Resources, TECH WITH KIDS

Educational Games Roundup

For a reading reflection assignment for my Children & Technology course, I had to read two articles discussing the importance and benefits of digital game-based learning (DGBL). According to Shapiro, SalenTekinbas, Schwartz, and Darvasi (2014), using game-based learning as an educational tool encourages collaboration, problem solving, understanding of relationships, and mastery of concepts.

I found the idea of digital game-based learning all rather new and intriguing, so I decided to compile a few games and resources that can be used as educational and constructive tools, in either school or home settings. I sifted through some of the sites Shapiro et al. (2014) had recommended in the article and this what I came up with!

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  1. DreamBox features over 2, 300 game lessons that are designed to develop problem solving skills, critical thinking strategies, and math fluency. Educators can track students progress and make the lessons accessible in either English or Spanish. For one child at home, pricing is $12.95 per month; school pricing varies according to the number of children and comes in bundles.
  2. DragonBox 5+ is an app that’s designed to keep children the rules of algebra in a creative and learn-directed way. DragonBox 5+ first uses pictures rather than numbers or variables to make the concepts easier to understand. Children use the rules to solve puzzles and learn through trial and error. DragonBox 5+ is accessible on mobiles, tablets, and computers for $4.99.
  3. World of Goo is a Nintendo Switch game that’s focused on physics-based puzzle and construction. Globs of live goo are used to build bridges and structures. World of Goo is $9.99 on Nintendo.
  4. Bugs and Bubbles is a wonderful app for young children that helps develop their knowledge of colors, balance, letters, counting, shapes, patterns, sorting, and more. Detailed graphics, calming music, and advanced interactivity appeals to children’s senses and imaginative play. Bugs and Bubbles is available on the iTunes store for $3.99.
  5. Tell About This is a platform to inspire and capture children’s stories through word and photo prompts promotes children’s re-telling and imaginative skills. It’s easy to use and easy to share children’s thoughts and voices. Tell About This is available on the iTunes store for $3.99.

(Image credit: DreamBox)

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Resources

Resources for Families

As an early childhood studies student, one thing that has always been emphasized throughout my courses and placements is the importance of including and supporting families in my practice. To that end, I thought I would share some of the websites and resources that I think parents might find helpful in understanding and navigating digital technology within the context of their children.

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  1. Raising Digital Natives: a website by Dr. Devorah Heitner especially focused on providing advice to parents and educators on how to help children thrive in a digital world. There are dozens of interesting and informative articles such as Technology as a Distraction: Raising Kids in the Digital Age, Conflict Resolution for Digital Natives, and Digital Citizenship for Kids Starts with Mentorship. Dr. Heitner has also done a TEDx Talk entitled The Challenges of Raising a Digital Native.
  2. Common Sense Media: Common Sense is an independent nonprofit organization with the aim of helping kids thrive in a world of media and digital technology. Highlights from Common Sense Media include Parent’s Corner, featuring answer guides to questions such as “How can I use media to teach my kid empathy?” and “What age should my kid be before I let them use social media?“. Other resources are the Reviews section for age-appropriate media, and the Family Guides to help understand the latest trends in schools.
  3. PBS Parents – Children and Media: a section of the PBS website devoted to providing parents with tips and strategies for raising children in a digital age. Sections include guides across different ages on television and movies, video games, computers, and even advertising. There is also a milestone section for age-by-age tips, starting from ages three to eighteen, to help children get the most out of digital technology usage.

This is just a starting point, and there is definitely more interactive ways educators can provide resources to parents and engage with them, such as after-school workshops, seminars, or even a newsletter.

What are some of your favorite resources for parents on digital technology?

(Image credit: Common Sense Media)

Resources, TECH WITH KIDS

Using digital technology with young children

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Digital technology is everywhere these days, in schools, in childcare settings, and especially at home. Laptops, cell phones, tablets are part of everyday life and made easily accessible to children. I have seen several strollers on the TTC (the subway) that come equipped with an attachment or media pocket, similar to this one sold on Amazon UK. I’ve known children younger than two years old that are able to recognize and select the Netflix app, scroll through the images, and select what they want to watch. Current research has shown that young children have an almost universal exposure to digital technology, with many having their own digital devices by the time that they are four years old (Kabali, Irigoyen, Nunez-Davis, Budacki, Mohanty, Leister, Bonner, 2015).

Most people have heard the saying, “everything in moderation,” which of course applies here as well. Haughton, Aiken, and Cheevers (2015) found that while passive screen time can have negative effects on children’s developing cognitive, socio-emotional, and physical abilities, interactive screen time can have a positive impact on older children (ages 3 and up). Digital devices and interactive technology are not going anywhere, so an important aspect to focus on is how parents and families can reap the best benefits from it.

3 Ways to Use Digital Technology in a Meaningful Way 

  1. Engaging with children through pictures and videos – there are many elements at play here; some children get excited just seeing themselves, whereas other children especially love to hear their voices and recording themselves singing. I know friends of mine with young children that enjoy using the animal filters on SnapChat to add another level of fantasy to the stories they come up for their little ones. Another idea is to give children the option to take their own photos and videos and see what they decide is worth capturing. It’s fascinating to see what they choose to focus on.
  2. Long distance communication – digital technology is an excellent way to foster relationships and keep in touch with family members who might be living far away. WhatsApp, Viber, Skype, and FaceTime are great apps for phone calls and video chats!
  3. Educational apps/websites that are actually educational – an app like Duolingo (comes in both app and website interface) is great for helping teach a second language; Meet the Insects: Forest Edition and Toca Nature are two apps that stimulate children’s curiosity and imagination; Hopscotch and Move the Turtle are specifically designed to help children develop coding skills. I would also like to make special mention of the PECS Phase III app for parents that may be interested. It’s an app designed to look like a PECS communication book for teaching picture discrimination; it does not replace the PECS book but serves as an aid to practice discrimination techniques and strategies within a single lesson.

(Image credit: me via Netflix)