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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Storypark Documentation App

A few weeks ago, Drew Williams, a manager from Storypark came to my Children & Technology class and gave us a presentation on Storypark–a learning stories and e-portfolios app. While Storypark does share some characteristics of the HiMama app, it is still rather distinctive. Originating from New Zealand, Storypark is founded on the belief that it takes a community to raise a child, and this is reflected in the structure of the app.

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According their website, idea of Storypark is to create a secure online community to support children’s learning and development. Families and educators can privately document and share children’s growth and learning through photos, videos, stories, notes, and audio clips. Like most social media apps these days, Storypark comes with real time notifications so that users can instantly view and respond to new content.

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Parents can invite anyone they choose from anywhere in the world into their virtual communities (extended family, friends, loved ones, experts or specialists, etc)–all that is needed is the app and an internet connection! Anyone who is part of the community can comment on the posts in the portfolio and feel a part of the child’s life as they share in children’s adventures.

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Storypark is extremely affordable and accessible. The Family Plan (for parents and family members is absolutely free for life! The Education Plan (educators) is $0.99 per month per child, and educators can try Storypark first for a free thirty-day trial (no credit card info needed). Another small aspect that I really like is that parents can choose to keep their child’s portfolio from school or childcare once the child has left the centre, is not erased or deleted after a period of time like on most apps. Pictures from Storypark can also be used to create high-quality personalized photo books.

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As an educator, I really like Storypark it’s so easy to use and interact with! It would certainly make the documentation process a lot more enjoyable as there is so much interaction and involvement happening with the families, which can be much harder to achieve with traditional, non-digital methods of documentation. As an aunt to a preschooler living across the continent, I would absolutely love it if her family used Storypark–this is the app long distance relative have dreamed of.

(Image credits: Storypark)

apps

HiMama Childcare App

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A few weeks ago, Steven Bonnay, a representative from HiMama came to my Children & Technology course and introduced us to an app called HiMama. Now, I have been in many childcare centers – five out of my six field placement across George Brown College and Ryerson University took place in childcare and Early Learning centers all over Toronto – and not once was it suggested that there was another way to do the piles of necessary documentation any other way but the traditional paper and pencil method that just takes away so much time from interacting with the children. So to me, an app like HiMama is nothing short of revolutionary – a real game changer especially for the up and coming generation of ECEs that are already so used to using technology in almost every other aspect of our lives. I don’t think it’s too much of a leap to bridge it into our professional world, it is 2017, after all.

What HiMama does is provide early childhood educators with a user-friendly and accessible app to share information and memories with parents and caregivers, as well as record observations and documentations. It works by linking parents and educators together in real-time so parents can receive pictures, videos, and updates on their digital devices about their children’s day as it happens (feeding, sleeping, diapering, activities, and more). HiMama was specifically designed with the unique needs of a childcare center in mind, and this is evident in the engaging and easy to navigate interface that allows educators to do their daily documentations and observations quickly and efficiently.

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This really helps bridge the gap between what happens at home and what happens in childcare, as well as foster stronger relationships between parents and educators. When there’s a lot of paperwork involved, some things can (and do) fall through the cracks sometimes in all the hectic hustle and bustle of pick-ups and drop-offs, but I think HiMama works to both empower educators and help them become more accountable at the same time.

For more information on how HiMama works, please see: https://www.himama.com/childcare/how-it-works

To schedule a free 15 minute demo for centers: https://www.himama.com/childcare/contact_us

(Image credits: HiMama)

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)