20 posts categorized "Gaming"

March 05, 2009

Nintendo DSi Launches April 5

The Nintendo DS Lite that my son and his friends use for moblie gaming will be getting some new functionality. On April 5th, Nintendo is launching the DSi with new features such as DSi Camera (two cameras presents new ways to interact with games) and DSi Sound application (which serves as both an interactive voice recorder and music player that allows users to play with their music while they listen to it).

The colors available at the launch of the Nintendo DSi are blue and black.
Relevant Links: PRESS RELEASE - Nintendo DSi launches April 5 in the United States

March 04, 2009

DEMO09 - SmartyCard "Educational" Online Gaming

There are so many different online gaming and virtual worlds available, that many parents are confused about which sites are safe. Taking it to the next level, if the site is safe in regards to content - the next issue is if the website is just "sugar" and addicting with no learning experiences involved. As parents, how do we allow our children to have some screen time that is just fun but also provide some with learning experiences? And if we find that solution, how do we get our kids to buy in?

My solution for my 6 year old twin boys seems easier then for my 10 year son. For my twins, they enjoy spending time on educational websites for their "screen" time.  So while I have been able to engage my 6 year olds in educational websites, I have not been able to with my ten year old. He is very bright but feels that after he goes to school, does homework and outside sports then he is done for the day. He does not want to do additional activities that may be deemed *gasp* learning activities other then reading (which he loves).

The issue was that my fourth grade son (like most students) needs practice with math facts and other areas outside of schoolwork. My problem was that the "nagging" was not working. Paper workbooks and some of the educational sites for older kids did not engage him. I had a point system but was not consistent in carrying it out. My ten year old has limits on his screen time, but when he does have a few moments - he goes to game sites that have the word "addicting" in the name.

Homepage **Enter my opportunity to test out the beta of an online (educational) gaming site called SmaryCard for 3 - 6 graders**

I was given the opportunity to log onto the beta website for SmartyCard before heading to DEMO09 (where they were launching). So I decided to give the site the ultimate test and see if my rebel 10 year old son would engage.

Here is a the explanation of SmartyCard from their website:

"SmartyCard provides children grades 3-through-6 with bite-sized learning activities in subjects such as reading, writing, math, social studies and science. Children earn points that can be redeemed for their favorite play time rewards - toys, DVDs, video games, books, iTunes downloads, Club Penguin™ and other virtual world subscriptions, and much more.

SmartyCard offers child-friendly, parent-approved learning activities available from some of the world's most respected and popular education content providers, including Learning.com, LearnStar and Ignite Learning
. "

During my testing on one Sunday afternoon when my 10 year old was allowed to have his screen time - he was using SmartyCard.com to practice *gasp* math and spelling, excited to be earning points.

Here is an interview with Chris Carvalho, General Manager of SmartyCard (and father of 3 boys!) -using my Flip Mino:

Children can only sign up after their parents sign up and "activate" them. The point system is applied to the educational games - after the child gets 7 out of 10 right - they earn a specific amount of points based on the level of difficulty of the question. Hints and input are given to help the child learn as the go. Points are listed on the left side of the screen so children and parents can keep track of progress. Parent account has "Fund My Child's Account" - Add points, Change acct settings and buy a smarty card. From parent account you view "play history" and "purchase history" for all of your kid's accounts.

Children can only buy items if Parents have entered their credit card information into the account, and emails are sent after every purchase. SmartyCard vetted the list of reward items offered and the website is COPPA compliant. There is no cost to register and try out SmartyCard but unfunded accounts have limited access library of learning activities, and points earned with unfunded accounts cannot be redeemed for rewards. Points can be added to a free account for as little as $10.

If kids try to "game" the system and fake their parents email address for signup - then they won't have access to redeem points (because no credit card information would be entered). 

The first question I had was "why should I give my child points that they can redeem for items to play an online game"? After I used SmartyCard, I realized that the points were providing the incentive for my son to participate in supplemental education. Because I already had a point system and my son was able to save up for things like iTunes cards or a RipStiK (which they happen to have in their reward list already) - I realized this would fit in with our current incentive program. Best yet, I was so frustrated trying to redeem iTunes cards - that just providing easy access to redeem those was a plus for me in itself!

Every family has different needs, but I found that the digital world is here to stay. Children interact with media rich environments on a daily basis - and it has become part of how their interact socially. I am a big supporter of parents educating themselves and their children on the digital world, make educated decisions for how and what websites your children interact with - then have fun. SmartyCard falls in the supplemental education, incentive and "have fun" boxes for me. I also appreciate the graphic rich environment that adds to the experience.

Listed below are some screen shots from SmartyCard and a link to the press release:

Continue reading "DEMO09 - SmartyCard "Educational" Online Gaming" »

February 27, 2009

Active Video Games For The Nintendo Wii

I am just about to finish my Nintendo Wii Guide - when I happened to see this game at Target today:
Outdoor Challenge.
The boy jumping got me at first look. The game has different adventures players interact with using the mat (included) and a Wii Controller. The instructions show very clearly the movements necessary for each game. I had my 10 year old, a male sitter that just got out of college, and my 6 year old twins try it. All had fun, and even broke a sweat. The game had "clean" excitement and gave everyone good challenges. The sitter said that he gets more of a workout from using the Wii Fit because it is set up for workouts - but that this game was "active fun". As it said on the cover, it did get my kids off the sofa during the time after school/sports that they usually like to relax in front of the TV.

Another benefit of this game is that each session is very short - so reminders that the gametime is almost over was not a big deal. Some games do engage players in a longer session, which makes shutting them off harder.

Next I may try the Wii Fit with Wii Ski or Shaun White Snowboarding because my son just learned how a few weeks ago in real snow. While anything Mario (especially MarioKart), Lego, or Super Smash bros seems to be popular with my tweener and his friends, the active games did engage my 10 year old who told me "that he felt like he exercised" with Outdoor Challenge, especially while playing the mountain track and log jumping games.

Relevant Links:

February 02, 2009

PBS Kids Play! Online Learning Tool Details & GIVEAWAY

At the CES Kids@Play Summit I had to the chance to see a demo of the new PBS subscription service called "PBS Kids Play".  For those that spend time on the PBSkids.org website (like my family does) know that there are lots of great activities on the main site. One of my twins actually begs for his screen time to be "PBSKids.org" (seriously, he has the URL memorized).

So the big question is "Why do a  paid subscription service?"

To answer that, here are details from the PBS Kids Play FAQ page:

"PBS KIDS PLAY! is the only online school readiness program that customizes the learning experience to your child's level across 20 different subject areas. Your subscription to PLAY! gets you access to more than 50 exclusive educational activities that you won't find anywhere else – and all of them match with national educational standards and benchmarks. PLAY! adjusts based on your child's individual learning achievements, unlocking exciting new challenges. A personal progress chart for each child shows the results as he or she advances through the curriculum. Plus, PLAY! has built-in safety features that prevent keyboard banging and give you the option to set a time limit… Ding!"

So the main difference from the main PBS Kids website is that PBS Kids Play offers a customized learning experience. So the next question is "Why should my kids go online to learn"?

I have to start off by saying I have been a big PBS fan for years (yes - I watched Sesame Street as a kid - didn't you?). I just saw the new Electric Company show which made me tear up with excitement (that was my favorite show as a kid). 

Screen time is now part of the social culture, so I think it is important for screen time education to start at home. Which means setting up screen time limits to start (i.e. after school, homework, outside play time etc..). After that, it is important to educate kids on where to spend their "screen time".  Even though I have content filters installed, I still talk to my kids about where to go on the Internet. I thrilled that my Kindergarten age twins request to go to PBSKids.org for their screen time because I know they are having a fun, safe and educational experience online. I am also happy that they can navigate around the site on their own - choosing which games they want to play. My twins see their brother and other friends playing online games and have requested to also.

I view PBS Kids Play as a great way to provide an online gaming experience that will also be educational (and safe). The learning goals help me guide my kids to different sections to practice skills and the goal setting is a way for them to feel a sense of accomplishment.

***NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY - PBS was kind enough to offer 10 - 2 Month Free Trial coupons. Those  that comment on this post will be randomly chosen to win. For those that want to enter, please put a valid contact email in the "email not displayed" field in the comment section. GIVEAWAY STARTS TODAY AND CLOSES FEB. 4 AT 9AM pst.

Here are some screen shots and the full press release details :


Continue reading "PBS Kids Play! Online Learning Tool Details & GIVEAWAY" »

October 06, 2008

NYT Article: Should Video Games Be Used as Bait to Hook Readers?

This mornings NYT had an article that is very timely for the video game discussion: "Using Video Games as Bait to Hook Readers".  The first example in the article is of PJ Haarsma, whose game design is based on the fictional world of his novel, allowing readers to play in it and giving incentives for players to advance by answering questions with information from the novel.

Some of the other examples mentioned from the NYT article were:

  • Scholastic released “The Maze of Bones,” the first installment in a 10-book mystery series that is tied to a Web-based game". Also "The 39 Clues...where online players search for some of the clues themselves, encountering background stories about new characters as well as text and pictures" - and material that supplements the novels that involves some reading.
  • Random House Children’s Books commissioned an online game from a “Inheritance” fantasy series by Christopher Paolini.

I know we enjoyed going to the PBS site to play their learning games, Cyberchase was a fun way to play and practice math at the same time. So why not have a book/game connection? I am a fan of limited screen time - and then choosing the right type of screen time for that "hour" a day (here is a link to a post with my perspective on kids use of technology).

My son is currently waking up early each morning and reading for an hour BEFORE school a Scholastic book series that is based on the Indiana Jones movies. So that is an example of movie to books working well. He also reads other books not related to anything and quite enjoys them..

So my question is "Taking into consideration that limited screen time has become part of our culture, why not have some video games that require reading a book for clues, background or to advance?". Add to that the assumption that kids will (and should ) be exposed to a wide range of books, so that video to book would just be one of them.


January 07, 2008

A Mom Who Is Not Going To CES Without Her Son!

I don't want to make a stink, and I completely understand why.... But I am disappointed that I can't bring my 9 year old son to CES tommorrow. I had this whole plan worked out in my head until I realized that I had never called CES to see if they would allow me to bring my son...

It all started with being inspired by NYT David Pogue's Son Reviews Wii Table Tennis. My 9 year old son has been asking me lots of questions about blogging and even reads some of my posts.  He is my "go to guy" for reviews of children's technology (I have three boys - if I had a girl I am sure she would be my "go to gal").  He also enjoys learning anything related to technology. For example, he saves old mouses and electronics so he can take it apart.. And when I received a Nintendo DS Lite for review, I just put the box in front of him and said "go have some fun".

The game sent with the DS Lite was Brain Age 2. Within the same day he had completely figured out how to use it, and was playing Suduko from the Brain Age 2 game. He also figured out how to use pictochat and multiplayer gaming for playdates.  Before I included  a recommendation for the Nintendo DS Lite in the TechMama's Holiday Gift Guide I sat down with him to discuss what he thought about it (ok, he is hooked!). I also bought another game for the DS Lite that he tried and did not like. All my three sons put together the fantastic creations for my Happy Lego New Year 2008 Flickr badge to make sure my preschoolers get involved.

I asked my 9 year old if he wanted to go to CES with me to help my blog about the electronics - and he was so excited. I was even ready to set up a category in Techmamas just for him. Then I called CES before I was going to buy the airplane tickets to go for one day - and they told me that only teens 16 and older can attend. But, I said, "I have a 9 year old that wants to start blogging"... They were very nice but said 16 is the age limit. I do understand that having a bunch of elementary school kids running around the show could be problematic. But what about a 9 year old with geek superhero dad and techmama that wants to start blogging on his own? And nowadays tweens like my son are the new "power users" of technology so aren't their opinions conference worthy? Especially if their mom - who is a blogger - will be there with them? CES does include technology based toys, gaming and emerging technologies like robotics that would be completely engaging to geeks in training.

For now, I decided tonight I will create a category for him and he will just start blogging from home. Maybe next year they will let an established 10 year old blogger attend CES.

Or maybe there are not many moms who even dream of attending CES with their kids anyway (I am sharing my true geekiness)....

December 20, 2007

TechMama's Holiday And Overall Cool Technology Gift Guide For Families

Tm_hgg_turquoisev2 While my other blogger friends were busy putting their holiday guides out before Thanksgiving, I was busy making my garage into a playroom to get ready for the winter. Well, the good news is that our garage is now a playroom - but the bad news is that my holiday guide is out very close to "the" holidays. So I am going to call this the TechMama Holiday/Last Minute Shopping/Overall Cool Technology to Buy Guide. The other good news is that after holiday sales are coming soon...

First I will provide a summary (the lowdown for mom gadgets and more..) and then below I discuss some of my favorite family technology picks. There has been so much debate about kids and technology use, but my final word is wait until your child shows an interest, set up limits on screen time, take time to educate yourself and your child on the technology/ internet safety issues - then HAVE SOME FUN (click here to see my full post on this topic)!

This is a time where elementary school students are social networking online with Webkinz and using technology at school every day, tweens have their own blogs and highschool students are starting to use Facebook.  Just check out this post from Mashable (Oct. 2007) that lists 350+ social networking sites available. While I am against baby computer toys, I do feel that parents need to get on board with technology and become part of the education process (technology safety is the new "birds & bees" talk).  Especially with online privacy.  I don't suggest buying all sorts of gadgets, as I said above - wait until they show an interest and then invest in the right technology. The holidays (and after holiday sales) are the perfect time to buy technology for families.

Here is the summary (or lowdown):

Continue reading "TechMama's Holiday And Overall Cool Technology Gift Guide For Families" »

June 20, 2007

Video Games - For Teens With Cancer

Wp1 Yahoo News published an article on fighting Cancer with Video Games. I had to go check it out. The program is called "Re-Mission". Re-Mission.net is a community for teens and young adults with cancer. The site has a section for the Re-Mission video game and community & content. This is a very interesting way to provide support and an online community for teens with cancer.

June 07, 2007

9 Year Old Video Game Circuit Star?

The New York Times reported on Victor M. De Leon III, a 9 year old that has won thousands of dollars in prizes, has a national corporate sponsor, a publicist, featured on 60 minutes and has a Web site....

"..he is set to be among 2,500 competitors in the three-day Major League Gaming Pro Circuit Event at the Meadowlands in New Jersey, battling for titles like the titan on the Xbox game Halo 2 and prizes up to $20,000."

And best yet, his father uses parental  controls "to block excessive gore and offensive language".  Yikes, I don't know what to say. Is being a video game circuit winner any different then traveling the spelling bee circuit? Probably. What if he enjoys playing video games and being in the competitions? Is it ok, or not so because it is video games? What about kids that compete in robotics competitions? Where should parents draw the line for what is acceptable?

April 10, 2007

Links: Gaming in the News

Gaming is a big issue with many of my mom friends. Do you allow gaming? If so, what type of games are appropriate and how do you control the amount of time they spend gaming? My husband and I are just starting to look into this; we don't have gaming at our house but our son plays at his friends houses during playdates.

Here are some of the interesting discussions going on about gaming:



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