Archive for the ‘
Computer ’ Category
Tuesday, April 16th, 2013
Can you imagine life without a computer or an internet connection? In an age where cell phones, tablets, and eReaders are common in houses across the country and kids go home to conduct research for homework online using personal computers, it’s hard to imagine that there are households that don’t have home computers with access to the internet but they exist. The inequality of access to digital technology is often referred to as the “digital divide” but Estella Pyfrom travels Florida’s Gold Coast in her Brilliant Bus, bringing technology to those in need.
Pyfrom is a 76 year old retired educator who, after an illustrious career teaching and serving as a counselor, invested her pension in a bus outfitted with 17 computer workstations. She and her team of volunteers visit underserved neighborhoods that don’t have access to technology in the Palm Beach County area, making stops at day care centers, community events, and community centers in places such as The Glades and Vero Beach.
“When we go into a neighborhood, we listen and try to structure our activities based on the needs,” Pyfrom stated during a recent phone interview.
Families with children as young as 3 years old get access to pre-kindergarten curriculum that helps prepare kids for school by teaching reading readiness skills and includes diagnostics. High school students have the opportunity to use online curriculum to prepare for Florida’s state standardized tests, college standardized tests, and the GED. All curriculum taught on the Brilliant Bus is correlated to national Common Core standards, Florida state standards, and district standards.
Pyfrom believes that aligning the curriculum on the Brilliant Bus with what is taught in schools helps further a child’s learning. “When we’re in communication with kids, they understand. When we’re talking to teachers, we’re talking the same language.”
In order to know what each child and family within the community needs, Pyfrom says she asks. “As we’re talking to kids and adults, we find out on the very first visit how many have internet and don’t.”
In addition to providing online curriculum to meet the needs of the populations that the Brilliant Bus serves, Pyfrom also ensures that she spreads the word about Comcast Internet Essentials, a program that provides qualifying applicants with access to the internet and a laptop for $9.95/month. According to Pyfrom, this helps “bridge the gap between those who have computers and those who don’t.” It also provides families with “constant access to the online curriculum 24/7.”
Since Estella’s Brilliant Bus began serving communities in 2011, she estimates that she has spent $900,000. Funds for a majority of the bus’ expenses have come from Pyfrom’s personal retirement and community partners such as Boca Raton based Office Depot who provided $20,000 worth of computers, tablets, digital cameras, webcams, Microsoft Office software, office supplies, and financial support. However, when this school year ends, Pyfrom is concerned about additional support for new computers to replace outdated ones and office supplies.
More information about Estella’s Brilliant Bus can be found through her website and donations for her nonprofit can be accepted through Office Depot’s REAL Change by selecting Estella via Pahokee Middle-Senior High.
Image courtesy of EstellasBrilliantBus.org
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Tuesday, April 9th, 2013
If you have a tween, chances are you’ve heard about Minecraft. Minecraft is a game that requires using cubes to create or survive in an imaginary world in an online virtual environment where game play occurs individually or collaboratively. Game play can occur in a variety of different ways ranging from on a Mac or PC, on an Xbox, or through the mobile versions available for iOS and Android devices.
If your child has convinced you to purchase Minecraft for them and you’ve watched them play but are feeling a little lost, the new Minecraft for Dummies book can help. Written by 16 year old Jacob Cordeiro, Minecraft for Dummies is a 140 primer on everything you need to know about the virtual world. It’s an easy to read book for kids who want to know more about the game and strategy and also for parents who want to feel more educated about what their kids are doing when they’re playing Minecraft.
Between spring break and high school midterms, I had the opportunity to interview Jacob via email about Minecraft to get his perspective on who the game is most appropriate for, online safety risks that come with playing the multiplayer version, and educational benefits of gaming.
Tech Savvy Parents (TSP): Minecraft seems to be growing in popularity among my daughter’s third grade peers. How old were you when you first started playing and what age do you think Minecraft is most age appropriate for?
Jacob Cordeiro (JC): I think I was 13 when I started seriously playing Minecraft, but I think that it’s an appropriate game for all ages, because there are so many ways to regulate difficulty to your personal skill level.
TSP: For parents who are hesitant to purchase Minecraft, can you describe the educational benefits?
JC: While it doesn’t directly say so, Minecraft is a very educational game both in single player and multiplayer mode; in addition to providing an outlet for creative world-building, it teaches resource management, fundamental economics, theoretical survival skills and even programming. I’ve used it as a building tool for solving math problems, and have employed the “redstone” power system to practice circuitry and logic. Looking back, Minecraft has been a major catalyst for most of my creativity, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it.
TSP: What are the benefits and drawbacks of a single player versus a multiplayer game?
JC: Multiplayer mode is also a great social network, allowing players to survive together, trade, duel or simply interact in the same world. While the economics can become more society-oriented, it’s a great way to share your creative universe. In addition, Multiplayer servers can use modifications that allow for massive games of capture the flag, collaborative building or any other game the community can create.
TSP: Are there online safety risks associated with playing with others through the multiplayer game and is there an age you think it’s most appropriate for?
JC: It’s a safe way of sharing data and is appropriate for any age, though younger players might want to set up small worlds with each other rather than logging in to unfiltered public servers.
TSP: Can you speak to the differences of Minecraft as a computer game versus the iPad version? Are there advantages to playing it on a PC versus on a mobile device?
JC: Minecraft also supports platforms such as the Android, iPad and Xbox, with controls that fit the device. The PC version is much more developed, with a vast amount of content, but it’s always interesting to take your worlds to the Xbox, or edit your world on a touchscreen and take it with you on your iPad or Android.
Nature in computerized, day and leaves of the squares via Shutterstock
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Sunday, March 31st, 2013
So many times we don’t think about backing up the data on our computers before it’s too late. When the blue screen of death appears or the contents of one’s coffee cup start to seep between the keys, shorting out your laptop, you’re often just minutes away from losing important documents and photos. In honor of March 31 being World Backup Day, it’s a good time to think about how you back up your home computers.
World Backup Day was started as “a day for people to learn about the increasing role of data in our lives and the importance of regular backups.” According to WorldBackupDay.com, more than 60 million computers worldwide will fail this year and with only 1 in 4 people backing up their information regularly, there will be about 45 million incidences where files will be lost for good. These files include thousands of photos, conversations, calendars, and more that could be gone in an instant. Baby photos, kids’ school assignments, and address book entries that could potentially be lost.
Now is a great time to take stock of how you’re currently backing up your data to figure out what you need for complete system backup before any mishaps occur. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, start by thinking about how many computers, tablets, and smartphones you have in your home and what is most critical to keep for eternity.
Most families worry most about precious photos and video clips that document a child’s life. According to Techzilla.com Expert, Ben Weissman, the most important thing to back up are your pictures. Weissman says, “You can always buy a movie or music, but you can’t ever buy back memories.”
Portable external hard drives or cloud backup solutions through services like Carbonite provide the most comprehensive home backup systems. With Carbonite, you get unlimited backup space but if you’re purchasing an external hard drive, you’ll need to assess how many gigabytes (GB) of storage each of your devices is using to figure out the size of backup drive you’ll need. It’s always better to purchase the largest external hard drive available (usually 2 Terabytes) that can grow with your needs.
While you’re backing up your computer, also be sure to sync any tablets and smartphones to your machines regularly. Downloading photos from your phone to your computer is a way to safeguard content if your phone is lost, damaged, or stolen. Also be sure to backup content you may have shared on social networking services. Since smartphones are widely used as photo capturing tools that post images to social networks, it’s also important to backup photos and videos on your phone and ones posted sites like Facebook, Flickr, or Instagram.
A complete backup solution should provide a complete backup system to house files, photos, and videos all in one place. If you’d like to learn more about different backup options, read my piece on Parents.com called 4 Ways to Backup Your Computer.
Happy female photographer in studio with camera and laptop computer via Shutterstock
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Monday, December 17th, 2012
If you’re getting calls from anxious friends and relatives asking for gift suggestions as Christmas shipping deadlines loom, accessories for the devices your children own or are about to get are wonderful choices. Often times it’s hard to know what accessories are best for brand new devices but here are my suggestions of tried and true favorites that I’ve matched up for easy shopping.
Getting an iPhone? You need a great case that can handle everything that life throws at it. My pick is from LifeProof. LifeProof’s cases fully encase your iPhone 4, 4s, or 5 and protect it from water with a slim, functional design, that still allows users to press on the screen as if it the phone was caseless. The two piece case has a front and a back that snaps together and keeps water out of the charging and headphone ports thanks to rubber gaskets. The case doesn’t get in the way of taking great photos whether you’re above or under water.
Getting a Nintendo DS or 3DS? You need headphones that will still be cool yet protect young ears against hearing loss. I like iFrogz Animatone Headphones for toddlers and preschoolers and the Earbuds for older kids. The headphones provide the perfect fit for smaller heads and older kids will like the cool styling of any of the three Earbud designs.
Getting an iPad? You need a case that will protect the edges. The new cases from Apple that are magnetic are certainly stylish but they don’t protect the glass around the edges from bumps and dings that come with regular use. Since an iPad is a pricey investment, get it a good case that will protect all sides. If your iPad will be used by preschoolers and toddlers, you need the Speck iGuy which will protect it on all sides and whose fun arms make it easy to hang on to. Another favorite is the Speck MagFolio because it’s slim, durable and wraps around all sides. If you’re looking for one with a keyboard, my hands down favorite is the ZaggKeys ProPlus. It’s a sophisticated choice that fits right on top of the iPad screen thanks to magnets and features a backlit keyboard.
Getting a computer the whole family can use? Get it a spillproof keyboard. The Logitech Washable Keyboard is a durable full size keyboard that can be fully submersed in water for a cleaning when it gets dusty, grubby, or spilled on.
Getting an eReader or tablet? From Kindle Fires, Nooks, and the more tablet-like Kindle HD, these devices need durable cases that are lightweight yet will protect them. I like the neoprene cases from Built. Whether you choose envelope style designs in a variety of fun prints or slim sleeves, rest assured that a Built case will last for the life of your device, and possibly longer. For kids who are using their eReaders and tablets for reading eBooks and eTextbooks and are taking notes for class as they read, the Papier de Maison cases are an affordable and attractive choice thanks to beautiful prints and a place for a notepad and pen.
Getting overwhelmed with the sheer number of devices and cords the children in your family own? Get organized by gifting items that will help kids keep track of their stuff and teach responsibility at the same time. Built’s Cargo Travel Organizer provides a place to keep chargers, accessories, and any adapters. I also like Kangaroom’s Personal Media Pouch because of the 6 pockets that keep everything nicely organized thanks to and are just the right size for an MP3 player, USB Flash Drive, compact video camera, and all their associated chargers. Both are zippered organizers with lots of pockets that can hold plenty of gear.
Photos courtesy of the aforementioned companies
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Friday, August 10th, 2012
If you’re shopping for tech products for back to school, there are some fabulous bonuses that make it a great time to purchase new technology. Here’s a look at the hot deals on laptops and mobile phones that you will want to take advantage of before the school year starts.
The best time to buy new computers for students is now. These deals appear towards the end of the summer and disappear once school begins.
- Apple Computers is offering college students a $100 back to school gift card that can be used on apps, books, music, and movies with the purchase of a Mac. Buy the new iPad and get a $50 gift card. This offer is good on purchases until September 21 and with Apple’s education pricing, students, teachers, school staff, administrators, and even homeschool teachers can save even more. Details on Apple’s back to school pricing can be found here.
- If you’re more of a PC person, students with a valid .edu address can get a free Xbox console when purchasing a PC over $699. To take advantage of this special offer, visit the Microsoft Store site and type in your .edu email address to receive a promotional code with redemption instructions.
Cell phone carriers are offering free, or close to free, phones to new customers with two year contracts. Here’s a rundown of some of the devices being offered:
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- AT&T— Samsung Captivate for a 1¢
- T-Mobile — Free Nokia Lumia 710 Windows Phone
- Verizon— Back to school offers include Pantech Breakout, Pantech Marauder, LG Enlighten, and Pantech Jest 2 for free. Visit the website to learn which offers are online only.
- Sprint— The Samsung Galaxy S II may have just been replaced by the Samsung Galaxy S III but is still an incredible phone. If you want to upgrade your current phone and need one for another family member, Sprint is offering a buy one, get one free deal where customers can get two Samsung Galaxy S II phones for $99. This offer is good until August 18 and more information can be found on Sprint’s website