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Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

The 3 Biggest Ways Tech Will Change Millennial Parenting in 2018

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Be prepared for these big innovations that will reshape our lives.

In an era where we are told that technology is making us not just lonelier, but also less kind, it has always felt important to me to find the antidote to that—to find and use technology that makes us more connected to each other and to our world.

When I started my career, dating by using technology received at best, a raised eyebrow, and at worst, a lot of negative attention. I was part of that full 360, running Badoo (a large dating European dating platform), and was part of Bumble, the seminal Millennial dating product. Watching how attitudes changed was not only exciting, it was fascinating. Tables turned, taboos were broken, and new industries were born. It was this experience which highlighted most clearly how my newly occupied arena, motherhood, was in need of a technological shakeup.

At one point when I was out on maternity leave with my son in 2013, I found myself trawling baby advice blogs at 2 a.m. and I realized there had to be a better way, a new social shift, a new taboo to bust. And that was the start of Peanut, which uses everything I had learned about technology to connect like-minded mothers (to make us less lonely) and enable them to communicate (to be kind). That was around 10 months ago, and since then, I’ve relished every opportunity to use tech to enrich our lives as mothers.

As my son grows up, we are sort of navigating technology together. This year, there are so many things I am excited to show him, and I think we are going to see a lot more how it will make our lives easier. (I’ll take all the help I can get!) Here are some of my favorites:

Virtual Reality

We already know VR is everywhere, but advancements in this field create the potential for it to go beyond gaming and “sunbathing” on a beach, to help us educate our children. I recently attended an event where a children’s charity used VR to transport you to Africa, walking alongside a schoolgirl on her morning pursuit to collect clean water before school. It made such an impact on me, and as advancements are made in this space, it could end up being an important tool to have to teach our children—we won’t have to just tell them, we can show them.

For example, Discovery VR can allow our children to swim with the sharks in the depths of the oceans or play with pandas in China, all from the seats of their desks. My son Finlay is very into bats right now, so this is an amazing way for him to see them and interact with them safely. Another great one is Star Chart, which maps out constellations and allows children to explore the planets in our solar system while also being able to time shift 10,000 years back and forward, to see what our planet once looked like, and how it may possibly evolve in the future. That’s better than any science textbook I ever had!

Virtual Health

Every parent knows how intimately you become acquainted with your medical practitioner, and how important it is to have immediate access to those professionals. Tech to make those medical appointments easier, more accessible, in real time will be a huge asset for busy parents who need immediate, expert advice. Apps like Heal, DoctorsOnDemand, HealthTap are doing such cool things in this space to make life easier. But Maven has really stolen it for me here. I met the founder recently. She told me 80 percent of women are making decisions about healthcare in their families, and yet the current system is not exactly female friendly (trying to get to that appointment during your workday, or collect your kiddo from school to get them there). The ability to use video appointments and direct messaging for peace of mind? That is what every mother needs.

YouTube Kids (with better regulation)

We’ve all read the stories and have been horrified by what our children may see by accident. We know that YouTube is looking more carefully at moderating the content posted to their channel, and 2018 will likely bring increased regulation and more child-friendly streaming services. There is still a way for all of the wonderful content that exists online to enrich our children’s world, to give them access and opportunity to content we had to access through dusty encyclopedias, and let’s be honest, to give us 20 minutes respite whilst we’re trying to juggle a million other balls. However, until regulations and moderation are where we need them to be, perhaps the solution is watching together.


Michelle Kennedy is the CEO and co-founder of Peanut. Available in the U.S., Canada and the U.K., Peanut is a free Android and iOS app that uses a smart algorithm to connect like-minded women who are mothers. Michelle started her career as an M&A lawyer at leading international law firm Mishcon de Reya. She later joined dating app, Badoo, where she rose to the role of Deputy CEO. She is also a mama to her 4-year-old Peanut, Finlay.

 

This article was written by Michelle Kennedy from Working Mother and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

5 Easy Indoor Activities to Promote STEAM Skills in Your Kids

Simple ways to get your child thinking critically.

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Turning everyday tasks into learning opportunities with your children can greatly benefit them in the classroom. And STEAM education, which stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics, is a great way to get your kids to brush up on their critical thinking skills. Here are five ways to incorporate STEAM (or STEM) into fun activities without having to set foot outside.

1. Make soup together.

Science: Through this activity, children will become early scientists as they compare and contrast how the texture of vegetables changes throughout the cooking process.

Technology: Ask: How does heat cook soup? How will you time the cooking? How do you keep veggies fresh before cooking? Have the kids think of the everyday uses of technology that help them and you make soup. In addition, have the children come up with different ways they might cook their soup if they didn’t have a stove.

Engineering: Using a knife can promote an early engineering experience of a simple machine, such as a wedge. The discussion alone around the process of cooking is a wonderful form of engaging engineering skills.

Art: Follow your soup-making process by reading a story! Our favorite is the story of Stone Soup by Marcia Brown. After storytime, invite children to draw a picture of their favorite part of making homemade soup.

Math: Through cutting vegetables, children may learn halves or fourths, exploring fractions or simply counting and measuring. Adding spices and measuring the vegetable stock also provide opportunities for children to begin to understand the properties of measurement.

Play with bath toys.

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Make bathtime educational.

Photo: Pixabay

Gather various water-safe objects that sink and float through exploring, observing and predicting.

Grab plastic measuring cups and spoons, plastic bowls and other water-safe items and toss ’em in the tub. Ask:

  • Why do some things float and some sink?
  • What do you notice about the shape, weight and feel of the objects when they’re in the water? How does that change when you take them out?

Bake together.

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The science of turning raw ingredients into something mouthwatering.

Photo: Pixabay

Make prepping a treat even sweeter with these tips and questions to incorporate into your kitchen adventures.

  • Talk through measurements as you mix dry ingredients together.
  • What do we predict will happen when dry ingredients are mixed in with the wet ingredients?
  • What makes the batter change color?
  • What do you think might happen when we bake the batter? What makes the batter go from wet to baked and delicious?

Ease into a bedtime routine with flashlight shadows.

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Nothing like old-school entertainment.

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Grab your flashlight and small objects, like a favorite stuffed animal, toys, or even a shoe, and see how many different ways you can make shadows move and play across the room.

  • Place objects or your hand in front of the light and observe how shadows change and move around the room.
  • Create a story about the object’s shadow.
  • How do you make the shadows dance?
  • How can we make the object look bigger or smaller?
  • How many different ways can you make a shadow disappear and reappear in a different place?

Build a shadow theater.

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Bring the inner director out of your child.

Photo: iStock

Materials: Shoe boxes or pieces of cardboard, tape, white or waxed paper, flashlight, variety of objects to cast shadows

Cut off the top and bottom of the boxes. Help the children to tape paper across one of the openings. Ask: What else could we use to attach the paper? Place different objects in the box and light them from behind. Allow the children to select objects and have others guess what each object is while viewing from the other side. Encourage the children to experiment with moving the object and the light.

  • Can you make the object look bigger? Ask children to think of other ways to make a shadow theater.
  • What else could we use to let the light shine through? Do we need a frame?

Allison Wilson is the Director of Curriculum and Innovation at Stratford School, a leading independent private school founded on the belief that education is a significant influence in the life of a child. She is passionate about developing teachers and students, bringing more than 15 years of experience to the early-childhood sector through teaching, school leadership, teacher training and innovative curriculum development. Stratford offers an accelerated, balanced curriculum from preschool through eighth grade with an emphasis in the areas of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) that incorporates music, physical education, foreign language and social skills development.


 

This article was written by Allison Wilson from Working Mother and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

International Civil Aviation Day

On December 7 of every fifth year, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) holds a special celebration of its anniversary. On this day, the ICAO Council creates a theme for each fifth anniversary. The theme they chose in 2014 for 2015 -2018 is “Working Together to Ensure No Country is Left Behind,” which means to keep all countries up-to-date on the current standards of safety, security and emissions.

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By celebrating International Civil Aviation Day, our children can begin to see the positive influence that ICAO has on the economic and social development of the participating countries. Talk with your child and brainstorm ideas about how your family, friends and community can get involved to help countries in need:

  • Think about starting an aviation oriented pen pal project and include your local school or library to help facilitate it;
  • Consider holding a charity drive to collect items needed in less fortunate countries, and explain to your child how aviation will deliver the items you collect.

What are some ways that you can convey the message of “Working Together to Ensure No Country Is Left Behind” to your children?

 

Screen Time Guidelines for Summer Break

Summer is here, which means children have more time to watch TV and play video games. To limit how much screen time your child has, you can institute a reward system.

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  1. Select readily available tokens that your child cannot not easily access, such as stickers or playing cards.
  2. Think of some helpful tasks that your child can do around the house. Tell her that she can earn a reward for each task she completes without being told to do it. Examples include cleaning up after herself, bringing in the mail, feeding the pets and setting the table. Explain the concept of exchanging the token for a prize or privilege. This system will also help your child learn and understand the concept of spending money to purchase a product.
  3. Explain to your child that each time she wants screen time, she must hand in one of her tokens. Set a time limit for each token that is suitable for the age of your child. For example, one token could equal ten minutes of screen time. You may want to set a limit for the number of tokens that your child can use each day. Write down these rules and explain them well to stop any arguments before they start.
  4. Let your child know that if she has no tokens, she will have to do more chores to earn screen time.

Your little ones will be so excited to earn their tokens that they will not realize how many helpful tasks they are completing.

Early Learning and Technology Part Five: Social Interaction and Collaborative Learning

Susan Magsamen is the Senior Vice President of Early Learning at global learning company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH). She is a member of the Educational Advisory Board for The Goddard School and senior advisor to The Science of Learning Institute and Brain Science Institute at Johns Hopkins University.
This piece was originally published on 03/15/2015 on the 
HMH blog.

We know that relationships are essential to healthy child development. We can observe organic collaborative Girl at Computerbehaviors even in very young children, who often explore their worlds and gather information while they play independently, but then eventually come together to learn and share experiences with others. 

Technology offers unique opportunities to cultivate the innate human instinct to collaborate. Educators and developers have embraced these possibilities by creating platforms and projects designed to facilitate learning experiences and communication–between peer groups, teachers and students, and school communities and families–and to expand virtual space for cross-cultural education.

Let’s take a closer look at how technology can support collaborative learning:

1) Extending Access

In 2001, education researcher Dr. Sugata Mitra launched a unique experiment he called the “Hole-in-the-Wall.”Mitra installed a public computer in a remote village in India. Young children in the village quickly discovered how to scroll, seek out information, learn English and more. In short, Mitra witnessed young children teaching themselves and one another via the computer’s resources.

The Hole-in the Wall project cracked open the concept of a school “in the cloud” that children can access anywhere, anytime.  The community computer and its content enabled a natural learning environment to grow, complete with encouragement from mentors, teachers, family and friends.

As Dr. Mitra’s work demonstrates, technology’s potential to extend access to learning content far and wide is huge. In the last decade, partnerships between educators, ministries and organizations have helped to deliver content and training across the globe, from reading on mobile phones in developing countries to professional development seminars that can be viewed offline for communities lacking internet connections.

2) Creating “Blended” Learning Environments

An approach commonly called a “blended” learning model encourages classroom collaboration, and technology can provide a wonderful support system for the experience. For example, students may be organized into small clusters based on shared learning styles, abilities or interests. This organization allows teachers to focus carefully on individual students and to craft dynamic learning scenarios for an individual child or small group. Technology’s capacity to support personalized learning pathways allows for individually tailored pacing and practice, in turn promoting subject or skill mastery. As a result, students feel confident and are proud to share their knowledge.

3) Learning by Playing

Digital games powered by quality content can improve attention, focus and reaction time. Whether there are two players or many, gamers acquire pro-social skills through healthy competition, which then translate to other relationships and aspects of life.

Consult KQED’s Mindshift’s Guide to Digital Games and Learning for recommendations on digital learning tools.

4) Making Global Connections 

Increased connectivity can offer children real-world insight into communities and cultures around the globe. There are a number of exciting collaborative projects and platforms that create space for teachers, students and parents to communicate and learn from one another, regardless of geography.

For example, ePals uses web-based tools to bring diverse learners together in virtual classrooms. Over 4.4 million students and teachers are currently participating in cross-cultural exchange on the platform.

Look out for projects and competitions that bring kids together to reach common goals via online collaboration, like the Give Something Back Project’s Virtual Classroom.

5) Bridging Home and the Classroom 

There are also many free apps to connect teachers, parents and students in order to support timely and confidential communication. Check outGoogle Apps for Education. This free suite of productivity tools helps keep parents in the loop on their children’s progress in class. Parents can log into Google Drive and see what their kids have been up to in any class and communicate with teachers.

Whether you are encouraging technology-enabled collaboration at home or in the classroom, remember to balance screen time with face-to-face conversation and interaction.Encourage kids to think about digital citizenship and to act as positive role models for others in all social interactions, whether on-screen or off. Happy collaborating!

Technology and Early Learning: Part Four Grey Matter: Child Development and Technology

Susan Magsamen is the Senior Vice President of Early Learning at global learning company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH). She is a member of the Educational Advisory Board for The Goddard School and senior advisor to The Science of Learning Institute and Brain Science Institute at Johns Hopkins University.
This piece was originally published on 02/25/2015 on the 
HMH blog.

At the beginning of this year, the Joan Ganz Cooney Center published Ten for ’15: Education Reform for a Shared Promethean BoardFuture, a list of ten takeaways and resolutions designed to give educators inspiration as they plan for a successful 2015.

Number five on that list is a call to rethink the brain. It may sound like a strange concept, but new, cutting-edge research on early brain development can help us gain a deeper understanding of early literacy and related behaviors.

So, let’s rethink the brain today.

First, some brain basics: Beginning in the prenatal period, the brain develops in a predictable sequence, accommodating a range of functions from the most basic to the most complex, from the birth of new nerve cells to the formation of intricate networks of transmitters that allow those cells to communicate.

The brain undergoes astonishing growth during early life. In fact, it doubles in size during a child’s first year, and by age three, the brain reaches 80 percent of its adult volume. We also know that genetic inheritance and interaction with the environment, including human interactions with family and others, profoundly impact the wiring of the brain. This, in turn, impacts a child’s developing sense of resilience and his or her cognitive abilities, achievements, health and happiness.

Dr. Patricia Kuhl, Co-Director of the Institute for Learning & Brain Science at the University of Washington, is currently expanding our knowledge about how young brains develop. She has been studying the period between eight and ten months of age — a critical time for early brain development — focusing specifically on language acquisition.

Her research confirms that by the time that babies are eight months old, they can discriminate all sounds of all languages. They are truly “citizens of the world.” Then, at around ten months of age, there is an important shift. They start to become “culture bound” listeners.

In a TED talk on the subject, Dr. Kuhl explains that as babies are busy collecting information about the world, human contact is essential for translating that data into language. Put simply, human interaction — the social brain function — plays a dramatic role in language acquisition. Very young children need human contact for learning and communicating. They won’t learn from a screen.

The research leads us to important questions: How exactly does technology impact developing brains, especially in the earliest years? What are the long-term implications as children grow? Is it too soon to tell?

Gary Small, M.D., professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at UCLA has noted that the brains of digital natives are “wired to use [technology] elegantly.”  But he also cautions that young people between the ages of eight and 18, many of whom spend 11.5 hours a day on digital devices, are lacking in ability to use human technology.  They may struggle with face to face conversations, non-verbal cues and eye contact – the same type of human interactions that are so critical for initial language acquisition.

Technology isn’t going anywhere. To ensure healthy developmental growth for little ones, balance is key. Here are a few tips to help families find that equilibrium:

  • Seek Expert Advice: The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests avoiding television and other forms of electronic entertainment for infants and children under the age of two.
  • Go Screen-Free: Create screen-free zones in your home, and use them! Create areas to read books, draw, play board games, dance and perform plays and music, and schedule time outside for physical activities.
  • Make Family Time Count: Avoid using digital devices during family meals, especially dinner; use family time for real-time, face-to-face communication.
  • Maintain a Digital Diet: Be thoughtful about the digital content your children consume. Check out our previously recommended resources to help select quality digital content.
  • Be a Role Model: Remember that children model YOUR behavior. Are you distracted by digital devices when you’re with your children? Do the majority of your family interactions include a screen? Plan an unplugged weekend! Be aware if you are using technology as a babysitter — such habits can creep in quickly.

When it comes to screen-time for kids, the choice of apps, games and films may seem endless. But just a little knowledge about the developing brain provides a golden rule – above all, human interaction and connection are the greatest learning tools we have.

Technology and Early Learning: Part Three Bridging the Digital Divide
Practical Resources for Educators

Susan Magsamen is the Senior Vice President of Early Learning at global learning company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH). She is a member of the Educational Advisory Board for The Goddard School and senior advisor to The Science of Learning Institute and Brain Science Institute at Johns Hopkins University.
This piece was originally published on 02/05/2015 on the HMH blog.

Just over 30 years ago, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates shared a vision for a society with “a computer on every desk and in every Girl at computerhome.” We’ve made great progress since then – over 80% of the American population now has a home computer and more people than ever now use the internet. From smartphones to Skype, digital resources shape much of our daily lives.

Today’s edtech landscape is exciting, with adaptive technology, learning management tools and interactive content designed for students on-the-go. However, we still have work to do when it comes to digital equity and closing the digital divide — the Pew Research Center reports that digital access varies drastically by state and geography.

Furthermore, educators report a number of barriers to smooth tech integration in the classroom, from budget challenges to low-bandwidth internet connections to lack of professional development, and many have also observed that their classroom’s use of technology remains basic – word processing, video projection or simple research.

We’ve explored the concept of “too much” tech and the importance of a digital diet in the last post, but what’s at stake when learners do not have access to digital learning resources?

Here’s some food for thought about the digital divide and education:

  • 72% of public K-12 schools and the majority of public libraries do not have sufficient broadband to support 21st century learning.
  • 30% of households do not have high-speed internet, making it difficult for students to benefit from digital learning tools at home.
  • Teachers and students in underserved areas disproportionately carry the burden of these access issues.
  • 85% of teachers surveyed by the Pew Research Center seek out their own opportunities for professional development around effective use of tech; 75% say digital tools have added new demands to their lives.
  • 84% of teachers worry that access to new technology is leading to greater disparities between affluent and disadvantaged schools and districts.

Comprehensive digital literacy and advanced technology training has become more essential than ever to career development and college-readiness. We can’t afford to have some students using microblogs, creating podcasts and communicating with instructors via social networks, while others struggle with outdated hardware and limited internet connections. Without holistic action to bridge this access gap, many young people (and educators) will be left behind. 

Digital equity is a complex systemic issue that stretches beyond the education space, but it is not insurmountable and individual actions will make a difference. So, what can educators looking to increase access and sharpen skills within their own classrooms and communities do to move forward? There’s plenty:

Look To Your Greater Community

  • Explore creating technology alliances with civic organizations such as the YMCARotary, and Boys and Girls Clubs
  • Local community colleges, colleges and universities have some of the best technology resource centers around. They also often have services for the greater community, like volunteer mentoring programs and free or inexpensive workshops.
  • Children’s museums offer age-appropriate technology centers for teachers, parents and kids. See if there is an Intel Computer Clubhouse in your community and encourage students to join.
  • Create relationships with local businesses. Many are interested in community investment and can offer professional development for teachers and/or resources for students.

Utilize Complimentary Tech Support 

  • Stores that sell computers often hold workshops for people that have recently purchased equipment. Sales people can be very knowledgeable and eager to help you better understand the technology landscape.
  • All tech companies provide tutorials, videos and product information for their products. Increasingly, customer service support is available by online chat in addition to toll-free phone calls and is reliable and real-time.
  • Internet and telecommunications providers routinely have school and at-home programs available for communities and families that do not regular have internet access. 

Visit Your Local Library Network

  • Make a standing appointment with a local resource librarian. Libraries often offer free courses or seminars. You could even provide questions prior to your appointment to maximize learning time.
  • Most public libraries now offer computer and internet access. Don’t be afraid to ask the librarians for information about access – what are the rules or guidelines for young users? Are there times when the computer stations are used for classes, or are very busy? Are there branches of your local library network that are especially well-equipped?
  • Check out a book! There are many great print resources on technology for beginners looking to enhance their digital skills and expertise.

Technology is best learned through practice. If one thing is certain about the tech boom, it is that the digital landscape is constantly evolving. It is easier to gain confidence when you understand that learning new things is an inherent part of using and benefitting from technology. And don’t be scared to learn from your students – they make great teachers, too!

Technology

As we know, technology is changing at an unbelievable rate. When we were little, modern devices were just a dream.Smart Table Now, technology makes more inventions possible, and it is constantly changing. Technology is very exciting, but have you ever asked what it is?

According to Merriam-Webster, technology is the “practical application of knowledge especially in a particular area.” (“Technology,” 2015) Technology makes things so much easier and more convenient. Think of the items that have been created in science to make life easier and better. Devices, such as pacemakers and bionic legs, have been invented to improve our quality of life. Devices can also help make car rides with children more pleasurable or calmer, and other devices can make cooking easier. As technology improves, schools will include more technology at every level of education. These may include interactive boards, computers, digital cameras and tablets just to name a few.

However, remember that even though technology makes things easier, real hands-on experiences cannot be replaced. Technology cannot replace the feel of hugs, dirty hands, paint, and the wind in your hair; the sights of the brightness of the sun or a child’s smile; or the smell of hot dogs cooking on the grill. Therefore, remember to use technology to enhance learning at home, not to replace real-life experiences.

Technology [Def. 1a]. (2015).  In Merriam-Webster., Retrieved November 5, 2015, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/technology.

Technology and Early Learning: Part Two
Building Blocks for a Nourishing Digital Diet

Susan Magsamen is the Senior Vice President of Early Learning at global learning company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH). She is a member of the Educational Advisory Board for The Goddard School and senior advisor to The Science of Learning Institute and Brain Science Institute at Johns Hopkins University.
This piece was originally published on 01/22/2015 on the HMH blog.

The more I think about it, the more I love the analogy of a “diet” when considering children’s digital media iPadconsumption. Just as calories from the most wholesome foods nourish and strengthen our bodies, the right mix of high quality, engaging digital content can nurture intellectual growth and spark curiosity.

So what does a balanced digital diet for young children look like? And how do we assess the appropriateness, quantity and quality of digital channels and tools – from games and apps to eBooks – especially when there are so many choices on the menu?

Some media – for example pedagogically sound, research-based education apps – are naturally more nourishing than others. And just like food, not all digital content should be consumed at the same rate. Increasingly, specialists from pediatricians to educators are providing essential information and guiding principles to inform our choices about digital content consumption for children.

Regardless of a diet’s particular nature—whether a protein-light Mediterranean Diet or the protein-dense Atkins Diet—nutritionists generally draw upon the five basic food groups to ensure balance. In the same way, I find it helpful to organize digital content for kids into five “building blocks,” each one providing a different learning experience or outcome.

1) Educational Media

This includes digital tools designed to support a specific learning path or engage children in a particular curriculum. Educational media also helps children acquire knowledge and practice skills in order to gain mastery, and inspire further exploration of concepts or topics. Keep in mind that if digital media claims to have educational value, it should be backed by vetted research so take some time to research the media’s development. Great examples are Curious George and the Firefighters  (Ages 4+, eBook) and Endless Alphabet  (Ages 5 and under, App).

2) Practice and Skill Development Tools

These are really a subset of Educational Media (with all the same benefits described above), but because many parents and teachers are interested in tools that support specific skill development, they are worth considering separately. Today, there are a wide variety of digital tools for kids of all ages and abilities, that target individual skills and needs, whether spelling, hand-eye coordination or vocabulary. I’d recommend apps like Slice Fraction  (Ages 6-8, App) and Cursive Writing Wizard  (Ages 6-8, App).

3) Creative Media

This building block provides dynamic, interactive experiences around music, art, videos, architecture and more. Of course, technology is not a replacement for the hands-on knowledge that children gain from painting, building, making and playing music. However, the digital arena gives children opportunities to stretch themselves in a fun environment and save iterations of their creations digitally. Get your child’s creative juices flowing with tools like Minecraft (Ages 8+, Web, Desktop, Tablet) and Toca Band (Ages 5 and under, App).

4) Entertainment Media

The proverb “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” is as true for young children as it is for adults.  Entertainment can stimulate the imagination and provide inspiration for a child’s hopes and dreams, ultimately supporting learning goals. Playful stories, apps and games introduce children to adventure, the drama of human interaction, relationships, conflict resolution, and often, areas of life that can capture a child’s interest for a lifetime, providing great fulfillment. Have some fun with LEGO’s The Hobbit (Ages 8+, Video Game Consoles) or Little Red Riding Hood (Ages 6-8, eBook).

5) Data Collection Tools

This building block is for teachers, parents or any adult working with young children. Data collection apps and programs allow us to collect data so that, as caregivers, we can ascertain areas where a child needs extra support and where they are excelling. With this information, caregivers can rearrange the other building blocks to create a nourishing digital diet that is personal, balanced and flexible. For example, HMH’s own Curiosityville helps teachers and parents keep track of kids’ progress and they play in the program’s interactive environment.

Innovative digital tools have great potential, but like many tools, they are complex. We need to think carefully about how, when and why we are using them to enhance our children’s learning and growth. By considering which building blocks meet your goals, you will find it easier to balance options and choose tools for your individual child’s age, interests and needs.

And it’s worth noting that each building block is often better suited to certain forms of media. For example, games (which may be available via an app or in other forms) may provide better opportunities for cognitive skill development, while a nature video may be the perfect choice to get your child thinking about the environment.  Apps are flexible, mobile, and interactive, providing families with resources that are engaging and accessible at a moment’s notice, while both eBooks and videos offer caregivers opportunities to share the digital experience by reading aloud together or co-viewing content.

To help evaluate specific digital tools, Claudia Haines (author, librarian and media mentor for young people) has created a fantastic rubric to help you understand the power and impact of every digital tool. The following sites also offer quality recommendations for eBooks, apps, videos and games, along with recommendations on how to ensure that screen time is also a valuable shared experience with your child.

And don’t forget to consult your local librarians! They can be a bridge between the best of the digital world and your family. With these resources and some menu planning, you’ll be sure to provide your child with a healthy, balanced digital diet.

Technology and Early Learning: Part One
A Healthy Digital Diet – Three Tips for Balancing Screen Time for Kids

Susan Magsamen is the Senior Vice President of Early Learning at global learning company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. She is a member of the Educational Advisory Board for the Goddard School and senior advisor to The Science of Learning Institute and Brain Science Institute at Johns Hopkins University.
This piece was originally published on 01/07/2015 on the HMH blog.

It’s a blizzard out there […]! I’m referring to the astounding number of new eBooks, apps and websites now available for young children.

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Experts estimate that there are hundreds of eBooks, story apps and learning games for children released every week. With such a deluge of digital content, it can be difficult to distinguish what is truly educational and developmentally appropriate.

The good news is that there are excellent resources available to guide the way and help you make informed decisions about what to include in your child’s “digital diet.” In this series, I’ll take a closer look at these resources and share thoughts on how to harness the power of technology to enhance your child’s learning experiences.

While there are no definitive rules to help caregivers decide how much screen time (and screen type) is best for their children, the American Pediatrics Association recommends that kids spend no more than two hours per day.

In today’s post, we’ll discuss how to make sure that the time your kids do spend interacting with screens is age-appropriate, positive and educational.

Lisa Guernsey, director of the Early Education Initiative at the New America Foundation was one of the first to put a stake in this ground on the issue of “how much is too much?” In her seminal book, Screen Time (2012), she approaches the topic as a mother concerned about the influence of television.

Given the wealth of digital content on tablets and devices, the TV may seem like an antique, but Guernsey’s insights remain extremely valuable. Guernesy coined the “three C’s” – Content, Context and the individual Child – to provide families with framework for informed decision-making about screen time.

Content
This one seems obvious, especially when thinking about television or video content, but once you enter the digital space, choosing the right content can become more complicated. Buried advertisements, inappropriate distractions and dead ends, as well as the limitations of some apps, can frustrate little ones or undermine the potential learning experience.

Takeaway Tip: Preview all digital media and don’t be afraid to be picky!

Context
Context is about what happens before, during and after screen time, particularly what’s happening in the child’s environment. Are there competing devices within earshot? Is the child in a distraction-free environment? Most importantly, context also includes your own interactions with your child during screen time.  In fact, devices present a great opportunity for parents to play and learn along with their children, ensuring the experience is positive.

Takeaway Tip: If you are joining your child in an interactive game or app, try to be undistracted. Make an effort to put your personal, digital devices aside, and minimize background noise by turning off the television and other media. When sharing the interactive experience, don’t let the device dominate the experience. Often, adults end up focused on directing the use of the device or software, rather than experiencing and exploring the content together.

The Individual Child
The ultimate objective is to help provide children with experiences that will enhance their curiosity and pique interest in themselves and the world around them.  It pays to be thoughtful and seek out those games or apps that are most appropriate for your child, his/her age and interests.

Takeaway Tip: Check out some trusted resources to find the best fit for your child, and to help you navigate the digital terrain!

Bottom line: A reasonable “digital diet” is essential for child growth and development. Just as we choose a balance of foods for nutrition, energy and wellbeing, we can also choose appropriate digital content and determine how we can interact with it to provide the best experience for kids.

Stay tuned to this series for additional resources about creating a healthy digital diet and using technology to promote positive, fun growth experiences for young learners.