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Guest Post: Flipping the Classroom for a New Approach to Learning

This is a guest post by Amy Hunt, site administrator and assistant principal of California Connections Academy @ Ripon..

 

The idea of a flipped classroom, while a foreign concept to some, is gaining traction in education with its implications to improve learning outcomes.

 

Photo Credit: California Connections Academy @ Ripon

Photo Credit: California Connections Academy @ Ripon

Teachers and students throughout America are trying out this model in a range of settings – from brick and mortar classrooms, to homeschooling, and online school. Even families with children who are not currently learning in this way can find ways to incorporate this unique learning method in their own education. At California Connections Academy @ Ripon, we have implemented this technique into our mathematics coursework and teachers are finding the approach supports student learning, and improves students’ retention of concepts.

 

With the flipped classroom teaching model, students are presented lesson content prior to attending the class where that content will be discussed in greater depth. This gives students the opportunity to familiarize themselves with key concepts and content and have questions prepared for when they meet with their teacher and classmates. Class time shifts from teacher lecture (since concepts have already been introduced) to opportunities for more in-depth discussion and collaboration about the topic. According to the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, the benefits of a flipped classroom include improved test scores and student attitudes, which are a few of the reasons we’ve been exploring flipped classrooms to determine what works best for our students. A flipped classroom is also similar, and can further prepare students for the way curriculum is commonly delivered in colleges and universities, and allows students to use classroom and teacher time more efficiently.

 

Teachers in traditional school settings, along with homeschool instructors, can also use this model to enhance engagement with their lessons. Though not every subject works well flipped, we’ve found that STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) concepts lend themselves particularly well to the flipped classroom. Teachers of STEM classes also benefit from this model because they have more freedom to tailor the pace and focus of class time, based on feedback from students, following the pre-class assignment.

 

In our math classes using flipped learning, teachers typically record and send students a 10-20 minute video lesson that students are asked to view prior to attending a meeting with their class online. After reviewing this video lesson and completing any assigned pre-class work, students come to their online classroom session ready to discuss, and get any needed clarification on, the lesson content. Class time shifts from being teacher-centered to be student-centered.

 

For parents with children not currently in a classroom using the flipped classroom model, you can still incorporate this concept into your student’s learning. We encourage families to take a look at upcoming chapters and lessons, to acquaint themselves, and even create supplemental learning activities, as appropriate. Whether supporting a flipped learning plan delivered by their school, or integrating it into the home, here are some tips for parents to set students up for success:

 

  1. Get Connected: Exploring online resources dedicated to flipped learning can help families find strategies that work for their child’s learning style and skillset. The Flipped Learning Network is a good starting point for families looking for examples, books, webinars, events and more on flipped learning. If you’re an active Twitter user, consider joining the weekly #Flipclass chat on Twitter on Mondays at 5 p.m. PDT, to connect with others interested in the flipped learning model.
  2. Team Up with Teachers: Even if your child’s teachers are not working under the flipped classroom model, they are a great resource for insights on lesson plans and recommended activities to augment learning.
  3. Offer Hands-On Support: While many students may prefer parents step back, offer to assist. This encouragement will make them feel supported, and is a good way to see if another flipped learning method could work better for a particular subject or lesson.
  4. Keep Communication Open: In any new learning method, it’s always best to communicate with your child about what is working well and what could be improved. Flipped learning and any supplemental activities should feel helpful and worthwhile to your student, so it’s crucial to stay in tune with their thoughts and needs.

 

Just taking a few minutes out of each day to preview upcoming concepts and review those already learned can make a difference in rounding out understanding and committing concepts to memory. Besides the additional practice that flipped learning provides, this model cultivates a sense of problem-solving and ownership of their education for students – which is an important quality in both education and life.

 

 

Amy HuntAmy Hunt is the site administrator and assistant principal of California Connections Academy @ Ripona tuition-free online public school serving students in grades K–12 in Alameda, Amador, Calaveras, Contra Costa, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Santa Clara and Stanislaus counties. The school provides students with the flexibility to learn from anywhere with an innovative curriculum that meets rigorous state education standards. California Connections Academy opened in 2012 and is authorized under state law by the Ripon Unified School District and fully accredited (grades K-12) by the Schools Commission of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). At California Connections Academy, Hunt enjoys working with a dedicated team of teachers and administrators to create a supportive and successful online learning opportunity for families and children who want an individualized approach to education.

 

 

 

 

 

Tune in: @Curious Conversation on How to Raise an Adult #Parenting

Curious Conversation on How to Raise an Adult,

 

Now that my boys are teens, I realize one of the biggest challenges of parenting is not raising an child, instead it is raising an adult. Julie Lythcott-Haims, author of How to Raise an Adult, has a common sense approach to this challenge. This Thursday,July 23 at 6:30 PM PT Julie will share insights about how to prepare kids to be their best selves and raise them to be happy, healthy and successful adults. Best yet, anyone can tune in for free at Curious.com, RSVP to the VIRTUAL CONVERSATION. HERE :“Curious Conversation” with Julie Lythcott-Haims, author of How to Raise an Adult, taking place this Thursday, July 23 at 6:30 PM PT

 

Julie Lythcott-Haims has a relevant background to speak in this area:

  • Mother of two children
  • Worked as a lawyer for 4 years prior to becoming dean
  • 14 years total working as administrator at Stanford (Dean at Stanford Law School, Assist. to the President, Dean of Freshmen and Undergraduate Advising)

 

Here is the publisher summary of her book,”How To Raise An Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success”: In How to Raise an Adult, Julie Lythcott-Haims draws on research, on conversations with admissions officers, educators, and employers, and on her own insights as a mother and as a student dean to highlight the ways in which overparenting harms children, their stressed-out parents, and society at large. While empathizing with the parental hopes and, especially, fears that lead to overhelping, Lythcott-Haims offers practical alternative strategies that underline the importance of allowing children to make their own mistakes and develop the resilience, resourcefulness, and inner determination necessary for success. Relevant to parents of toddlers as well as of twentysomethings-and of special value to parents of teens-this book is a rallying cry for those who wish to ensure that the next generation can take charge of their own lives with competence and confidence. Book published by Henry Holt and Company, LLC. Copyright © 2015.
 

Being a parent in Silicon Valley, it’s especially difficult to not fall into the helicopter parenting trap. There is so much pressure on kids to reach unattainable goals in school academics and after-school sports. Some kids even kick-off their own tech start-up while still in high school (seriously!). Unfortunately, this leads to kids being over-scheduled and over-stressed, bringing tension to the whole family limiting the free time needed for them to develop  strong resilience and independence prior to leaving for college. When I read perspectives by Julie Lythcott-Haims on these challenges it is like a breath of fresh air, helping parents focus on what is really important. I look forward to tuning in for the Curious Conversation this Thursday July 23!

 

What are your biggest parenting challenges when it comes to raising your “adult”?

 

 

 

Summer Learning: Creative and #STEM Videos On @Curious

With summer around the corner, I already am wondering how I can keep my kids engaged in learning over the next few months. They enjoy learning from videos so I thought, “Why not find some cool videos for them to watch?”  The boys were excited, provided that the videos were interesting and engaging.

 

Curious.com is a website with a mission “to connect the world’s teachers with its lifelong learners”. They have a great selection of video courses in the categories of business, brainy subjects like math, coding, craft, food, health, lifestyle, music, photo and tech.  One of my sons wants to learn how to use Final Cut Pro X to edit videos for school projects and as a hobby. I found the course “Final Cut Pro X Tips for Beginners with Dion Schuddeboom” that can help set him down the learning path.

 

Curious.com videos learning

 

 

My other son wants to learn Photography and Photoshop. The courses called “Photography Basics with Bernie Raffe and Photoshop Tips for Beginners with Michael Gatewood” look like a great fit.

 

Curious.com videos learning

 

Listed below are more examples of creative and STEM videos for summer learning.

 

CREATIVE:

 

Hands-On Beginner Photoshop Projects with Chamira

 

Final Cut Pro X Tips for Beginners with Dion Schuddeboom

 

Photography Basics with Bernie Raffe

 

Photoshop Tips for Beginners with Michael Gatewood

 

Online Video Production 101 with Rick Davis

 

 

STEM:

 

Calculus I Essentials with integralCALC

 

The Ultimate Guide to Modern Physics with Es Einsteinium

 

How to Build a Custom Gaming Computer with Carey Holzman

 

Learn to Code Python Games with LearnToProgram

 

HTML in 1 Hour with 1HourAcademy

 

Evolution and the History of Life with Bleier Biology

 

SAT Math Essentials with TAPAprep

 

 

 

What summer learning activities are your family planning?

 

 

 

STEM Maker Projects With Tinkering Labs

STEM Activities: Tinkering Labs

Photo Credit: Tinkering Lab

 

While on a hunt for weekend maker activities for my 12 year old twins, I found a site called Camperoo which has weekend STEM workshops for kids. The event we went to was run by the team behind Tinkering Labs, which gives children aged 6-13 “affordable access to packaged Tinkering kits called Catalysts. Each Catalyst includes components, materials and tools that enable unlimited projects and discoveries related to principles in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)”. My boys and their friend were technology free and happily “tinkering” away for more then 2 hours. My twins and their friend each made a different design that all had moving parts (which is also why it is important for kids to wear safety glasses) . I was thrilled at the Camperoo workshop and how the Tinkering Catalyst kits keep the kids engaged in a STEM related activity.

 

 

The very first Catalyst that Tinkering Labs designed, prototyped and tested was “Electric Motors.” They have tested that with kids from the Exploratorium, the Boys and Girls’ Club and Stanford Design School to Girl Scout troops and schools around the San Francisco Bay Area. The activities related to using the Catalyst kit also supports teamwork by allowing kids to work together.

 

STEM Activities: Tinkering Labs

Photo credit: Tinkering Labs

 

 

CROWDFUNDING CAMPAIGN:

One of my goals of Techmamas was to support small businesses that are creating STEM activities for kids, so I asked Tinkerlabs for information on their crowdfunding campaign and story to share. I was also thrilled to see them bring their kids into the business:  a son of one of the founders made a presentation at the Maker Faire on how to encourage young makers. Tinkering Labs launched their crowdfunding campaign in April 2015 “Bring Tinkering into Your Home & School with Tinkering Labs”. Campaign perks include single Catalysts, multi-packs for use in schools and other groups, and donations to Bay Area schools in need and Boys & Girls Clubs. A percentage of all profits will go to the nonprofit Institute for Applied Tinkering.

 

 

STEM Activities: Tinkering Labs

Photo credit: Tinkering Labs

 

 

 

TINKERING LABS STORY:

 

STEM Maker Activities: Tinkering Labs

 

” In the summer of 2005, my friend Gever Tulley held the first Tinkering School camp at his house south of San Francisco.  He said he wanted to find out what would happen if he gave kids a big challenge, real tools, time to think, work and play, and just enough guidance to prevent serious injury. What could they get done? What would they learn? And how would it change the way they see the world and themselves?

 

So I volunteered my son Nik. He was the youngest kid there (6 when he arrived at camp, 7 when he came home). None of us had any idea what would happen.

 

A week later, the answer was stretched across Gever’s property in the form of a functioning roller coaster big enough for an adult to ride on. In the five days it took the kids to build it, they not only experienced a deep sense of accomplishment, but they also picked up some important 21st century life skills. Not just things like how to measure properly and use power tools safely, but skills that will help them face life’s inevitable challenges down the road: teamwork, resilience, creativity and adaptability.

 

Fast forward 10 years, and I’ve now seen the impact of Tinkering on thousands of kids.  As a board member of Gever’s non-profit, I helped him expand Tinkering School into many new programs and new parts of the country.  The Tinkering activities have taken many forms, but they are always centered around open-ended learning that is goal-directed but unscripted.

 

Kids need this. But between the electronic devices that mediate much of their experience, schools that emphasize rule following, and even sports and playtime that are organized by adults, many kids are not getting much practice working, playing, and problem-solving independently in the real world. By activating their hands and their minds, Tinkering helps kids develop the skills, knowledge and grit necessary to become the innovators their generation is going to need.

 

As much as Tinkering School has expanded, it can only reach a fraction of the kids that could benefit from it. So about two years ago I started brainstorming ways to make Tinkering more accessible.  After testing many ideas, I decided the best way would be to develop a series of kits designed to make it easy and affordable to bring real Tinkering to any home or school.
I wanted the kits to have a name that expresses that they are a starting point for kids’ imaginations.  And believe it or not, it was my son Nik, now 16, who came up with the name Catalyst.  So our first kit is called the Tinkering Labs Electric Motors Catalyst.  In November 2014 we started testing it with help from our friends at the Exploratorium, Boys & Girls Club, Stanford, and schools around the Bay Area.  And now we’re launching it with a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo.  We’ve already got kits going to 33 countries, and we hope they’ll help create the next generation of innovators.

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Tinkering Labs Website

Tinkering Labs Crowdfunding Campaign 

TED Talk: Life Lessons Through Tinkering

 

 

 

How To: Mobile Photo Printing and MyPrintly.com Photo Crafts

I have always open about the dichotomy of being equally tech savvy and craft challenged. Even looking at the beautiful crafts on Pinterest makes me hyper ventilate..When I took the time to understand what caused my advanced state of craft issues, I realized that I just need simple steps to follow. Of course, when those steps involve technology that helps automate some steps, even better! When I was asked by MyPrintly.com (disclosure: my client) to create some videos with steps on how to use the HP Envy Printer to print from iOS and Android mobile devices, I jumped at the chance. Not only would I get the opportunity to do what I love (figuring out how to use technology) but also give myself the challenge of using the technology to do crafts..

 

Photo Crafts MyPrintly.com and Mobile Printing HP Printer

 

Well, not only did it help me start enjoying the art of crafting – but I can’t wait to create more photo crafts (I can’t believe I said that)..  

 

Below are video’s that show how to print from an iOS and Android device to an HP Printer  I used this amazing videographer and editor (my son Ben Blecherman). The videos include the steps we did to create our own version of the Photo Balloon Party Decoration craft I found on MyPrintly.com.

 

Step 1: Get Supplies:

MyPrintly.com Photo CraftsTo gather supplies I went to my local party supply store for balloons, a fun weight for the balloons (I picked a blue metallic party box style) and place card holder that I could put into the balloon weight. It does not really matter what the bottom looks like because it will be placed in the balloon weight.  I could only find heart place card holders in the wedding area of my supply shop, so I used them. Bigger party stores and online party sites may have basic place card holders that you can buy in packs of 6 or 12 at a time (to save money).  We made sure the balloon ribbons where long enough to also tape pictures onto the strings. The last supply was HP 4×6 Photo paper that we found at our local office supply store (but that can also be ordered online).

 

 

 

Step 2: Print Photos and Assemble Photo Craft:
 
I used the wireless features of my HP Envy Printer and my smartphone to send photos to the printer. Then we just placed the photos in the place card holder and taped photos the ribbons of the balloon.  Printing from my mobile phone saved time and enabled me to have more flexibility on the location of where I was printing. The video’s below show how to do the photo craft and mobile printing from an iOS or Android phone.  There is also a guest surprise appearance from our lovable Henry the Hamster.. Of course, he was the star of the show!

 

Mobile Printing with Harry the Hamster TechMamas.com

 

How To: Mobile Printing from iOS Device to HP Printer

 

 

 

How To: Mobile Printing from Android Device to HP Printer

 
 

 

What photo crafts do you want to try?

 

For more photo craft ideas check out MyPrintly.com   Here is the link to the for Photo Balloon Party Decoration craft found on MyPrintly.com.

 

Disclosure: MyPrintly sponsored the videos. Products were supplied for video production. This post is NOT sponsored, I am just sharing the crafting fun….

 

 

 

Family Activity For MLK Day And Beyond: Selma Movie

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Monday is not only a day of vacation from school, it is a day of meaning. “Martin Luther King Jr. Day (officially Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.) is an American federal holiday marking the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. It is observed on the third Monday of January each year, which is around the time of King’s birthday, January 15“. My boys enjoy learning about history so we make sure that we use holidays especially as teachable moments. This MLK day we will be going to see the movie Selma to not only honor Martin Luther King Jr. Day but also the incredible Director Ava DuVernay (who I think should of been included in the Best Director Category for the Academy Awards as well as the movie being included in the Best Motion Picture of the Year category) and the fabulous cast and team that made the movie. Oprah Winfrey and Brad Pitt were part of team of producers.

 

Selma is “A chronicle of Martin Luther King‘s campaign to secure equal voting rights via an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965“.  Many kids especially are visual learners so going to see this movie will help them learn about Martin Luther King Jr and the important equal voting rights campaign.
 
 

 
 

An exciting initiate around the movie Selma is the #SelmaForStudents which “Due to the generous contributions by so many of the country’s most prominent African-American business leaders, more than 275,000 middle and high school students will experience the critically acclaimed film for free at participating theaters while supplies last“.  The Selma For Students initiative is a wonderful way to help students get the opportunity to see the movie. We are going to buy our tickets on Fandango and I also hope that many others buy tickets as well to send ticket sales on Martin Luther King, Jr Day for the Selma Movie skyrocketing!

 
 

Selma For Students
 

What activities are you doing with your family on Martin Luther King, Jr Day to help not only honor MLK but also make the day a teachable moment?
 
 

 

Online Learning @Curious, From #DIY Beading Jewels to #Coding Ruby on Rails

Check on the bottom of this post for a special link to get a Curious.com Course Credit.

 

Curious.com Sunset #GiftofLearning

 

 

Online learning has captured the attention of my friends and me as our children progress through Middle School and High School and we keep wondering why our kids should have all the fun, learning new skills and information online. Curious.com is a great resource in the quest for online education. It is a marketplace for lifelong learning that offers a wide range of online courses in formats friendly to anyone who wants to learn something new or advance their skills. The site offers “more than 10,000 interactive, video based lessons and courses available to anyone, anytime they feel like learning something new. Most courses typically range from $9.99 to $9.99“.

 

 

This month I was invited to a Curious.com DIY Holiday Gift Making and Wine Tasting media event featuring Sunset Magazine and The O’Neil Sisters. I was already looking at sharing the gift of learning with Curious.com gift cards to family who want to learn how to use a DSLR or learn more about coding in HTML/CSS and Ruby on Rails. At this event I was faced with something that my years of technology background could not provide: DIY beading.  It is well known in my circle of friends that I can bravely stand up to any technology challenge but I do have a fear of crafting. I want to learn, but let’s just say it does not come naturally to me.

 

I have been reading Sunset Magazine for years and enjoyed hearing the Sunset Editors at the event discuss tips on choosing wines while we did some tastings at the event. The Sunset Seminars on Curious.com already helped me learn how to cook a holiday meal,  so I was looking forward to learning more by checking out the Sunset Essentials of Wine class and maybe event setting up a Container Garden. But could I get over my fear of crafting and make a DIY Beaded necklace?

 

DIY Beaded Jewelry O'Neil Sisters Video Curious.com

 

 

The O’Neil Sisters came to the event to do a live presentation of their DIY Beaded Jewerly class.

 

 

Curious.com O'Neil Sisters DIY Beaded Jewerly Class

 

 

The O’Neil Sisters helped me overcome my fear with their step by step instructions. I was thrilled to have finished my first official DIY project! To be honest, I was actually hyperventilating when I first saw the bag of beads and the hardware. But in the end I realized it was not that hard if you have the right instruction. My friends will be completely surprised to hear me say this, but I may actually start doing some crafting to make holiday gifts!

 

 

DIY Beaded Jewelry O'Neil Sisters Curious.com

 

 

Curious.com online learning classes also make great gifts. There are a range of courses including more DIY crafts, languages such as Mandarin and Italian, Spanish for Kids, Knife Skills and other Foodie classes, Health and Fitness including daily workouts, Music classes including rock drumming and beginning guitar, classes for Entrepreneurs such as business builder workshops and unique classes such as indie film making and ninja training.  Here are the instructions from their site on giving the #GiftOfLearning : “To gift a course, go to Curious.com and click on the gift icon next to any course. Gift-givers can them crate a personal gift message and schedule a delivery date. The course recipient will own the course and will be able to watch it again and again. Delivery of the gift messages and course access happen instantly. If the gift recipient prefers a different course instead, no problem — the course credit is fully transferable to any other Curious.com course.

 

 

At the event I was excited to learn that I would be able to share a course credit code with my readers! Sign up for Curious.com with this link: https://curious.com/invited/EKusCX-M44Q and you will get a $25.00 credit applied to your account.

 

 

What type of online class would you be interested in taking? Anyone else have a fear of crafting they want to overcome?

 

 

Disclosure: I was invited as media to the event and given a Curious.com course credit. All of my words are my own and I really crafted that necklace (with a little help from the O’Neil sisters and Curious.com)!

 

 

 

 

Tips To Help Kids Learn To Code #HourofCode

Tips For Kids To Learn To Code #HourofCode

 

I studied business in college but early on realized computer programming was my real passion. I took as many programming classes that I could but still wanted to get a business degree to help (at that time) get a job. Today coding programs are well developed not only in colleges but also primary schools across the country (world!) and coding is one of the top STEM related skills for getting a job. This week starts what is called  #HourofCode  to inspire students to learn to code, even if just for one hour: The ‘Hour of Code’ is a global movement by Computer Science Education Week and Code.org to introduce millions of students to one hour of computer science and computer programming.”

 

After college my first job was in corporate finance, but after a few years I was able to switch over to the Computer Information Systems.  I started out as a programmer coding in a language called “COBOL”. I am proud that not only was COBOL co-invented by a woman ( Grace Murry Hopper) but also the first computer programmer was a women (Ada Lovelace).  I loved coding because it was very logical: you write a string of commands using the syntax of the programming language with the goal of automating a process. While I started programming on mainframe computers (workstations and servers networked together to process large amounts of information), today you can program on almost any device from a tablet to a personal computer. If you use the right syntax to carry out some sort of process, then it will work. If you do not use the right syntax or design an incorrect process then the program won’t work.

 

 

I enjoyed my programming jobs even if it meant going through lines and lines of code to find one letter or symbol that was wrong. I moved on to jobs in database design, international computer auditing, computer security consulting at one of the biggest firms in the world and then on to founding my own website. The ability to understand programming basics has opened up many career doors and opportunities. My love of technology has also kept my skills current because I enjoy learning new programming languages and social networking platforms (and invest my time doing so).  My website TechMamas.com is a wordpress blog that has a rich text option that takes care of programming behind the scenes (I just create my blog post like I would a word processing document). But I also do my own coding to fix blog post formatting and make design changes. Even knowing HTML has opened up so many opportunities for me!

 

I suggest every parent give their boys AND GIRLS the opportunity to learn how to code. Code.org is the main website with information and the President of the United States has a great kick-off video with more information:
 

 

One of the most important things said in the video was: “Don’t just consume things – create things”.  I feel it is important to show our kids, who are growing up in the digital age, that technology should not only be consumed but also used to create. Here are my tips to help kids create their own projects by learning to code. What are your tips?

 

Tip 1: Start younger kids on “drag and drop” then easiest programming languages first:
 
Learning to program requires patience, creativity and a realistic view of the time commitment.   Many kids are used to apps that have quick response to actions, but programming does not always have a quick response. In fact, most of the time coding is a slow process with a small outcome. But all of those small outcomes put together can lead to big amazing outcomes! Business Insider posted with a flow of languages kids should learn. This flow is something I agree with and have experienced with my own kids. My younger kids engaged better with drag and drop programming. My teen wanted something more sophisticated and signed up for a computer programming intro course that focused on Python.  I know many teens that program in Javascript and Ruby in Rails that even get part time jobs after school and summer internships because of their coding knowledge! Here is a flowchart I created inspired by the Business Insider post “The Best Programming Languages Every Beginner Should Learn” by .

 

Business Insider flow programming kids coding

 

Tip 2: Inspire Content Creation and have family time “low stress” fun: 

 
The next tip is to make learning to code a fun family activity and inspire kids with logical incentives if needed. It is important to participate with your child when they first learn to code and to be supportive when they need help. It is also important that learning to code is a fun activity, so if incentives are used they should be “positive” instead of punitive.  For example, our family logical incentives are creating technology projects (including coding, video, building, designing) will earn them screen time/consuming technology.

 

It is also important to help kids find the right type of programming language and platform to make learning fun – not all drag and drop are created equal!  We tried some drag and drop programming platforms that were confusing. Other platforms, like the ones mentioned in this post on Edutopia “15+ Ways of Teaching Every Student to Code (Even Without a Computer)” such as MIT’s Scratch and Tynker, were fun and had a great interface. Both of my middle school twins enjoy using drag and drop programming and have now even moved on to platforms such as Youth Digital Minecraft Mod Design which give an introduction to Java programming through mod design.  Another online Minecraft Modding class is called ThoughtStem Minecraft Modding Class . There are inspirational programs such as Girls Who Code that  “inspires, educates, and equips girls with the computing skills to pursue 21st century opportunities”  There are also sites such as Roblox and those explained in Common Sense Media coding section that offer ways for kids to create their own apps and games. I will cover the range of platforms available in a separate blog post because there are so many!  Luckily, the Code.org/Learn section also lists great coding websites for kids.

 

When parents ask me how to get their their kids started in programming I say:

Expose your kids to different computer programming languages (starting off with drag and drop for younger kids) and see if they have an interest in any of them. If not, see if they can just do some basic programming to understand how coding works. If they have an interest then your kids will initiate learning more about programming and developing their own skills. If not, help them find other ways to become a technology creator” 

 

When my teen took the Python class he did understand the basics but was not as interested in programming as he thought he would be. So we told him to do the best he could in the class and find other ways to be a technology “creator”. Knowing that he just needed to do the best instead of feeling the pressure to “master” programming helped him feel less stress while learning.  We wanted our son to discover what his technology passion was. Luckily it did not take our teen son long to figure out that his true passion was computer design (engineering). He can spend hours going over computer specifications and features. He loves to fix anything related to a computer and technology. He decided that his “creator” project would be building his own computer! So if your child is not excited about coding, he or she may be excited about computer design, photography, video editing or other ways to experience content creation. Finding your child’s passion will turn something that could be stressful – into a skill they develop on their own because they love doing it.

 

When kids have a passion to learn coding, online computer programming courses can help take learning to the next level. There are sites such as Code.org and Khan Academy which are geared towards kids but there are also an unlimited amount of courses for teens and adults that are either free or available to purchase. Some examples are Edx, Coursera, Udemy (like this course on Python), Curious (like Ruby on Rails and HTML/CSS) and many more. Parents that want to update their job skills could also participate in the #hourofcode and look into sites such as Udacity that has Nano Degrees.

 

This #HourofCode video from Khan Academy discusses all of the different things you can do if you learn to code, has coding challenges plus it gives you a great overview:
 

 

Here is the Khan Academy video on making web pages:
 

 

Click here for the full list of Khan Academy Computer Programming videos.

 

Most of all remember that every child has their own special skills, so it is important to help them find their path. If your child does have an interest in programming, then show them the world of opportunities available to them to learn coding online. If your child has no interest in programming then ask them “What are you interested in?” and help them pursue that path.  While one of my twins enjoys learning Javascript his true passion is History. He reads non fiction history books during his free time so we may also do an ” #hourofhistory ” this week as well!

 

 

3. Help kids understand the relation of technology skills to future job potential (but also low stress): 

 

Because my husband and I have tech jobs that we got based on our tech skills, we like to talk to our kids about all of the different types of tech jobs (and other jobs) that utilize tech skills.   Having a basic understanding of programming and technology can be a prerequisite for many careers. It is also important to help them understand that programming can be challenging. My earlier career as a computer programmer helped me understand the reality of the commitment. Another Business Insider article titled “A Programmer Describes How He Nearly Went Insane Learning To Code” shows the reality of having a career in programming.

 

At the same time, there are unlimited examples of how kids that were truly interested in programming and engineering created amazing things. Kimberley Bryant, Founder of Black Girls Code, shared that when she was a freshman in Electrical Engineering that Fortran and Pascal were the popular programming languages (Note: I studied Fortran in college). Marissa Mayer earned a Bachelor of Science in symbolic systems and Master of Science in computer science and went on to become Google’s first female Engineer. Mark Zuckerberg’s programming skills helped him create Facebook. Bill Gates was 13 when he first got access to a computer and before he knew it- he and some friends were teaching the programming class. Even NBA Superstars like Chris Bosh believe that everyone should learn to code.

 

Are you going to have a family coding day this week? Sam Patterson posted on Edutopia with some ideas for that!

 

 

 

 

 

Kurbo Health App Empowers Kids To Eat Healthy

Kurbo Health App

 

 

A top concern shared by the parents of growing children is making sure their kids eat healthy and exercise frequently. But distinguishing healthy food as well as empowering and educating kids to choose healthy options is a real challenge. Teens and pre-teens enjoy sports but may not understand what amount of exercise is needed each day. My kids are open to eating healthy but are more attracted to unhealthy foods (as many kids are). We serve healthy foods at home but at times it come off as “nagging” parents. We want our kids to understand the importance of healthy foods and make good choices on their own, so we started involving our kids in the process of cooking while exposing them to healthy food choices at home and at restaurants. In the end, what was missing was the link between eating healthy, exercise and maintaining a healthy weight. With diabetes and heart issues in our extended families health history, it was important to link all this together.

 

 

Kurbo - Traffic Light Food Classification System

Photo Credit: Kurbo

This summer I signed up to beta test a new app called Kurbo,  which is based off of the Traffic Light Classification System developed at Stanford University. The Traffic Light System, that many parents have already seen in nutrition books, separates foods into either red, yellow or green. Green foods (GO) are the healthier foods you can eat more often, be cautious with yellow foods (Slow Down) and red foods need to be limited each day (Stop and Think). Kurbo also has a personalized approach which includes the use of live coaches to assist in the overall  process of setting and monitoring goals for each child. There are also games and videos to help educate and entertain along the way.

 

For example, some kids may have goals focused on losing weight while others will have goals focused on learning the components of eating healthy and how much exercise they need each day (like my twin boys). While I kept asking my boys to make sure they were eating their vegetables, they did not really understand how much they needed. Even though healthy options like Avocado were in the red category, we also wanted them to learn the difference between healthy and non healthy fats – and the need to watch the overall amount of fat each day in a balanced diet. With exercise, they did not understand the concept that just playing sports once or twice a week was enough exercise. Some sports do not even provide that much real exercise. One example is baseball, a sport I later learned exercise instructors call “the lazy sport”.

 

 

 

Kurbo Health App

Photo Credit: Kurbo

 

 

Here is how Kurbo works:

“1. Track foods & activities with our app:  Kurbo’s fun, easy-to-use app helps children and teens track what they eat, as well as how much they exercise. Each time your child enters a food, it’s classified using our clinically acclaimed traffic light system. The app also has virtual coaching and introduces important concepts such as food classification, portion size, and planning ahead with videos, games, weekly challenges, and messages.

2. Increase success with live text or video coaching: Kurbo’s human coaching gives your child the opportunity to have one of our weight loss experts interact with your child. The coach uses the data your child enters in to the mobile app each week to review your child’s food and exercise choices from the previous week, then makes actionable suggestions—including concrete goals—for the week ahead.

3.  Measure, track, improve, and enjoy your new life: Tracking food and exercise in conjunction with meeting goals will ensure that this is a true lifestyle change. The goal of Kurbo is to make it so you don’t need Kurbo again.”

 

 

Here is a link to the Kurbo page where they show success stories.

 

We had a busy summer so we only had a short time to beta test. But even using Kurbo’s app plus personalized coaching for a short time helped kick off my twin boy’s abililty to manage their own healthy habits. I enjoyed that I could step out of the process and let their coach give them tips.  Kurbo helped them learn that they were not eating enough fruits and vegetables each day. The app also helped them see they were not always getting the minimum 30 minutes of exercise each day, which made them find new ways to exercise to reach their goals.  One of my son’s requested to have an exercise routine planned out by a fitness trainer so that we can start working out as a family.

 

Exercise

 

 

Next we started making “mix your own ingredients” salads, soups and stews so we could eat a healthy dinner that everyone could enjoy. We even experimented with vegan options such as smoked tempeh and veggie sausage.

 

 

A photo posted by BethB (@techmamas) on

 

 

Then we made a goal of cooking healthy as a fun family event. So we started cooking more at home together and signed up for cooking classes we could take together.

 

A photo posted by BethB (@techmamas) on

 

 

We also decided that although the school lunches had healthy options, they did not have enough fruits and vegetables included (we learned with the Kurbo food tracking features). This inspired me to start making my twin boys their own school lunches loaded with fruit and vegetables. While this is a time investment, it has high ROI because my kids end up eating healthy, are full and energized to make it through the school day. I will be creating a series of posts (coming soon) with the pictures and information on the fun and easy school lunches that my kids actually enjoy! They even ask me when choosing food at restaurants which dishes have enough fruits and vegetables.

 

A photo posted by BethB (@techmamas) on

 

 

 

The Kurbo App helped guide our family to start making healthy changes with strategies to reach our goals.  We only had the opportunity to use Kurbo during the beta phase so we can’t wait to try the app again to reach new goals!

 

 

Disclosure: This is a press post.

 

 

 

 

Screen Smart Parenting

Screen-Smart ParentingOne of the top questions I get from readers is how to control their kid’s screen time. Now that kids have access not only to computers but also smartphones, tablets and other devices it is even more challenging to set up a system to help them be safe and limit the time they spend using devices.  I have explained in many of my posts that I believe helping your kids control their screen time and understanding internet safety starts with age appropriate and regular family communication on those topics.

 

 

Jodi Gold MD is a child and adolescent psychiatrist that has a unique perspective, especially when it comes to family communication! When I found out that she just wrote a book called SCREEN-SMART PARENTING: Screen-Smart Parenting: How to Find Balance and Benefit in Your Child’s Use of Social Media, Apps, and Digital Devices (Guilford Press, November 1, 2014, paperback) that had research and practical strategies, I wanted to find out more.

 

 

 

Screen Smart Parenting Jodi Gold MD1.       What motivated you to write SCREEN-SMART PARENTING?

 

Jodi Gold, MD: “I am a child and adolescent psychiatrist.  Every day, I went to work and listened to my patients.  A theme began to emerge.   This one got dumped on text and that one was playing too much World of Warcraft.  Parents were worried that their kids were distracted during homework and increasingly concerned about how their children presented themselves online.  Then I went to pick up my younger children (aged 5, 7, 9) at school and this mom was concerned about too much TV and that one was upset that her 4 year old could navigate an iPhone. I realized that if I listened carefully, I couldn’t make it through the day professionally or personally without confronting the realities of our changing digital landscape.  I wasn’t startled that technology was ubiquitous or that current parents are the last generation of digital immigrants.   I was surprised at the fear and ignorance. Parents, teachers and families were constantly fearful and distrustful.  I went looking for answers on how to embrace technology and use it for good, but found little guidance.

 

At the same time, I had been presenting nationally about treatments for ADHD.  A senior editor from Guilford Publishers approached me about writing a book for parents about ADHD.  I really felt like there were many good books about ADHD already on the market.  I was convinced that the Guilford editors would think that I was scattered and crazy but I told them that I really wanted to write a handbook for raising kids in the changing digital world.  I wanted to reach both physicians and parents.  I had begun to talk about the digital world with my patients and their families within a developmental framework.  We spoke about when children should be reading, making friends and going out alone.  Theses are all normal parts of growing up.  I realized that reading an e-book, getting a phone and creating a social media profile were also part of growing up but we didn’t have any graphs, charts or handbooks.  I wanted to write a book that looked at the existing research and offered concrete recommendations based on an understanding of research and child development.  Guilford didn’t think that I was crazy and they agreed to publish it before I wrote the first page.”

 

 

2.    Tell us about how you brought your background in as a doctor to helping explain these issues?

 

 

Jodi Gold, MD: “Both the Academy of Pediatrics and the Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry have begun to weigh in on parenting in the digital age.  It is critical that physicians make this a priority for research and policy.  I believe that we should be adding “digital milestones” to our list of developmental milestones and challenges.  I hope that Screen Smart Parenting will deepen the dialogue on raising digital citizens in both the medical and parental world.

 

In medicine, we base our decisions and approaches on double blind longitudinal studies.  When they are not available, we do our best find evidence based research.  The goal is to use sound research to support our medical treatments and decisions.  In pediatrics, we view everything on a developmental framework.  Children are not little adults.  We need to understand children and adolescents from a developmental lens.  We misperceive and mistreat children if we apply adult rules to them.  In psychiatry, we use what is called the bio-psycho-social model.   This means that we try to understand children and adults in a multi-faceted way that encompasses genetics, psychology and the realities of family and home life.  In psychology, we understand human behavior so we can develop incentives and plans that help children internalize healthy behaviors.  We need to use this knowledge as we build behavior plans and create consequences around digital devices.    I used these basic principles from research, medicine and psychology to write Screen Smart Parenting.  I believe that it is one of the first books on this topic written within a medical model from the standpoint of a practicing clinician.”

 

3.   What is screen smart parenting and what areas does your book discuss?

 

Jodi Gold, MD: “Screen Smart Parents are parents who are thoughtful and communicative about managing digital technology.  They want to cultivate online resilience which scientists increasingly feel is linked to happiness and success in life.  They want to instill in their children the tenets of digital citizenship.  Eventually, screen smart parents will have the experience of being digital natives and citizens.  Right now, most of us are digital immigrants with newly stamped passports and limited command of the digital language.  Screen Smart parents do not need a Ph.D. in computer science but they need to check their fear and be willing to learn from and with their children.

 

In Screen Smart Parenting, I ask parents to figure out their parenting style, understand the digital landscape and develop a family technology plan.  In order to parent your children through the digital landscape, you need to understand your family culture and your own relationship with technology. It’s important to understand the developmental evolution of the use of digital technology: what happens at what age. It’s also essential to get a feel for how digital technology is actually used today by children and adolescents.  In the book, I write about how technology does affect your child’s development.  I also introduce the hot topics that monopolize our conversations from the iBlankie to the proverbial 5 minutes of Facebook fame.  In the second part of the book, I write about different age groups, each of which explains how digital technology intersects with what your child needs to achieve during those years and how you can promote technology as a tool to support, not hinder, healthy development. In the third section, I take a more sophisticated look at children who need more attention and parental involvement and may exhibit red flags for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, and depression. These “orchid” children may need extra care and modified digital parameters.  In the conclusion, I used my experience with behavioral interventions and plans, to give parents the tools to build a realistic and effective family technology plan.  I offer age-appropriate templates and suggestions on how to trouble shoot.  The goal is to build a family plan that includes your children’s voice in finding balance and using technology as a tool.”

 

 

4. What’s the right age for a phone/smartphone/social media access?

 

Jodi Gold, MD: “This is a personal family decision but I can give you some guidelines as a mother, physician and expert in this field.  Your child will eventually own a smartphone so the question is not “if” but when.  You should give your child a phone when he/she truly “needs” one.  Most kids get their phones and smartphones between the ages of 11 and 14 years of age.  Here is a list of reasons for why you might choose to give your child a phone prior to the age of 11.

  • Parents are divorced and the child would like to have more control over his or her communication with the non-custodial parent, and/or there is shuttling back and forth.  A phone may help with the transition between two households
  • A child is taking long bus rides and needs to communicate with parents for some reason
  • The child has a chronic medical condition and needs a phone in case there is an urgent need to reach parents and caregivers
  • The child has a psychiatric or medical condition that causes her to miss a lot of school.  A phone may help to keep in touch with friends and teachers

It is likely that this decision will be somewhat driven by community/peer pressure.  It is important for parents to be thoughtful about when and how they introduce a phone.  A phone should be introduced in a developmental way (especially if you are giving a child a phone at a younger age).

*I can talk more about social media but similar rules apply.  However, there is some social media that is targeted for young children.  I encourage interested children to start with child-friendly sites before they move onto Twitter and Instagram.”

 

 

For more information, check out her website Screen Smart Parenting.