Tech-savvy kids

I love the fact that my children are digital natives. The screen of my MacBook Pro is covered with little fingerprints from when they’ve been using my iPad / iPodTouch, and have forgotten that they’re not on them anymore. When it comes to technology, their brains don’t ask “can I?”,  but instead “how do I?” – they automatically assume that anything is possible. Whereas I, and others of my (and surrounding!) generations ask “IS that possible?”
Mr 3, in particular, amazes me with what he works out. (And I find it funny when Miss 7 and Miss 4 also ask, “How did you do that?’!) Case in point: the app Vid Rhythm. It’s a cute little app, making cute little video clips from various sounds that you copy. Mr 3 figured it out by himself – and then kindly saved me a copy of his creation. I had no idea that he was even playing with this! He was on the iPod Touch in the lounge room, while I was making dinner one night. I only discovered it after he was in bed that night:




Favourite “Speech” Apps

I was asked in a tweet the other day about the Apps I have. And I realized that I couldn’t reply in a tweet, as I have far too many! So I’ve decided to dedicate a few blog posts to the topic. The question related specifically to apps that help with speech development, so I have categorized this first list into ‘word recognition’ and ‘encouraging speech through interaction’. Hope it might be helpful!

Word / Sound recognition (simplest to most complex)

1. I Hear Ewe – three pages of common sounds with very clear, short explanations

2. My Preschool Word – my kids love unlocking jewels by listening to the song of the word they just met – and then putting the image onto crazy photos!

3. Dot to Dot Numbers & Letters – simple dot to dot, with clear number pronunciation

4. Baby Cloud Apps First Words Free – clear pictures with spoken object names

5. Melvin’s Marvellous Words – a memory game using words

6. Little Speller… Three letter words – learn to spell with large pictures and clear word / letter pronunication

7. My First Words; Flashcards – categories with large pictures and clearly spoken words

8. A1 Spelling App – eight categories, with the words spoken by a child instead of an adult.

9. Phonics Genius – clearly spoken words in word families. No pictures, though.

10. Articulation Station – divided into sounds, and the sound placement within the word. Examples are given in words, sentences, and stories. A very thorough app!


Encouraging speech through interaction

  1. VidRhythm (pictured) – this app really encouraged my youngest to copy the sounds and words, to make the music video. Of this entire list today, this App would be my favourite.
  2. Puppet Pals HD – make your own puppet show using up to 8 characters and 3 backgrounds
  3. Play School Art Maker – theme-based, choose which characters and objects you want to play, and record videos of your play.
  4. Talking Gina the Giraffe / Talking Tom Cat and similar ‘Talking” apps.
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Toys for toys?

Today was Day 2 of LEQ’s Mini-conference, exploring iPads in education, on the Sunshine Coast. Again, another very cool day of exploring what iPads can do; how Apps, App chains, and even the tool itself, can be leveraged for better outcomes for our kids. Very very very cool stuff.

Amongst the myriad of sessions and workshops were two standouts for me. Firstly, the very tactile ‘app-cesseries’ – extra bits and pieces that accessorise the iPad (or iPhone, iPod, etc) to give it added functionality. My favourite – in the photo – would have to be the mini-Mater (from Disney’s Cars movie) that you could move on the iPad to explore the world of the movie.


And the other standout would have to be my extreme surprise at one of Greg O’Connor’s slides. Still can’t believe it, but there was a screenshot of hmmm… up there. Yes, you read right – he had my last night’s blog entry “The Good Stuff” up there on the screen, and was talking about this ‘cool blog he had found last night’. Absolutely INCREDIBLE!!! I was just so surprised, so grateful, so humbled! (If you ever read this, Greg – thank you SO much!) Absolutely stunned to think that everyone at this conference had, in a way, “visited” my blog. How COOL!!!

So yes, these were my highlights of the day. And if, by any chance, any of my readers also happened to attend the LEQ conference, please feel free to add below what your highlights were. And if you weren’t – then I’d love to hear what you think of the Mater truck!

(Oh, and I’ll be writing a blog post on the other great Apps / links, on the other page – “The Good Stuff”. Hope they’re helpful!)

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What I’m *hoping* digital babysitters are teaching my kids…

I bought Miss 7 an iPod Touch for Christmas. (For regular readers of my blog – yes, this was a recent addition to my ‘list’. It now includes “Get an iPod” next to the age “When you can read”. Yes, I am aware that this is out-and-out bribery. Hey, it works!)
So anyway, she loves it, and in her limited time in between sleeping, eating, school and the long drive there and back, she gets time to play on it. That is, when she’s not doing homework, playing on the computer or on the PS2.
Yes, I’m a bad mum. Maybe. You see, even though many parents, and even many, many more educators, would say that all that time in front of a screen is ‘bad’, I wonder if it is. Really.
What are the main arguments against kids in front of the screen? 1. Lack of physical activity. 2. Slow speech / language development. 3. Less socialisation; 4. addictive tendencies. Okay, so here are my answers to these:
1. My kids’ all-time-favourite place is the beach, closely followed by the playground or my neighbour’s pool. Given the choice, all three would hands-down go for the outside activity.
2. Hubby was worried about the effects of TV on our middle child. When she was 2, her favourite activity was watching TV (it was just a phase) and he pestered me with questions like ‘they say TV is bad for young kids, why are you letting her watch it all he time?’ (Not that I was, but he didn’t see that). When I explained that ‘their’ reason TV was so bad was because kids who watched TV learned fewer words than kids who didn’t watch so much,(apparently it’s a loss of approximately six new words per hour,) he stopped worrying. Although she was only two, she spoke like a four year old.
3. My kids socialize around the PS2 just the same way that other children socialize around their favourite family toy or object. Lessons in sharing, taking turns, winning and losing gracefully, not being bossy with each other, encouraging each other, coping with jealousy and the odd tantrum, helping each other, teaching each other, all come into play.
4. Addictive tendencies – this is a biggie for me, seeing as I’m a gambling addict myself. Miss 7 knows the words ‘addict’ and ‘addicted’ and understands the harm an addiction can cause. We were given the PS2 when she was 4 1/2 and she quickly got hooked playing ‘Nemo‘. At first she didn’t understand why I limited her playtime, but then one Saturday I let her play for as long as she wanted too. Five hours later, she was complaining of sore eyes and sore thumbs. It was a lesson she learned very quickly, that excess, even in the things that you love, can be bad. she also saw how her desire to play Playstation non-stop had cost her fishing time with Daddy, and that it was better to control her desire, rather than have her desire controlling her. (One smart cookie, that kid! And the best bit is… she teaches her siblings what she’s learned!)
So having thwarted – or at least, annulled in part – the objections, these are my hopes:
1. My children are learning to problem solve, by having to rely on themselves to work out how new games work. Hopefully, these problem solving skills will be transferrable to problems that they encounter IRL. They’re also problem solving in digital media that will undoubtedly be a huge part if their lives. And the strategies of dealing with disappointments and triumphs, will hopefully also be transferred.
2. Not so much on the PS2, but firstly with computer games and now with Apps, I am continually amazed at how quickly kids can learn the numbers, letters, sight words and sums. Yes, I have ‘game’ apps too, but most of my apps are maths based, word and alphabet based, and kids books. And they’re all free.
Miss 4 left the nurses at Nambour Hospital flabbergasted a couple of months ago. She was being wheeled in for surgery to remove the wires in her elbow, and she was correctly completing two digit sums on ‘Addition & Subtraction for kids‘. And she was only three. (Check out this App if you haven’t come across it yet – the fish that looks like Nemo works quite well at attracting the kids!)
I’d say, the way they’re going, both she and Mr 2 will be quite ahead-of-the-game when they start school. Well, maybe not ahead of the classmates who also have had similar exposure to such learning opportunities, but ahead-of-the-curriculum, at any rate!
3. My children are learning the value of ‘rewards for work’. Yes, Miss 7 and Miss 4 have spent a large chunk of the past few weeks (since the rain set in) on the PS2. But they’ve only had one hour ‘free’. The rest of the time, they’ve had to ‘earn’ it. Write a ‘story’, get half-an-hour. Complete a page in an activity book, get 20 minutes. Complete two hard pages, get an hour. And Miss 7’s iPod timer keeps us all accurate – and reinforces the mathematical ‘time’ concepts, too!
So, that’s it. My three ‘hopes’ for my digital babysitter’s teaching abilities. What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Have any more arguments for or against to add? I’d love to hear them!

Oh – and today’s photo is Miss 7 down at Caloundra. Taken by the incomparable Greg Parsons, photographer extraordinaire and all around great guy.

Random thoughts

Of chocolates and iPads

I absolutely LOVE chocolate. The real stuff though – not a fan of chocolate icecream, chocolate milk drinks, chocolate powder etc, because it just doesn’t taste the same. Dark chocolate doesn’t do much for me either. (Yes, I know it’s supposedly ‘healthier’ – but still!) But dairy milk chocolate – and especially white chocolate (which I know isn’t ‘really’ chocolate at all) is absolutely scrumptious. I’m partial to Turkish Delight, Chomp bars, Caramello Koalas and those yummy red-covered Lindors but my all-time favourite would have to be Raffaello. It is without parallel, in my opinion. That being said though, I’m chocoholic enough to overlook my preferences when there’s chocolate in front of me.

So hubby walking in last night with a HUGE box of ‘Fundraising’ chocolates presented a minor dilemma. Perhaps I should mention that this is the first time in exactly 20 years that I’ve had a box of fundraising chocolates in my house (yep, finished Year 12 in 1991. Who could have believed that two decades have passed that quickly…?) and I’m just a little concerned that I’ll need to pay for the whole box. Soon. (That Caramel Koala was really quite yummy this morning! And it’s only 7.42am as I write. Having enough to actually SELL is not looking too promising…)

Admittedly, I’ve been up since 3.30. Playing with hubby’s iPad for the first time yesterday made me realise that there was a lot in this world that I was missing out on. So I’ve been researching everything “i”, from iPads and iPods to Macbooks (and Macbook Airs and Macbook Pros). And I found out some interesting things doing so. Did you know that as a student in QUT’s MIT(LIS), if I buy a Mac, I can get an iPod Touch free? That sounds cool. And did you know that TechCrunch is giving away an iPad2? So I’ve entered that competition as well. (I might not have WiFi where I live, but I guess I can plan more trips to Caloundra or Caboolture, hey!)

Anyway, here’s hoping. Wish me luck!