Do you Symbaloo?

Can you believe we’re already a month into 2015?! I can’t either. Just crazy…

On this the blog of all things electronic/online (I totally said that a la The Godfather…”on this the day of my daughter’s wedding…” heehee), I think it’s time we talk about Symbaloo.

Screen Shot 2015-02-01 at 3.17.57 PM

 

What is it?

In Symabloo’s own words, “Symbaloo is a visual bookmarking tool that makes it simple and fun to organize the best of the web. You have all your favorite websites at your fingertips.” Sounds cool, yeah? It’s super simple to use, and super simple to keep everything pertaining to one thing (for example: homeschooling, elementary science, etc.) in one easily accessible place.

You can use it from a desktop, a tablet, even a mobile phone.

Ready to jump right in? Here are some symbaloo webmixes I can recommend:

http://www.symbaloo.com/mix/homeschoolwebsites
http://www.symbaloo.com/mix/sciencesongs3 –
http://www.symbaloo.com/mix/vocabularyspellingcity
http://www.symbaloo.com/mix/wordgames2
http://www.symbaloo.com/home/mix/homeschoolwebsites
https://www.symbaloo.com/home/mix/educationalwebsites5
http://www.symbaloo.com/mix/k2elementaryscience
http://www.symbaloo.com/mix/kindergarten-2ndgrade

Do you have some favorite webmixes of your own that you would like to share? Chime in and link to them in the comments below!

Where It’s App…

It’s no secret that we love all things shiny and gadget-like around here, so you’ll understand my excitement when I announce the newest way we’ve been able to access our online homeschool curriculum.

ipad_screenshot348x293

The Puffin Academy App and Time4Learning have made my boys SO happy! Why? Because they can now do their school on their tablets. Laying on the couch, sitting outside, in the car (ok…that pleases me much more than them, but we spend a ridiculous amount of time in the car…), and anywhere else they can access the web. We have a mobile data plan on our cell phones, and use them as hotspots all the time, so we have a whole new appreciation of the phrase “learning on the go.”

The app is available in the iOS app store, and in the Google Play store, so check it out! :)

Summer Learning, Had Me A Blast…

Wait…that’s not how the song goes, is it? ;)

summer-school-blackboard-md

So let’s talk gearing up for summer. How many of you fabulous readers do school, in some form or fashion, during the summer? Do you have public/private schoolers that have to go to summer school? Is the summer a time when you need a little help with tutoring?

What about the homeschoolers out there? Do you take a summer break, or do you do the year round thing?

We homeschool and technically do the year round thing, but usually we end up finished with the current grade level by the end of July or so. So, there’s some time off because we don’t start the next school year until after Labor Day. This works out well for us. Because, my guys…I tell ya, if they had 2.5 – 3 months off from school, they wouldn’t remember A THING, lol.

In our break time, or if we need a light school day because we want to play, we focus on some things they don’t find “school-ish.”

Apps and games!

There are tons of educational apps out there, and honestly, spelling games on their Spelling City app is the least frustrating way we have to get them to do willingly do spelling.

Online games are a great way to reinforce and retain. You can find websites that offer free games; everything from math games and art games, to literature games online and Latin learning games. Game play usually equals fun, and I’m all about trying to make learning fun!

Now tell me. What are your summer learning plans?

Don’t think I’ve mentioned yet on here that I have started running. It’s fun and a great way to loose my extra weight. There are all kinds of apps out there for runners, but I just want to share the two that have become my favorites!

First is Couch to 5K or C25K. This is a program that has you alternating between walking and running. The goal is to gradually increase the amount of time you run while decreasing the time you walk. This is a great way for an out of shape beginner like me to start!

Second is Endomondo. This is a cool app that uses your smart phone’s GPS to track your pace, route, calories burned and more. You can sign up with a team on Endomondo, or go it alone. It works for multiple sports. People can also send each other challenges to increase the motivation.

I must also share my favorite new gadget. My brand new running earbuds!! If you have ever tried to run with cheap earbuds then you know how frustrating it is! Yurbuds are designed by runners for runners. They do not fall out of your ear while running, and the sound is incredible.

While we are on the subject of fitness, are you trying to teach your kids about staying fit? It always pays to try to make learning fun and Learning Games For Kids does just that. There is a whole section of Health Games to teach kids about allergies, anatomy, dental health and staying fit.

Audio Book vs. Reading

My oldest son is in 9th grade now and having to do a lot of reading for school. You should see the list of books he is going to have to consume for his literature credit this year! Not only are they some pretty tough books, “Tale of Two Cities”, “Pride & Prejudice”, but he only has two weeks to finish the majority of them. My son is a very good reader but this kind of reading is overwhelming him, and I can’t say that I blame him.

So at the very beginning of our school year, I was going to give my son the option of listening to his books via audio books. My husband objected to this, saying that he doesn’t feel it is the same as actually reading the book. I’m not sure that I share my husband’s opinion on this one.

Our son already knows how to read and teaching him to read is not the goal here. Having him comprehend and enjoy the books is the goal. I’m listening to these books as well and it would be nice to be able to have discussions with him on the content of them.

MP3 Player with ear buds

I believe there are actually some really great benefits to letting my son listen to books rather than reading them.

  • It will allow him to hear how the words should be pronounced. This will be helpful especially since there may be a lot of unfamiliar words and words from other languages. If he doesn’t know what the word means, he can always pause the recording and look it up, just like he would if he was reading it.
  • It will allow him to multi-task. My son could be doing chores while listening which would possibly make the chores fun, if that is even possible!
  • As I mentioned above, it will help him to get through some very difficult reading much more quickly.
  • I believe that he will actually comprehend the books better this way as opposed to trying to read them. Right now he is just attempting to slog through the chapters assigned for each day. I have a feeling that he is pretty much just skimming the material and not actually digesting it.
  • It will help improve his vocabulary. He will be able to understand many of the new words based on the context in which they are presented.

While I do agree that there may be times when it is preferable to have a student go through the action of decoding the words in a book, I feel that there are many times when listening to an audio book may actually be more rewarding.

Retro Tech is Cool!!

Today I want to feature another tech blog called Retro Ed Tech. They are much like this blog in that they feature educational technology, however the tech they feature is all old school. It’s amazing to realize how far technology has come!

You might get to take a walk down memory lane while browsing the pics of things like an old victrola and typewriters. Or kids might get to see just what a mimeograph machine or carbon paper is.

Any techno geek will enjoy perusing this site! In your excitement over all the cool photographs, don’t forget to read the blog! Also, leave comments on your favorite posts.

Tech for Your Spelling Curriculum

I shared a couple posts ago about how the youngest contestant to qualify for the National Spelling Bee uses SpellingCity.com to learn her spelling words. Now I want to tell you a bit about SpellingCity.

It’s an online spelling and vocabulary curriculum that you can tailor to meet the needs of your students. Teachers are able to set up their own spelling lists to coordinate with the material they are teaching their students. There is a section where Premium Members can give assignments to each student and then go back to check their progress and print out records.

One of the highlights of the site is a Teaching Resources section that has recently been revamped. It features Language Arts Lessons, Useful Word Lists which include games to go along with the subject material, articles and other help and information. It’s truly amazing how many games they have here and the range of material they cover!

This is just one of the many crossword puzzles from the High School word lists!

But the big news is that SpellingCity is coming out with two new apps! The first one launched just recently and is available in the Chrome Web Store for use with Chromebooks.

The next, which is currently in beta testing, will be for the iPad. If you would like to get in on the beta testing of this new app, go to this link: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dFFLVklkSDd2bXlZd2JESzQ5eHA2Z2c6MQ  The app is due for release before the start of the 2012-2013 school year.

E-Readers

If you haven’t gotten on the e-reader bandwagon yet, what are you waiting for? Sure many of us prefer the feel of a real book in our hands. However, e-readers can do so much more than just let you read e-books these days.

You can search the internet, play games, check your mail, watch movies and more! If you have a Kindle and an Amazon Prime membership, then you can even borrow books from the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library. You can also borrow e-books from public libraries.

There are tons of classic books that you can get for your kids for free. Another really cool feature of the Kindle Fire is that if you child doesn’t know the meaning of a word in the e-book they are reading, all they have to do is tap the screen. The device will automatically access the included dictionary and then show a popup with the definition of the word.

If you child is one who has trouble reading on their own, such as those with dyslexia, they can choose to have the device read the book to them as they read the words.

Beyond all this is the added benefit of being able to clear your bookshelves!

Can Technology Help People With Autism?

As the mother of a child on the spectrum and as a person on the spectrum myself, this is a subject that piques my interest. Many kids who have autism are unable to speak. Others who are higher functioning have trouble expressing their emotions and/or understanding the facial expressions of the people around them.

Autism Speaks in conjunction with Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism have launched an initiative to develop free apps to help people on the autism spectrum. They are calling this initiative Hacking Autism. Their first app is called Mihi. It is a simple app for iOS that helps kids relate their feelings. There are more apps (some free and some not) available on their site.

There are more organizations that are working to make life easier for people with ASD. A simple web search brought up this Autism Resources site. Here’s a link to yet another site, Technology for Autism Now.

One of the best ways that children on the spectrum learn is through interactive lessons. There are a lot of ways to accomplish this type of learning but my favorite is Time4Learning.

Thanks to technologies like these, I can see a bright future for my son and others with ASD!

 

Going Tech with Astronomy

My youngest son, RoboBoy, has Aspergers as do I. One of the characteristics of we Aspies is that we tend to obsess over one or two interests. One of RoboBoy’s passions is astronomy. He absolutely LOVES anything to do with space, planets, black holes and the like. So when I read online that we can see Mars in the night sky during the month of April, I had to take him out in the front yard for a look!

 

Our friend and neighbor had shown us, about a week ago, Jupiter and Venus with a crescent moon below. She then introduced us to Earth Sky where you can see what is going on in the sky on any given night.

 

I recently found The Wired Homeschool online. Look for a guest interview from John in weeks to come! In one of his recent posts he talked about astronomy. He revealed the big news that Saturn will be visible in the night sky this month as well! John even has a review for an app to assist in our “backyard” astronomy forays called, Planets. This app is designed for iPad and iPhones.

 

Under his homeschool resources tab, there is a review of Classical Astronomy. A site that presents all kinds of information about just exactly what we are seeing when we look up at the stars. They have a free monthly newsletter that you can subscribe to.

 

Of course there is always the NASA website to peruse. There is a wealth of information on there!

 

I think we may end up having to invest in a telescope for our family. A trip to our local planetarium is probably in our near future as well.