Archive for the ‘ Education ’ Category

Can Apps and Devices be Educational for Babies? Why Devices Aren’t a Substitute for Parent Interaction

Friday, August 9th, 2013

How old is too young for a smartphone and a tablet? Is there value in giving them to babies? The American Academy of Pediatrics supports a “screen free” stance for kids under the age of two but in many cases, parents are handing their kids devices at younger ages partly because of the apps that are being created to target this age group. But are these apps truly educational for this age?

Despite claims by manufacturers that apps can be educational, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) recently filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) against Fisher-Price and Open Solutions charging both companies with false marketing their apps apps for babies as educational. Designed for infants as young as six months, CCFC’s Director Dr. Susan Linn said, “Fisher-Price and Open Solutions exploit parents’ natural tendency to want what’s best for their babies…time with tablets and smart phones is really the last thing very young children need for optimal learning and development.”

But what do kids really need?

Findings from a 20 year study by Martha Farah, Director of the Center for Neuroscience and Society at the University of Pennsylvania, published by The Guardian determined the effects of childhood stimulation of brain development beginning at age 4. The longitudinal study involved visits to homes to determine the number of children’s books they had, if the family had toys to teach children about colors, numbers or letters, and whether they played with real or toy musical instruments. Parents were also observed to determine how much warmth, support, or care the child they provided and received a “parental nurturance” score. Farah found that cognitive stimulation from books and educational toys from early childhood had a significant effect on a person’s brain into their late teens. Researchers also determined that the amount of mental stimulation a child gets around age four correlated to more highly developed language and cognition skills in later life.

Kids at the youngest ages need interaction that comes from parents and caregivers to stimulate their brains and foster language skills along with social and emotional development. Authors Jamie Loehr, M.D. and Jen Meyers provide simple suggestions for parents in Activities to Enhance Baby’s Cognitive Development: 0-3 Months. They suggest reading to your child to get them used to the sound of your voice, talking to them and maintaining eye contact, providing them with noisy toys to learn cause and effect, showing them mirrors so they can see themselves and their movements, and singing. Activities for ages 3-6 months expand on a child’s development and include exposing them to new textures and introducing a variety of sounds through musical instruments that they can play themselves.

While apps and devices have educational value and can certainly reinforce skills and engage kids in a positive way as they synthesize information, they’re not a substitute for what parents can provide to their developing baby.

 Baby boy playing with computer tablet via Shutterstock

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Moms+Tweens+Social Good: Fostering Global Citizenship to Strengthen Our World

Friday, August 2nd, 2013

Teaching our kids to look outside themselves and think about others can be a challenge when they’re young but as they get older, it’s not too difficult to seize on their empathy and goodwill towards others to teach them about social good and global citizenship. This is the idea behind the first ever Moms+Tweens+SocialGood event organized by Elena Sonnino, a former teacher turned blogger and social good advocate.

This Saturday parents and tweens will convene in Washington, D.C. for panels featuring both moms and tweens, community leaders and role models who will lead discussions about topics like what it means to be a change agent, ways to use your voice for good, how to advocate for a cause, and finding causes or campaigns. The half-day event also includes interactive age-appropriate activities such as how to write letters to Congress and video interviews where tweens will practice communication skills as they talk about why it’s important to be a global citizen.

“Global citizenship is not a residency status, nor is it based on the number of stamps you have in your passport,” says Sonnino. “It is a mindset and belief structure that is built on the fact that we live in an ever-interdependent world, where our colleagues and counterparts are spread out around the globe. More importantly it is built on the premise that fostering sustainable progress and self-sufficiency for children everywhere will strengthen our world.”

How did the idea for this event come about? As a parent of a tween, former Fairfax County Public Schools teacher who always sought to empower her students, and a passion for fostering self sufficiency and inspiring others by sharing travel and social good stories, Sonnino attended the Social Good Summit, and was inspired to create her own +SocialGood event. +SocialGood brings together innovators from around the globe to leverage the power of technology and social media.

As a first-of-its-kind event, organizations such as the United Nations Foundation are eagerly awaiting to see the response from parents and tweens. “We are really excited to process the learnings/findings and watch as this is held up as an example of not only the “philanthroteen” trend,” said Aaron Sherinian (@ASherinian), Vice President of Communications and Public Relations for the United Nations Foundation.

For more information and resources, visit Sonnino’s Grow Global Citizens Facebook page and follow the conversation through #growglobalcitizens on Twitter and Iinstagram.

Image courtesy of Elena Sonnino of LDG Media


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All Los Angeles Unified Students to Receive iPads by End of 2014

Saturday, July 27th, 2013

iPads for Students

After Los Angeles School Board of Education awarded Apple with a $30 million contract for iPads for students in late June, reports that Apple will begin their rollout of the first phase of the program involving deployment of 31,000 tablets to students this fall. This massive rollout is the beginning of many which will provide all 640,000 Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) students with iPads by the end of 2014. The $30 million investment in iPads represents LAUSD’s commitment to provide each of their students with technology to support learning.

Apple will be shipping iPads to LAUSD loaded with educational curriculum designed to enhance instruction. iPads for students will include the Pearson Common Core System of Courses delivered via a new app as part of the integrated solution along with apps such as iWork®, iLife® and iTunes®. A range of educational third-party apps will also be included for LAUSD students.

“Education is in Apple’s DNA and we’re thrilled to work with Los Angeles Unified public schools on this major initiative as they plan to roll out iPads to every student across 47 campuses this fall,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “Schools around the world have embraced the engaging and interactive quality of iPad with nearly 10 million iPads already in schools today.”

“The Board voted unanimously for Apple because iPad rated the best in quality, was the least expensive option and received the highest scoring by the review panel that included students and teachers,” said Jaime Aquino, LAUSD Deputy Superintendent of Instruction. “The vote is another step forward in the District’s plan to equip every one of its students with a device by 2014. When completed, the LAUSD will become the largest district in the nation to provide each of its students with the technology.”

Little schoolgirl using digital tablet at desk with classmates studying in background via Shutterstock


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5 Free Summer STEM Learning Opportunities for All Ages

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

While schools send home summer packets designed to provide practice with math, reading, and other skills, interactive learning can be so much more fun. In addition to the paper and pencil work in packets, give your children the opportunity to stretch their thinking through interactive camps. The five camps below are all free and target a variety of ages to foster creative thinking around STEM topics like DIY projects, movie making, digital art, video game design, and many other fun topics.

Wonderopolis— If you feel like you could be doing more to foster your kids’ learning, Wonderopolis helps parents fit learning into everyday moments. With an anytime, anywhere philosophy the site powered by the National Center for Family Literacy provides a Wonder of the Day, a question designed for families to explore in a variety of different ways. In addition to exploring the Wonder of the Day, kids can participate in Camp What-A-Wonder. The week-long camp begins each Monday and ends on Friday and features a new theme each week. The last camp session ends on July 26.

Maker Camp on Google+— Teens are invited to participate in the free online Maker Camp on Google+ to create DIY projects using household materials. Each day there’s a different project that corresponds with the week’s theme. Kids get support through a daily Google Hangout where they can access tips from expert counselors and share their creations. They also have the opportunity to take a virtual Epic Field Trip every Friday. Themed weeks begin each Monday but teens can participate as often as they like on whatever days they’re free.

Apple Camp— Young Spielbergs can practice their movie-making skills at free workshops offered through your local Apple Store. Apple Camp is designed for ages 8-12 who want to make their own movies through hands on instruction with Apple Geniuses who serve as instructors and acquaint kids with iMovie. In 1 ½ hour sessions occurring over 3 days, kids learn to import, edit, add effects, and more to create a final short film that is viewed by parents at the third session. Parents must be in-store with their child during Apple Camp and families have to provide their own device to capture video but this could be an iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad, or HD video camera.

YouthSpark Summer Camps with Microsoft— This summer kids ages 8-13 are invited to participate in free camps at Microsoft Stores around the country and in Canada. The hands-on sessions include digital movie making, storyteller studio, digital art smarts, game masters, and game app. While the times vary according to location, local stores seem to be offering classes for 2 hours a day, Monday through Friday.

Common Sense Media Digital Fun for Creative Kids— Common Sense Media asks what’s your kid’s favorite way to be creative and provides an age appropriate list of apps and websites for crafting and creating art, storytelling, coding, creating media, and building for kids ages 2-6, 7-12, and 13-17.

Image courtesy of Maker Media

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4 Ways to Teach Kids About Independence Day

Monday, July 1st, 2013

There’s no better time to teach kids about the freedom we are privy to as Americans than around the Fourth of July. Between the parades and barbecues but before the sun goes down to enjoy fireworks, take a break from the day’s heat with an opportunity to learn more about why July 4th is such an important day.

Take a virtual field trip to Philadelphia— Since the City of Brotherly Love was the place where the Declaration of Independence was signed and the home of the Liberty Bell. If you can’t make it there in person quite yet or are looking to build some background information for an upcoming trip, watch The Liberty Bell video by GoFieldTrips which is best for 3rd grade and up. Younger children will enjoy listening to what the bell may have sounded like in its unbroken and cracked state. If you’re planning to visit, the Independence National Historic Park site has free downloadable Junior Ranger Activity Books and Sheets designed to enhance the on-site learning of ages 5 and up.

Watch a video to learn about U.S. symbols that signify freedom— In their free 5 minute video, educational video site, BrainPop, introduces kids to symbols and teaches kids about common U.S. symbols such as the American flag, Liberty Bell, Statue of Liberty, monuments, buildings that represent the United Stated Government, our national anthem, pledge, and more through animated characters, Annie and Moby. The video is enjoyable and educational for preschoolers through elementary ages because the learning about symbols are taught as Annie packs a care package of items for her friend in China and explains each to Moby, the robot character star of BrainPop’s videos.

Learn about fireworks— It wouldn’t be the Fourth of July without ending the day with fireworks. Your kids can dazzle friends and loved ones with their knowledge about fireworks as they sit and wait for ones to explode overhead. Learn how the incredible fireworks shows are put together or what each one is called. How Fireworks Work on includes an interactive field guide that can help your kids identify the beautiful patterns they see in the sky.

Participate in an Independence Day webinar— Christina Frei, author of 5 Rockstars of the American Revolution is offering What They Don’t Teach You about July 4th, a free 45 minute webinar geared towards children ages 8-12 where she uses her comedic and acting talents to share facts about the Founding Fathers, signing of the Declaration of Independence, and how July 4 came to be the day we celebrate American independence from Britain.

Large group of American Flags commemorating a national holiday via Shutterstock

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