May 23

Sleeping Teens!

No matter the age of your kids, your sleep is likely disturbed. Either you are awake and feeding/changing/rocking to sleep or your are lying awake listening for the car in the driveway dropping off your teen! It’s a joy of parenthood, right?!

So, this week I’ve found you a video that might help you feel better about your baby/toddler/preteen or teen’s sleeping habits. Wendy Troxel argues that days should just start later! High school should begin at 11am – because teenagers’ sleep patterns are different to ours.

I love these Ted Talks – and hope you do too!

Enjoy the video – and GET SOME REST!

 

 

PS If you liked this post, you’ll enjoy our weekly newsletter.

BONUS: Receive all our posts delivered right to your inbox AND your free copy of my ebook
‘Super Simple Cyber-Safety at Home’
Everything parents need to know about keeping your kids safe online, no matter what devices they have! Sign up via the pop-up or the blog side bar to get your free copy delivered to your inbox now!

Mar 31

Keeping up to date…routines and technology

I read an article last week (can’t find it now Im afraid!) but it was about developing indepencece in our children, from a young age. Not physical independence. I don’t mean letting 5 year olds off on their own in strange city!

It was more about helping our kids to take responsiblity for their ativities and events.

In this article, the children were aged 9 and 10, so about grades 3 or 4 in the Aussie school system.
Their parents had taught them how to use the family calendar in the kitchen to schedule plans with friends. These kids were quoted as commenting that they like that they could make these decisions themselves. And parents said they liked that their kids asked them if they could have a lift to the friends house or wherever. Less taxi-driver and more parent-like!

I wonder if your kids could manage this? My step-kids were put onto our digital family calendar when they were about 14 and 16. They used it to see if they could ask for a lift somewhere, or whether we’d be home to cook them dinner!

Obviously there’s a big difference between a 10-year-old and a 16-year-old…

But I do like the idea of starting children off with some responsiblity and decision-making power at a primary school age – as long as they are still supervised and supported of course!

What do you think? Could your kids cope with making their own appointments with friends, with the dentist, with Grandma?

Dec 23

Tech Education in the News – not enough teachers who can teach coding?

In the news this week:

“As programming, computing and technology skills become part of the essential skill sets for school leavers, demand for teaching in these areas is taking off. 

But the Department of Education has closed the MacICT Innovation Centre, its unique 15-year-old joint venture with Macquarie University that has been a pioneer in the area.”

http://bit.ly/2i4FFXR

 

The enrolments in this advanced computer programming have seriously declined since they began – from 10,779 in 2001 to 2855 this year – leading the department to sever ties with MacQuarie University and bring the program in-house, and presumably to down-size at the same time.

Why should you care?

We should be concerned about this, not as an isolated incident, that is likely driven by budgets and economic decisions, but our concern should be that might become a trend.
The above Sydney Morning Herald article suggests that a lack of trained teachers is a major cause of the lower enrolments in the MacICT program. If that’s the case it means that our children in schools today aren’t getting the exposure to digital coding and skills that might trigger interest.
It’s as if our kids aren’t getting the right experiences that expose them to the possibilities that these skills might bring them.

Learning how to code isn’t about developing a generation of coding gurus that can take the world by storm. It’s actually much, much bigger than that!

  • Coding helps us see how computers work.
  • Coding shows us that there are possibilities for computing that we have yet to explore
  • Coding gives us the chance to explore, fix and re-build software and apps that meet our specific needs
  • Coding also provides a framework for developing critical thinking skills like problem-solving and systems thinking.

So if we continue to see advanced programs close, we need to ask ourselves, our local representatives and the DET what they plan to do about this! We all want our kids to be successful adults who can fully participate in the world at large.

And in today’s technology-driven world, this includes understanding how things work – through coding and programming experiences that start young and give our kids options to learn more as they grow.

Read the full article here.

Aug 03

7 things to know about Pokemon GO before you head out the door with your kids

Do your kids play Pokemon GO?

If the answer is ‘I don’t know’, then you need to ask them today (or check out their device for the app).

Pokemon GO is huge right now, and for good reason, it’s fun! There’s a fantastical storyline through the game that, for many young adults, reminds them of the Nintendo GameBoy games they played in their teenage years – there’s a lot of nostalgia in Pokemon GO for some people! For others, this is a relatively new type of game. It’s augmented reality, what you see in the game is the real world, overlaid with fantasy animals and virtual landmarks.

Through my work at university, I’m researching the impact of this type of game on how kids learn, and what motivates them to persist when things get hard. Pokemon GO is based on some software developed for another, very similar game, called Ingress (check it out if you like the idea of Pokemon GO but aren’t into made up creatures – Ingress is based on a much more low-key Sci-Fi story but it’s very similar in other ways).

There are some reports of ‘bad’ things happening within the game. Mainly folks getting distracted and wandering into the road…This is easily avoided!

We need to teach our kids real-world safety as well as online safety – that includes roads and traffic :0) With the hype around Pokemon GO at the moment, I know a lot of parents are being nagged to take their kids out Poke-hunting. I think that’s great – good times for all! Before you head off though, here are the 7 things you need to know to look good in front of your kids this weekend!

  1. Pokemon GO is a virtual reality game that you play but physically going to places in the world. Be prepared to walk!
  2. The game involves finding and ‘catching’ Pokemon. These virtual creatures can fly, walk, crawl and swim, so you need to look for them everywhere. They also appear at different times of the day (fairies only come out at night, don’t you know). They appear in a modified map on your phone screen. When you tap on them your phone camera turns on and you can see the Pokemon located in your actual environment – a bit like a video overlay on the world. Get ready to learn lots of Pokemon names!
  3. Pokemon are sneaky. You catch them by launching ‘Pokeballs’ at them, (flinging virtual balls at them from your phone’s screen and trying to hit them), but sometimes they duck out of the way. Keep trying!
  4. You’ll need ‘supplies’ to play the game and reach higher levels. You can collect everything you’ll need by visiting landmarks in the real world. These are called PokeStops and are where your kids will want to go! In the game they look like giant lollipops on sticks. Be ready to visit new places and to set boundaries about where your kids are allowed to go!
  5. When you get to level 5, you can visit gyms. Here you can virtually battle other Pokemon to score points and control the Gym – all from the screen of your phone. This gives your team extra points and extra supplies. This part of the game is cooperative – and you will need to carefully supervise your kids and explain how to play safely. Remember to discuss cyber-privacy and online safety!
  6. PokemonGo is fun, engaging and motivating for adults and for kids. If your children are young (or young at heart), they will need your guidance and common sense. A big part of this is the fact that as you get further in the game and play collaboratively, you’ll need to be aware that other players can see your location. Of course, they don’t know what you look like in the real world and one way to confuse other players is choosing a player name of the opposite gender (so, if your name is Rachel, call yourself Bob in the game: other players will be looking around them for a guy….). Be ready to talk about this aspect of the game and monitor kid’s use!
  7. Playing this game you will likely exercise more, get outdoors more and visit places in your Neighbourhood you didn’t know existed. PokemonGo is a great family activity and a fun way to get your kids out and walking around. Don’t be afraid to play the game. If you have younger kids, install the app on your phone and be sure to supervise their use. You can maintain control but your kids could use the navigate features to practice location skills while finding new Pokemon, or they could launch PokeBalls at the Pokemon and experience physics and angle and velocity.

There are lots of learning opportunities in the game – Get ready to have fun!

Feb 25

5 Top Tips for Your Child’s New Technology

It’s that time of year when our kids are bringing home new technology. Maybe you paid for it or maybe it’s provided by the school (from your school fees of course!)
But it’s a tricky time, especially as they may know more than you about how to use it (you haven’t had a chance yet!) and they have had instructions from school about care and use too.

So my advice to parents is always to set some ground rules as soon as you can. Makes it easier on everyone in the long run. There are a few things you can do – besides talking to your child about what they are up to of course – to help things run a bit smoother.

Charging
All digital devices should be kept out of our kids bedrooms wherever possible. Charging should be done overnight in a shared family space. Maybe the kitchen bench or the office or family room. Check that devices are charged before you go to bed and you won’t have problems with complaints in the morning when you are running late and they’ve forgotten to charge it up. You also minimise the disruption to their sleep that the constantly pinging and flashing of laptops or tablets bring with them. If you do only one thing – make sure that there are NO devices in your kids’ rooms at night.

Get a filter
There are lots of great activities and resources online. And lots of not-so-nice stuff too. Make sure you protect your family as far as possible by setting up a filter. This ‘catches’ a lot of nasties at your modem, BEFORE it can be delivered to your child’s device. It’s not hard to set up. Instructions are here.

Ask lots of questions
Your kids will want to use their device all. the. time. It’s up to you to make sure you understand what they are doing. Kids are curious. They will click on links they shouldn’t and wander off topic (searching ‘Justin Beiber videos’ when they should be working on maths homework…). So we need to let them know that even know they are now in the online world, they haven’t left us behind. Even if you don’t know what they are talking bout, get the key words out of them (app name, website name) and google it. You have to learn this stuff too… Even better, get them to show you how their game/activity/resources work. Let them be the teachers for once and see them beam with pride :0)

No use in private spaces
Make sure that any time they are using their device, it’s in a space you can see them. You might not always be able to see the screen, but I’ll bet you can tell by their expressions and body language when they are doing something they shouldn’t be! If you are cooking dinner or working online yourself, have them near you. Ask questions and be interested and close by if they need help or support.

Get a proper bag for back support
So many kids carrying such heavy bags – and not computer devices but textbooks and sports gear and HUGE pencil cases (what is it with huge pencil cases!?!??). So we need to help them manage their bodies too. Most schools in Australia would have suggested backpacks for kids to use. These are usually ergonomic and better for our kids backs. They don’t have to cost a fortune but a good one is worth it – just compare the cost to 6 months worth of physio visits. The next step is to try and get your kids to carry it on both shoulders, with their heaviest items at the bottom. This is how the backpack is designed to be used. Yes, they may not think it’s the coolest but even if they ignore you at school, if you can get them walking from the bus stop with the backpack on two shoulders, it’s better than nothing…

 

New computers are exciting and kids generally love the way that digital devices let them learn. And with these few tips you can help them be safe, healthy and look after their new, expensive learning tool!
PS If you liked this post, you’ll enjoy our weekly newsletter.

BONUS: Receive all our posts delivered right to your inbox AND your free copy of my new ebook
‘Super Simple Cyber-Safety at Home’

Everything parents need to know about keeping your kids safe online, no matter what devices they have! Sign up now:


Dec 16

Using Free Wifi – what you need to know

Isn’t it great how we can get online pretty much anywhere now? At the library or at school or work. Even at Macca’s now!
It’s great to have ease of access and know that we can make use of the great resources online whenever we need. No more last minute printing of meeting agendas or minutes – just pull them up on your iPad or laptop. Even on holidays most hotels and resorts have free WiFi . Awesome, right?
Well yes and no. Open (often free) WiFi means its open to EVERYONE. Even that dodgy looking chap over there. He’s online with you too. And he’s sharing your WiFi connection.
Not usually a big deal, except that these open WiFi set ups can be unsafe.
You will likely be fine to search online or maybe even check your email. But I’d be wary of checking my online banking or shopping online with these WiFi connections.
keeping safe online
That’s because the WiFi is so open-access that techno-criminals can hack the WiFi connection and see what you are doing on your computer. Of course not everyone is a criminal. But we do have to be safe with our online information. Remember it only takes 3 pieces of ID to steal your identity. So imagine what they could do with your banking password or email login details!
My tip is to make sure you use your own WiFi connection (or 3G/4G) on your phone or iPad to do the more private tasks like paying bills or signing in to an account.  That way you are a bit more protected than on an open hotel or cafe’s WiFi network.
Use that free WiFi on holiday of course – but do think about your privacy and your information before you dive into all doing all sorts of private things online. We don’t want your holiday ruined by identify theft or a credit card hack….
Stay safe with Holiday Wifi

PS If you liked this post, you’ll enjoy our weekly newsletter.

BONUS: Receive all our posts delivered right to your inbox AND your free copy of my new ebook
‘Super Simple Cyber-Safety at Home’

Everything parents need to know about keeping your kids safe online, no matter what devices you have! Sign up now:


Oct 16

3 Simple Tips to Protect your Kid’s iPad

I’ve been asked lots lately about iPads and our kids. Mainly about how you stop kids dropping, throwing and breaking them!!!! Protecting kids’ iPads so they can use them as long as possible for learning is really important. I have a couple of (easy) tips for you!
First though, let me say that I actually don’t mind when kids are using iPads without kid gloves. To me, if they are tossing it (gently!) onto a table or chucking it on the couch then I think it’s actually become one of their tools in their learning toolkit, not something fancy or just for playing games on.
Of course I’m not saying I want them to damage it or break the screen. I just mean that when I first saw laptops in classrooms, kids (and teachers) were so conscious of using them ‘carefully’ that they weren’t used to full advantage. One teacher I saw had the laptops sitting on plastic bags and gave out hand wipes to clean the screen/keyboard after each lesson. I applaud her thoroughness (and shear ability to care that much) – but really???
iPads are everyday tools now. They should be used whenever necessary (just like pens and paper). I really think a bit of dirt on a screen or a scuff from where it’s been pulled in and out of its case is ok. More than ok. It’s doing it’s job as a learning tool.
BUT…
Of course we don’t want to waste all that money on iPads or laptops. We want these tools to be used and be useful – for as long as possible!
So my 3 Tips for Protecting Kids’ iPads…
  • Buy a case that protects the corners of the iPad.

When you get a cracked screen, it’s usually due to impact from the corner. If you drop an iPad flat, it’s really hard to break the screen, although you will get a scratch or two  (ah hem…I may know this from experience). So the corners need protection. Those beautiful, slimline cases that just cover the front of the iPad and flip back into a stand are lovely. But not tough enough for our kids. Get one with corner protection.
  • Insist that the iPad is always carried in a bag.

So much of the damage I see is from kids walking around, to or from school. They are chatting with their mates, pull out their iPad to show some video on youTube and bang. They get knocked and the iPad’s smashed on the floor. Put.It.In.Your.Bag. is my new mantra.
  • Check the iPad often.

Your kids can go months without telling you about breakages. I saw one iPad that had a broken screen and home button – it was practically unusable – but the child didn’t tell their teacher or parent for weeks….Now the teacher should have noticed probably but the kid did a good job of hiding it! Screens can be fixed, so can buttons. If we know there’s a breakage or damage then we can get it fixed. The longer the kids use the iPad when it’s damaged the more things can go wrong. And I really believe it also means they are less likely to take good care of it. If we get these things fixed, then it shows that their iPad is important and valuable still!! There are shops in every mall these days with screen repair places. My advice is to get a quote from a couple to check you get the best deal – prices can vary greatly!
So that’s it. Get a case, use a bag, get it repaired when you need to. Not too hard. This high-end technology for children is a whole new world – and unique to our generation of parents.
It pays to remember that iPads have only been around for 5 years and this year is the first time I’ve heard schools start to talk about how their iPads are ‘old’ and need replacing. That’s a really good sign. Laptops only ever last 3 years in schools (even if schools hold on to them for longer, honestly, 3 years is about your max). So it looks like we are getting a few more years of learning for our money! Time to check what condition your kids’ iPad’s in – and to check they are looking after it :0)

PS If you liked this post, you’ll enjoy our weekly newsletter.

BONUS: Receive all our posts delivered right to your inbox AND your free copy of my new ebook
‘Super Simple Cyber-Safety at Home’

Everything parents need to know about keeping your kids safe online, no matter what devices you have! Sign up now:


Aug 28

7 Deadly Sins of Mobile Tech Use

There are so many apps now. Did you know we have over half a million iPad specific apps to choose from? That’s a lot of downloading and trying things out. When I’m working with teachers and parents, I get asked a lot of questions about the actual day to day use of iPad or laptops. Or about what might go wrong with mobile devices…

I reckon most of it is common sense once you start thinking about it, but because most of us didn’t grow up with this much technology, there are some things I see so often that I’m now calling them the  7 Deadly Sins —->

  1. Sitting on floor with a device. This is just bad posture and a bad idea in general. For your kids it means their legs or necks or backs are on a funny angle, and for the device it likely means its sitting on the floor getting hot and potentially over-heating. Keep those devices on laps or at tables – especially when they are younger.

2. Holding the device way too close to their face. Yes they want to zoom in to the cartoon face or that YouTube video but most apps these days are designed to be used on a standard iPad screen – so holding it at a ‘normal’ arms length shouldn’t be a problem. I’m not a optometrist but it can’t be good for their eyes with all that squinting.

3. Sitting in one position for an hour. So I get that our kids (and us) get caught up in our video, or online book or game, but we really have to avoid being so stationary. Move around a bit. Stretch your legs. Go sit at the other end of the couch – try to move every 20-30 mins and you’ll feel better, promise

4. Only ever being a consumer. It’s true that when iPads first came out they really were a consumption device – watch this or read that. But now the range of apps we have means our kids should be creating as well as viewing online. Show them the Explain Everything App or get the Microsoft Windows Live Moviemaker free software. Have the take a camera scavenger hunt outside or make a photocollage (I love PicCollage free app). Get them creating. This helps them understand what goes into that content they are consuming as well as getting them thinking and questioning and moving. PS an online game doesn’t count as they are still following the game developers plans!

5. Giving out your password to kids. Yes you trust them and yes they are responsible but the reality is you are teaching them that passwords and credit card numbers and usernames aren’t actually that private. If you really want to give your older kids access to your iTunes account for example, set them up their own account and buy an iTunes voucher to add credit. Much safer than giving your account details (with your credit card attached) and they will learn how to budget and save money. Please don’t give your password to your kids!!!

6. Charging their devices in private spaces. I really think that our kids don’t need technology in their rooms at night. They can sign off from their friends and leave the phone or tablet or tablet in the kitchen or family room. If it’s in their room I think it’s just too much temptation to check in online….our kids need a good night’s sleep to be ready for school or work or sports – whatever gets them up in the morning. Online bullying requires our kids to be online – and at night in their bedrooms there’s a lot less chance of them coming and asking for help.

7. Not knowing what apps are on the device. So our kids have a range of digital devices, and these all have apps or software on them. Many apps and softwares are now free which makes it very easy for them to download them without us knowing – no money or credit card required. Every week or so, just pick up the device and have a look at what’s installed. Then ask questions about it – what does it do, why do they like it? It’s good for them to know that we are interested in these things that take up so much of their time and attention :0) You might find they have software you aren’t happy with – like maybe Facebook or Instragram if they are under 13, or Snapchat or Q&A sites. You can then chat to them about why they shouldn’t be using them…yet! When they are adults (or just older) they can make their own decisions but for now, it’s our job to help them make good choices online!

So those are my 7 Deadly Sins of mobiles devices – do you agree? Any you’d add? These are just my opinion of course so feel free to share your thoughts below! ;0)

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!!
Jul 17

Rainy Day Play …ideas for fun indoors

So I spoke too soon about all that weather. It has been soooo cold and very rainy – not what most of us foreigners thought we were in for when we moved Down Under! Shouldn’t complain really, when I lived in Michigan -10F was an ok day. Here it gets to 5C (C!) and we complain!!
Anyway, on to our topic for today –
Rainy day play – a teacher’s worse nightmare. Can’t run to the loo, can’t get a cup of coffee and the kids bounce around the classroom with too. much. energy. to be contained!
I like to kids to be able to make their own fun – imaginative play is awesome. But sometimes they’ve just been indoors too long and need a bit of structure. Or even just an idea to get them off the couch and stop the moping and constant crying I’m Bored.
 Falling_rain
Here are 3 ways to use your iPad to get your kids having fun when it’s pouring outside:
  • Scavenger hunt – I made an outdoor Scavenger Hunt for you here. But indoor ones are just as fun. Think photos, not collecting items though. I’ve had kids ‘collect’ precious furniture or photos off the wall. Not a great idea! i like to do themes, so ask them to collect 10 photos of things that are green or start with the letter P or are fun to look at. Add more items if you think you want more quiet time!!! Be sure to set the rules – especially with younger kids, who uses the iPad camera first, who carries it all become deal-breakers at times! Make things clear and you should be fine!

 

  • Make a treasure map. Set this up quickly with 5 post it notes – each has a direction to another location. One location is where the ‘prize’ is hidden (prize can be anything – afternoon tea in a fort under the table maybe?) Give them the post-its with the locations on them and see if they can sequence them to lead to the prize. They can do this together or for each other….lasts for hours. I let them take photos of each stage so they can share it later. Great for practicing literacy skills!

 

  • Create a drawing on an iPad app – I love Art Set – and then they have to create the 3D version out of paper, boxes, paper rolls or cups. Whatever you have around. Let them cut, fold and stick to their heart’s content! This one is best for older kids but I’ve had 13 and 14 year olds creating the most amazing things!
So there you go!  A few ways to stave of the crazies as we struggle through the winter here in Melbourne. Hope you enjoy!

PS If you liked this post, you’ll love our weekly newsletter.  Or follow me on Instagram to see what I’m up to this week – could be anything really!

BONUS: Receive all our posts delivered right to your inbox AND your free copy of my new ebook
 ‘Super Simple Cyber-Safety at Home’ 
 
Everything parents need to know about keeping your kids safe online, no matter what devices you have! Sign up now: