Archive for the ‘
Education ’ Category
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
Saturday, March 16th, 2013
With spring break and Easter rapidly approaching, give your iPad a seasonal makeover with some affordable Easter-themed apps that will appeal to your toddler and preschooler without breaking the budget. These 5 apps provide diverse learning opportunities are are guaranteed to capture their interest but along with great game play, some of them also provide perfect opportunities to begin the discussion about social sharing and the pitfalls of in-app purchases at a very young age.
Practice hand-eye coordination
Preschoolers will have to be fast to spot adorable white rabbits and tap them as soon as they stick their heads out of holes. Bunny Bop (free) is like the Whack-a-Mole of the rabbit set where the goal is to bop the bunnies as fast as you can before they steal a carrot. Kids will love the independent play and competing against themselves as they try to increase their score with each game.
Decorate a virtual egg
Kids anxious to get decorating will love creating a virtual egg using the PAAS Heinz Egg Decorator site or iPad app (free). Start by selecting from 10 different egg dye colors, use the slider to watch as you adjust the color from lighter to brighter, and then choose tools like a paint brush, chalk, glitter glue, and assorted stickers to adorn the egg. Make a mistake? No problem! One of the tools is an eraser that can easily clean up any decorating mishaps. It’s also very easy to decorate all sides of your egg thanks to the rotate and tilt feature. Click on the arrows to spin the egg in the direction you want and hit the stop sign to make it stop. Grab your favorite tool and start the egg spinning to decorate all sides.
Read an eBook
Happy Easter, Little Critter ($.99 at time of press) supports early literacy for young readers with a familiar character. Words in the story are highlighted as they are read, providing kids with a chance to build up their site word vocabulary. Individual words and pictures can be tapped to help children make the association between pictures and the written word. The record feature also helps motivate beginning readers to read the story out loud for the reward of hearing their voices played back as often as they want. Another fun element is the hidden egg feature. 100 are hid throughout the story, providing the challenge of finding more with each reading of the story.
Work on problem solving and spatial abilities with puzzles
Puzzle Me!! Easter Free (free) is an iPad app that features 4 different levels of puzzles including 6 piece puzzles that are great for toddlers and ones with more pieces for older brothers and sisters. If a child is using the family’s iPad or a parent’s phone to play, there is the option to share success via Facebook so this provides a great opportunity to discuss social sharing with kids even at a young age.
Practice visual discrimination
Easter Find the Difference (free) provides kids and adults alike the opportunity to practice visual discrimination as they spot the differences between the two pictures presented side by side. Two different levels makes this game great for toddlers through adults as each will race the clock to find the differences that are randomized with each game. There are two different scenes that are free but do be aware that additional ones are available as in-app purchases so talk to your children about what to do when the pop up appears since additional levels will be charged to your iTunes account.
Beautifully decorated Easter eggs via Shutterstock
Friday, March 1st, 2013
Whether your child loves the family dog, longs to visit their favorite large feline at the local zoo, or dreams of an African safari, extend their learning using animal themed apps that allow kids to learn facts, play animal related games, or use interactive content to further their knowledge.
Learn trivia about your favorite animals using apps such as National Geographic Weird but True. Kids will enjoy swiping their way through factoids using the National Geographic Weird but True app. If you use the app for an extended period of time, facts do start to repeat themselves but the app satisfies kids with limited attention span through the easy to use format, graphically interesting layout of each different fact, and readability.
Play a game to test your knowledge through some friendly competition. The Animal Planet Trivia Planet app for iOS devices provides 1 or 2 player options as well as 3 varying levels of difficulty that include easy, medium, or hard. Race the clock to answer the questions and the sooner you answer the question correctly, the more points you get. Some questions are true/false but others incorporate video clips for a multimedia experience. It’s an easy to use game where play can be paused at any time.
Download the National Wildlife Foundation’s ad-free apps for iPads for animal adventures with Ranger Rick’s Tree House and Ranger Rick Jr. – Appventures. Both apps teach kids 4-7 and 7-12 about nature through interactive stories, videos, games, jokes, puzzles, pictures and more. Ranger’s Rick Tree House is a magazine-style app that allows kids to enter Ranger Rick’s home rather than turning pages. The virtual tree house is full of rooms from the backyard to the attic packed with activities they can explore.
Family looking at pelicans via Shutterstock
Sunday, February 10th, 2013
As a Chinese American who celebrates Lunar New Year, today commemorates the beginning of Year of the Snake. Chinese New Year is about more than just the twelve animals on the paper placemat at your favorite Chinese restaurant. There’s a lot of history and tradition behind the day that you can share with curious children who want to learn more. Here are four activities you can do as a family along with a list of favorite stories that we always read around the start of Chinese New Year. Gung Hay Fat Choy!
Start by printing out the story of the Chinese Zodiac to read together. This child-friendly version is not only easy for early fluent readers to read but it helps them understand the folklore behind the creatures that are part of the zodiac.
Figure out zodiac animal you are. Unlike the placemat on your table at your local Chinese restaurant may indicate, the Chinese Zodiac is actually a little more complicated than it seems. Many calendars like those you see on placemats at Chinese restaurants follow the western calendar that begins on January 1. They don’t take into account that those with January birthdays (like my daughter’s) might fall under a different sign since Chinese New Year is determined by the lunar calendar. The Chinese Zodiac Sign Calculator features a helpful calculator that takes into account your actual day of birth to figure out which animal you are. I also like that this site will give you a link so you can read and print the character traits for your animal sign. Discuss whether your zodiac animal bears any resemblance to your personality!
Learn a little bit more about China through National Geographic Kids. This easy to navigate website features a slide show of images with helpful facts about geography, nature, history, people, culture, and government. There’s also a short video and a map that shows where China is on the continent of Asia.
Beginning readers will enjoy making a mini book of words associated with Chinese New Year.
Read some stories together. Here are some of our family’s favorite picture books that can be fabulous read-alouds to learn more about Chinese New Year customs and the Chinese culture:
Vector Snake Calligraphy, Chinese New Year 2013 via Shutterstock
Friday, February 1st, 2013
Learning about other countries is an important lesson in geography and cultures for kids of all ages but how do you begin teaching them about a place that, at first glance, seems so different from where you live? Here are 3 ways to make your children global citizens.
Talk about commonalities. Young ages will be able to best identify with day to day life such as food, family, and daily life. Little Passports provides a great introduction for preschoolers through a monthly subscription service that follows Sam and Sophia through world travels with materials that arrive in the mail. Each month Little Passports sends information about a different country through a postcard written by Sam and Sophia, sticker to add to your child’s play passport, and a souvenir from the country. It’s a great way to get the conversation going about countries around the globe in an age appropriate way.
Look at photos. Pictures are a great way to get kids talking about places around the world because the visual nature makes them want to talk about what they’re seeing. Browse images from sources like Getty Images, Flickr, or the Travel App for Windows 8. Ever since getting my Microsoft Surface Tablet, we’ve enjoyed using the Travel App to browse over 3,000 destinations around the globe and read articles on each city, area attractions, view maps to get a sense of geography, learn about the climate through weather reports, while also accessing stunning images. The Travel App can be used to learn more about a city even if you aren’t planning a trip.
Plan a trip. Even if your budget doesn’t allow for a trip that involves a flight and a passport, virtual trips can be just as educational and rewarding. Do some research and assemble links that relate to a country’s location, geography, history, traditions, food, and popular pasttimes. For an example, here’s a post I wrote about taking a virtual field trip to Scotland on Parents.com inspired by the movie, Brave.
While it may be tempting to sit down with your kids and explore the world together, it’s always a good idea to preview information and images to ensure that they’re age appropriate before showing them to your children.
Ready for travel around the world via Shutterstock