Dec 24

Happy Christmas!

It’s finally here! Christmas day is tomorrow – are you ready? I think I am – and if we need something, well, we will have to do without, cos I’m not to the shops again. No way :0)  Have you been? It’s madness out there. Stay home and eat cake people. Or pudding. Or both…

I’ll be taking a little break this week – there’s a lot of cooking, eating and reading I’d like to get you (ok, so a bit of champagne drinking too.)

I’ll be back the Friday after the New Year and will have more great resources to share and more stories of what’s going on in your kids online world.

Hope to see you then.

Don’t forget to charge those batteries and have a fantastic Christmas day and New Years.

May your pressies be lovely and your kids well-rested and delightful all day!

 

Dec 22

10 Top Tips to take great pics of your kids on your iPhone this Christmas Morning

It’s nearly Christmas! And I bet there are some precious moments you’d like to take photos of this holiday season – kids, family, meals, events. So many fun things going on!  Today’s post will help you take capture those memories using the camera most of us have on hand all the time – your mobile phone!

Cameras in phones have become a selling point for big companies like Apple and Samsung – and for good reason. The phones we have in our hands every day are really quite good! I still love my DSLR and the flexibility of being able to take photos in darker light, different settings and of course a good zoom lens can’t be beat! But I do use my iPhone camera a lot – follow me on Instagram to see what I mean 🙂

I’ve played around with a number of apps and phone cameras and here are my 10 tips for getting better pictures of your kids come Christmas morning!

Number 1 – Get an app for editing

I’ve tried lots but I love Instagram to share photos best. Easy, can link to other social media and the basic editing features usually serve me well. If you are looking for more options to make your photos look gorgeous – try Little Moments app. This one is part of Fat Mum Slim’s photo a day competition and lets you take a photo, edit it and then open it straight in Instagram for sharing. You can add text, make it look funky with filters and stickers or just tweak the pic slightly.

photography at christmas little moments app

Number 2 – Hold that camera still!

Yep, simple but important to avoid blurry photos.

Did you know that when professional photographers click the button they usually hold their breath? You don’t need to go that far but try anchoring yourself against something. So lean on a wall or door frame. Or that’s not possible, hold your elbows in tight to your sides as you push the button. (PS. this is how we get Prep kids to take non-blurry shots – keep those elbows in kids!)

 

Number 3 – Use a real button

To follow on from holding still to avoid the blurry image problem is to use the volume buttons on your phone to take the photo. It’s easier to click a button and hold still than it is to tap the screen with one hand while holding the phone with the other. Not all phones have this feature but check to see if yours does :0). If it does – make sure you use it! It’s an easy way to improve your photos really quickly.

 

Number 4 – Think about lighting. 

Bigger and better cameras cope well in darker rooms or at night. Your camera phone likely doesn’t and will produce quite ‘grainy’ photos as things get darker. If possible move your subject to a window. Window light rules! Natural, indirect light is best for people too – makes their skin look lovely and glow-y (not a word? oh well…). If you have a porch or deck, position your subject under the roofline for lovely clear photos.

Of course, if it’s night time that’s not an option, in that case look at the artificial lighting in your room – make sure it’s not growing out of your subjects head! If possible, have them lit from the side rather than below or above – unless you are going for a Halloween/ghoulish look!

Photography literally means ‘painting with light’ – look for the light first and then set up your shot.

think about lighting

so much light in this shot – but at least it’s indirect and his face is well lit…

Number 5 – Get down low and go, go, go…

Bend down. Get to eye level. Hold the camera up high or out to one side. Look for different angles to change up your composition and to make your photos more interesting.

If you are like me and a little ‘vertically-challenged’, I have to hold my camera up high when photographing people taller than me. If I took photos of a 6′ 3″ guy from my eye level he would look very distorted – wider in the middle and with a little head. No-one will thank you for that photo! Aim for shoulder to eye level ideally to make people seem in proportion.

If you are taking a photo of a group, have a look at the tallest and shortest person and shoot the photo from the top third of that range. So not dead centre and not too high. That way you do the best job for everyone!

getting down low here meant we could look with him at the view…

Number 6 – Look for details

We all put so much effort in to Christmas day with food, gifts, decorations… Take 10 minutes before you sit down to eat and take some photos of what you’ve achieved! Be proud! Count your blessings this Christmas by looking not just as gifts and people but at the little moments around you. The 3 year old checking out the nativity scene or Dad’s socks that have been taken off and dumped in a corner. You’ll appreciate these shots just as much as the traditional family photo – trust me  :0)

detail from a family christmas – how happy does he look!

capturing the details photography christmas iphone

gorgeous door detail reminds me of a lovely family Christmas…

Number 7 – Plan ahead

Think about charging your phone ahead of time and taking your charger with your if you are (lucky enough to be ) spending the day at some one else’s house.

Plan also for who you want a photo of. I know I like to get a group photo of my step-sons and my brother who lives in England but visits each Christmas. Think about who and where you’d like these kinds of photos.

Number 8 – Take lots of shots of the same thing

As I mentioned earlier, your camera phone isn’t a professional camera and does have it’s limits. It likely won’t capture low light photos brilliantly and it’s usually not fantastic with moving targets (toddlers on scooters, bigger kids on bikes or even pulling the Christmas cracker!).

My suggestion in this digital age is to take lots of photos! You can delete later but recreating a moment is impossible. My iPhone has a ‘burst’ mode. This means you hold down the button and it will take lots (and lots) of shots very quickly. Then you choose the one (or ones) you like best. Great for capturing that expression or moment in time.

Take lots – delete later – keep the ones you love!

burst mode photography christmas iphone

using my iPhone I can take lots of photos at once – milliseconds apart – and choose the best ones

 

Number 9 – Ask permission before sharing your photos

I know we all take photos of our families and friends –  and we love sharing them online. Do that! Spread the love! But first, ask if it’s ok to share on Facebook or Instagram. These are your memories first and foremost – they aren’t only for online sharing. If your great-aunt says no, respect that and share other photos. I’ve found most people are happy to have their photo online.

This is also a great chance to model to your kids that they have the right to give permission (or not) for their image to be published online. Ask them – they will likely say yes! But you’ve at least modelled that they get to choose and have the right to say no thanks, I don’t want that online!

Even with little kids – ask them and then ask their parents. It takes only a moment to say ‘hey, this is so cute, can I share it on Facebook?’

If they say no, that’s fine – you still have a photo you love. Better to have them say no upfront, than get an unpleasant after-Christmas phone call asking what you were thinking posting little Johnny’s Christmas day tantrum online!

Can I Share your photo online

just a quick question…

Number 10 – Get out from behind the camera.

Photography is great. I love it :0) But don’t forget that there’s a real, never-to-be-repeated world going on beyond your lens! If you really must take a million photos – delegate!!! Share photo taking duties with a family member and share around the photos after Christmas!

leave the tech alone this christmas

 

 

As a photography lover (and former wedding-photographer) these are my ‘get the great shot on my phone’ tips! Hope they are of use to you!

 

Do you have any other tips to offer? Share them below – I’d love to learn from you :0)

 

 

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Dec 19

Avoiding nasty Internet content home

Did you know most schools have extremely strong and robust filtering systems for their Internet? This stops kids getting to *most* of the dodgy stuff online. But there can be a problem when  they come home to your house – and most families don’t have any filtering system at all, meaning that our kids can get to anything and everything they like – and even if they don’t mean to they can be exposed to nasty online content.

A filter is a piece of computer software that looks at what you are trying to access on the Internet – before you are taken to the website – and then decides if you should be allowed to see those pages. It’s not, and never will be, fool proof. There is so much information on the Internet and it’s being updated so frequently that no software program can keep up. We still need to teach our kids to be cyber-safe.

But filters can usually take away the really nasty stuff (I won’t list examples here -> you know what I’m talking about).

When a child in Prep (5 year old) Googles for pictures of  “ladies” at school for her story,  she would (should) be shown innocent images of women. If they Googled this at home without filters, they might get something quite different – because of course, the computer doesn’t know it’s your gorgeous, innocent 5 year old on the keyboard, and not a single man in his 50’s living in his mother’s basement…

(***Big generalisation but you know what I’m implying here, no offence intended to the genuinely, lovely men living with their mothers later in life!)

So, while we need to be careful and supervise young kids particularly – we can also set up a filter at home.

You can buy software that you install on each device at home – on your laptop, desktop, iPad.

But I’ve found that parents generally prefer to have the filtering the same for everyone in the house. So a Filter that you set up on your MODEM can be a good way to go.

I like OpenDNS –  www.opendns.com/home-internet-security/

openDNS cybersafety filters kids learning

 

 

Here’s what they have to say about their filter product:

Today’s families have an array of Internet-connected devices in their homes, from computers to gaming consoles to smart phones. OpenDNS is the only Internet parental controls solution that empowers parents to manage Web access across every device that accesses the Internet on your home network. This includes phones and computers that your kids’ friends bring into the house, giving parents peace-of-mind that their kids are protected regardless of how they’re accessing the Internet.

 

It’s quite straight-forward to set up and once you’ve done it the first time, the settings are easy to adjust – good for as your kids get older and you want to give them more access.

Set-Up OpenDNS

It’s really, really easy to set up – just register for an account when you’re on your home network and then follow the instructions in the email you’ll receive

Next, add a network (it does the tech stuff for you – it’s just one click, and this is why you need to be on your home Internet when you do this) and then choose what your family has access to – remember this will impact on ANYONE who uses your Internet, including you!

You can choose to block certain categories of websites, like “adult,” “games,” “academic fraud” or “social media” or there are levels within those categories of low, medium or high filtering. You can also choose to block certain websites only…

openDNS cybersafety filters kids learning

Finally, it quickly and easily lets you see which websites are being accessed in your household. By signing up for statistics, you’ll be able to see when and what the family are looking at online – on every device.  This is handy for checking no one is on Facebook at 2am – and if they are, having a bit of a chat about switching off at night!

While I certainly don’t advocate stalking your kids through these statistics reports, it can be handy to occasionally check your OpenDNS account and see what’s going on at home, especially as our younger kids learn to manage their online world :0)

Do you use any filtering at home? Care to share any stories with inappropriate content and how you managed it – leave us a comment below.

 

***By the way, I’m not being paid by OpenDNS or any other filtering company – I just love their product! See my disclaimer for more info***

 

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Dec 17

Have you asked your kids this week – what do you use to chat with your mates online?

What app do you use to chat with your friends? Facebook? Twitter? Good old email? Or maybe it’s your smartphone and text messages. I wonder what your kids use. I know mine don’t really engage with email. Too old-school for them. They use Facebook (a lot), Snapchat and text messages. Along with others I bet I don’t know about. My kids are older now (18 and 20), so it’s now their turn to manage their online world. Not mine – although I can’t help asking about it often :0) Poor kids having tech-know geek as a step-mum!

So I’d like to ask you to talk to your kids this week. Ask them about HOW they communicate online.

What software or app are they using, and why do they prefer one over the other.

Once you know what they are using, you can google the tools and see what they are about. Especially for teenagers, they might not want to tell you the ins and outs of the software or app. Too boring mum! But if you know the name you can look it up. I like to google the name and the word ‘review’ so like this in Google:

“Snapchat” AND “review”

That will give you only websites that have both words in them. Pay attention to the inverted commas and the capital letters. Read a couple of quick reviews and find out what the tool is all about.

The tools they are using are likely fine – but some aren’t. For example, some group quiz type websites  (there are lots) allow people to pose questions and anyone can answer them. So not just their friendship groups but ‘strangers’ too. If you know that’s what they are using you can at least talk to them about the safety aspect of not revealing too much info :0)

Being involved in their world really is the only way to know what’s going on in their world.

 Be involved in their world cybersafety

So, as we race towards the finish line of the school year (yay!) and the Christmas summer holidays approach, start off the break with a quick question and maybe a quick look online.

What do you use to chat with your mates online?

 

Had a good conversation with your kids about online stuff lately? Share with us so we can see what everyone else is up to!
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Dec 15

What would YOU like for Christmas this year? 5 great tech-know gift ideas

Gifts for YOU this year

I think I’ve finished my Christmas shopping. Hallelujah. I can’t stand the crowds of people rushing round like the world ends at midnight on Christmas Eve. Just breathe people. The shops open again at 8am (or earlier) on Boxing Day. Anyway – having done all my gift shopping for other people, I’ve managed to find a couple of things that I’d love too!  I thought I’d share them in case you’re looking for a gift for someone else or for yourself.

Feel free to email this to the right person. Maybe husband or partner or mum or dad… A little hint goes a long way to receiving a gift you’ll love this year! And the best bit – you can buy all these online right now. Christmas, sorted.

Tech gifts for women this Christmas

This was me. As I left the shops. Running.

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Ok, so I’ll start with the most expensive. Can you guess …

Yep. The good old iPhone 6 Plus. My lovely hubby, Mr Tech-Know, has a mate who gets all the gadgets first. A quick chat with him and I’m sold. It’s pretty, it’s big enough to actually read on, and might even replace my iPad 2.  We’ll see about that but this would be a lovely surprise in my Christmas stocking.

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Next something a bit less pricey. Only $10 to turn my new (or old!) iPhone into a better camera.

This one’s fun! These little lenses attach to your phone and let you change the lens perspective. I’d love the fish eye one. Great for wide angle shots on your phone.

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On the tablet and phone theme, I need a new cover for my iPad 2. It’s seen better days and I use it all day long so I’d like one that looks pretty too.

This one folds, stands up and flips around – and is cute too. At $10 it won’t break the bank and would make me happy when I look at it :0)

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Number 4 – this one’s a bit random! There’s this website that has fab courses to learn…stuff. Bill Gates loves this site and I do too! Great info in video format that’s presented by experts for people who don’t know much about this stuff!  It’s $149 to sign up to watch the videos and take the course.

gifts for women | tech |learning | online courses

Big History | Online Course | The Big Bang, Life on Earth and the Rise of Humanity

It’s a bit geeky. Ok. A lot. But wouldn’t it be cool to have these vids to watch on the treadmill every morning.  Yes. Yes it would.  :0) Get in my stocking!!!

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Finally, is a gadget that I think would be cool, and useful. But mostly cool. I love Evernote. As anyone who knows me will tell you, my memory is pretty shocking but I look like I remember stuff cos it’s all in Evernote. On my phone, laptop, iPad or desktop. I just search it up and I can tell you how old that second cousin’s son turns this year or the name of the woman I met at that conference. Looks good, but it’s totally in the software.

tech gifts | christmas | women | gadgets

Jot stylus | designed for use on Ipad with Penultimate app & Evernote

I also love to write on paper. I have tried a lot of apps and many are great but the hand writing bit never quite works for me. See, I can’t write on lines. I have to mind map everything – no, really. Everything. Drives my Supervisors crazy. It’s just how my brain works and it makes complex stuff make sense – to me at least. I’ve written about mind mapping with kids here, if you want to know more :0)

So maybe this cool stylus would finally help me go paperless. Maybe…

So that’s my wish list. Greedy? Perhaps. But it’s just a wish list! I’ve bought myself a couple of smaller gifts so I know what I’m getting (does anyone else do that?). But it’s nice to have a little dream list, right?

Let me know what’s on your wish list this Christmas!

 

Dec 12

Tech tip Friday – Your home wifi and your kids – is it safe?

Cyber-safety for you this week! Who’s using your home wifi? Just you and the family right? Maybe not. Do a quick check this week and make sure that you know who is using your expensive wifi connection. I had a friend who found some teenagers sitting on her letterbox with their laptops. Yup. They were using her wifi that she’d forgotten to put a password on. Not cool.

Why bother with this? Well, you are responsible for everything that is downloaded from your internet. Could be dodgy, nasty stuff. Don’t want to get caught with that stuff on your computer system.

So what do you do about it?

First thing to do is change your password – you can see how to do that here. If you are a little afraid of the tech-speak, call your Internet Service Provider and have them walk you through it. They all should offer this service. It’s in there best interest to make sure your wifi is secure!

Password, please! securing your home network wifi wireless at home

Next, wait for your kids to say ‘the wifi’s not working’  ;0)

Or, if you’re feeling more generous, ask the family to bring their devices to you to have the new password entered. That way you can keep the password private.

I really don’t think that kids – even bigger kids – need to know the wifi password to your home Internet. I think there’s a risk that they or their mates will get on to your home wifi and not follow the rules, downloading or accessing whatever…

I let my kids mates get online, but I put in the password. No discussion.

So, you need to think about your Internet access at home. Make sure you know the password, and know who knows the password too!!

Have you had problems at home with your wifi? Share your advice and stories below!

 

 

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Dec 10

My Prep is getting an iPad! Help!

It’s that time of year when schools are asking parents of Prep kids (that’s first year of school age) to think about joining One to One iPad programs. Some schools will ask parents to pay, others will provide an iPad to use at school. For the last few years, I’ve had lots of chats with parents worried about their little kids getting expensive technology. But they really can cope – and they can be good for them. Honest. Here’s why.

We know they take to touch screens like the proverbial ducks. We’ve all seen those videos on YouTube of babies using iPads. Ease of use, makes learning easier.

They also can carry these computers around. They love that they can take it to their desk, to the reading corner, to art class, to the library. They can use it wherever and whenever they need to learn something. For all kids this is great. For kids with different needs, this is especially great.

Our kids can take it on excursions and take photos of what they see. Back at school, we’ll  help them take those pictures and turn them into a  written recount, or an art project or a sequencing activity. Connecting the outside world to their classroom. Win.

The camera is the most powerful part of an iPad for our little kids. Well, in my opinion at least!!  It’s not just the camera – we’ve used cameras and photos in prep classes for years – it’s the way it links to the apps on the iPad. Take a photo at recess of a bug you love. Turn that into a maths lesson, a collage on life cycles or a video story about your magical bug!

kids and ipads and cameras

The video function of the iPad and the apps, lets them express their ideas, before they can write or read fluently. It lets them talk their ideas, listen back to them and see if they make sense. Genius! Without the iPad or similar easy to use video device, we rely on us teachers explaining why their story doesn’t make sense or needs some work. They have to listen to us tell them – but it’s so much more powerful to let them listen to themselves tell the story :0)

To see what a Prep can do in the first term at school, have a look at this cute video story of a dinosaur, short but cute!

Imagine if we’d asked Sammy (in the vid below)  to WRITE this story. He didn’t have those skills at the time and would have (and often did) lose his ideas before he could get them down on paper. We might have assumed that Sammy didn’t understand about dinosaurs. But he does, doesn’t he?  iPads can help our kids express what’s in their heads :0)

 

Aim high with your Preps. They can cope, they really can!!! And it might just help their school beginning!

 

 

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Dec 08

Ask your kids today…

Who are your friends online? People you work with? Went to school with? Or are they people who you don’t really know? These are the questions you need to ask your kids. Whether they are 8 or 18, they need to be reminded of ‘who’ they are actually chatting or playing with online.

Sometimes I think the online world seems like one big scary space. Of course it’s not.  The majority of people are polite and caring. They are interested in interacting for fun or to be social. Apparently, one in three marriages in the USA has come from an online meeting – so it can’t be all bad!

ask your kids today who are your friends online

But there are the odd few people that really ruin the online world for the rest of us. And because of them we have to make sure our kids are safe and secure online. So, this week, you need to ask your kids.

Who are you friends with online?

How do you know them?

 

The thing is –  to both us and our  kids –  the virtual world can sometimes feel safer than the real world. And it’s a false sense of security.

We sit at our desks or in our lounge room and we know where we are and who is around us – we feel comfortable. Then we go online and interact with others, with that same sense of safety. For us as adults we can usually make informed choices about who we chat with, whose friend request we will accept, or not, or when it’s ok to block someone totally.

Our kids don’t though. They are still learning about social norms and can’t always tell what’s kosher and what’s not. Just like Stranger Danger really. They need to know not to believe the story about the puppies in the van or the free ice cream ‘just around the corner’.

So have a chat this week. It will take only a few minutes. If they might be stretching the truth (!) when talking with you – sit with them an have a look at their friends list. Pretend you want to learn how to use the website, if they think that’s suspicious! But make sure you know who is your child’s life.

I think the rule for younger kids should be:

kids social media cyber-safety

Don’t know them by sight?

Don’t know if that’s their real name or location?

Leave those friendships for when you’re old enough to understand what’s ok to chat about and what’s not and who it’s ok and safe to connect with.

 

So just ask your kids this week, Who are your playing with online?

You never know it might just keep them from accepting that rude friend request…

 

 

 

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Dec 05

10 Tech-Know Gifts for Christmas – Makey Makey

Tech-Know gift ideas for your family this Christmas.
Some are big, and some are little. All will be appreciated by your tech-know loved ones!

On the Tenth day of Christmas…Makey Makey

makey makey

Makey Makey – An Invention Kit for Everyone

Why?

So for the last Day of Christmas, I’ve got something a bit different. It’s an inventor’s kit for budding scientists or engineers. The official website describes it as –  The Original Invention Kit for Everyone

See the official Makey Makey site here.

Really cool! Make a banana into a keyboard!

makey-makey-how-it-works

 

 

  • Turn everyday objects like bananas into touchpads!
  • Connect the world around you to your computer! Setup takes just seconds.
  • Just plug, clip, and play! No programing knowledge needed.
  • 1000s of possibilities! Draw your own game controller! Dance like never before!
  • No software to install. Works with Mac and Windows.

Who for?

Kids, tweens and teens! Anyone with an interest in science or computers or progamming. I’ve used them with 8 year olds up to 16 year olds. V. cool and creative!

Cost?

The starter kit is about $50, but you might want to get the bigger  ‘kit’ (below) for about $64. It includes more regular and large alligator clips to more and larger cool things!

makey makey christmas gift ideas for kids
            
**I’m an Amazon affiliate. That means that if you click on a link and end up buying something, I get a (very) small kickback. Go here for more info on my disclosure policy.

 

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Dec 04

10 Tech-Know Gifts for Christmas – Bluetooth Speaker

Tech-Know gift ideas for your family this Christmas.
Some are big, and some are little. All will be appreciated by your tech-know loved ones!

Welcome to our Tech-Know Christmas! For the next ten days I’ll be sharing some great gift ideas for your family and friends. Especially those tricky tweens and teens who really seem to have everything they need, right?

On the Ninth day of Christmas… Bluetooth Speaker

wireless speaker bluetooth christmas giftsAmazonBasics Portable Bluetooth Speaker – Black

Why?

Instant party! Use this speaker to play music or audiobooks or even podcasts from your mobile device. The one below has a good range meaning you can take the speaker with you around the house or in the garden and has an 8 hour battery. Make sure you check the wireless range and the battery life when you choose one :0) Some are a bit more flimsy – cheap plastic! So make sure it looks like it will last your kids playtime (especially carrying it around).

Who for?

Children with a bluetooth device! Smartphones, or the newer iPod Touch or a tablet.

Cost?

The one below is about $60 and has 3 speakers and a microphone. So you can also use it as a speaker for your phone. Good for those calls to Grandma on Christmas day!

**I’m an Amazon affiliate. That means that if you click on a link and end up buying something, I get a (very) small kickback. Go here for more info on my disclosure policy.

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