I am a self proclaimed digital planning junkie. If I can plan, record or track with it online, I'll will try it out at least once. Recently I have had the opportunity to try out a new web based platform for recording grades, My Home School Grades.Read More
I'm a big fan of early learning and literacy skills as long as it is fun. I sit on the side of the fence of letting kids learn to read when they are ready, not at an age when someone says they should be reading. My oldest started reading at age 7 and now my 10 year old is reading Treasure Island because he wants to and the 8 year old is writing up a storm.Read More
Yesterday was unusual day in our home, not only did I have the Home School Tweet locked down tight in protest of SOPA and PIPA, but my kids were given free rein to learn on their own all day (well within reason anyways) while I soaked in all that the Cyberlearning Research Summit had to offer via webcast. The summit was sponsored by sponsored by the National Science Foundation, hosted by SRI International, the National Geographic Society, and the Lawrence Hall of Science and received additional support from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Now I know the term “Cyberlearning” is one that makes many home school parents a little squeamish and stand offish as virtual schools and kids glued to desktops all day is what comes to mind, but in fact it is SO MUCH more and I want to talk to you about it today and explain what you as a home educator can take away from a learning summit intended for mainstream education.
So I’m going to start with the obvious and recurring theme of the summit yesterday, “We are in a post-PC era, especially when it comes to education."
What is this Post PC Era I Speak Of?
It is an age, as Curt Bonk of Indiana University put it yesterday, where EVERYONE can learn anything. Mobile devices, tablets and more allow students of all ages to engage in increasing their knowledge at varying levels. Children of migrant workers in South America who once received very little in the way of education are now learning like never before thanks to mobile devices.
Learning now comes in the form of interactive games such via SMART Boards, virtual labs at museums and even interactive digital textbooks that encourage students to really think about the text they have just read and connect it to prior knowledge.
Unfortunately, I have come to realize that many home school families are not ready for the post PC era of education, as they are still working in a pre-PC manner.
What are Home Educators Afraid Of?
How do I know that home educators are timid when it comes to technology, well, it boils down to surveys I’ve taken and close observations over the past year. It seems to me that beyond the occasional “game” and use of the word processing software with a printer, many of you feel like your thwarting your child’s education if you utilize technology. In fact, I wrote about how the Waldorf schools believe technology has virtually NO place in a child’s education. Here is where I must remind you, like with all things, there must be a balance.
I personally love the methods of Charlotte Mason and even Waldorf. I’m all for children experiencing subjects with their own hands and of course I believe in the power of good books, I am children’s book addict after all. However, education is changing and if home educators cannot find a way to change along with it, I’m afraid they will leave their students and themselves in a state of bewilderment in the future.
Embrace the Shifts in Education
Did you know that South Korea has a plan to convert to a fully digital curriculum by 2015? Did you know that the leaders in STEM education in our nation have a dream of that same goal here? Even more importantly, did you know that this shift isn’t focused on just learning with the newest technology out their because it is the “cool” thing to do, but because the newest advancements allow us to analyze, teach and understand the transfer of knowledge in ways that we may not have once thought possible?
I leave you today to ponder the question that was asked at the summit yesterday,
As I try to start out my regular app of the week post, I must start with Rover. You see, as far as this tech loving mama can tell, there is no other app as valuable to educators right now, because it is the only app designed as browser for educators that allows you to access flash based content.
I LOVE this app and use it on a daily basis to let me kids watch a video assignment through Learning.com, or to let the little play on PBS kids as great educational activities when another child needs my attention for a lesson.
My 3 year old LOVES it too. You should have seen her eyes light up when she realized that she could play PBS kids on the iPad, you would have thought the iPad was hers at that moment, and not mama's.
So What Exactly is Rover?
Rover is an education browser for the iPad that is powered by the iSwifter cloud based flash platform. iSwifter teamed up with Discovery and other educational providers to launch the browser and provide you with a browser that will let you access your favorite learning sites with a filter in place to protect your child from inappropriate content.
Where to Get it: In the iTunes Store
Requirements: iOS 4.3 or later and a Wi-Fi Connection
Your Favorite Education Sites Already at Your Fingertips
When you run the Rover app, your main screen is the “Featured Content” which is a variety of options from Discovery Education. You must know though, if you do not have DE subscription, you will not be able to access this content. Homeschool Buyers Coop offers great discounts on these subscriptions throughout the year.
No worries though, at the bottom of the screen, click “more content.” Here you will find prescreened educational websites, many that you probably already know and love, categorized by age groups, elementary, middle and high school. PBS Kids, Starfall and ClickN Kids are just some of the choices in the elementary category. Middle school can choose among sites such as Brain Pop, NASA and Learning.com while high school students have options like Khan Academy and Adaptive Curriculum.
Builder BoyA popular choice among some homeschoolers and steadily gaining ground in the private education sector, the Waldorf Method of education frowns upon technology in education according to a recent article in the New York Times.
Is technology in the early years really such the hindrance that Waldorf educators and parents suggest though, I think not. Just as we carefully choose the best curriculum for home schoolchildren to fit their learning styles and needs, I find it equally important to choose what and how much technology to include in their education. Keeping a balance between natural learning and creativity and modern day methods is key.
I’m going to use my son, eight year Builder Boy on the High Functioning end of the Autism spectrum, today to explain that balance and the benefits technology can provide.
Creating a Voice
Imagine your child at the age of two only speaking 20 words and half of those, only you can decipher. Now imagine, that after a lot of work, now at the age of eight, that child is able sit down with you and hold conversation better than some adults with a vocabulary well beyond his years. His little head is full of wondrous thoughts, grand ideas and he has so many stories to tell. Then picture the look on his face because he is unable to express these thoughts, ideas and stories onto paper because memory issues beyond his control do not provide him with the capability to yet transform those thoughts into written word.
That is the face I had to see on numerous occasions, longing to share, but unable to and it broke my heart. Because, though we spend more than a fair amount of time shaping his creativity with drawing, movement and more, much like the students in a Waldorf school, embracing his creativity does not give him the means for written communication. What did finally give him his voice however was speech to text software on the computer, a simple piece of technology, but a powerful tool in our home.
Now Builder Boy can easily dictate his thoughts to the computer and read back eloquently written sentences that he created rather than simple 3 to 4 four words expected of a kindergartner that he was previously able to create.
Breaking Away From Intimidation
Watching your child learn to read, that moment when you know they truly understand, is a feeling like no other. However, that feeling can quickly turn to frustration when you notice your child hitting a roadblock because they continually choose books below their reading level. This is what Builder Boy did, and not because he was having difficulty progressing in his reading, but because he was intimidated by the size of the books in his hands as moved along.
Again, one simple little piece of technology, the eBook and an eReader allowed him to quickly jump over that roadblock. No longer were the text in hands, a thick and scary chapter book, they were on a screen and the amount of pages no longer held a bearing. I will never forget the look on his face when he devoured two Magic Tree House books in one evening and was able to answer questions to test his comprehension with ease.
Again though, it requires balance. We still have 20 minutes of independent reading from good old-fashioned books along with our daily read alouds in history, science and literature. But by placing the technology of the eBooks in our home and allowing Builder Boy to utilize them he has gained the confidence he needed to read at his level.
We are a Blended Family
Now, these are just two examples of how technology has helped my son’s education in ways that I may not otherwise have been able to. We are a blended family, in that we equally embrace technology and wonder of letting our children learn naturally. As with all things in life, there is a ying and a yang and you must practice balance. It is my belief that denying your child one end of the spectrum because you fear its influence is foolish as the same could easily be said for the side you have chosen.
Tell me, do you agree with parents and educators embracing the Waldorf method that technology has no place in the early years of education, or do you embrace all facets of learning finding a balance that works for your child?
Put a Device in Their Hands that is Meant for Their HandReally, is that even a question? The new kid tablets are chock full of features, designed just for little hands and have a price tag that, as far as this mama can tell, make them an excellent competition for the big boys when parents are in the market.
I for one was overwhelmed with glee when I was thumbing through the latest issue of Parents magazine and ran across a comparison of the new Leap Frog LeapPad and the VTech InnoTab. Not just one tablet designed for kids now available on the market, but two!
Let’s break down the features and compare them to adult tablets and similar devices.
The Kid Tablets
Hitting the market at the same time, the new kid tablets are certainly going to give each other a run for their money. It all depends on the features you are looking for and the price you are willing to pay.
*All features are listed as found on the manufacturer websites. They may not be entirely accurate, as I have not had the chance to get my hands on these fantastic new tech tools myself.
How do the Kid Tablets Stand up to Adult Devices?
“But we already have an iPad, a Galaxy Tab….my kids already have an iTouch” you say. Why do we need a kid tablet? Well, for starters, both tablets are built kid tough, and while they are still a fragile electronic device, they will withstand an accidental tumble across the floor better than your current prized tablet.
Plus, coming in at under $100 each, these tablets are a lot more budget friendly for families looking to provide each kid with a device while still leaving some cash behind to load up educational apps.
With the features such as Camera/Video, MP3 players, Organizers, Interactive Story books and more you suddenly have an arsenal of education and entertainment for your kid, ages 4 – 9, of fun.
What’s My Pick
Well, I’ve personally always been a Leap Frog fan and we have made our way through many of their products over the years. That is why I was super geeky excited when I got an email from MomSelect inviting to sign up in hopes of being one of the lucky ones selected to host a “Learn, Create & Share” party sponsored by Leap Frog.
Selected host will have the honor of testing out the new LeapPad™ learning tablet along with a Tag™ Reading System along with lots of goodies for hosting the party to share the great new technology with friends. Additionally, host will have the chance to win 10 LeapPad tablets to share with their kid’s friends and 10 to give away to charity. Leap Frog is really sharing the love and I hope it comes my way.
Slowly but surely, the advancement of interactive education is becoming more accessible to the home education community. I’ve shared in the past with my readers how Promethean offers us their Active software for free to personal users and how you can even set up your own interactive whiteboard with a little bit of ingenuity for under $40.
Today I want to share with you a few more tricks to get your homeschooler going in the age interactive technology.
A Mock SMART Activity Table Courtesy of Dell
SMART, the current leaders in interactive technology for education have a wonderful tool for the classroom called the SMART Table interactive learning center. Just imagine a fun interactive exhibit from your local museum plopped into the middle of your classroom or living room and that is what you get with this table.
Designed for early education, these tables are truly ideal for all ages as they allow for a multi-touch, multi-user interactive experience with your own teacher created materials or using one of the many resources already available at the SMART Exchange.
I know, I know, you think I’m teasing you, how could you possibly get something that even remotely resembles this in your own home to use as a part of your home school routine.
Say Hello to Dell’s fabulous 21.5" multi-touch screen with IPS technology monitor! Lay it flat on the table, edit your interactive program in the new SMART Notebook Express Web App
and then get it running with the Active software. Just like that, you have your own interactive center in your home.
Made for Teachers
For Savvy Homeschoolers
SMART Table interactive learning center
DellTM ST2220T multi-touch monitor
$289.99 (on sale)
Stop by next week, I’m going to share another cheap, yet effective way to include interactive technology in your home education environment. But until then, tell me, do you use any interactive resources in your home school? What are your favorites? Which ones would you like to know more about?