I’ve been invited to try Time4Learning for one month in exchange for a candid review. My opinion will be entirely my own, so be sure to come back and read about my experience. Time4Learning can be used as a homeschool curriculum, for afterschool enrichment and for summer skill sharpening. Find out how to write your own curriculum review for Time4Learning.
Lego is finally coming out with a tablet and Smartphone compatible Lego Mindstorm set. The Lego Mindstorm EV3 was announced at the 2013 CES show.
It is not quite clear how the new EV3 Mindstorm will work with Tablets and Smartphones but a new processor is the key. According to Lego:
“the EV3 Intelligent Brick now un‐tethers robots from the computer by providing users expanded on‐brick programming and tighter integration with smart devices.”
The new Intelligent Brick uses an ARM processor and Linux OS base that allows on board programming. My guess is that apps can be created to interact and program the smart brick. Right now it appears that the only app that Lego will release will be a remote.
The new EV3 intelligent brick does allows connection via bluetooth and wifi. This should make things easier.
Unfortunately the new Mindstorm set will not be available until the summer of 2013. The Lego education website lists the availability as the fall of 2013. The education set also appears to be $10 cheaper at $340 but it does not include software. Hopefully software will come with the non educational set and hopefully in the future you will not need a PC.
What do you think? Will you wait until the fall to pick up the new Lego Mindstorm set?
Amazon just added a feature that might interest parents with kindle fire. It’s called Kindle FreeTime. It’s an app provided by Amazon that allows kids access to videos and apps geared towards kids. It allows parents to set content control and daily screen time limits. You can restrict the amount of time games can be played without restricting reading time.
Unfortunately for me FreeTime is NOT available for the first generation Kindle Fire! If you have the new Kindle fire or the Fire HD then the app should show up in your Apps library.
Along with the FreeTime app you can also subscribe to FreeTime unlimited service. This looks like a great option if you buy a lot of content. The FreeTime unlimited service allows you to use kids apps and watch kid videos without buying them. You do have to pay a monthly service fee though. The costs start at $2.99 for prime members. Without Prime a single profile subscription is $4.99 a month and a family plan is $9.99 a month.
If you have a newer Kindle Fire then FreeTime will help add more parental control for parents. If you use the Kindle fire for homeschooling then you may want to try FreeTime unlimited. You could use it for a month to evaluate apps before you buy. The best deal would be for amazon prime customers. I don’t think I could justify the cost especially for the family membership with multiple customers. Amazon has a free 1 month trial available until January 15th. So if you have a new Kindle Fire you can try it out and let me know what you think.
Technology is great. It can make our lives easier. Technology will magically teach your children right? Wrong!
When the iPad first came out I thought it would be the best thing for homeschooling. While the iPad is great for homeschooling it doesn’t magically reduce the work required for homeschooling. Sometimes it would be nice to sit my kids down with the iPad and learn all they need to know. It just doesn’t happen that way! Your kids actually need to interact with you the parent and teacher.
Oh yeah – the other reason you cant rely on technology – Technology can’t survive being thrown into an oven. Case in point my wife’s new iPhone pictured above. For some reason my two year old put the iPhone in the oven. Usually when he puts things in the oven, we find them before the oven gets turned on! For some reason, on this particular day, the iPhone got toasted by my two year old. Not only can technology go up in smoke it is also expensive to replace. So the moral of the story…don’t let your two year play with your iPhone! Don’t rely on technology to always be the best available tool. Sometimes the old fashion pencil and paper is all you really need.
What do you think? Has technology helped with your home school? Are your kids smarter?
Math is the subject parents love to teach right? Wrong! Even though I have a minor in math, I can still get frustrated trying to explain what seems like simple concepts to my children. The traditional math curriculum utilizes a number of worksheets to cover each new topic. At our house many times there is a search for the math book before we can even get started. We have tried several different math curriculum. The problem we encounter is the different learning styles of our different children.
My goal is not to have my child finish their X grade math book. My goal is for my child to master the math concepts. I know I never mastered some of the most basic math concepts so I vowed that my children would master math. Since we started homeschooling I have tried to chose curriculum with that goal in mind.
Most curriculum is still based on the grade levels with lots of workbook activities. With math, you usually need instructions at all levels. Sometimes while trying to teach my kids, I would show one of my kids a Khan video. My daughter was having problems recently so I decided to look at Khan academy once again. Below is an example of one of the Khan videos.
I was surprised that Khan academy has been updated to taking tutoring to the next level and paves the way for eliminating math curriculum. Now at Khan academy you can track your childs progress along with watching all the tutorial videos. Students can also practice on the computer with thier progress being recorded. You can create a mentor account at khanacademy.org. You can then add each of your children under your account. To do this you just log into your account and then add /createchild to the end of the web address and then press enter
The only problem I had was that my passwords I chose were too weak and therefore not accepted. Finally I capitalized the first letter of my password and it was then accepted. Once you have added your children you can then watch their progress as their mentor.
Creating accounts for your children on Khan academy now allows you to track the progress of your children. There are some other advantages also to using Khan academy.
- I don’t get frustrated with explaining again and again.
- They can watch the videos as often as they like
- Self paced learning – learn for mastery.
- Record of individual progress.
Last but not least there is also an iPad/iphone app for Khan academy.
So have I gotten rid of my math curriculum? Not yet but in the future hopefully I can track the progress of my children with Khan academy. Who know maybe one day I can just say we use Khan academy for our curriculum. What do you use for your math curriculum? Do you use a tablet in place of worksheets?
I was thrilled to discover this app about Jamestown since we are studying American history this year. The app appears to come from Colonial Williamsburg because there are several videos that look like something that you would see at a museum. There are only a handful of History apps that are available so it was a welcome surprise to come across a free history app! The Early Jamestown app is a good quality free History app! There are pictures and videos throughout the app. The app is similar to an interactive iBook. The app goes through the history of Jamestown in chronological order.
Apparently the app only includes chapter 3 and Chapter 4. Maybe more will be added later as paid content but the app appears to cover most of the important stages of the early Jamestown history. There is discussion about the conflict with the Indians and other issues that early Jamestown colony encountered. The pictures are good and the videos are professional. The only issue I had was with the videos. The video window is so small that you always need to expand while playing. It would be nice if they automatically expand when you watch them.
On my iPad the Early Jamestown app is one the the best apps for homeschooling especially since its Free!
Britannica Kids App Review
There are several similar apps from Britannica that focus on history. I was able to buy the Egypt app and the Aztec App when it was on sale for $0.99. Here is my review of the Britannica Kids apps.
The App has a navigation wheel at the bottom. You touch the arrow and the wheel pops up so you can select the different parts of the app.
There are several games based on pictures. There is a puzzle and there is a picture covered with sand that you can dust off to view the picture. You are supposed to guess the picture but I doubt my kids will do that. There is also a memory game and a magic square puzzle.
There are many pictures but I was a little disappointed that there were only two videos. I have used the pictures several time when we were studying Egypt. There are actual pictures of the modern landmarks and historical sites that you can see today. There are also several ancient pictures of art from that time period.
There are different articles that describe different aspects of life in the Egypt or Aztec culture. There is a list of the gods. You can click on a god and a description tells you more about that Egyptian or Aztec god.
There is a map that shows the location of some of the landmarks along with pictures. When you click on the location the picture is displayed.
The Britannica apps are nice and informative but I’m afraid in the highly interactive day we live in the app may not interest very many children. When my children are given the iPad I seldom see them pull up the Britannica apps. There are just too many other interesting educational apps that they want to “play”. Normally the app is $4.99 but if it goes on sale it would be a good reference tool for when you are teaching about the different subjects.
Apparently I was wrong about my kids using the Britannica app on their own. I just downloaded the Britannica Ancient Rome app and my ten year old son picked it up on his own. Maybe it’s the Roman soldier but my son really likes the Britannica Ancient Rome app.
Click on the pictures below for app screen shots.
With the iPhone Hotspot I was able to check my email and preview this post on the iPad. Hotspot sharing was easy to setup. You just turn on the “personal Hotspot” in the iPhone options. It will tell you what the password is for the hotspot.
On the iPad Setup was simple. You just select your phone from the list of wifi networks then you enter your password. Once you’re connect, the iPad will automatically connect in the future and you won’t have to enter your password again. There are also options to connect over Bluetooth or via USB. I’ll have to try those options at home. Will you use the mobile hotspot?
By the way the 1GB data plan seems to be working just fine four our family with two iPhones. After all I was only using 200MB with AT&T.
Update: apparently the iPad doesn’t always remember the password.
With a price of $199 and Amazon behind it, the Kindle Fire Tablet seems like a good choice for homeschooling. Should you get a Kindle Fire for your homeschool? How does it stack up against the iPad?
The Kindle Fire appears to be the first serious competition for the iPad. Here is how the Fire compares.
The Kindle Fire is built solid. There is a rubber coating on the back that makes it feel nice to hold. The Fire has a very simple design with only one button and one micro USB port for charging. There is also a headphone jack at the bottom next to the charging port. The Kindle Fire comes with a power adapter that plugs into the wall. Even though it connects with a micro USB connector, the other end is not USB and only plugs into the wall to charge. I have had problems with the HP touchpad micro USB but for that problem I just replaced the standard USB to micro USB cable. There is no option for the Fire. If the charging cable does not or the micro USB connector fails then you have to get a special charger.
The size is similar to a paperback book. Of course at 7 inches, the screen is smaller than the iPad. The boarder where you hold the Fire is slightly smaller than the iPad so some hands might have issues interfering with the touchscreen. The screen size isn’t too bad for reading books, but not the greatest for viewing web pages. The screen resolution is just about as good as the iPad2 but it is still a smaller area.
Of course there are some shortcomings. There is no physical home button. There are no volume buttons. To change the volume or go home to select a new app you will have to tap the screen several places. There also is no camera but there are two speakers at the top of the Kindle Fire.
The Kindle Fire is an Android tablet. Amazon has modified the Android software to add their own features. The main home screen has a view called the “carasell” which shows the previously used apps. You can add favorite apps in a bookshelf below the carasell.
The onscreen keyboard is nice. There are some other features that are nice as well like the auto suggest words and web pages. There are also some punctuation and symbols above the keyboard which is nice so you don’t have to press extra. To edit text there is a little cursor bellow that helps you select the location you want with your finger.
Of course without a physical home button, many times you have to tap several times on the screen before you can go to the home screen and choose another app. Also without a home button there is no easy way to capture the screen and save it to the Fire. There probably is a way to copy the screen but its not intuitive.
The Apps come from Amazons app store. I have not tried to load any apps from the Google app store. The app store opens up to the top free and top paid apps. There are several categories at the top but my one complaint is that there is no education category by default. You can choose education category but it takes several taps.
As a parent its good to know that there are parental controls. The list below shows the options available.
- Parental Controls – Content types, web browsing, and access to other features.
- Web Browser
- Video playback
- Block and Unblock Content types – Newsstand, books, music, video, Docs, Apps
Overall the Kindle Fire is a pretty good tablet for the cost, but it doesn’t compare with the iPad. The Kindle Fire is good as a book reader but for graphics like web pages it seems a little small. The Kindle Fire would be a good personal device especially if you have a child that reads well. For younger kids they probably will not notice the device but you might have some squabbles over it since the screen is pretty small for multiple people to view.
What do you think? How have you used the Kindle Fire for homeschooling? I’d love to hear in the comments below how you use your Kindle Fire.
More books created with the iBook author tool are showing up all the time. Unfortunately there is no easy way to tell if a book was made with iBooks Author. There is a category under the features page that allows you to see featured books “made with iBooks Author” but only a limited number of books show up. On the features page there is a small link in the middle of the page that says “Browse More Books Made with iBooks Author>”. If you click on that then you can see that there are many books made with iBooks author. It seems like there should be a better way to browse and filter by category for books created with the author tool. Maybe with the next update.
I just happened to come across the excellent free ebook called “The Interactive Space Book” shown below. Surprisingly the book is only 70MB compared with other interactive books with close to a 300MB file size. The book has interactive features including a rotating space shuttle. There are also several videos. I hope to see more of this type of books in the future for education.