Jan 30

Tech-Tip Friday

It’s Friday again and this week’s quick tip is in video (or you can read below if you prefer). It’s only 1 minute long and it’s a tip that’s timely for the new school year – buying a good case to protect your kids expensive technology!

There are main 5 things to consider when buying at a case or bag for your kids tech-know tools:

1. Fits inside their school bag – if at all possible it should fit inside your kids existing school bag. This means it’s less obvious that they are carrying expensive (sealable) technology AND it’s better for your kids’ backs if the weight is carried on two shoulders in a proper school bag. This is particularly important if you kids ride or cycle to school.

2. Carries peripherals – what else do they need to carry? Many schools ask kids NOT to bring power chargers to school but they might need to carry an external mouse (some kids just prefer it) or a usb, microphone or headphones. You bag or case should fit all these ‘extras’ without compressing on the laptop or iPad and potentially breaking the screen or otherwise damaging it

3. Strap – if possible, look for a case with a strap or at least good handles. This means that when they take their laptop to classes or specialist lessons, they can carry their technology securely around the school.

4. The brand doesn’t matter – as long as it fits their technology. Too small and something is going to break, too big and/or bulky and they likely won’t use it.

5. make sure they use it – this one’s tricky! Make sure your kids use the case, particularly on the way to and from school. It won’t protect your investment if the case or bag is left as school or at home!

 

I usually recommend having a look for a case at Big W, KMart or Officeworks. That last one has the best range but is sometimes a little more expensive. For kids tech I don’t usually buy from the big tech shops – such as Dick Smith or JB HiFI – they sell higher-end bags that cost a fortune and won’t really offer much more for your kids at this stage!

Do you have any tips or experiences to share? Let us know below – we’d love to hear from you ;0)

Jan 28

What do you want to do this year? Goals and our kids

It’s nearly that time again! Back. To. School.

Kids go back to school this week across Australia. And not all of them are going to be thrilled by another year at school. Here’s an idea to get them thinking about all the positives of a fresh new year of learning!

One of the first things I love to do with a new group of students each year is setting goals for the year. Not the term-by-term goals that we usually have kids write, you know ‘I want to learn how to multiple double digits’ kind of goals, but the big picture dreams that they want to see in themselves by December. So much fun!

Even my new-to-school 5-year olds love to make plans about their future. My favourite were the ones where they hadn’t quite grasped how ‘time’ works yet.

What would you like to have done or learning by the end of this year?

“I’m going to drive my dad’s car this year and go on holiday to the beach with my new bucket”

“This year I am going to learn how stars are made and then become an astronaut”

or even “I going to get married and have 3 babies and buy a big boat for fishing” –> that’s a BIG year!

Cute, right?

BTW – I’m always interested that it’s the boys who talk about marriage and babies, the girls seem to talk about jobs and games…. :0)

Our older kids might plan a bit more realistically though – maybe!

They might like to set up a band with their friends or learn how to do a certain dance or write a novel (yep, had that one, and they did it too!) or get to read at assembly or win a game of battleships, or be basketball captain, or teach your friend to juggle…

Big or little, it doesn’t seem to matter.

If the goals are personal and mean something, it make a difference to their motivation and their excitement for back to school.

You can do this at home too – especially if your kids need some inspiration in the first few weeks of school!

Try asking: ‘what’s a goal for you this year?’

They can make a BIG goal in any area really – not just at school.

Think about these areas if that helps –

  • Sports – join, re-join, attend, lead…
  • Family time – board games, cooking, decorating, baking, constructing, making…
  • Homework – routines, learning, teaching others…
  • Scouts/Guides – join, re-join, attend, lead…
  • Maths – add, subtract, multiply, divide, solve problems, understand something new…
  • Reading – books, blogs, lists, factual, fiction…
  • Writing – stories, how-to guides, instructions, lists…
  • Spelling – new words, old words, foreign words, another language…
  • Hand-writing – joined up, capitals, calligraphy, design logos, graphic design
  • Typing – speed, accuracy, fluency, keyboards shortcuts…
  • Science – astronomy, weather, geology, geography, biology, physics…
  • Music – instruments, singing, reading music, playing, improvising, practicing…
  • Performing Arts – write, perform, direct, dance, present, read aloud…

Getting back to school is sometimes not easy for all our kids. Even when we parents are wishing for those days :0) So

Asking our kids to dream big is fun! And it’s a great motivator too. Have a go this week as we all settle back into the routine!

Let us know how your kids go this week :0)

Jan 23

Tech-Tip Friday – Turn it off at the wall

It’s Friday again – yay! I hope you’ve had a great week. I’m loving the weather in Melbourne right now: sunny and hot. My favourite thing is to come home from work the long way round and spend an hour at the outdoor swimming pool, maybe swimming laps but really just hanging out in the sun reading! Then, when I finally get home, this is view from my bedroom, sunny and not too hot – love it!

summer love in melbourne

Anyway, summer-lovin’ aside, this Friday I wanted to share a quick tip about all those powered devices at home.

First of all if you have expensive computer equipment you should have them plugged in to a surge protector (like the one below). It’s a quick and easy way to make sure that your computer equipment isn’t fried in a lightening storm or a tree coming down on a powerline outside your house.

The main tip though is to turn off the power at the wall when not in use. If you leave chargers plugged in and switched on they are still pulling power and even though it’s not a lot you are spending money right there.

In Victoria and South Australis you also can apply to your electricity company and they will send you out a few Stand-By Power Controllers that look a bit like a power board but have a built-in timer. If you don’t interact with the plugged-in devices for more than an hour, it will turn them all off. Don’t forget though that this means that if you’re watching a movie and don’t touch the TV or the remote for an hour, it will switch itself off – can be very annoying!

It does save electricity and cash though – and it will mean you have to stay awake through the whole movie! A good idea as energy prices go up around the country. Especially as we have more and more devices that need recharging or plugging in every day.

Energy Australia have some great energy saving tips too, including this one:

“Use a power board
A power board can supply electricity to multiple appliances at the same time and allows you to switch off all appliances using the same switch.”

If they are all plugged in together then it makes it much more likely you’l flick off one switch – instead of 4 or 5. Me, I like the easy option!

Any other energy saving tips? Let us know if you turn off your tvs and computers every night…

 

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Jan 21

Midweek Funny – Hump Day humour

Who do you know that needs a laugh today? Wednesday is never the best day of the week I find! Almost the weekend but not quite ;0) Here are few funnies to get you through to the weekend:

Yep. Feels like this sometimes....

 

I have to try this!

 

In our lifetimes….please?

:0)

 

Ha! Love this.

 

Have a great day :0)
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Jan 19

What you should ask at school!

In Australia, we are almost back to school – one week to go. We get 5 weeks break which is wonderful! But sometimes it seems to go so quickly. As I get my head back into schools again (my uni work is ongoing though so it feels like I’ve been back at work a while!), I thought I’d share a couple of questions that you might like to ask your kids on their first few days back.

asking questions of our kids

Whether it’s their first year of school or their tenth, they are sometimes so busy experiencing everything that they don’t remember much when we ask ‘so what did you do today?’.

Why not try these questions instead :0)

  • What was the first thing you did today?
  • Who did you sit by when the roll was called?
  • Which books did you write in today?
  • What was maths about today?
  • Who did you work with for maths?
  • What books did you read today?
  • Did you read it to yourself or out loud?
  • What apps did you use?
  • Did you get to pick your apps to use?
  • What did you do on your laptop?
  • Did you learn any new software? What about the websites you used?
  • Did you ask any good questions?
  • Who gave a good answer?
  • Was there anything that made sense to you today that hasn’t before?
  • Was there anything that you need to look up tonight?
  • What are you looking forward to tomorrow?
  • Was there anything that sucked today? (no really, our kids need to be able to tell use the not-so-good stuff too)

There is certainly no rocket science involved here. Sometimes, it’s just about asking more open questions and waiting for some answers. Even it’s just a shrug and shake of the head to begin with. Be patient, you’ll get some answers some days and none on others. That’s just the way it goes.

Asking questions lets them know we are interested though – always a good thing.

 
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Jan 16

Tech-Tip Friday- In Case of Emergency

A quick tip today. If you or your kids have a mobile device, how often do you misplace it? Maybe you don’t, maybe you are better at keeping track of things than me! 

I once left my iPad at a theatre, and spent 24 hours madly calling everyone at the venue to try and locate it. Since then I’ve followed the advice below.

It’s easy really! Just set your home screen image to have an emergency contact on it.

Of course – this is all necessary because you have a password lock on your mobile device and people can’t just open your phone/tablet and find out who you are and return it.

You do have a passcode lock set on your phones and tablets right?

Good, I’m glad to hear it. All that info we keep on our devices should be protected. Turned it off because it was annoying you? Go turn it on again! ;0)

Apparently if you are in an accident, the emergency services will check your phone to find your ‘In Case of Emergency’ information, ICE information for short.

Although not an emergency, losing your phone or tablet is annoying and if there are some contact details that are easily accessible then there’s a better chance of having it returned.

I love this idea for kids – younger and older! If they leave it at a friend’s house or in maths class or in a friend’s car, at least it’s easy to see who it belongs to.

On a cyber-safety note – I have my name and my husband’s phone number on my iPhone lock screen. (No point putting your own phone number, they can’t call you!!). But I wouldn’t do this with kids.

If it’s your kid’s iPad or smartphone, I’d be putting their initials and your phone number only. Don’t let potential strangers know your kid’s name. Just to be extra safe.

How to..

Well, it’s not too hard. I downloaded an app called OVER. This lets you add text to any image. Take a photo of your kids or their latest art work or the sky or anything you’d like as your lock screen image.

Over App for home screens on phones

Over App

 

Open the app.

IMG_5362

Choose the photo you want to use from your photo library.

clouds background iphone wallpaper

Click Add Text – it’s best to centre the text at the bottom of the image, just to account for different screen sizes and resolutions. Now type in your name (or kid’s initials) and a contact phone number.

over app add text

Save the image.

IMG_5364

**not a real phone number!**

 

Set it as your Lock Screen wallpaper.

Not too hard, right? And now you know whose phone belongs to who and if you do have an emergency, your ICE contact details are right there too. Bonus – but I hope you never need it.

 

Do you lose things as much as me? Where are the best places you lost something and had it returned?

 

 

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Jan 14

Fun for Mums – Getting to know your kids’ online world!

One way that we can help our kids with their learning and online life is to try and be more involved in their worlds. This doesn’t have to mean spending an hour a day in World of Warcraft or Moshi Monsters (unless you want to!). It can be much easier – and enjoyable – than that

It really means understanding how people talk with others online and how different platforms (blogs, wikis, social media) work. Learning basic online skills like how to read and comment on a blog or find someone on Facebook might seem trivial but these are skills that our kids generally already have. And if we have these skills too it means that if/when they run into trouble we have at least a basic understanding of how things work, and can help find a solution.

One way to begin is to read more online. On an iPad, iPhone, Kindle, laptop, whatever. Our kids read a lot online. You can too, and it won’t hurt a bit! What are you already read online? (Apart from this blog of course :).

There is so much out there online that it can be hard to find the good stuff. So, today I’ve brought it to you. A fab blog to start you off – I think you’ll love it. If you sign up for the newsletter – hope you signed up for mine too btw! – you’ll get all these great blog posts straight to your email inbox :0)

 

 

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 4.53.54 pm

Women Love Tech is a blog run by the fabulous Frederique Bros. A lovely French woman living and working in Sydney, Australia. The blog isn’t just about tech gadgets – although Frederique knows a lot about those –  it’s more about how we women are using technology in our lives. There are sections on Lifestyle, Gadgets, Travel and Fashion just to get you started.

Of course, Frederique describes her blog better than I can:

Women Love Tech is Australia’s most popular lifestyle technology blog. Designed for women with busy lifestyles, the blog aims to empower women by giving them everything they need in one place. Whether it’s the best apps, the latest on smartphones, new websites, blogger tips, cool gadgets, social media support or product reviews.about

Women Love Tech has an unique niche, making technology easy, interesting and fun.”

To get you started with reading more online, here are two articles that I think you’ll enjoy. They fit with this blog’s focus too – cyber-safety and privacy online!

 

I love sharing great online resources I find and hope you enjoy this one as much as I do. Feel free to have a look around Women Love Tech and let me know what you think. I’d love to hear from you – leave me a comment below. A great way to learn and practice those online skills!

And don’t forget to leave a message with Frederique too :0) Say hi from me!

 

 

 

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Jan 12

What if…we gave all our kids an iPad?

Today I’m asking a question. Well, more of a hypothetical really. Teachers and parents often ask me what the ‘right’ choice is for their kids technology use. There’s no one answer of course. But I usually ask them to think about the  ‘what if….’ Usually this helps clarify what they want technology to do for their kids and what it might help in turns of learning… Here’s a ‘what if’ I’ve talked with a number of schools about lately…

What if you gave every student in your school an iPad…

What if someone (with lots of money!) decided to give every child in a school an iPad – what would that mean for the kids? And their learning? The teachers? And the school? Would it be all sunshine and happiness? If your kid’s school or Kindergarten is thinking about iPads, this might help with those decisions – feel free to share :0)

Our kids learn how to use these tools really quickly. It means they get passed the infatuation (!) stage early on. They won’t spend a week learning how to type ‘control + alt + delete’ (as the have to on a desktop computer). They won’t have to navigate between the keyboard, mouse and screen – not as easy as it sounds when you’re only in Prep (5 year old). Less learning the tool, means more time learning content and practicing skills. Win.

iPad kids 13

The iPads wouldn’t take up as much space. Honestly, this is a real consideration in classrooms. Numbers in classes aren’t reducing in many schools. They are going up. Giving over a third of the room to a bank of desktops or a large laptop charging station is a big ask. iPads can sit on the children’s’ tables and be charged at home. Easy. More room for group work, learning games, teacher focus groups…

20130524-181041

Big kids and little kids can all learn on iPads. Not just for rote learning apps (not a big fan of those anyway – learn why here) but for projects online, sharing work with friends, family, teachers, peers – outsiders too.  Its hard to complete a joint task on a desktop or laptop. There’s always one person sitting in front of it, constrained by chairs and tables. Mobile devices remove these challenges. Work anywhere, with different people, indoors, outdoors, in art class, in the sports hall. Learning leaves the desktop and moves in to the real world.

And – working with others is key to helping our kids be ready for the big, wide world. Not many jobs these days advertise for ‘loners, no sharing or joint decision making required‘ !

Our kids could also use the iPad to learn to be cyber-smart citizens. The best way to teach cyber-safety is NOT in the abstract. Telling kids not to give out their address online is one thing. Walking them through signing up for something online and having them NOT enter their address is another.  An iPad for every child would mean that teachers and parents would have real, ongoing examples of how to behave (or not) online. Supervised use when kids are younger might mean that they have experiences to draw on when they are older and in the online world alone.

iPad kids 4

However, the best benefit I can foresee is that every child would be able to have their own, personalised, learning experience. They will work with teachers to set their own learning goals, maybe guided by the curriculum, maybe by their interests – hopefully by both. Our kids could be more involved with, and  aware of their own learning

ipads for kids

Our kids would be able to ask deeper questions that were personal and important to them. They could learn how to answer them too.They could learn the difference between Google-able and Non-Googleable questions – so important for deeper understanding. (If you can just Google the answer – it’s not a good question. So, why is the sky blue, we can Google. How do we see the blue in the sky is a more in-depth question that will require some investigation).

We could involve parents more in their kids school life and education.  Not more work for parents (we all have enough of that). But maybe a better understanding of how to work with our kids, how much to support them, what it’s important to teach and what it might be important to learn by themselves. iPads let kids take work home, or email to mum or dad. iPads are a great link for parents and teachers too. Homework becomes a three-way activity (kids, parents, teacher), with the info, learning, assessment stored on, and shared via, the iPad.

 

Of course, that’s a lovely rosy picture I’ve just painted. There would be challenges of course.

  1. Infrastructure. Boring old cabling and wiring. Lots of cash needed for many schools to upgrade their set up to cater. More money on this means less on other things.
  2. Cyber-safety, at the beginning of a program like this is fairly intense. You have to teach and model skills all the time. Every use of an iPad is a potential cyber-safety concern. We’d need time to help teachers to learn these skills and to prioritise this over other things.
  3. More tech support would be needed. When an iPad breaks, it is either a quick reset to fix it or it’s a trip to the Apple store. There aren’t many in-between situations. In schools, particularly primary schools, we’d need more immediate technical support to keep iPads up and running. And the school wireless Internet network too. Good news is that iPads, in my experience, need very little maintenance. If you are sending the iPads home with kids and the families are managing the software and the apps then it’s even simpler…
  4. Money. Of course this is expensive. That’s why it’s a ‘what if…’ but for some families and schools, this big picture dreaming is what they need to get them on the path towards this… How to finance a whole school iPad program is always going to be a hurdle though.

 

What if we gave every kid in a school an iPad? Well, from my experience and reading we’d see more personalised, relevant, 21st century learning.

And maybe (ok probably) more excited kids in our classrooms learning more about their world in their own way. Guided by teachers, learning and sharing with their classmates. Focusing on what they need to know to be prepared for 21st century life.

Sounds good, huh? Now all we need is to find that elusive anonymous donor….. ;0)

 

 

 

 

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Jan 09

Tech-Tip Friday: Invest in protection

Hackers, viruses, malware, phishing software. None of these are good things. And all of them can cause big problems or minor annoyances to you, your kids, spouse or even your unsuspecting email contacts. It’s a good idea to know about these things and know what you can do about them. A good anti-virus software can help but we also need to make sure we understand what these words actually mean!

A quick Wikipedia search gives us some good definitions to understand what we are up against:

  • Hacker – “someone who seeks and exploits weaknesses in a computer system or computer network”. But a hacker can be a good thing too. It can mean someone who is innovative in their computer programming and makes something cool or unexpected happen.
  • Virus – These bits of coding install themselves from things you click on online or in an email and replicate themselves across your computer and/or network.

“Viruses often perform some type of harmful activity on infected hosts, such as stealing hard disk space or CPU time, accessing private information, corrupting data, displaying political or humorous messages on the user’s screen, spamming their contacts, or logging their keystrokes

These are universally BAD. Logging Keystrokes, means it records what letters and numbers you type online – usually on secure websites, like your bank website. Bad.

  • Malware – “a Malware, short for malicious software, is any software used to disrupt computer operation, gather sensitive information, or gain access to private computer systems”. Computer viruses are a type of malware.

So those are the things you need to look out for. What to do about them? Three things –

antivirus software protection for your kids and you at home

antivirus software protection for your kids and you at home

antivirus software protection for your kids and you at home

Keeping your kids (and your expensive equipment) safe takes a bit of effort to set up but once you install the anti-virus software and set up the regular, scheduled scans of your computers it does it on its own and you won’t even notice :0)

 

Do you use anti-virus software on your computer? Share your software with us below :0)
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Jan 07

Hump day humour – a few laughs to get you through to Friday

Funny’s for your midweek hump day… with a tech flavour of course. Enjoy :0)

You are here humour cushion

 

Biggest fears of our generation

 

cloud computing

posting to my wall cave-man wall

 

kids helps grandma with technology

Bit of a worry this one…

 

And a goody but an oldie…

where's the any key on keyboard

Don’t laugh. I taught a course to elderly folk who were very literal in their computer use :0) BUT anyone can learn there’s not an ‘any’ key !!

 

 

Have a lovely week – I love the kid on the phone to his grandma. Which is your fave!

 

 

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