Suren's blog

4 Ways to Put the Family iPad to Good Use

Educators around the world are embracing mobile learning in what is considered a relentless and inevitable march towards the 'flipped' classroom. The average family today owns at least a handful of mobile devices, which invariably end up serving as modern-day babysitters, among other duties. Is there something we can learn from teachers to turn such free-form playtime into opportunities for learning?
  1. Consumption: Playing with apps is one thing, but it is increasingly clear to educators that making the incredible wealth of information on the web accessible (while making it age-appropriate, of course) is a vital cog in the mobile learning experience.
  2. Curation: An app like Notability allows kids to save their own articles, annotate them, highlight passages, add a picture, drawing, chart or sticky note, integrate a website or media, and add their own voice, effectively transcending what can be done on pen and paper.
  3. Creativity: Check out apps like Explain EverythingBook CreatorAnimotoiMovieGarage BandVoiceThreadDoodlecast, etc. Such apps put your kids at the center of the content creation process, which makes for a far more powerful learning experience than just consuming content.
  4. Connection: One of the primary motivations for kids to engage in creative activities is to share the product of their efforts. With family, friends, and peers. Create an environment that is conducive for creative collaboration, a virtual play network perhaps, and you'll see how it enriches the creator and the consumer.

Next time you consign the family tablet to its babysitting duties, think like a teacher. Have an underlying plan in place. As HarvardX Research Fellow Justin Reich puts it, don't “think of iPads as repositories of apps, but rather as portable media creation devices.”

To report issues or feedback, please get in touch with us. If you're happy with Mobicip, leave a happy review on the Apple App Store or Google Play store! Your feedback and support will be greatly appreciated!

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Making a Case for Self-Directed Learning

Unless you're an educator, you probably haven't heard predictions by thought leaders that the traditional school system is on its way out. More surprisingly, these predictions are being borne out by experiments where new learning models are being tried out.

Acton Academy in Austin, TX is a case in point, where a "Learner Driven Community - a disruptive approach led by self-directed learners, in a community tightly bound by personal covenants and contracts, using the full power of the internet to craft a transformative, personalized learning path," is being tried out.

Inspired in-turn by Sugata Mitra's experiment, the academy is attempting to create a new type of learning environment that is not bound by the traditional notion of a classroom, a school, or even the need for a teacher. Whats more, the results are there to see. "We haven’t taught any math. Not one minute," says Jeff Sendefer, a 'Middle School Guide' at Acton. "Instead we have relied on a collection of game-based adaptive math programs such as Khan Academy. Despite having many Eagles who entered with low test scores, all but one of our Eagles is now on an advanced high school math track." Intrigued? Read the full article for the top 10 surprising conclusions that came out of the program.
 
To report issues or feedback, please get in touch with us. If you're happy with Mobicip, leave a happy review on the Apple App Store or Google Play store! Your feedback and support will be greatly appreciated!
 
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A Gentle Introduction to 'Vamping'

'Vamping' is the latest tween lingo bound for the English language dictionary. You probably haven't heard the word, but as a digital parent, its very likely that you know what it refers to.

The hashtag '#vamping' is used by kids and teens camping out like vampires on social media late into the night, unbeknownst to parents. The phenomenon is so widespread that school administrators, academics, and the media have taken note. Busy schedules during the day, a craving for unstructured activity, and good old peer pressure, are all attributed as reasons for young users to jump on the bandwagon.

Of course parental controls like Mobicip can help limit internet usage late into the night by setting up time limits. But experts suggest that a more effective parenting approach may be to disallow the use of electronics in the bedroom after bedtime. Sounds like a no-brainer? But its easier said than done, mainly because parents themselves have a hard time switching off at night!
 
To report issues or feedback, please get in touch with us. If you're happy with Mobicip, leave a happy review on the Apple App Store or Google Play store! Your feedback and support will be greatly appreciated!
 
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Photo credit: geekdreams / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

4 Questions to Consider When You Setup Apps for Kids

Honestly, how many times have you installed an app for your kids and granted the permissions it needs without a second thought? Many of these apps store personal data on the cloud. How securely this data is stored, and what is used for, is entirely up to the app developers.

"App developers don’t always know what they’re doing, and careless or rushed coding may not stand up to entry-level hacking," says Rob Pegoraro, a Tech Columnist at Yahoo Tech. "If you use an insecure or hacked app on your phone, you could be exposing its personal data — like your address book, location, messages, and so on." Next time you install an app, ask yourself these questions:
  1. What personal data am I giving up?
  2. Does the app explain why it needs this data?
  3. What is the app's business model?
  4. How do I delete my account?

Read Rob's column for more. Having a choice of a million apps is a good thing. But many app developers may not have considered the seriousness or risk of a data breach. When it comes to your kids, shouldn't you?

To report issues or feedback, please get in touch with us. If you're happy with Mobicip, leave a happy review on the Apple App Store or Google Play store! Your feedback and support will be greatly appreciated!

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Photo credit: flickingerbrad / Foter / CC BY 2.0

How To Limit In-App Purchases on iPhone, iPod touch or iPad

There is no question that kids are drawn like fish to water to games on the iPhone, iPod touch or iPad. So you make sure they have fun, stay safe, and learn something useful. But many parents don't realize there is another risk that can leave you with a hefty bill to pay. In-app purchases have caused such a furore that Apple introduced some handy features to limit them. If you got burned by this already, you can file a claim with Apple. But, as always, its better to be safe than sorry.
  • Keep your (iTunes) password to yourself. Well, it is a password, duh! But you'll be surprised by how many parents share it only to repent later.
  • Use the Restrictions feature (Settings > General > Restrictions) to set 'In-app Purchases' to OFF.
  • Also under Restrictions, under Allowed Content, set Require Password to 'Immediately'. 
  • Setup an iTunes 'allowance'.
  • Use an iTunes gift card in lieu of a credit card.

To report issues or feedback, please get in touch with us. If you're happy with Mobicip, leave a happy review on the Apple App Store or Google Play store! Your feedback and support will be greatly appreciated!

The Mobicip crew
 
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Photo credit: IntelFreePress / Foter / CC BY-SA 2.0

Keep the Learning Cap On Over Summer

Summer if officially here! Well, almost. It is a time to relax and have some fun. For parents and educators, however, it is time to ponder over the 'summer slide' - a euphemism for the fact that students tend to 'unlearn' what they learned over the school year - and how to arrest it.


Thankfully, experts are chiming in to help. Here are the top 10 recommended activities:

  1. Read to your children, or encourage them to read
  2. Visit local museums, parks, or universities
  3. Use apps that let them play, and learn
  4. Introduce computer programming
  5. Travel to historic sites or national parks
  6. Join clubs for niche interests and activities
  7. Encourage 'based-on-books' movies
  8. Play board games with the family
  9. Volunteer for your favorite charity
  10. Get them a 'Job' from your network of adults

Thats great! But before you get going, remember that the same experts agree that a little bit of downtime and a little of a 'summer slide' is actually a good thing!

To report issues or feedback, please get in touch with us. If you're happy with Mobicip, leave a happy review on the Apple App Store or Google Play store! Your feedback and support will be greatly appreciated!

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Photo credit: Dmitry Kichenko / Foter / CC BY 2.0

The 'Slenderman' Debate and What Parents Need to Know

The internet offers an unprecedented treasure trove of information and resources for all of us, and for our kids. But the recent 'Slenderman' incident, for lack of a more family-friendly phrase, has thrown a spotlight on the uneasy relationship that parents have with the online world.

"Unmonitored and unrestricted access to the Internet by children is a growing and alarming problem,"the Police Chief said. Reports suggest the kids were exposed to unrestricted content on school-issued iPads outside of school. This has sparked a raging debate, as you can see herehere, and here, on who is really to blame, and whether there are deeper issues at play.

For parents, and schools, this is not an academic debate any more. James Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media, and one of the saner voices in this debate, suggests that you take the time to learn what they are interested in and "share your opinions so as to help your kids develop the ability to view media critically." Essentially, engage, be connected, and stay involved in their online lives.
 
To report issues or feedback, please get in touch with us. If you're happy with Mobicip, leave a happy review on the Apple App Store or Google Play store! Your feedback and support will be greatly appreciated!
 
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Photo credit: Waag Society / Foter / CC BY 2.0

Five Internet Safety Myths to 'Not' Worry About

If you're a parent today, chances are you've read things about kids and the internet that keep you up at night. While many articles tend to sensationalize, especially when something bad happens, what are the real threats when kids go online?

Caroline Knorr from Common Sense Media has compiled a very useful list of myths (and truths)
  1. Social media turns kids into cyberbullies.
  2. Teaching kids not to talk to strangers is the best way to keep them safe online.
  3. Kids act worse online.
  4. It’s dangerous to post pictures of your kids online.
  5. Parental controls are the best way to monitor my kids’ online activities.

For the truths, read full article here. That last one is a surprise coming from us. After all, Mobicip offers one of the most popular parental controls for smartphones, tablets and laptops. In Caroline's words, "By all means, use parental controls to help prevent exposure to age-inappropriate material and to manage time limits. But don't think they get you off the hook. Continue to discuss responsible, respectful online behavior, set rules and consequences for misbehavior, and train your kid to manage his or her own usage." We agree!

To report issues or feedback, please get in touch with us. If you're happy with Mobicip, leave a happy review on the Apple App Store or Google Play store! Your feedback and support will be greatly appreciated!

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Photo credit: Enokson / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

What Parents can Learn from Apple's Guide for Teachers

The App Store and the Google Play store have hundreds of thousands of apps, many of them with great educational value. It is no mean task to identify the right apps for students. Apple has published an official guide to help teachers, titled "Apps in the Classroom - Using iOS Apps for Teaching and Learning".

Apple's Official Guide - Apps in the Classroom

If you’re just getting started teaching with apps, it’s helpful to begin by setting goals for student learning. What must students understand? What should their interaction with apps look like? And which apps would work best for your specific lesson plans? You may find that choosing an app is easier after carefully considering what you want students to do with it, and why.
 
While the guide offers a birds-eye-view, it is nevertheless quite relevant and insightful. What can we learn, as parents, from the guide to help us navigate the wonderful world of apps? The guide offers five key considerations to evaluate and select apps:
  1. Engagement - Is the app intuitive, keep your kids interested, and makes them want to use it again?
  2. Appropriateness - Does the user interface, design and subject matter appeal to your child's age level?
  3. Instructional Design - Is the app aligned with what you want your kids to learn from it, and is it effective in achieving its goal?
  4. Motivation - Are gaming principles used in the app, and does the app balance the gaming aspect enough to help prevent distractions?
  5. Accessibility - Does the app accommodate special needs that your kids might have?

Pretty straightforward? Well, the next step is to use these principles to uncover the hidden gems among educational apps. We followed these very principles to come up with our own list of apps that will engage kids enough to let them play and learn at the same time. See the list in this article - Top 10 Apps for Kids to Play & Learn. The guide concludes:

It’s an exciting time of innovation in learning. We’re seeing apps that provide engaging, Multi-Touch, rich experiences that were never before possible. Have fun exploring the amazing world of education apps.

Top 10 Apps for Kids to Play & Learn

Your kids love to play on the smartphone or tablet. Wouldn't it be really cool if they do what they love and learn along the way? Here are ten handpicked apps that will do exactly that!
Collage of recommended app icons
Duolingo
Offers instruction to learn at least 12 different languages, in a fun, engaging and playful experience.

Qwiki
Automatically turns pictures and videos into beautiful movies to share.

Mobicip
Offers safe and secure access to the internet, search and YouTube for protected and/or supervised browsing. 

DIY
The app that helps you do real world activities, and share your work with friends.

News-O-Matic
Covers news of the day in an engaging way, exploring its many facets through images, maps, videos, and games.

BrainPop
Delivers fresh movies that cover a breadth of relevant topics including current events, historical figures and milestones, holidays, curricular subjects, and more.

City Guides
Learn about major cities of the world, including local tips, current weather, fun facts, and a selection of iconic photos. 

LEGO Movie Maker
This fun, kid-friendly app helps create a custom stop-motion movie, using LEGOs or anything else.

QatQi
Lose yourself in the world of QatQi (pronounced “cat-key”), a gorgeous and meticulously crafted word game that pleases the senses and tests the limits of your lexicon.

Lumosity Mobile
Lumosity is designed by neuroscientists to train memory, attention, and more.

Hope this helps. Want to add more to this list? Let us know on our forum so we can update this list!
 
To report issues or feedback, please get in touch with us. If you're happy with Mobicip, leave a happy review on the Apple App Store or Google Play store! Your feedback and support will be greatly appreciated!
 
The Mobicip crew
 
This is a copy of the latest Mobicip newsletter. Click here to subscribe.
Image credit: All icons and trademarks belong to the respective app publishers / developers.

Do Mobile Devices Affect Kids' Health?

Not only is the usage of mobile devices at an all-time high among adults, but it also is among children today. It is estimated that nearly half of all children in developed countries own a smartphone. Even more have access to a tablet or other mobile device in the household. K-12 schools around the world are issuing mobile devices of all kinds to students for personalized and project-based learning. What this means is that all of us are constantly exposed to the radio frequency fields around these devices. The health effects of such sustained and repeated exposure is still being studied, with mixed results.

Image from SCAMP study

The World Health Organization has published an online Q&A on this topic. Research has focused on four areas - cancer, other health effects, electromagnetic interference, and traffic accidents. While RF fields have been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B), studies so far have not supported the hypothesis. As for other health effects, there is some evidence that mobile device usage can affect brain activity, reaction times, and sleep patterns. Another study, The Stewart Report, concluded that children may be more vulnerable because of their developing nervous system, the greater absorption of energy in the tissues of the head, and a longer lifetime of exposure. The WHO Q&A concludes:

While an increased risk of brain tumours from the use of mobile phones is not established, the increasing use of mobile phones and the lack of data for mobile phone use over time periods longer than 15 years warrant further research of mobile phone use and brain cancer risk. In particular, with the recent popularity of mobile phone use among younger people, and therefore a potentially longer lifetime of exposure, WHO has promoted further research on this group and is currently assessing the health impact of RF fields on all studied endpoints.

A recent study - Study of Cognition, Adolescents and Mobile Phones (SCAMP) - commissioned by the Department of Health in the UK is attempting to do exactly that. 

SCAMP is a cohort study which will follow a group of approximately 2,500-3,000 secondary school pupils within Greater London from year 7 through to year 9. The aim of this study is to investigate whether children’s use of mobile phones and/or other technologies that use radio waves e.g. portable landline phones and wireless internet, might affect their cognitive or behavioural development e.g. language comprehension, attention, memory.

This will be the largest study in the world to date to address this important research question. Mobile devices are increasingly part of our children’s everyday lives. Let us hope that this study reaches its goal of providing "targeted advice to parents and children as appropriate". Visit the SCAMP website to learn more.

Reading in the Age of the Tablet

Nearly any book you can think of can be read as an electronic book (ebook) today. General purpose devices like smartphones and tablets make it easy and convenient to read ebooks. But do children actually read ebooks? 

A recent research brief by Common Sense Media shows that the preference for print books is not only going down, but ebooks actually contribute to an increase in reading. However, parental concerns around electronic reading remain. As Kathryn Zickhur from the Pew Research Center says:

"If a kid is looking at a book, you can assume he or she is reading. But when it comes to looking at a smartphone or tablet, who knows? We've heard from middle and high school teachers that sometimes the Internet is wonderful for highly motivated students to do deep and expansive research," says Zickuhr. "But on the flip side, obviously there are many distractions on the Internet."

That is precisely why many families and schools rely on Mobicip to help restrict these distractions and keep the focus on open ended research and learning. Learn more.
 
To report issues or feedback, please get in touch with us. If you're happy with Mobicip, leave a happy review on the Apple App Store or Google Play store! Your feedback and support will be greatly appreciated!
 
The Mobicip crew
 
This is a copy of the latest Mobicip newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

Photo credit: flickingerbrad / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

The eParent's Dilemma: Reading in the Age of the Tablet

Nearly any book you can think of can be read as an electronic book (ebook) today. Granted reading an electronic book on a computer never really took off as a trend, but the advent of electronic readers (ereaders) started the turnaround. Today, general purpose devices like smartphones and tablets make it easy and convenient to read ebooks. But do children actually read ebooks? What do parents feel about that? A recent research brief by Common Sense Media on Children, Teens, and Reading sheds some light on this.

Children in hallway reading from their iPads

Children actually still have a fondness for print books, although that preference is going down over time. While 66% of 9-to-17 year olds stated a preference for print books in 2010, that number dropped to 58% in 2012. The study cited offers a hint that electronic reading may, in fact, contribute to more reading among young people. One in five children, especially boys, who have read an ebook say they are reading more books for fun.

Having said that, parental attitudes towards electronic reading have remained steadfastly grim. According to a Pew survey cited in the report, "among all parents of minor children, 81% said it was “very” and 13% said it was “somewhat” important that their children read print books." Here is an excerpt from the report citing another study: 

In spring 2013, the Cooney Center conducted a national survey of parents of 2- to 10-year-olds (Rideout, 2014) and found that 38% did not own either a tablet or an ereader, 32% owned one and their child used it for reading, and 32% owned one but their child did not use it for reading. Among the latter group, some of the top reasons why the child did not use the ereading device were: because the parent prefers the print experience (45%); because the parent doesn’t want the child to have more screen time (29%); and because the parent believes print is better for their child’s reading skills (27%).

The report suggests that the electronic platforms on which children read offer a whole host of distractions including games, apps, websites, YouTube, and all kinds of ways to watch movies and videos. As Kathryn Zickhur from the Pew Research Center says in the NPR's coverage of the report:

If a kid is looking at a book, you can assume he or she is reading. But when it comes to looking at a smartphone or tablet, who knows? "We've heard from middle and high school teachers that sometimes the Internet is wonderful for highly motivated students to do deep and expansive research," says Zickuhr. "But on the flip side, obviously there are many distractions on the Internet."

Of course, tools like Mobicip can help reduce or restrict some of these distractions. Whether parental attitudes towards electronic reading will change over time remains to be seen. But it is a given that children and teens are showing an increasing preference towards electronic reading. This coupled with the fact that ereading may have a positive outcome should lead parental attitudes changing in that direction. So what do you do as a challenged eParent? At the very least, follow the sage advice from Jim Steyer, CEO and founder of Common Sense Media:

"Kids with parents who read, who buy or take books out of the library for their kids, and who then set time aside in their kids' daily schedule for reading, tend to read the most," he says — whether it's on a book, an e-book or some other gadget.

Photo credit: flickingerbrad / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Taming the Juggernaut that Never Sleeps

In the early days of the consumer Internet, it used to be a place to consume what was out there. In the age of smartphones and tablets, the web is a constantly evolving, changing, morphing juggernaut, churning out pieces of our lives big and small, every minute of the day.

To get a real sense of this, check out this really cool infographic from Domo.
Infographic from Domo
While the internet never sleeps, do you? At Mobicip, our endeavor is to help families and schools tame this unyielding beast, so you can have some peace of mind. Learn more
 
To report issues or feedback, please get in touch with us. If you're happy with Mobicip, leave a happy review on the Apple App Store or Google Play store! Your feedback and support will be greatly appreciated!
 
The Mobicip crew
 
This is a copy of the latest Mobicip newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

Parents, Put Down That Smartphone!

At Mobicip, we keep a religious eye on research concerning kids' use of technology. However, a couple of recent studies on parents' use of smartphones took us by surprise. Or not!

Dr. Jenny Radesky, a pediatrician at the Boston Medical Center, ran a study in which the behavior of parents with young children in restaurants was observed anonymously. 40 of 55 parents paid more attention to the smartphone than their kids. And the kids who received less attention were more prone to acting out.

In a separate study, Catherine Steiner-Adair, a consulting psychologist at Harvard, interviewed more than 1000 kids while researching for her book. "One of the many things that absolutely knocked my socks off," she says, "was the consistency with which children — whether they were 4 or 8 or 18 or 24 — talked about feeling exhausted and frustrated and sad or mad trying to get their parents' attention, competing with computer screens or iPhone screens or any kind of technology, much like in therapy you hear kids talk about sibling rivalry."
 
Now, if that doesn't give us as parents enough reason to put down that smartphone and look your kids in the eye when they talk to us...
 
To report issues or feedback, please get in touch with us. If you're happy with Mobicip, leave a happy review on the Apple App Store or Google Play store! Your feedback and support will be greatly appreciated!
 
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