7-21-50-am1.pngA solid foundation of language nutrition – the use of language, beginning at birth, that is sufficiently rich in engagement, quality, quantity and context that it nourishes the child socially, neurologically and linguistically – is critical in developing a child’s capacity to learn.

Augmented reality in children’s books increases engagement translating into better learning outcomes.

53274772_384802738767478_1285140844453560320_nThe popularity of technologies like augmented reality is increasing as more publishers use them to engage young readers. In the US, only 38% of 4th graders and 19% of 8th graders report reading on their own time, and technologies such as AR are seen as a way to reach a generation which grew up constantly interacting with screens and digital content.

This also forms part of a broader shift towards empowering readers and engaging them in the creative process. A recent World Economic Forum report listed creativity as one of the top skills needed for workers to thrive by 2020, and such interactive technologies are key in accomplishing this.

Augmented reality is far from a new phenomenon, however, and many in the publishing industry have been investing in this area for some time.

Publishers in this space tend to agree that this technology has the potential to combine the best aspects of both digital and print. The personalized books 3.2.1 Publishing creates are printed and then coupled with a 3D augmented reality experience that can be accessed through a free mobile app on any smartphone or tablet.

We believe it is not about what AR as a technology can achieve—it’s about the way it is leveraged in the book so that it hooks and enriches the young reader’s experience in ways that a normal book could not.

It should address specific pain points perceived by those young readers, who tend to enjoy books in a different way and want to get involved, not just from a reading perspective. That is where AR can provide additional depth and richness to make reading more fun, interesting and engaging.

UK Lebanon Tech Hub conducted market research amongst a sample of parents aged from 25 to 45 to learn what factors might appeal to them and encourage their adoption of AR technology.

The surveys and interviews found that while the vast majority – over 93% – of parents habitually used devices like smartphones, tablets or PCs themselves (and often let their children use them), they were often concerned that the content their children consumed should be both educational and interactive. While many viewed AR as a gimmick, once they were introduced to it they often perceived it as a potential way of improving their children’s short attention span and enhancing interaction with them.

Many believe that augmented reality and virtual reality work on reading because it uses multimodal learning, meaning we are using more than one sense in the brain to learn.  Gerald Gentemann founder of 3.2.1. Publishing explains, “AR creates a strong emotional tie for young readers, like they are attached to the book and part of the story. If you watch any kid read with augmented reality it’s as if they are playing a game.”

Two PhD researchers at the University of Central Florida, Maria C. R. Harrington and Emily K. Johnson investigated how augmented reality has the potential to foster engagement, and their preliminary results chime with a recent article in Publishing Research Quarterly which notes the technology’s positive impact on literacy and overall learning effectiveness through cognitive attainment: ”Augmented technology contributes to increasing engagement, invites participation, and develops appreciation of the context. Augmented books are proposed to incentivize curiosity, facilitate the interpretation of text and illustrations, and provide a learning tool that relates to the reader,” the paper concludes.

In an article published in the Computers & Education Journal, however, researchers examining the potential of AR for education warned that while the technology did offer many new learning opportunities, it also presented significant challenges. It’s more productive, instead, to approach AR as a concept rather than a technology.

Dean Velez founder of Anvel Studios one the pioneers in VR and AR edutainment believes this is the approach publishers are adopting, ensuring that their titles are “future proof” by designing engaging experiences anchored on great stories. Velez concludes, “If you have robust content, it will engage readers whether they’re viewing it on a smartphone, through smart glasses…or using whatever new device comes next.”

The four K–12 education tech trends emerging in 2017.

Meghan Bogardus Cortez outlined her top four K-12 education trends for 2017. Meghan is an associate editor with EdTech: Focus on K–12. She enjoys following all the ways technology is constantly changing our world.

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K–12 Google Chromebook sales surpassing 51 percent. President Obama declaring that computer science is for all. An explosion of augmented reality and virtual reality. In 2016, teachers, administrators and students truly were on the front lines of incredible tech innovation.

The good news is that all of this new technology didn’t deter educators from dabbling and experimenting with it. For example, last year teachers said they were more comfortable using technology than ever before. Twenty-four percent of teachers surveyed by Education Week even said they considered themselves to be “risk takers” in terms of tech use.

Here are four education technology issues that took center stage in 2016 and are sure to be trending in 2017:

1. Creating Future-Ready Networks for Future-Ready Students

Preparing students for the tech-based workforce proved to be an ongoing impetus for the future of K–12 education. However, this requires an influx of technology, such as the massive one-to-one Chromebook deployment for example.

A robust infrastructure — including strong wireless networks — is a requirement for supporting and sustaining any updates to education technology. Building a strong, scalable network is the first step to establishing a future-ready school. But schools should always be ready to change both their thinking and their networks for whatever the future brings.

Conversations schools are having now can not only impact the ‘now,’ but also are part of the future.

Another component of getting students ready for the future is making sure they are using tech as they might in the real world. GK thinks this is a huge reason to create a ubiquitous network. However, this can also be done with a shifting of the curriculum.

With Common Core Standards requiring that students employ technology and use devices with tremendous computing power, K–12 schools are getting even closer to recreating the working environments of the real world.

2. Embracing Computer Science Education for All Students

President Obama began 2016 by declaring computer science education to be a huge priority for U.S. schools looking to prepare students for the digital economy.

“In the coming years, we should build on that progress, by … offering every student the hands-on computer science and math classes that make them job-ready on day one,” the president said in his 2016 State of the Union address.

This program began as a means to address the lack of diversity in many tech fields.

Less than 10 percent of computer scientists are African-American or Hispanic, and only 18 percent of women major in computer science at colleges and universities, the National Science Foundation reveals.

Some educators have embraced computational thinking — thinking like a computer and using concepts of computer science to solve problems — with and without technology in order to demystify the topic for the youngest of students. Tech tools like the Minecraft: Education Edition have also given students the benefit of learning engineering skills through play.

The concept of computational thinking was also embraced by The College Board when they created AP Computer Science Principles, a high school course designed make the topic accessible for more students than ever before. The course, which launched last fall, experienced the largest AP course launch ever, with over 25,000 students participating.

3. The Power of Personalized Learning Through Tech

Technology has also allowed more teachers to provide a personalized learning experience for their students, something that New Media Consortium identified as a growing factor in embracing ed tech.

GK’s Jigsaw virtual learning platform is similar the the one used at Arlington Public Schools in suburban Washington, D.C., The platform offers the ability to collect data and get live feedback from students and teachers has fueled more engagement because students are able to choose how they learn.

The platform is the perfect tool to allow each student to take charge of his or her learning experience. Additionally, more accountability has provided better learning outcomes. Technology allows teachers to be in multiple places at a time.

4. The Virtual Future of Immersive Education

Thanks to the explosion in popularity of Pokémon Go last summer, augmented reality and virtual reality have been huge buzzwords in the education world this year.

A survey found that an overwhelming 85 percent of teachers think VR is beneficial for their classrooms, but only 2 percent are currently using it. Inroads are being made as more tools come out — and make VR application a real possibility. GK is creating its first VR music book and curriculum this year.