Apr 19

How mindful are you? Teachers using mindful education in schools

Why Teachers Need This (Not Just Another Fad To Take Up Teacher Time) !

 

What’s this mindfulness education we keep reading about? Why is it a part of some classrooms these days?

I was reminded of these questions the other day in talking to some parents after a school session I had run…They are good questions! What is all this talk of ‘meditation’ and ‘mindfulness’?

 

As a primary school teacher, I often use yoga and mindfulness with students from grade prep (5-year-olds) up to High Schoolers. Basic yoga moves are great for younger kids who might struggle to sit still. But all yoga sessions (and they are never more than 5 mins!) were followed by a few minutes of quiet sitting – leading into mindfulness practiceas they got less fidgety!

At The University of Melbourne we have a department called Positive Psychology that, among other areas, focuses on mindfulness for students in schools.

Read more about it here.

 

Mindfulness is a type of meditiation that has no religious or spiritual overtones. It is about reminaing present and reducing stress and perhaps calming that over-active mind!

 

Here are three good reasons to support mindful practice in the classroom:

 

1. Mindfullness is a way to focus on the moment, not what happened last night on tv, or who you might play footy with at recess. It provides a break in the day that can help us – and our students – refocus on learning.

2. It brings the class together as a group. We know that learning is social. We learn better when we can make sense of things through others. When we use mindfulness it lets the class know that we are in this together!

3. It can help manage childhood disputes or disagreements. I remember one year, after nearly every recess, I’d have at least three students who had struggled to play well outside. Often they just reacted quickly without thinking of the consequences. So when their friend refused to sit with them after playtime, they were remorseful and sad – and their friend was hurt. Teachers sometimes use mindfulness to calm situations down and enable frazzled kids to reflect on what has happened. This often meant they could reconcile more easily… and get on with their day.

Mindfulness is not just for kids, of course. Try these apps for your own dose of calm in your crazy day! You can do these short sessions on the train, in the car park, at your kids soccer game…wherever! Have a smart phone and headphones? You are all set!

10%happier
Headspace
1 Giant Mind
Smiling Mind

***This post is not sponsored! I just think these apps are great!***

 

 

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Aug 17

Take better video on your smartphone!

How is your week going? I’m busy at work but enjoying it. I have actually finished a few things on my list and emails them off! (practically a miracle). I’ve been answering lots of questions about using cameras vs smartphones for video making lately. I know that lots of kids love to make movies on mum or dad’s phone so I thought I’d offer a few tips so that when we have to watch that ‘adorable’ video for the hundredth time you won’t be twitching with irritation at the jerky video or bad sound!

Here are my top 5 tips to get your kids taking better video on your smartphone (or tablet!).

  1.  The videographer needs to stand still! Yes, obvious but hopping from foot to foot makes for horrible footage. Plant two feet on the floor and stay there.
  2. Elbows in! Hold the device with TWO hands, then tuck your elbows into your side. If you need to follow the action, twist at the waist and keep those feet still and your arms in.
  3. Give a countdown. Before you start filming, let the ‘actors’ know that you’re about to film. Three! Two! One! Action! This will avoid having to scroll past 2minutes of ‘wait, i’m not ready’ ‘I’m ready’ ‘Wait for me’ !!
  4. Record a bit extra at the end. If your kids get to edit the movie, they’ll love adding credits and adding themselves as director, actor, writer. You’ll need a few (maybe 5) seconds of extra footage at the end to roll the credits over. Easy to do and fun too!
  5. Use the built in camera app to film. Then use another app to edit. iMovie is great but there are some great apps that add kid-friendly fun filters at the push of a button. Try Adobe Premier Free (Android and iOS).

When you are done, don’t forget to delete the out-takes – you only need to keep the best one, otherwise your devices will fill up with 4 second clips of someones shoe and you won’t have storage for when you really need it ;0)

Have fun filming!

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Aug 15

Never lose a school notice again!

So it’s a beautiful day here. The conference is amazing and the food is… well, amazing too!
 Tech-TIp time – a quick one today.
Keep loosing those school notices or forms or permission slips?
Once you’ve returned them I find it hard to keep track – what was that I signed. Could have been anything really. Maybe I signed my kid up for the army or the circus. Who knows.
So my tip for today is to get Evernote. Such an amazing tool (it’s my external brain and has been for 6 years).
Get the free app on your computer, iPad, phone or any device really. You save something on your phone, it appears on your computer. So no matter what device you have with you your info is right there.
never lose a school note again
I love it. More than is reasonable probably.
So, how to use Evernote to deal with all that school paperwork your kids bring home? 3 steps…
  • Take those notes form school, gym club, footy club or whatever you need remember.
  • Open up Evernote and choose the ‘Photos’ option
  • Take a quick pic of the info
Evernote will save this and sync it to the cloud. The best bit? The whole thing is searchable. Right down to the text inside images. So take a photo of the parent helper roster and then search for your name and it will find your name inside the photo. So cool.

So it’s a Thursday and darling 8 year old says ‘I think its Italian day tomorrow, I think I need a costume or was it food… mum!!!!!’

No worries. Open up Evernote, type in ‘Italian’ and let Evernote work it’s magic. Up pops the original letter (likely sent a month ago) with all the details.
Relax, all you need is a Mario moustache and a pair of blue overalls and you are set.
How to win at mum-ing? Evernote, all the way. :0)
never lose a school notice again
Give it a go and let me know how you go. If you have any questions about Evernote, leave a comment below and I’ll get right back to you :0) Gotta convert me some folks to the Evernote-way.
Enough with the evangelical nutty-ness. See ya!!
Jun 16

Checklist for using iPads at home with kids

School Holidays are approaching here in Australia and I’ve had a few parents comment that they are thinking of using the end of the financial year as an excuse to buy their kids an iPad (just in time for those holidays too!). If you’ve been around here for a while you’ll know htat I don’t think technology should replace good old-fashioned outdoor fun – but when it’s as cold and rainy as Melbourne’s been this week, then I’m all for some good indoor amusements!

If you are thinking of buying an iPad (or any mobile device really), here’s a quick checklist of things to think about!

iPads at home

 

 

 

 

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Jun 12

Tech-Tip Friday – sharing a webpage

A quick tip today! Have you ever been looking at a website and thought ‘I wish my mum/dad/friend could see this – they’d love it!’

Well, there’s a quick and easy way to share a website with anyone that has an email!

Just find the URL and paste it into an email!

  • Ok, so first step – What is a URL?

A Uniform Resource Locator is a unique address that links to a specific ‘place’ on the in Internet. Every webpage as a URL as do all images and videos too. For our purposes we just need to find the URL of a page (although you can usually right-click on an image and find the URL for the specific image too.

  • Next step – find the address.

There are number of web browsers that let you surf the net, and each is set up slightly differently. But you can always find the URL or address of a website at the top of screen. Like this:

finding the URL

 

So you copy that ENTIRE thing (don’t miss bits off the end!) and paste it into an email! That’s it. Done. Easy peasy and no need to try and spell a complicated website address over the phone or in a text message (I’ve seen that done, not easy or fun :0(

So a quick and easy tip this week – but one I’ve been asked for a few times lately!

Want other tips or tricks? leave a comment below and I’ll see what I can do.

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Jun 05

Tech-Tip Friday – Are you kids feeling anxious? Try this app

Happy end of the week! It’s been a big one for me with the release of my new ebook ‘Super Simple Cyber-Safety’. It’s been really well received and so exciting! To get your copy, sign up to the blog here  and I’ll send through your **free** copy!

Back to today’s post!  I’m sharing a great app that I love to use for myself and for kids in my class. It’s a free app with guided meditations – don’t worry it not at all woo-woo but it can help our kids (and us) focus more and stress less. Win-win!

In schools we are seeing more and more students that are having a bit of trouble coping, and we seem to be getting more and more student diagnoses of anxiety, whether from professionals or from parents. It is a busy world our kids live in and sometimes I think we can forget that they are only young – and still learning how the world works.

Available for iPhone and Android

One way we can help our kids cope with all the pressures of growing up in such a busy, always-on world is through mindfulness mediation.

I was put onto mindfulness techniques buy a educational psychologist a few years ago now and have used it with students from age 5 to 17 as a way to focus in on learning and to cope better with demands of study/play/sports/work/family/friends/relationships….

Basically this app – Smiling Mind – contains mini mindfulness meditation sessions for kids and adults.

Mindfulness meditation focuses you in on the present moment, through breathing and thinking exercises. Focusing on the present can help us reduce our stress about what might happen or what has happened (things we often can’t change anyway).

In recent years, Mindfulness Meditation has surged in popularity for use in the treatment of stress, resilience, anxiety, depression and other physical and mental illnesses. Highly regarded institutions such as UCLA, Harvard, Oxford, Monash and Melbourne Universities have developed clinical studies into the positive impacts of Mindfulness Meditation. – See more at: http://smilingmind.com.au/blog/#!/category/background/what-is-smiling-mind

smiling mind app

The app is free and easy to use. Simply install Smiling Mind on your smartphone or tablet and plug in some headphones (or play through speakers or in the car). The meditations are short (most are under 5 minutes) and are led by a calm voice that gives clear instructions on guiding your focus to yourself and the present moment.

You and your kids can do these short mindfulness activities in the car, on the train or at home. While in an ideal world you would be in a quiet, calm space with no interruptions, that’s often not possible. I use the app on the train and love it – despite the noise and lots of people crowded in. Some meditation is always better than none, and I wouldn’t get my meditation in daily otherwise.

The app was designed for kids initially and the meditations are set up in categories based on age groups (but there’s also an ‘adult’ category for us too). I’ve found that doing these short meditations with younger kids keeps them on track while older kids can manage by themselves after the first one or two sessions. Try and make meditation a daily habit to see benefits, although any is better than none!

If you or your kid are feeling under the pump, I highly recommend the Smiling Mind app. Read more about it here  (it’s run by psychologists in Australia and funded by a number of big name organisations).

Give it a go and don’t forget to share how you went here! BTW – this post is not sponsored at all, I just love the app and want to share!

 

 

 

 

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May 22

Tech-Tip Friday – Be a Super-Searcher

Happy end of the week! I hope its been a good one. I’ve been busy working in schools with three different hats on. One day I’m a teacher educator working with teachers in their classrooms, then I’m a university lecturer coaching trainee-teachers on the job, and then I switch hats again and I’m a researcher collecting data for my PhD. It’s a busy time!

To save time online I like to make sure I’m as efficient as possible, so I can on with what I’m actually trying to achieve! So here are my top 3 tips to find what you are looking for online with minimal effort! I use Google and it’s the most popular search engine of course – it’s even a verb now! When we are busy (and maybe on our mobile phones or smaller screens) these quick tips will help you find what you are looking for without spending losing hours scrolling through pages and pages!

  1. Use more than one keyword – don’t worry about fully sentences but pick the key words you are searching for.

  2. Use ”  ” symbols – if you have a specific phrase (say, gluten-free cupcakes) typing in those words will spit out anything that matches those words in any order. But if you search for “gluten-free cupcakes” instead, you will only see websites/pages with those words in that exact order and on that exact phrase, no extra words = quicker results

  3. Use AND – looking for more than one keyword? Use AND in between and you’ll only find pages with both keywords. So, instead of ‘movie reviews’, trying typing Movie AND Review to see only the pages with both terms.

These quick and easy tips will help you find what you are looking for and be on your way MUCH quicker!

Any tips you’d like to add? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
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May 10

Tech-Tip Friday – Ideas for a busy (and rainy) weekend

It’s getting colder here in Melbourne and winter is definitely with us. While I love kids to be outdoors and running around, when it’s another rainy weekend, I’m ok with them playing inside!

Today I’m sharing  5 online resources that your kids will love for some rainy day fun.
I’m not suggesting these as a replacement for actual one on one play, but when they just want to be indoors and you’d rather they didn’t watch Frozen for the millionth time, these might be a good (more educational) option!

Click the image to visit the site…

National Geographic for Kids Great resources for kids interested in science, animals, geography, the environment...and lots of other stuff too.

Great resources for kids interested in science, animals, geography, the environment…and lots of other stuff too.

 

This week in science...

Great science resources – with updates on what Science is happening this week…

 

Cyber-safety – learn how to be safe online through a series of great videos and activities centred on Kara and her crew aboard their pirate ship.

 

Great interactive games for learning


Great storybooks online (for free) – easy to read and great pictures to go with them.

Apr 03

Tech-Tip Friday – How to wipe your iPad

Happy Good Friday :0)

Today here’s a quick tip to wipe your iPad and make sure your personal information doesn’t fall into the wrong hands!

Of course, you won’t want to wipe everything on a regular basis!

But there are times you might want to!

If you upgrade, or decide to sell your iPad, maybe online. Or you might decide to give an older model iPad to your kids, you’ll likely want to make sure that all the information on there is gone.

You can even remotely wipe an iPad using the Find My iPhone app – if it gets stolen or lost, you can be sure that no-one gets your data, even if your iPad is gone for all time. Read more about how that works here.

It’s a fairly easy process to wipe your iPad and reset it to Factory Settings –

  • Open up the ‘Settings’ app
  • Click on ‘General’
  • Then scroll down to ‘Reset’

There are a few options here – you can just reset the settings (which will leave the content like photos etc intact) or you can Erase All Content and Settings. This is the one you’ll want if you are giving your iPad to someone else (either selling or passing it on).

reset your ipad

 

  • Choose ‘Erase the Settings and Content’ and enter your passcode (you do have a passcode set up, right?).
  • It will ask you to confirm your choice.

That’s it! Now your iPad is ready for someone else to use – without all your emails, settings, notes, photos, videos…and whatever else you might have on there.

Do you give your kids your older electronics? Do you think that’s a good idea? Let us know your thoughts in the comments…

Mar 27

Tech-Tip Friday – How to shop safely online…

Do you shop online? Or use social media? If so, you need to know how to check if a website is secure. There are lots of computer hackers that attempt to access your information as it get’s transmitted online so it pays to know how to check if you, and your credit card, are safe online.

First of all, check the URL (the website address). Does it begin with ‘https‘ – that ‘s‘ stands for secure. You’ll usually see this on a website that requires a username or password or if it offers items for purchase. For example, on Facebook, once you’ve logged in, you’ll see that the website address (URL) is https://www.facebook.com/

Checking the url isn’t foolproof but it is a good place to start in checking if a website is using some security.

I use a Mac computer, so here’s what that looks like on my computer:

secure website identification

See that padlock? If I click on it, I will find more information about what security this website is using.

HTTPS means that the information you put into the website will be encrypted (turned into code) when it is transmitted. This is to stop ‘middle men’ intercepting your personal information or credit card details as it travels through the Internet to the website’s servers.

Secure websites have to have a ‘certificate’ to make this work. This is a bit of computer code that they set up that then encrypts all the data, and makes it readable again at the other end. It’s usually managed by a third party company that we can find more about by clicking on the padlock.

This is the same process on a Windows computer – the padlock is in the web address bar, but on the other end, towards the right side.

IE security on a website

Here’s what you might see on a Mac when you click on the padlock:

certificate details maccertificate details mac

You can read about the kind of encryption they use and check that the certificate (the security coding) is still current- and if you want to know more about the certificate you can also Google the terms to get an idea of how

My advice is to check the URL and the certificate before you put any personal details into a website.  If you can, you might like to use PayPal, which is a good alternative to typing in your credit card details into every website you come across – the more times you enter your data online, obviously increases the chances for problems to arise. PayPal is a third party company that stores your details on very secure website and then pass your payment on to whichever commercial website you’d like them to.

Make a note to check out the websites you use as you shop online. Found any bargains lately? Do share!