23 posts categorized "Kid Technology"

January 21, 2008

Kiddix Computing Platform

My friend MJ  (whom I know from the Chicago Moms Blog) created a post on Mom Views about a very interesting computing platform for kids called "Kiddux". Here is the link:

Kiddix Computing Feature Review

The contest is over but the review provides interesting details on the product.

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 29, 2007

NYT David Pogue's Son Reviews Wii Table Tennis

David Pogue from the New York Times is someone high on the list of my personal review team. This morning I saw the he published a review by his 10-year-old son. Bravo! Even better then take your kid to work day is to let you son publish an article in a New York Times blog!

So, here on TechMamas I present to you a link to the to-be famous writer Fifth Grader Kelly Pogue:

"A Fifth Grader’s Review of Wii Table Tennis"

Funny, because I have been trying to get my almost 9-year-old to do a review of the Nintendo DS Lite that he completely adores.... He gave me all the feedback for the mention of the DS Lite on my TechMamas Holiday Gift Guide. But I think it is time to take it a step further and follow in the big steps of Kelly Pogue and publish his own review... More to come...

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" »

November 18, 2007

What Technology Gadgets Does Your Family Want For The Holidays?

I am in the process of putting together my Techmama holiday gift guide. So I wanted to open it up to my readers and see what technology gifts their family is interested in. My oldest son is almost 9 but I know some local babysitters that are in middle school/highschool and some family friends' kids that are in college. I am finding that before 1st grade, kids know about technology but don't ask for it - unless they have older siblings. Around 3rd grade (or earlier) it seems that technology gadgets become part of social lexicon, so kids that don't have access start to feel left out. Moving past 3rd grade technology is a must, but the question is what type of technology? I do feel that technology exposure for kids is a benefit - but should be limited to what is appropriate for their age.

I will be discussing this more in my Holiday gift guide, but for now - it would be great to hear from my readers.

NaBloPoMo Day 10

September 12, 2007

ABC News Linklove: Cell Services Parents Can Use For Kids

Susan Donaldson James from ABC News wrote an article titled "New Cell Service Blocks Kids' Calls, Texts, Downloads" that discussed "a new service from AT&T — Smart Limits for Wireless — that gives parents wide-ranging control over the cell phones used by their children." Some interesting moms were interviewed. Ok, blush blush - I was honored to be mentioned in the article. Especially when I was interviewed on my cell phone while chasing my boys at the park.

I blogged about some of the other cell phone services that parents can use for kids on my post titled: Mom in a minivan shops for kids PC's and cell phones.

Has anyone used these services? I will demo the Kajeet cell phone over the next two weeks and will post with my results.

May 31, 2007

What Tech Gadgets do K-8 Grade Students Need?

Computer2 I received an email from the website Back2School2007 asking for some input regarding what technology K-8 grade students need. My oldest is a 2nd grader (and my twins are in preschool) so I was very interested to look into what the future holds. I thought that being a techie mom would mean that I have all the knowledge to help my son with his primary school technology needs. I was very surprised to find out that even I have much to learn.

My citizen journalistic investigation centered on technology needs for students K-8. I have to add that, being a mom with three young boys, my time and resources were limited. I decided to talk to kids, parents and some technology professionals from my son's Silicon Valley (CA) school district as a good start. If I were a real reporter, I would be able to spend some time looking at the relevant Pew Internet Studies, talk to students, teachers and school districts around the country and understand the digital divide between students that have computers at school and those that don't. So please forgive me if my findings are not balanced. I am hoping that the blogosphere will fill in the details with their own experiences.

Findings from a typical Silicon Valley School District:

SUMMARY: In Silicon Valley the age range of the "tweens" phase starts at 8 and goes to 13. It is the tween phase when kids really start becoming interested in computers, MP3 players, and using the Internet. Although some do start earlier. So if the question is brought up asking if a K-8th grader really needs their own computer or cell phone, the answer is "no". They have access to school computers and many parents are with their children when not at school so why would they need cell phones? But at what age do K-8 graders use computers and cell phones? In Silicon Valley, Kindergartners are using computers at school and home. By 6th grade most students have their own cell phones and are using computers for school and homework. This has filtered down to even 3rd graders benefiting from doing projects online or with word processing/spreadsheet software. Computers and the internet have become part of the social fabric for kids starting even in 1st grade. Wow.

WHAT TECHNOLOGY KIDS ARE USING AT THEIR K-8 GRADE CLASSES: Some kids/classes will start using technology earlier or later so this is a general guideline.

Starting in 1st grade, schools with computer labs allow children to spend time creating pictures on computers. In second grade students start to do research for projects using the school computer lab. Before third grade they are allowed to store files on the school's hard drive related to the work they are doing in a computer lab. In 4th grade, the school tech office creates private (password protected) folders for students to store their work. I have heard some students using word processing or spreadsheet software for school projects as early as 3rd grade but defintely by 4th.

By 6th grade, students are asked to bring USB flash drives to school to store homework.  The suggested size is 1GB for the USB drive. Students will also be required to type or make presentations so word processing, spreadsheet and presentation software on a family computer and some training would be very helpful at that time. The local school computers have the Microsoft Office Suite (Word for word processing, Excel for spreadsheets and Powerpoint for presentations).  Some projects will allow the children to create their own websites, iMovies or other online media as the assignment. It is also helpful for students to know how to use email before 6th grade so they can send email attachments to their home account if needed. Or send a copy of their homework to their email account so they can access it at school if needed.

Cell phones are allowed but most schools have a policy that the phones must not be used (including texting) during class.

All schools have wireless networks and each teacher has their own computer in the class. Each school has from 2-6 carts (the 6-8th grade classes usually have around 6 carts) that have a limited amount of laptops that can be used for special projects in the class. Some classrooms have smartboards and projectors. This effort will be growing with the goal of having all classrooms in the future with that technology.  High speed Internet capabilities for teachers are necessary as they are now using video and online assessment strategies, blogs and wikis.


CELL PHONES: From talking to the neighborhood kids in middle school, most kids they know have cell phones by 6th grade. Many of the parents say they gave their kids cell phones to help reach them to arrange pick-ups and drop offs. Working parents especially find it useful to communicate with their kids using cell phones. One parent said that kids talked non-stop on their cell phones during carpool, so they had to administer a "no cell phone" rule in the car. Other parents said that their kids use texting as their main form of communication.  Lessons learned from the parents I talked to are:

  1. Discuss a contract with your child ahead of time in regards to how the phone should be used. Make sure they know that the bill will be reviewed each month and privileges taken away if the phone is abused. Ask your child if they are interested in texting or calling and choose a plan together. Monitor that plan each month to see if it is a good fit. CNET has a section with reviews of shared family cell phone plans , Cell Phone Buying Guide and reviews of cell phones for kids.  MSNBC has an article on "Best Cell Phones for Kids".  I looked at interesting kid centric phones liked the Kajeet.
  2. Be careful to decline the games and extras (i.e. daily jokes sent to the phone). That can rack up extra charges each month.
  3. Some kids will shut off their cell phones because they know their parents are trying to call or monitor them.  No parent I talked to had tried any of the phone/GPS systems. One article in Computerworld on location based services had a comment asking that kids could leave phones at friends houses in the OK zone to fool parents so are they really necessary?  A Washington Posts article even used the term "Big Mother is Watching".

COMPUTERS/LAPTOPS: After talking to the tech staff from the school district, I realized that children do not need access to a computer at home until 6th grade (assuming they have access at school). This is a great argument for all children to have access to computers at school. The question for parents is if they want their children to have experience with a computer at an earlier age and utilize the resources of the web. Most children I know start using a computer around Kindergarten to play simple online games.

INTERNET ACCESS: In Silicon Valley I talked to families with kids in elementary school that have their own blogs, are already programming in basic and older kids that have videos on YouTube. Other parents said that they wanted their child to have experience using Microsoft Excel, Powerpoint, and Word before 4th grade to prepare them for class projects, but limited access to the internet until they were in 6th grade. So, by giving your child access to the internet on a home computer, what are you giving them access to and how will they use it?

My son had a strong interest in using a computer starting in 2nd grade, where it became part of the social experience because all of his friends also had computers. I gave my son our old laptop with internet controls. He has access to web search using KidsClick.org and Google SafeSearch as well as educational game websites like funbrain and scholastic.com. We also have fun doing research for my son's class projects online. To prepare for the second grade history exploration into the life of a cowboy, we went online to the National Cowboy Museum Children's site. The section with printables had cowboy quizzes, puzzles and more. But he is already trying to work around my parental controls, figured out how to watch DVD's using iTunes and videos using Google Search (YouTube was blocked but not Google Videos), all without any instructions from his mom or dad.

I recently had the chance to do a Q&A with Anastasia Goodstein, who wrote the book "Totally Wired: What Teens and Tweens are Really Doing Online". This section from her book summed up today's wired tweens (and teens):

"What's different about today's totally wired teens is that the viral and public nature of these new technologies has magnified and publicized, though not changed, what is means to be a teen. Instead of gossiping with a friend and having it travel telephone style through your school, that gossip can now travel through several schools and include mean pictures posted on a website. The once solitary act of writing in a diary has become a public form of what can be at times deeply personal expression."

I also found an interesting article from CNET Digital Kids:"A New Crop of Kids: Generation We".

WHAT TYPE OF COMPUTER?: After parents decide if they want their kids to have access to a computer, the next step is to decide on what type of computer the child should have. In Silicon Valley, many kids have hand me downs or use the desktop family computer until they get to college.  For those households with a wireless network, laptop use for older kids may be a good alternative to allow them to work in different rooms of the house. For any children with laptops or desktops, parental controls are a must. It is important that all parents understand how to keep their kids safe online. Especially if the family computer has a webcam. Overall,  For K-8 grade and highschool students a desktop may be the best choice because they are the most economical and harder to lose or steal. CNET reviews also has a listing of the many budget desktop computers  and laptops avaliable.  About.com discussed Back to School PC's. Fedex Kinko's computer rentals are a good alternative for those who want intermitent use of a computer.

For details on the currents products out in the stores, read my post titled "Mom In A Minivan Goes to Shop for Kids' PCs and Cell Phones".

Many students will alsoCalcuator2 need access to a printer.  Some other tech gadgets mentioned by the kids I talked to were a electronic dictionary and Pods/MP3 players (not a need but everyone seems to want one). No one mentioned the one tool I used in primary school: a calculator.  Oh, does anyone use a calculator anymore?

Related Links:
Clicking with Children: Computers and Young Children, PBS.org
Common Sense Media website reviews.
"Is tech Injurining children?", Keeping Your Kids Safe Online,  CNET

May 22, 2007

Social Computing for Kids Around the World

Olpc_2 I regularly read a blog called "Groundswell" by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff from Forrester Research. A recent post discussed the XO machine being built to provide social computing for children around the world. The initiative is called OLPC (one laptop at a time). Yahoo News described OLPC and it's founder Nicholas Negroponte as: "The founder of MIT's legendary Media Lab wants to provide low-cost laptop computers to as many children as possible in every developing nation." Josh Bernoff mentioned a few things that make the machine unique. He also has an interesting post about his interview with Nicholas Negroponte.

XO is built from open source software (which is free), an interface that supports collaboration, and the machine is low cost as well as power efficient.

There is controversy around the machine. The New York Times article " For $150 Third World Laptop Stirs Debate" published this quote from Larry Cuban, a Stanford University education professor:  “I think it’s wonderful that the machines can be put in the hands of children and parents, and it will have an impact on their lives if they have access to electricity. However, if part of their rationale is that it will revolutionize education in various countries, I don’t think it will happen, and they are naïve and innocent about the reality of formal schooling.”

Intelcomputer Intel is also working on a low cost education notebook for developing countries. The press release from 2006 had the following information:

"Intel’s small notebook PC design for students, code-named “Eduwise,” is the result of extensive ethnographic research to provide an affordable, collaborative learning environment specifically for teachers and young students in developing communities."

All I can say is that I hope the programs work. The image of children around the world collaborating, communicating and having access to information is an amazing one. And maybe a good step towards formal education.

May 16, 2007

Playstation Makes a Move for Kids Online Social Gaming

Clubpenguinguidebutton Techmeme listed that "Sony In Advanced Talks To Buy Kids Social Gaming Service ClubPenguin". It seems as though Sony is looking to get involved in kids online social gaming, Club Penguin being one of the more popular ones. TechCrunch's coverage of the story mentioned Club Penguin’s virtual world competitors "which broadly includes Second Life, Runescape, Gaia, Habbo Hotel, Cyworld, Neopets, Webkinz and others."

I just gave my son Internet access on his laptop after installing Internet controls. Should I let him enter the world of kids online gaming? I have friends who's children enjoy ClubPenguin and Webkinz, bordering on hooked. But the games seem harmless and are mostly free... Except for buying some stuffed animals. One of the moms at the Silicon Valley Moms Blog mentioned that she arrived at a local store when it first opened to get the WebKinz "Pegasus Pony" and "Pink Poodle".

I need to ponder this one over. My first step will be to look at the "information for parents" pages for some of the games mentioned:
Club Penguin
Habbo Hotel

April 30, 2007

Linklove: iPods - the Newest Technology Used for Cheating

Calculator2 I remember when I was in college, some sneaky classmates figured out how to program formulas into their calculators to cheat on tests. I, of course, did not participate but I was intrigued. I wondered how Teachers could fight all the new ways students figure out how to cheat - especially when it includes technology? The current answer seems to be "banning it" from class.

My son feels like his iPod is a new appendage to his body, so he puts it in a secure pocket of his pants out of reach during class. He knows very well that we will take his iPod away if he EVER brings it out in class. I don't know if banning digital media will take care of the problem. I agree with Strollerderby that kids will find new ways to cheat anyway. For now, it is important that parents understand that technology (and even hats) can be used in the wrong ways. The only solution may be to keep the communication lines open (low tech - as in having verbal talks) and use of clear logical consequences.

Related links:



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