Feb 27

Tech-Tip Friday – keeping tech tidy at home…

A quick Tech-Tip for Friday. Does your office space look like this…?

original

We do need to keep all those cords safe and away from cats, dogs and guinea pigs –  I once had a computer returned to me because a particularly hungry household rodent chewed through the charging cable! So we need to keep them untangled and not hanging where anyone (or thing) might trip on them – and crash your expensive equipment to the floor.

My tip to you is to go to Ikea – love it or hate it, they have good, cheap storage and organising gadgets.

They have lots of options but I love these little trays:

201311_Cable_management_accessories

http://www.ikea.com/au/en/catalog/categories/departments/workspaces/16195/

They screw in to any table or desk and hold all those cables together. Easy.

Tidy and no more annoying rodent incidents!

Enjoy!

Feb 25

Great Science Resource – to get your kids into science

If you hang around here a bit you’ll know I’m keen to get more kids into science (and STEM subjects in general) and technology gives us great access to fab resources that we wouldn’t normally have – see how fireworks are made or see a giant dry ice bubble made!

Well, here’s a great website for your kids. It’s aimed at children but I love it too :0)

You can browse around and learn and watch cool stuff or show it to your kids and help them with their homework!

The website is called Science Kids and is from New Zealand: http://www.sciencekids.co.nz/

Science Kids is the home of science & technology on the Internet for children around the world.

Learn more about the amazing world of science by enjoying our fun science experiments, cool facts, online games, free activities, ideas, lesson plans, photos, quizzes, videos & science fair projects.

There are lots of instructions and experiments that your kids will enjoy:

science for kids

 

They have great videos of science experiments:

science for kids

 

I love the history of science page – lots of info on famous scientists

science for kids

 

And lots of cool experiments to try at home –

Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 8.48.36 pm

 

Bookmark this great site and pull it out when your kids are looking for something fun online or for their homework!

 

Got other sites you love? Share them with us below!

 

Feb 23

A Quick Checklist – 10 ways to ask how your kids used tech today

So a couple of weeks ago I posted a list of questions to ask your kids – to try and the avoid the non-answer we usually get when we ask ‘what did you do at school today?’  That post was pretty popular (yay!) but  I got a couple of questions about how to ask about their tech use.

This time of year – the new school year here in Aus – us parents have often forked over some of our hard earned cash for shiny new technology toys, and we’d like to know how it’s being used. Not to criticise teachers, the school or anyone else, but to learn about how our kids are learning in school and what they really do all day!

So here is my top ten list of questions to ask your kids about their technology day at school:

talk to your kids about tech

Finally, don’t forget to ask your younger kids this question, so they are ready for another full day of learning –

Now, do you need to charge your device???

 

Let me know if you have any other suggestions or ideas :0) And don’t forget to let me know if you use these questions – I’d love to know how they go over at your house!

Feb 20

Tech-Tip Friday – Wifi for Chores, would you do this?

Would you do this? I know some parents who do! Takes a bit of effort on your part to keep logging in and changing the password, but they change it about once a week – or more if they have ‘resistant’ chore-completers at home!

The idea is that you change the password and then when your kids ask you for the password, you say ‘Sure! Of course! But do these chores first!’

I’ve heard it work really well and not so well.

In one case a rather recalcitrant teenager just racked up a HUGE bill on her phone rather than unload the dishwasher. Points for ingenuity, I guess, but not for avoiding chores or getting into debt. She had to pay off the bill over several months from her part time job ;0)

But more often parents tell me it works quite well if you want certain chores completed on the weekend and can be bothered to reset the password.

Changing the password on your wifi is a good idea to do regularly anyway –  read more about that here. So it’s a good idea to figure out how to do that anyway!

So, would you do it? Too much or fair enough? Let us know what your plan is to get those kids doing chores – I’d love some tips!!

 

Feb 16

Case-Study: Minecraft

We are looking at Minecraft today. I get asked about this software all. the. time. So I thought I’d give you a quick cheat-sheet. As parents, it’s good to know what our kids are up to – so we can talk to them about their online worlds – soooo important ;0)

What is it?Minecraft is free software (you pay once you want to download the full version). You download it to your computer and then play offline. You can play online with others but I wouldn’t recommend this for younger/primary school aged kids. Tell them ‘single-user mode only’!

Once you’ve got the software, you are in a virtual world. You ‘spawn’ – appear in the world – and then you can start building your world. You MINE (hence the name!) for ore and then build/create all you need to survive. Build houses with electricity, or towns with streets, or maybe underground or underwater worlds! It’s a really creative game that’s a lot of fun. You get an idea for a building – but then you have to work out what minerals you’ll need to mine/find. Then you look up a kind of ‘recipe’ to see what needs to go with what to make, for example, a table or a fire. Kids love the creative side of this!

https://minecraft.net/

Who uses it? -From my experience, it’s kids from about age 10 up to about age 13 – although my nephew and niece (8 and 10) love the app on their tablets too! They are always so proud to show me what they’ve built.

https://minecraft.net/

Why is it so popular? – Interestingly I think it’s because our kids can create whatever they like. I’ve used it in science and history lessons (they build worlds or homes that are historic or reflective or energy saving…) and kids love being able to build what’s in their heads. They get to make something of their own, rather than just play on a game that’s already been built and created.

https://minecraft.net/

Isn’t it just for boys though? – Hell, no! But really – NO. Girls and boys love Minecraft – it’s creative and personal to them and boys and girls engage with it in similar ways, from what I’ve seen.

Also, we need to encourage our girls to learn science, tech, engineering and maths subjects (STEM) – these are the biggest growing areas in the real-world. The more our girls learn in these areas, the better the opportunities they will have when they leave school or uni! Start them young and let them explore all sorts of learning!

 

So that’s my Minecraft cheat sheet. Any tips to add or share? Are your kids obsessed with Minecraft too?

 

Feb 13

Tech-Tip Friday – Turning off your wifi

Can you believe it’s Friday again! This week has flown by – probably because I started two new jobs in 4 days, been a bit of a blur, so bring on the weekend. All good with work but a LOT of info to digest – brain. full.

This week’s tech-tip is something we all forget but should do! Turn off the wifi at home.

You can do this easily by simply unplugging it or by finding the off button – I just pull the plug out of the wall.

Apart from energy saving, it also lets your wifi reset itself, which it needs to do every now and then. Just like your computer it needs to be turned off and on again to clear its ‘memory’ so that it starts afresh. This can speed things up too!

So turn off the wifi when you go away when you are going to be away from home for a few days or longer. That way you’ll know that no-one else is using your data allowance AND you’ll save on electricity too. Win!

Do you turn your wifi off at home? Do you use it as a way to manage your kids behaviour? I know some one

Feb 09

Kids love tech – STEM Learning

Hope your weekend was good – it was lovely here in Melbourne. Finally, we had summer temperatures, and we headed down to the beach camping for a few days. But now it’s back to work :0)

I want to share a really cool blog with you today. It’s for older kids and it’s all about using technology to make stuff!

If you read my post about Super Awesome Sylvia, this might sound familiar!

Joey is a high-school student whose abilities to create, imagine and build have seen him invited to the White House 3 times and he’s currently working as an intern at Intel! And he hasn’t even finished school yet ;0)

lookwhatjoeysmaking

Check out what he’s up to on his website (scroll down on his home page to see the info).

http://lookwhatjoeysmaking.blogspot.com.au/

The type of learning that Joey is all about is also growing in our schools, particularly the focus on those STEM subjects.

The thing is, it’s not about the tech they use or our kids’ computer skills.

STEM subjects are about thinking: rational, problem-solving, creative, collaborative thinking. These are the skills our kids will need as they go out in to the world of work.

Even if they don’t want to become scientists, tech specialists, engineers or mathematicians, these thinking skills support them really to do any job they can think of. Helpful when we don’t actually know what jobs they will have available to them.

So getting our kids interested in STEM subjects – and there’s something for everyone in STEM – isn’t about learning facts and figures.

It’s actually about raising the bar on what learning looks like at home and at school and opening doors to a huge range of possibilities.

lookwhatjoeysmaking2
Cliches aside :0) STEM is just cool and it allows our kids’ imagination become reality… it’s not just for science ‘geeks’. Anyone can tinker at home and make something special.

Check out Joey’s blog and let me know what you think. And go read about Super Awesome Sylvia is your kids are in Primary school :0)

http://lookwhatjoeysmaking.blogspot.com.au/

Feb 06

Tech-Tip Friday – better wifi at home

Tech-Tip Friday is here again! And I’m answering a question I have been asked  a few times lately. Especially by parents with kids needing to work online for homework –

“My wifi is terrible in the new work space we set up for our kids, what can we do about it?”

It’s not too hard actually, and not overly expensive either. For under $100 you can buy a WIFI EXTENDER.

This is a plug-in-the-wall device that picks up your existing wifi signal, boosts it and sends it on. Make sense?

So if you set up your kids with a desk in the back bedroom or above the garage you  can boost the wifi network so they can receive the wifi signal and get their work done.

Cyber-Safety – you do need to consider this for younger kids. Are you ok with them working online in another room? At some point we do need to let our kids work alone, it’s how they learn to be responsible. But it needs to be managed too.

I suggest setting up a filter that lets you monitor what sites they are on, at least for the first couple of weeks. And then every now and then! Here’s info on how to do that.

For now, the wifi extender is easy to set up. For most of them, you simply open up a computer on your home network and run the software that comes with the extender on a CD-Rom or DVD

Plug the extender into the wall when the software tells you to and… that’s it!

You will need to plug the extender in somewhere in the house where the signal IS good. So that it can receive a strong signal and then boost and send it on.

Wifi Extenders vary in price. The price is usually related to the strength of the signal ‘boost’ you want. The more money you pay, the further the signal will be boosted. Read the info on the box to check out the range of the booster.

I bought my booster at Dick Smith. ( I got the one below) Click through to buy online – or go in store. At the time (a couple of weeks ago) they had the best deals, although JB HiFi stock them too :0)

Do you need this at your house? Could it stop some arguments maybe ?!

wifi extender dick smith

Feb 04

Take your tech outdoors this week! Fun game for your kids!

It’s back to work in full swing this week! But with the power off at home I was relegated to the local library for power and wifi this afternoon. Oh, how I miss wifi when I don’t have it! Hard to get my work done offline.

scavenger hunt for kids with ipads The library was a lovely spot to work. One side is all glass and looks out over a duck pond which is rather serene. Less serene was the large mothers’ group having a sing along with their darling bubs. It was rather cute though but it did make it hard to think about complex educational theory and new curriculum with ‘wheels on the bus’ repeating in the background. Must remember to thank my brother for the great noise reducing in-ear headphones he gave me. They were perfect for this afternoon’s serenading :0).

On another note, and not meaning to complain  – but the last time I was in a public library you had to be quiet. Is that not the thing these days? It was noisy, really noisy. I guess it’s just good that there are people here though…

Today’s post is really a drop in to say hello and to ask how is your week going? Looking forward to Friday or relishing the back-to-school quiet or maybe the back-to-work routine? And to offer you an idea for the weekend :0)

If you are looking for an idea to get the kids off the couch and outdoors on the weekend – here you go. You’re welcome!

The idea is an old fashioned scavenger hunt {little kids like it when you call it a treasure hunt ;0) } but with a technology twist. They don’t collect things, they collect photos. (Download the hunting list below.)

I remember scavenger hunts from when I was 7 years old in Brownies back in the UK. My Aunt was one of the pack leaders – I think she was ‘Tawny Owl’ ! – but I never got preferential treatment  of course ;0) She had great lists for scavenger hunts. Here’s one I’ve come up with that you might like to begin with.

This list isn’t designed to be prescriptive, this way your kids have to be creative and think about what they will take photos of – this takes more time too, added bonus!

The list below is downloadable. Feel free to share it around to anyone who needs a quiet 45 mins on the weekend!

A Scavenger Hunt is a great idea for parties or sleepovers too. Put the kids in groups or let them play individually.

You’ll need:

  • Outdoor clothes and shoes
  • a camera (per group) – on an iPod, iPad, iPhone etc
  • Copies of The List
  • Pens to tick off as they go

I’ve used this Photo Scavenger Hunt with kids from age 5 to 13 and they all love it. They come up with wildly different results of course!

Younger kids will come running back to you after each photo to ask you to decipher/read the next ‘clue’ on the list. Older kids will disappear for half an hour and come back covered in mud! Either way it’s good outdoor fun.

It’s up to you if you score this or not. I think it adds some excitement for the kids and keeps them on track – and desperate to win :0) Prizes I’ve given include bragging rights, first to eat at dinner and choice of reading book for the afternoon. Nothing that costs $$$ !

You can do a couple of things with the photos afterwards. If your kids are old enough, they can make a quick video (I love iMovie on the iPad – it just works). Younger kids will be happy enough just to show you their photos though!

Have a great weekend and let me know if you try this list out. What would you add? What would you leave out?

You can download and print the list by clicking on the expander arrow in the top right corner then choosing print – you can then choose to print straight away or to save as a PDF if you prefer. 

 

PS Power is still not on so I’ve moved to the local cafe! Hard life this working from home…

writing at a local cafe free wifi no power