Tech Talk

Educate Your Teen About These 4 Common Phishing Schemes

Educate Your Teen About These 4 Common Phishing Schemes

Boy with laptop

According to a 2013 study conducted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), more than 2 billion people worldwide had Internet access in 2011, with 60 percent of these users in developing companies and nearly half are under that age of 25. Norton’s 2012 Cybercrime Report states almost 60 percent of children experienced something negative online, including falling victim to a phishing scheme. Only 82 percent of these children told their parents . You need to teach your teen about phishing scams and how to avoid them.

A phishing scam is when a hacker, con artist or other criminal tries to gain illegal access to a computer. They do this to acquire financial information and passwords. While phishing schemes have always been of concern, technological advancements have allowed these scams to become more sophisticated. Many phishing schemes are difficult to detect, making it all the more vital that your teen know what to look for. Protect your family against identity theft with these common examples:

Common Phishing Schemes

Here are four examples of phishing schemes your teen should watch out for:

1. Phony Social Media Profiles

Chances are that social media is an integral part of your teen’s life. Phishing scam artists are building fake profiles. The more friends your teen has, the more difficult it becomes to keep track of them. The scam artist may use pictures of your teen’s friends and family on Facebook to trick your teen into adding them as a friend. Many times, the victim thinks that the friend or family member created a new account or accidently dropped them.

Before accepting the friend request, your teen needs to see if the friend/family member is still listed as a friend. If the friend is listed, your teen needs to report the profile to the social media company and tell the friend/family member what happened.

2. The “Man in the Middle” Scam

This is one of the most difficult scams to detect, which makes it hard to prevent. This scam involves malicious websites that look nearly identical to the real website you are looking for. The goal of this scheme is to find out your login or credit card information.

Your teen can avoid becoming a victim of this scheme by checking the address displayed in the browser window after clicking on the link to ensure the site is legitimate. Use a quality Internet protection and anti-spam program to minimize your chance of falling victim to this scam.

3. Email with a Link from a Friend

Your teen logs into an email account and sees a message from an acquaintance. The message seems odd, as it sounds like the friend needs help or wants to share a great opportunity. The friend provides a link to a website. Because it seems harmless your teen clicks on the link.

By clicking on the link, your teen may have exposed the computer to a tracking program or virus. The link could also take your teen to a malicious website where a criminal source gathers personal information.

4. Emails with Attachments or Pictures

Your teen receives an email from an acquaintance that has an attachment or picture. When your teen clicks on the attachment/picture, it begins to download. What your teen does not know is that a virus is also downloading. The virus may connect to a malevolent website that gathers personal information from files in the computer.

Your teen can avoid becoming a victim of these email schemes by calling or sending the friend a new email before following the link or downloading the picture/attachment. As opposed to clicking on ‘reply,’ your teen needs to create a brand new email.

Practicing and implementing internet safety with your teen will help to not only protect your family now, but will allow them to integrate a distinct eye when spending time online. Although the internet is ever-evolving, scams like these remain prevalent due to lack of education.

How Facebook’s changes are killing its Small Business Communities (and how to save yours)

How Facebook’s changes are killing its Small Business Communities (and how to save yours)

FB free organic reach is dead - how to get your posts seen in 2014

photo credit: marsmet473a via photopin cc

 

Facebook recently announced that it is home to 25 million active small business Pages, and that these Pages form the majority of its 1 million advertisersYou may have missed those announcements in the press, but if you’re one of the >96% in this group not currently paying for Facebook ads, you’ve no doubt received the message being sent via their recent algorithm changes:

The days of free organic reach are over.

To remain visible and viable on Facebook, you either need to pay
or generate stellar content good enough to attract its own audience.

As far as Facebook is concerned, they’ve been helping you – for free – to reach your audience where they socialize, building relationships which make money for your business. And now Facebook wants its cut. But what if your business doesn’t generate the type of profits needed to make Facebook ads worthwhile to you? Let’s take a closer look. [divider]

The Changes & Their Impact

Facebook has changed the way it decides which posts should be displayed in its newsfeed. This is because posts from friends, Pages you like, and advertisers all compete for the same limited space.

As a result of this change, organic reach (or the visibility of posts you don’t pay to advertise) is down.

A recent study confirms this, but finds that there are increases in clickthrough rates and viral amplification.

But what does that really mean?

Organic reach is down

On that we can all heartily agree. Page followers are simply not seeing our posts. To have posts show up in someone’s newsfeed, you have to include one of 3 things:

1. Loyalty. Fans of my Page who have high rates of interaction seem to still be seeing my posts.

2. Highly motivating content. Clickbait still works – for now. Those exaggerated and emotionally-charged headlines still draw people in. Unfortunately, most small businesses just don’t have content that can balance credibility and provocative headlines.

“Long overlooked hammer proves its worth. You won’t believe what it made happen.”  may generate some clicks the first time, but it’ll get old for everyone real fast.

3. A running ad. You pay for it, Facebook will make sure it gets seen.
(Although, seen by whom may be up for some debate.)

Clickthrough rates are up

The study claims that while fewer people are seeing posts, more of the ones who do are clicking on your links and being directed to your content.

However unless Facebook has developed some ground-breaking artificial intelligence, I just don’t see how it can possibly select which of my fans I want to see each piece of content I post (and therefore which are more likely to click through).

Viral amplification is up

I’m inclined to believe this one. You can never really guarantee what content will go viral, but you can sometimes get a feel for it. Personally, content that I’ve expected to have a bit of viral spread have recently shown massively higher reach stats than I expected.

But here’s the thing.

If I am a small business, how likely am I to be regularly producing content expected to go hugely viral?

This may work better for bloggers, but it still hinges on content being seen by the right audience in the first place, which takes us back to square one.

[divider]

Even Small Businesses Need a Social Media Strategy

Not every “small business” has a product to sell in the traditional sense and for many, paid advertising is just not an option. So what do you do? First of all, heed the wake up call. This is not your real estate. Your Facebook Page never belonged to you. It is Facebook property that they allow you to use, rent-free. In 2014 make it a point to have a social media strategy for your business. Start with a 4 step framework.

  • Obtain your own digital space if you haven’t already. No excuses.
  • Decide on the social media channel(s) appropriate to the type of business you’re in. More on that in a bit.
  • Establish a presence there and engage your audience.
  • Make your website the central space that connects it all.

Make no mistake, talk of the death of Facebook dying is just that – talk. The social media giant has been making deliberate moves toward supporting current affairs- and news-related discussions – hardly the stuff of teens. As Facebook evolves to narrow its focus, other digital spaces will naturally grow to meet emerging needs driven by demographics and content type.

Next, recognize that Facebook wants to work with you. But it also wants your money. If you’re a small business with products to sell, the company wants to make it easier to promote those products, but you have to be prepared to put up some cash. If you’re a blogger, or a small business with very small profit margins that make paid advertising out of the question for you, you may want to consider changing your Facebook strategy, or branching out onto a new platform altogether.

[divider]

Where to build your Community

fb quote on organic declineIf you decide to migrate from, or expand beyond, Facebook Pages, know 2 things:

Not all your fans will move with you. You’ll lose some, you’ll gain some new ones. That’s just the way it works.

You will lose detailed analytics. All of the networks below measure re-shares and “likes” (or whatever you want to call a virtual “thumbs up”) to some extent.

One holds the promise of Google Analytics in its future.

If detailed statistics are a necessity for you, then paid ads and engaging content is your future, in the short-term at least.

Review your social media strategy anyway, and ask the following questions which will help you choose the right channel(s) for you.

What kind of engagement do I want with my fans? What excites me about my brand and how do I express that ? What kind of storyteller am I? How much time do I have to devote to social media, and when? And finally – where (and when) can I find my target market?

Forums

Engagement Type – Conversations, Views and Opinions, High Level of Interaction
Keep in mind – Time intensive but can be very rewarding

Facebook Groups

“Private” community:  ★★★
Fan-to-Fan interaction:  ★★★
Fans initiate conversations:  ★★★
Repository of shared photos/files:  ★★-
Conversation history:  ★★-
Social stream activity:  ★★★
Community search:  ★★-

Moving to a Facebook Group is arguably the easiest transition to make- your Page fans exist there, and depending on privacy settings and group dynamics, friends of fans will catch on to your new space.

Setups like this are great for fostering a sense of community, and lively discussions (which members can start themselves) can take on a life of their own. Downside – they can take on a life of their own. Groups require a fair commitment to checking in, monitoring, and sparking conversation.

Share new developments with your business, or in your area of interest, including files and photos (which are relatively easy to find again using the internal group search). These are, in turn, easily shareable outside of your Group among friends of fans. Conversation histories are also easy to find again with search – ever try to find a conversation from a week ago on a Page? 

Tip: Don’t over-moderate your Group. Too much irrelevant info is going to cause members to turn notifications off, however, lively discussion is likely to keep people checking in for the latest updates, or to add their 2 cents. The most common mistake I’ve seen is stifling a Group before it develops its own identify and self-regulation, after which it quickly dies.

Self-Hosted Forums

“Private” community:  ★★★
Fan-to-Fan interaction:  ★★★
Fans initiate conversations:  ★★★
Repository of shared photos/files:  ★★★
Conversation history:  ★★★
Social stream activity:  —
Community search:  ★★★

Whether you self-host or use an external service, forums allow you far greater control over the functionality and feel of your community. And while you no longer have the ability to attract friends of fans through their activity showing in Facebook newsfeed, you do gain some powerful benefits.

Taking a sense of community to a whole different level – today’s forums have evolved to be mini-social networks in their own right, where users setup profiles, can “friend” and message each other, and can contribute to shared feeds, and forum topics while taking some conversations into private/public sub-groups among friends. Forums not only allow you to better organize your shared resources, and conversations making them easy to find, they allow you to tap in to new directions and interests your members bring to you allowing you to stay well-informed, and better prepared to serve your customer’s/reader’s needs.

Tip: Great reading from Spin Sucks – Jessica Malnik says it all. Still not convinced?

Those UpWorthy and BuzzFeed posts that show up in your Facebook newsfeed – more often than not – were picked up from Reddit. A forum with over 100 million unique visitors generating traffic in Dec 2013.

Nod to TriniTuner – the most popular forum in Trinidad and Tobago.

Visual Social Media

Engagement Type – Creative expression, Low(er) interaction,
Keep in mind – Be genuine and share an experience or experience to connect with

YouTube

 “Private” community:  ★–
Fan-to-Fan interaction:  ★★-
Fans initiate conversations:  ★–
Repository of shared photos/files:  ★★★
Conversation history:  ★★★
Social stream activity:  ★★★
Community search:  ★★★

YouTube can be a very effective way to connect over shared interests and shared experiences. It can be a less time-intensive option, because your frequency of posting is less (weekly/monthly vs daily). Producing the video can be a faster option for you than writing a blog post, or it could be more time-consuming – depending on your niche and content.

Fans can comment, share, subscribe for updates, post video-replies and let’s not forget the power of Google-powered search. Plus, there’s +. Now your fans comments can show up in their Google + feeds, bringing your content to a whole new audience.

Check out how Walmart uses YouTube.

Pinterest

“Private” community:  ★–
Fan-to-Fan interaction:  ★–
Fans initiate conversations:  ★–
Repository of shared photos/files:  ★★★
Conversation history:  ★★-
Social stream activity:  ★★-
Community search:  ★★-

Pinterest is great way to show the world – what you love, what drives you, what inspires you, and what there is to love about your brand.

And because Pinterest links back to your website (or YouTube account) it’s a great way to allow your passion to bring people back to your home base to discover what else you’ve got to offer.

Check out how Martha Stewart uses Pinterest.

Instagram

“Private” community:  ★–
Fan-to-Fan interaction:  ★★-
Fans initiate conversations:  ★–
Repository of shared photos/files:  ★★★
Conversation history:  ★★-
Social stream activity:  ★–
Community search:  ★★-

Use hashtags and geo-tagging to get a community started on Instagram. It can be challenging to get started attracting fans within Instagram alone. Instead use your website, or other social channels to announce your presence and make it easy for others to find you. Fan activity on your posts are not as readily visible to friends of fans as in other .

Check out how Ben & Jerry’s uses Instagram.

Twitter

“Private” community:  ★—
Fan-to-Fan interaction:  ★★★
Fans initiate conversations:  ★★★
Repository of shared photos/files:  ★★-
Conversation history:  ★★-
Social stream activity:  ★★★
Community search:  ★★-

Twitter needs no introduction. Twitter’s real-time data stream connects over 600 million users worldwide. Searchable by hashtag and geo-tagging, it’s where your content needs to be. Admittedly it can be a little overwhelming to navigate at first, but Twitter interfaces easily with practically every major social media network out there.

Watch: Facebook’s recent acquisition of Branch and Potluck could bring some interesting opportunities.

Check out how Monterey County, CA uses Twitter.

Google Plus

“Private” community:  ★★★
Fan-to-Fan interaction:  ★★★
Fans initiate conversations:  ★★★
Repository of shared photos/files:  ★★★
Conversation history:  ★★★
Social stream activity:  ★★★
Community search:  ★★★

Google Plus has been the only real potential competitor to Facebook. Slow to pick up growth, many dismissed the social network as a failed experiment. But here’s where they’re wrong.

Google+ numbers continue to climb. Publishers are switching over and bringing their readers with them.

Google has also developed a strong suite of social tools independently – and they all come together to power Google+.

YouTube, Picasa, Gmail, Hangouts, Analytics, Webmaster Tools and let’s not forget Search – that’s video, images, messaging, video conferencing, along with the background support of search and analysis.

With a highly-visual interface, the ability to format text in posts, hashtags that put the power of Google Search to work, Google+ has got everything Facebook has, and then some.

Well maybe not everything. There are no Facebook-like Insights for now, but only limited stats on +1s, re-shares and YouTube views, however since Google Analytics already tracks activity from your Google+ Page to your website, it’s reasonable to believe the existing Page Dashboard will see some new analytics in the near future.

If you adopt one new social network in 2014, make it Google+.

 

Check out how online marketing firm Distilled uses Google+.

And for best use of Google+ integration in a campaign check out the Toyota Collaborator.

[divider]

As Facebook grows up it continues to remind us that social is secondary to profitability. The recent changes may have been a been the most jarring, but it follows conversation-stunting moves such as the shrunken “Posts by Others” box and organic reach penalties for Page to Page sharing.

Facebook is very clear on what it wants from you, as it should be. Are you clear on your social media investment figures into your strategic plan?

Ready to revisit Google+ but unsure where to start?

Look out for my Introduction to Google+ blog posts starting right here, beginning January 16th.

[divider]

Was this post helpful to you?

Discuss on G +:

 

Adornably – The Future is Here

Adornably – The Future is Here

Adornably - Futuristic App Takes Interior Design into the Future

2014 is just beginning to unfold, and yet 2013 feels light years behind in terms of the day to day technology landscape.

It feels like we’ve been catapulted 20 years into the future with news of personal drones (goodbye privacy?), dual-core computers the size of an SD card, and at home 3D movies – without the 3D glasses.

This year’s CES convention has presented some groundbreaking ideas, as well as some ideas – like these tech devices designed just for women – that would probably be better off buried far, far underground.

Here’s one really amazing app that I can’t believe exists in real life, and not just futuristic movies.

Meet Adornably.

This iPad app accurately scans and scales any room in your house and displays it on-screen. Then feel free to select and place furniture and decor items from an online catalog into your virtual space.

Like how a piece fits into your home? Go right ahead and purchase it. Right from the app.

Yep. I know. Seeing is believing.

Download Adornably yourself and give it a try. It’s free.

H/T: FastCoDesign 

Introducing… my new app for Android!

Introducing… my new app for Android!

Moms the Word Mobile App

Introducing my new app – Mom’s the Word!

I’m really excited to bring my new baby out into the world. I’ve been working on it for the past several weeks and am happy to say that it’s now ready for the public eye!

Mom’s the Word is the first mobile app in Trinidad & Tobago bringing you up to date info on:

– Local family-friendly events in Trinidad & Tobago;
– Ideas for activities and crafts;
– Educational Resources;
– Emergency Services Contact Numbers;

and so much more…

 

Why an app?

Over 40% of you visit from a mobile device. That’s a huge group of you already interact with me on the website, on Facebook, Flipboard and Pinterest.

But… it’s disconnected. And specialized. And surely there was a way to bring them together and also provide a richer experience for us?

As I played around with ideas on the website, I had a Eureka moment.

Why not do a mobile app? It would reach people where they already are, and you wouldn’t have to remember to check out things in detail when you got to a computer, you could just have access instantly no matter where you happened to be!

AND it would let me introduce new features useful for moms (and dads!) on the go! (More on that in a minute).

My tech mind went into hyperdrive. Happy overdrive!

Features

As I sat down to design and prototype the app, the scope kept growing. There was so much I wanted to add, but I knew I had to keep it compact and easy to navigate.

A few things that made it into the app:

 

The Event Calendar

I am always getting requests for information on what’s happening around T&T, and the Calendar is one of the most popular aspects of the website.

I’ve struggled in the past with how to make the calendar more integrated with mobiles, but balancing accessible and unobtrusive was a definite challenge.

But finally! A way to make it work!

 

Inspired Home

Creative Inspiration by way of ideas for Crafts, Home and Garden DIYs and Recipes always bring a high level of engagement.

Now you can view stunning galleries designed to spark your imagination, and then click over for tutorials.

 

Learning Resources

From toddler to teen, I am always looking for educational resources to help our kids excel.

As a parent, I look for smart and sensible apps built by folks that really “get it”, and they really meet a need for my kids.

As a trusted resource, parents are always asking me for recommendations as to how to keep their kids using their government-issued laptops constructively. Because if you don’t guide them and show them the positive possibilities out there, they’re going to fall in with the default. And that bar isn’t always very high.

Find apps and website to support your children’s learning goals. Click to view, or download apps directly to your mobile device.

 

Emergency Contacts

This is something that has bothered my for a long, long time. In an emergency, how do I know where the emergency services location closest to me happens to be? How do I reach them by phone? And what the heck is the emergency number for ambulances again?

I wanted to find a way to bring this info directly to parents phones, so that you didn’t have to hope directory assistance answered quickly or hope a neighbour was giving you the right info.

Since the app’s release, this is the single most commented-on feature. I’m so glad so many of you feel the same way I do about this, and appreciate having these numbers always in close reach!

 

Demo and Download

 

iOS and Mobile Web Version

It’s on it’s way! I promise :)

I’m an iPhone user myself, so I can assured you an iPhone/iPad version is on the way. I’ve gotten a lot of emails on this one and I just wanted to reiterate that.

Version 2.0 is soon to be released for Android and it’s what iPhone users will get from day 1.

I’ve made some tweaks and refined the look and the content.

Click here for a sneak peek you can interact with in your browser!

[alert-note] So what do you think? What’s your favourite feature?
What would you like to see added?

Leave me a comment or question below and I’ll be sure to get back to you on it![/alert-note]

Educational Resources for Kids – Websites and Apps

Educational Resources for Kids – Websites and Apps

Give your kids an extra little learning boost with these great research and activity websites and apps for kids!

Websites

Khan Academy

A free world-class education for anyone anywhere. Khan Academy is a not-for-profit with the goal of changing education for the better by providing a free world-class education for anyone anywhere. (Math, Science, Economics, History and more)

Starfall’s Learn to Read with Phonics

Starfall.com is a free public service to teach children to read with phonics.

 

Brainzy – Games for Early Readers

Brainzy offers the perfect mix of learning and fun. Kids love playing! Practicing skills in a variety of ways helps kids develop real mastery.

Education.com

In a single destination, Education.com offersthousands of fun and educational activities, printables, and workbooks. Topics include Math, Reading, Writing, Science, and Social Studies.

BBC – KS1 Bitesize

Literacy, Math and Science games for children can be found at the BBC’s KS1 Bitesize website.

BBC – KS2 Bitesize

English, Math and Science games for children can be found at the BBC’s KS2 Bitesize website.

BBC – KS3 Bitesize

The BBC KS3 Bitesize website supports learning in the subjects of English, Geography, History, ICT, Math and Science. Lesson topics include Revision, Activities, Video and Quiz components. As with KS1 and KS2 Bitesize websites, educational games supporting the topics presented are available.

 

BBC – School Radio

Audio provides ideal resources for Early Learning through stories, music, movement and songs. The programmes and other audio content link directly to the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum and, in particular, help to foster speaking and listening and movement skills.  

BBC Schools – Primary History

Limited to 6 focus areas (including Ancient Greeks, Romans, Anglo-Saxons) the BBC provides a useful resource for research projects for primary and early secondary school.

BBC Schools – Primary Languages

Gateway to advice, information and support for primary languages teaching (French & Spanish).

pennacool.com

Quiz and revision website geared for our local (i.e. Trinidad and Tobago) educational curriculum. Primarily geared toward SEA studies, the site now complements the Form 1 Mathematics curriculum, and is branching out into Form 2 support.

 

Babbel

Smart and simple. With babbel.com language learning is easy and interactive. Develop foreign language skills with access to grammar and thematic courses as well as vocabulary, writing and listening comprehension exercises online.

 

Brightstorm

Brightstorm’s mission is to be the best place to learn in the world. They believe that great learning starts with great teaching. So, they find the best teachers, film them teaching, and build learning solutions around those great teacher videos. Focus is on Math, Science, English and some standardized test prep.

 

WatchKnowLearn

WatchKnowLearn has indexed approximately 50,000 educational videos, categorizing by subjects such as Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, History, Computers and Technology, Social Studies, The Arts, Foreign Languages (incl French and Spanish), Business, Physical and Health Education, as well as Life Skills and Hobbies and Crafts.

 Android Apps for Kids

BrainPOP Jr. Movie of the Week

Bring learning to your fingertips™ with the BrainPOP Jr.® Movie of the Week app. Get a different animated movie every week and check out related quizzes and educational activities – free!

 

Carnival of Animals

“Carnival of Animals” is not just an amusing interlude, it enables your children to explore music and learn about the animals and the world in an engaging way.  

 

FableScapes 2

FableScapes 2 is a fun educational storytelling game that unleashes your imagination to create fantastic fables and terrific tales.  

Fraggle Friends Forever

Celebrate Fraggle Rock’s 30th Anniversary with this exciting deluxe story app from The Jim Henson Company and Cupcake Digital!  

 

Gummies Playground

A teacher-approved, preschool curriculum-based collection of 8 great educational games for your preschooler (ages 2 – 5)

 

Kids ABC Trains Game

With Kids ABC Trains Game, your preschool and kindergarten-aged kids will learn each letter’s name and sound, trace letter shapes, identify letters in context, and match lower to upper case letters.

 

Learn French with babbel.com

Play, understand, speak and write! Get the free Basic and Advanced Vocabulary at home and on-the-go: study vocabulary with interactive exercises, systematically deepen your knowledge and practice your pronunciation.

 

Learn Spanish with babbel.com

Actively speak Spanish with babbel.com, one of the biggest language learning platforms worldwide.

 

Math Workout

Math Workout is a set of daily brain training exercises and math drills designed to enhance mental arithmetic.

 

Ollie The Cat

Say hello to Ollie the cat in a fun app made especially for young children.

Starfall ABCs

The “ABCs” section of Starfall.com’s well-loved website is now available as an app.

 

Starfall Learn to Read

At last, all the content from Starfall.com’s Learn to Read index in an app! Since 2002 Children around the world have learned to read with Zac the Rat — and your child will too!

Toca Hair Salon 2

Toca Boca is an award winning game studio that makes digital toys for kids. We think playing and having fun is the best way to learn about the world. Therefore we make digital toys and games that help stimulate the imagination, and that you can play together with your kids. Best of all – we do it in a safe way without third-party advertising or in-app purchases.

 

iPhone/iPad Apps for Kids

  • Bilingual Child

    Bilingual Child will submerse your child into animated books where characters Lucy and Carlos, an English-speaking girl and a Spanish-speaking boy, teach vocabulary.

  • Bobo Explores Light

    Hold a fully functional science museum for kids 4-12 in the palm of your hand!

  • BrainPOP Jr. Movie of the Week

    Ideal for kids in Kindergarten through grade 3, the BrainPOP Jr. Movie of the Week app spans subjects within Science, Social Studies, Reading, Writing, Math, Health, Arts and Technology.

  • Fry Words

    The Fry 1000 Instant Words are a list of the most common words used for teaching reading, writing, and spelling.

  • Khan Academy

    Khan Academy allows you to learn almost anything for free. They cover cover a massive number of topics, including K-12 math, science topics such as biology, chemistry, and physics, and even the humanities.

  • Learn French with babbel.com

    Basic & Advanced Vocabulary Trainer

  • Learn Spanish with babbel.com

    Basic & Advanced Vocabulary Trainer

  • Rosetta Stone – Lingo Letter Sounds

    Rosetta Stone® Kids Lingo Language Games are the first apps for preschoolers (ages 3-6) that combine English reading with Spanish speaking.

  • Sago Mini Doodlecast

    Sago Mini Doodlecast is a unique drawing app that records your voice as you draw. Capture every stroke, word and giggle.

  • Sago Mini Forest Flyer

    This fun adventure is filled with delightful animations guaranteed to make your little one giggle with joy. This open-ended play experience is loaded with exciting surprises.

  • Science360 for iPad

    The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Science360 for iPad provides easy access to engaging science and engineering images and video from around the globe.

  • Sight Words by Little Speller

    Help your child learn to speak, read, and spell as they learn to recognize words and letters by sight sound and touch

  • Starfall ABCs

    The “ABCs” section of Starfall.com’s well-loved website is now available as a universal application for your iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.

  • StoryKit

    Create an electronic storybook. Make use of the little gaps in life – on the sofa after dinner, in the back seat of the car, or on a train – to do something creative together.

  • Toca Hair Salon 2

    Toca Boca is an award winning game studio that makes digital toys for kids. We think playing and having fun is the best way to learn about the world. Therefore we make digital toys and games that help stimulate the imagination, and that you can play together with your kids. Best of all – we do it in a safe way without third-party advertising or in-app purchases.

Books

Ok so these books aren’t technically “educational” resources, but hey – they’re books! :) I say anytime we can get kids involved in reading, it counts as learning!

Percy Jackson and The Heroes of Olympus Book Series – Rick Riordan

A new Great Prophecy, a new generation of demigods – the adventures have just begun! In this new five-book series, expect to see your old friends from the Percy Jackson books along with a great new cast of main characters, as the heroes of Camp Half-Blood embark on their most dangerous challenge yet.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series – Rick Riordan

The series that started it all. Join the adventures of Percy Jackson and his demigod friends as they fight mythological monsters and the forces of the titan lord Kronos.

The Dot – Peter H. Reynolds

With a simple, witty story and free-spirited illustrations, Peter H. Reynolds entices even the stubbornly uncreative among us to make a mark – and follow where it takes us.

The Mysterious Benedict Society – Trenton Lee StewartThe Mysterious Benedict Society – Trenton Lee Stewart

After Reynie Muldoon responds to an advertisement recruiting “gifted children looking for special opportunities,” he finds himself in a world of mystery and adventure.

The One and Only Ivan – Katherine Applegate

Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. Katherine Applegate blends humor and poignancy to create Ivan’s unforgettable first-person narration in a story of friendship, art, and hope.

 

[Buy Once, Read Everywhere: You don’t need to own a Kindle device to enjoy Kindle books. Download a free Kindle apps to start reading Kindle books on all your devices. Available for every major smartphone, tablet, and computer.]
First Look – Madagascar Math Ops

First Look – Madagascar Math Ops

Educational software expert JumpStart® successfully blends education and fun in its latest mobile app – Madagascar Math Ops™. With twenty years experience in the business, it’s no surprise my kids were engrossed for hours with the Madagascar zoo crew. Read on for our full review!

Madagascar Math Ops

The beloved Penguins from the DreamWorks Animation Madagascar franchise are making their first mobile game debut starring in Madagascar Math Ops™. With this game, kids can dive into an educational and mathematical covert operation with the Penguins. Players must solve puzzling math equations to help the Penguins rescue their fellow Madagascar pals Alex, Marty, Melman and Gloria from evil henchmen.

Why I Reviewed It

I was first introduced to JumpStart learning software a decade ago, when my dad bought me the JumpStart Toddler and Pre-K CDs. My toddler LOVED them, and so did I. He got to learn how to use a mouse, as well as learn basic “cause and effect” skills, accompanied by catchy (but not annoying) tunes.

This was a big deal back then. It was very difficult to find software that was easy enough for toddlers to use, taking into consideration that their fine motor skills were still developing. Too many other titles out there were just frustrating for little kids to use and not fun at all. These were just perfect and I happily used them with both my boys. (I have the song playing in my head as I write this!)

When JumpStart reached out to me to review this latest app, I was curious. I had a fair amount of faith in the company based on past experience, but times have changed and I wondered whether the apps would appeal to my now-tween boys. They might be educational, but would they actually be fun and something kids would want to play?

I’m happy to say both parents and kids rated Madagascar Math Ops™ a win!

Game Play

Here’s how the game works:

Kids select a grade and combination of skills to be tested (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division).
Madagascar Math Ops - Choose a Topic

Within each of these there are several levels of increasing difficulty.

Starting at the first level the child is presented with a series of Math problems and must tap the correct answer for each equation displayed.
Madagascar Math Ops Solving Problems

Once these are answered correctly, the child then gets a chance to free the Zoosters.

This is the real “game” part of the app, and the penguins must be angled just right to free the Zoo buddies from their cages and squash the evil henchmen. More correct answers mean more power ups and chances (dropping pins, more speed, more powerful impact) to successfully complete the level.
Madagascar Math Ops - Free the Zoosters

Completing each level rewards you with coins which can help you unlock different “worlds” – the default is New York, but Paris and Sydney are also available.
Madagascar Math Ops Worlds
Madagascar Math Ops - Paris

If you fail to free the zoo friends or eliminate the henchmen from the level and you repeat it, you’ll be presented with different questions at the same difficulty level, but the same layout of obstacles and henchmen standing in your way.

Why It Works

The game is addictive.

Sure there’s the Math element, and while there are probably very few kids out there who will WANT to practice their Math skills (except when motivated by an upcoming quiz or exam) most kids will not mind doing the basic Math in order to access “the real deal” – aiming those penguins, hitting the targets and racking up points.

Let’s also be clear on what the educational support is here.

This isn’t a teaching app. There’s no instruction on how to tackle these Math concepts. This is a reinforcement tool which gets the kids to practice the skills they’re already learning in class.

In our schools we have “Mental Arithmetic” quizzes. These are timed tests where the kids have a limited amount of time to work out a basic math problem in their heads (hence – Mental Arithmetic). It’s great practice in developing “number sense” which has real world implications, and it’s wonderful mental stimulation.

If your kids have quizzes of this nature in their schools – this app will be very helpful in getting in practice. Even if they don’t, it’s still a very useful way to boost their Math skills.
Madagascar Math Ops - Problem Solving

Getting back to the game. It really is fun. I had the kids try it and wondered if they’d bring the iPad straight back after 5 minutes. I was pleasantly surprised that they kept at it for at least 45 minutes the very first time I gave it to them. In order to keep them unbiased, I didn’t tell them I was writing a review. I just told them I’d downloaded a game for them that I’d like them to try out.

After they gave their feedback, my husband and I decided we would try it out to get a parent’s perspective. I am AWFUL at games, especially physics-based games like this is. Hubs is great at it, so needless to say he left me in the dust, progressing really quickly and racking up points!

I had a lot of repeating of levels to do, because I suck at freeing the animals AND getting the henchmen. For review purposes I considered it a plus though, since that let me experience repeating of the Math component of each level. I was happy to see that the identical questions weren’t presented over and over, so everything felt fresh… even under the pressure of not being able to get rid of those pesky henchmen!

Both hubs and I agreed with the kids that it was the most fun educational game we’ve come across for grades 1-4, and one that you actually don’t mind playing.

Pop Up Advertisements

Once the game is loaded, there is a pop up ad for another JumpStart game. This can be dismissed, but it’s not difficult to imagine a child being confused, clicking the large brightly-coloured button and being redirected to the App Store instead of to the game they expected to play.
Madagascar Math Ops Pop Up Ad

I’m not a huge fan of pop-up ads in games for kids, especially ones which take over the screen and force interaction with them. That said, once the ad is by-passed it does not appear again during gameplay except when switching grade/topic selection.

In our review, we were only ever presented with one ad (at game start and when switching levels) which the kids easily bypassed to return to the game, after their first encounter with it.

As a parent I’m not averse to developers letting me know what other apps are available. In fact, if I like your app I may indeed want to know what related apps you offer. I would recommend that JumpStart move to less aggressive ad placement such as a banner display below the score after each level is attempted.
Madagascar Math Ops Level Completed

Overall

We liked the game, and we will be using it to reinforce Math skills in our home. I don’t expect that the kids are ever going to say “Hey Mom can I play Math Ops” out of the blue (unless they’re preparing for exams), but I do think they would gladly squeeze in some Math Ops time when we want them to get in some practice.

Madagascar Math Ops™ launches on iOS®, Android™ and Kindle® for $2.99 and FREE download today, June 5th 2013.

Infographic - Madagascar Math Ops

Disclosure: I was provided with a JumpStart promotional code at no cost JumpStart in order to test the products’ abilities and give my own personal opinions on it. The opinions I have given are mine and may differ from others but were not influenced by the company or the free product provided.

Tech Mama’s Picks – June 2012

Tech Mama’s Picks – June 2012

When started college, I had my sights set on a degree in Psychology. Somewhere along the way, I got sucked into the tech world and ended up pursuing Computer Science.It was quite intimidating at the time – the classes were overwhelmingly male-dominated, and all the students seemed to have years of experience and “insider knowledge”. Add to the mix my being a Caribbean woman in a New England college – boy, did I feel like an outsider.

But I’ll never forget the profound sense of accomplishment upon producing my first piece of working code – the sublimely simple (in retrospect) printing of the text “Hello World” on the screen, at my command.

Awesomeness. This was something I could do. It wasn’t in the realm of “those people”, the people better and smarter than me. I WAS “THOSE PEOPLE”.

And I’ve never looked back.

Good thing too. The internet was “new” then. Almost no businesses had websites back then. And there were no blogs, no facebook.

Now – technology is all around us. Even if you’re not a tech geek.

Educators have long recognized the need to introduce children to technology, and there is decent software out there to aid children’s understanding of academic concepts taught in the classroom. But nothing meaningful has really been in place to introduce kids to technology and programming.

Until now.

The folks at MIT, with funding from the National Science Foundation, has developed a programming language especially for kids – Scratch.

The programming environment is bright and colourful, and its drag-and-drop interface makes it so easy to use. It comes with built-in “sprites” or images that you can animate and carry out your instructions. There are also lots of sample projects and step-by-step guides, but your tween probably won’t need them for long, and will likely be off coding on his/her own by Day 2!

And that’s no exaggeration.

Within 20 minutes of us downloading and installing Scratch, my 9yr old son had put together a program that animated a chosen object based on the movement of the mouse. That was built based on one of the sample projects. Not satisfied with the fact that the object it returned to its original form, my boy decided he wanted to have the object remain with the resulting swirled graphics and colour changes the user had effected.

Within 10 minutes he had worked up 2 different models for achieving that, and snapped together the building blocks for accomplishing that, with customized timers, delays and triggers to make that happen.

I love how easy it is to use, and the fact that it de-mystifies programming. It takes coding out of the realm of impossible, the domain owned by others “better” or “smarter” than ourselves.

It’s so easy to create, and facilitates young children’s creative minds. Successful missions build confidence, and opens a door to a path that could lead to your child’s future career.

And best of all – it’s FREE! (Although we do encourage you to donate and support the solid research being done).

Check out this video intro to Scratch HERE.

Go to  http://scratch.mit.edu/ to find out more, explore creations submitted by users around the world, and download scratch for your own kids today. Downloads are available for Mac, Windows and Linux.

Cyber Safety – BitDefender’s Safe Holiday Shopping Tips for Mobile Devices and Social Media

Cyber Safety – BitDefender’s Safe Holiday Shopping Tips for Mobile Devices and Social Media

The holiday shopping season is in full swing and BitDefender is here to share bestpractices for safe holiday shopping to ensure consumers don’t get lumps of coal in theirbank accounts this winter.

Shopping via mobile devices and through social media instead of using home and office computers is a new trend this year. According to the MobileMarketing Association, 59 percent of consumers plan to use their mobile device for holiday shopping and planning. A separate study found 54 percent of retailers plan to use social media to reach consumers during the holidays this year. With so much holiday activity happening around mobile and social media sites, just as consumers need to know about deals, they also need to know how to avoid scams.

Follow these tips to stay safe:

Be wary of the small screens on mobile devices

— The small screen on mobile devices make it hard to see a full URL. A link may begin with a legitimate storename but actually redirects you to a malicious site.

Avoid unknown messages on social media sites

— Don’t click unsolicited links that come through social media sites. Social media messages are no different than email inboxes. Treat messages from friends or strangers that direct you to another website as spam.

Keep private info to yourself

— Don’t share personal information such as phone numbers and addresses. Be selective when choosing friends and followers. Set the strictest privacy settings available.

Social research not referrals

— Social media is a great resource for researching gift ideas but be wary of clicking links. More than 50 percent ofpeople recommend a product or service on social media sites and hackers take advantage of this. Be aware there’s a big difference between “the iPad is a great gift!” and “click here for a free iPad.”

Too good to be true? Run a background check

— Found a price or product from an unknown site that’s too good to be true and you’re not sure if the site is legit? Check it out on respected review sites as well as with the Better Business Bureau.

Avoid purchases while surfing on public Wi-Fi

— It’s fine to search for gifts while sipping a peppermint latte at the coffee shop, but don’t enter personal information while you’re out and about. Open networks mean a hacker could easily steal information like usernames, passwords and credit card numbers. If that deal is too great to pass up, make sure “HTTPS” appears in the URL before adding any payment details.

Be charitable, give reputably

—
Social media messaging and text messaging are great ways to donate to your favorite charities during the holidays. However,hackers have proven they are quick to take advantage of these methods. They have been known to set up fake charities that divert your donation to their bank account or convince you to perform some malicious actions, like visiting a certain website or installing a certain application. Double check that your gift is going to a reputable charity by checking out the website and searching the Net for any scams that might be associated.

Use protection

— While preparing for the holidays – whether planning a party, shopping for gifts or posting photos – protect yourself against malware and privacy leaks with BitDefender’s safego Facebook security app. The new safego scans for viruses in messages and on your wall. It also provides alerts to privacy settings that may be exposing information. It’s the best way to stay safe on Facebook this holiday season.

From everyone at BitDefender…Have a happy holiday season and we wish you safe shopping now and throughout the year!

For more information about keeping yourself and your family safe online, visit BitMoms.com, a community dedicated to providing free resources and a place for parents to seek advice about keeping children safe on the internet.

I am sharing this information as a BitMom Blog Network Member. No compensation was received for this post, however, I do receive a stipend to attend a blogging conference of my choice.

Cyber Safety – Kids, Laptops and Online Safety

Cyber Safety – Kids, Laptops and Online Safety

There’s a lot of talk in the media lately about our children and laptops.

I’m not going to discuss the details here, because I choose to focus not on the many differing views on that particular topic, but on what we’re all united in – the desire to maintain a safe environment for our kids online.

Just like in the real world, we can’t prevent our kids from ever being exposed to touchy situations. What we can do is to try to teach them the ways to keep themselves safe, how to recognize and avoid unsafe situations and pray that they heed our advice.

Here’s the thing though…

In “real life” situations, parents and guardians have the benefit of many years of experience and can call on this to guide their young charges. When it comes to Online Safety, it’s a whole different story and most find that their kids are more knowledgeable than they are!

So what do you do?

Well first, you must educate yourself. Just like in everyday life, if your kids aren’t learning about it from you, they’re learning about it from friends or even strangers.

 

Download the Common Sense Media – Rules of the Road Guide for some great ideas and tips for conversation starters with your kids.

Give your kids safe options for online play and online learning. My favourite to recommend for tweens and younger is Kidzui, and if you’re a longtime subsciber, you’ve heard me talk about them before. They offer a browser that screens out questionable content and provides safe choices for videos, games and more.

JumpStart Review and Giveaway

JumpStart Review and Giveaway

THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED.

Winning comment is #7 as chosen by Random.org

jumpstart giveaway winner is #7


Ever since my oldest son was little – before he even started Preschool – I’ve been on the lookout for good educational games for children. With me in IT, I felt that the earlier the kids learned basic computer literacy the better for them. As a former teacher, I’m also a big fan of teaching aids that feel more like fun and encourage the children to participate in learning activities and absorb concepts by doing, rather than learning by rote.

The first set of CDs we bought for the boys was a set of Knowledge Adventure JumpStart CDs – Preschool through First Grade, as I recall. The boys loved them, and the many age-appropriate exercises on each CD are what I credit for teaching them mouse control, and basic mathematical and spatial concepts.

JumpStart Logo

Fast forward seven years, and a new toddler to teach. Technology has changed quite a bit in the intervening years, and so has JumpStart.

The world of JumpStart is now available on Wii, and they also have a really cool 3D online Virtual World.

Kids embark on learning adventures in a safe browser-based environment online, and membership entitles you to also download cool worlds right to your PC (although you do still need to be online, I assume in order to keep your stats up to date).

JumpStart Fun Slide

My kids loved going down this slide!

I really enjoyed re-introducing my kids to JumpStart and although it was a wee bit too advanced for the 2 yr old, it was great fun for the 7 and 9 yr olds. I think in about a year Baby Girl will enjoy StoryLand immensely, as that area seems geared toward the youngest players – I would say 3-5 yr olds.

JumpStart StoryLand - Beach

I think kids of all ages will enjoy the Enchanted Sanctuary where they can hatch and raise Dragons! (Coming soon – raising Pegasus!)

JumpStart - Dragon Pet

WIN IT!

The wonderful folks at Knowledge Adventure are providing a FREE 3-month membership to one of my readers.

REQUIRED ENTRY:
Leave a comment on this post to be automatically entered to win. If your email address is not in your profile, you must include it in your comment or you can’t win. (How will I contact you to let you know you won otherwise?!) Sadly, US & Canadian residents only.

******

For extra entries: (Please leave a separate comment for each entry)

  • Follow me on twitter @trinmom – 1 entry (leave username)
  • Grab my button in the sidebar and add to your blog – 1 entry (leave link to your blog)
  • Subscribe by email (remember to activate) – 1 entry (leave your email address)
  • Tweet this giveaway- may be done once daily – 1 entry (leave link to your tweet)
    • Click the retweet button near the end of this post.

You have until midnight on August 8th , 2010 to enter (EST). One winner will be randomly selected and will have 48 hours to respond to the notification email I will send. If the initial winner does not respond within this time a new winner will be chosen.

Good Luck!

DisclosureI was provided with a JumpStart membership at no cost by Knowledge Adventure in order to test the products’ abilities and give my own personal opinions on it. The opinions I have given are mine and may differ from others but were not influenced by the company or the free product provided.

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