Thursday, December 11, 2008

Connected Learning -- Your Toolbox

We're looking for partners to create Connected Learning (, a space to share resources and perspectives for teachers and parents. We'll focus on resources for Site Council, parents' advisory groups, teachers' planning for professional development, and free resources from the Internet for classrooms and homes. We're setting it up as wiki so you will be able to join and add to the mix. We should have it more fully populated by the new year, but come join and add if and when you have time.

All the best!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

More Internet, Worse Scores?

As noted in Education Week, Duke University researchers found with 4th-8th graders did worse on math and English tests with Internet access and computers at home. There was mitigation with parental support and instruction and with less instances of time online.

Is this surprising?

Even our fun side venture,, showcases these thoughts with our interviews of 10-12 year olds about their Internet use. Homework? Nah...

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Crowded Abundance of Family Web Tools

Check out Mashable at for a long and glorious list of family web tools. Have NO idea how all of them will make any money in this strange economic climate, but glad to see that some good thinking is going in this direction. We've tried lots in the past, and mostly still write on the calendar on the fridge in different color pens and call relatives when it is their birthdays...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Connected Tools -- Inside and Outside the Classroom

Interesting times! Spent much of this week at the Innovative Learning Conference in San Jose, CA. I'll be adding content here over the next couple of days with all sorts of interesting tools that kids can be using that some classes are using. But it has been quite an interesting set of discussions. How do you add technology to learning while integrating it into classroom planning? How do you use the "cool stuff" and engage kids while not spending lots of time and energy figuring this out yourself as a teacher.

So in the next few days, we'll tinker with Audible, WetPaint, Wikispaces, Moodle, and other cool tools...but looking how the classroom stuff can blend with the home stuff.

We're also working with on an episode of the iKidTools show about how to use wikis, bookmark tags, and related sites for kids' learning and interests.

Do take a look at their/our first episode, which is presently posted at as a full half hour show, interviewing two sets of tweens on their current web attitudes. It's a bit tongue-in-cheek and airs in full at KGEM-TV. Check it out here.

Find more videos like this on iKidTools

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Spore! A bit of biology and computer gaming...

So we are on day 3 of Spore ownership. EA's new Maxis game, supposedly $50 million in the making, starts you as single-cell organisms working your way up the food chain, eating things to gain DNA points to add arms, legs, eyes...and mate, fight, eat, sing, dance, pose (pose??)...

What it is doing nicely with my 11 and 12 year olds is (a) getting them to talk with me and each other about biology and ecosystems and (b) play a computer game together. The graphics are cute and engaging, and one is always sitting over the other's shoulder enjoying their decisions and cheering them along.

Is singing, dancing, and posing accurate in nature? For a lot of species, perhaps, though the dancing here is a bit...odd? So far, my oldest has moved to level 3 and is thinking about societal/tribal issues. He also has learned that pie isn't the big mover of a culture (game inside joke).

So far, I do recommend Spore as something to add to the family gaming quiver. It isn't an accurate depiction of biology, but brings a lot of the concepts to the discussion forefront. Its design does imply that evolution is reality versus myth, but that's what I'd like my children to learn as well. :) And hopefully there isn't an 11 year old at the helm adding a third eye to a pink critter... :)

We'll see as we get further into tribal and planetwide conquest...

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

E-Learning Tools as School Starts Back Up

Last year, ReadWriteWeb had a nice list of available resources:

They have expanded it further at Some from last year have been bought, some closed, etc. I won't reinvent the wheel with their listings, but some highlights of note are the list of Mindmapping tools and sticky noting options. The more I work with high school and college students, the more I realize that they don't just need these tools, but they also need to be instructed how to use them.

The challenge I've found this year is group project work. Delicious can be good for sharing links. Another option is to use a free Wiki. Some of my students have used Wetpaint; others have used Wikispaces. Google Docs was tried this year as a group work space, but isn't as good for bookmark and research sharing.

Experimenting...Chore Wars!

I just got back from a fun sci fi/kitch culture convention and was hanging out with some tech-savvy moms. One enthusiastically recommended, which we are starting today at the house. Very cool concept!

You sign up as a Player Character in a Dungeons & Dragons environment, then set up a "party" that works together. Evidently, this can be for offices or families. (Hmmm?) Then you can set up a pre-arranged group of "average" chores or start with manual settings. For each chore, family members get XP, or experience points, but also can get random treasure and monsters.

My friend has a snack drawer that you can only exchange for XP or game gold, and other treats around the house (non-food) that can only come from game results. She has 5 kids and finds that this both incentivizes and monitors in a really fun way. So we'll set this up today and see how my tweens react. All three have become decent gamers so this might be a nice tool set. More to follow!

The site is and the basic setup is ad-supported. If you want a Gold account, you can pay $10 (one time) and get rid of the ads, plus acquire additional features. It was launched by UK-based developers in 2007 and according to a recent article in The Times of London, has about 70,000 people signed up.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Olympics, Digital family style

Ah, Olympics time. Not just added DVR this time -- lots of options, right?

My family is not very geared up for the Olympics. Perhaps it is because we've been without TV for the past week on a family camping vacation. We've had mobile internet on my Blackberry, which has kept us enough in the loop. In fact, we have enjoyed the mobile download to my Blackberry -- one click for NBC Olympics updates with a cool logo for my mobile desktops. Starcut was brought in to launch this service and seems to have done a nice job. It was great on the road.

Now that we are home, for my savvy tweens, tuning into NBC's main show has been fairly flat. It is hard to DVR, as the scheduling is in 4 or so hour blocks, so we get chunks of programming instead of what we want.

So we went to the Time Warner VOD service, which was below underwhelming. There were two recaps and not in HD. Perhaps this is because we are early in the games. I'm assuming the technological challenge to vend segments to the headend servers is just too expensive and not too important to those involved.

So we went to for solutions. Now, I consider myself fairly digitally savvy, but I expected a little more handholding coming into this -- and in fact expected some marketing to enjoy the games this way. There was a banner and three buttons -- what was the difference?

My favorite thing on the site was the TV listings at I didn't realize that so many NBC-related channels were in the Games. As a result, we've been parked on Universal HD watching women's basketball for much of the day.

To go further into their onlines services for streaming video, found also at, I needed to both download Microsoft's Silverlight (which I had before during a presentation) and had to register with the program to ensure which cable broadband system I was on. I hadn't realized that NBC and MSN Video had agreements with the broadband providers directly for this expanded streaming service. (Why didn't my broadband provider let me know they were giving me this great service? And why no promotion and ads? Is Microsoft paying for most of this to get Silverlight into our homes?) Glad that Time Warner had arranged this -- evidently the baggage is a bit deeper with Cablevision, which held out and didn't get the expanded package, according to MediaWeek. It quotes that about 10% of multiplatform subscribers won't get the packages -- unless they lie and say they are in one of the systems that has cracked a deal. Not something that I'm in favor of online, but it is an option...

So after the hoops and too much personal information for my taste, I had the wonderful experience of the Live viewing option with 4 subscreens and Picture-In-Picture (PIP). Loved the view of the opening ceremony.

But then, not through this site, I found out about NBC Direct's online VOD with subscription by sport. NBC Direct itself has been in Beta since November 2007 with not very great reviews. Here, I needed to sign up for myNBC service and download a whole interface program, download a Windows patch, restart my computer, etc. Augh!

Upon relaunching, I found a different screen sponsored by Lenovo and muddy language telling me that I'm part of the NBC Direct Peer to Peer Network to get high quality video. Hmm?

I then was taken back to to update my subscriptions, which I set up. Not sure how much of my hard drive space this will eat up here....

I'm downloading now...and will have 48 hours to watch each after I start viewing before they mysteriously disappear...

So now I'm heading back to watch the opening ceremony on with Universal HD in the backgrounds, watching my kids drift in and out of the room, and will wait to see what downloads.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Earthquake Followup -- Digital and NonDigital Resources

Parenting during a mild/moderate earthquake -- any teachable moments? 5.4 (not gigantic) earthquake caused all sorts of consternation in my 100-year old 2-story house. First, I wasn't home, so my kids called me on the cell immediately. By the time I got home, my husband had fielded calls from my sister overseas and his mom in the central valley.

Lesson #1 -- The Phone. It is good to know where everyone is. The phone system evidently was stressed even by this level of activity, so good to be able to call OUTSIDE the area. My sister is our outside-of-California contact. Cell phone systems are reputed to be robust in such a circumstance, but Verizon Wireless anecdotally was supposedly stressed to points of non performance even with this low level (read "none") of damage. Officially, their representative, Bill Kula, told Associated Press that the landline systems were stressed in that area, but cell was fine.

Lesson #2 -- In this day and age, how to find out what is going on. Good old Radio. KPCC, NPR radio, fairly quickly came to a 5.8 (later revised to 5.4) and Chino Hills epicenter. The family at home had shifted to TV, which just had talking heads. Twitter had some good echos from friends and turned out to be a good way to get a quick word out that everything was fine.

Lesson #3 -- Good online sources. IF you keep your power and broadband service, do remember the great resources at Cal Tech and US Geological Survey. The latter has great tools at -- "Do You Feel It?" Survey. You can log what you experienced and they use it for planning and information. Pretty cool! You can show your kids what it looked like on an experience map, then go look at other (bigger) quakes. You can also check out all the aftershocks.

They also have a great toolset of information for kids, good especially if it is their first quake:

My son thought it was fun. All my kids found the doorways, so I guess I'm glad for small favors in that this provided good practice. Lovely Southern California...

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Digital Mornings vs. Digital Evenings -- Disconnected Media

When does it make sense to immerse yourself in digital media? For me, it flushes away the 5-8 am hours when the laptop takes over while the family sleeps on weekends. It used to be walking and reading time for me -- instead it is sucked into emails, blogging, Twitters, and dealing with business/politics by email.

For my kids? Digital connectivity increases as the evening goes on. Everyone, left to their own desires, would each be connected to something in our digital flow in a different room all evenings. My husband? Message boards on scale modeling. My oldest? My middle? Games, games, games. My youngest? Actually reading a book while blasting classical music on the radio. (Have I mentioned that she is a little 60-year-old person in a 10-year-old body?)

As for me -- I stare at their heads, holler for them to come into the living room, and try to figure a connected evening together...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A missing voice -- what a change! -- and some digital alternatives for his company

My son is off at Boy Scout camp -- with no devices. No phone, no gaming system, no music. He's not all that plugged in versus his friends so the loss won't be that big for him...and he'll have plenty to do.

My remaining family -- transformed. With one less voice, it is strangely much quieter. Now, that's in part to my daughters not being harangued by a teasing brother for hours on end. We've had quieter hours all around, as my daughters have found ways -- digital and not -- to occupy their time with simpler pursuits.

My oldest is studying for her Mandarin final the old fashioned way: reviewing paper notes and speaking with one of her Chinese-speaking friends live (not by phone) for 1-1/2 hours last night at her house. She did tiptoe into TokyoPop's graphic novel reader this morning before we knew she was stirring, but did finally stumble down to breakfast.

My youngest is reading two newer The Warriors books (by Erin Hunter) without worrying about her brother taking them before she is done.

At the same time, she is the one wanting to plug in more to make up for her brother's absence, as they tend to spend every waking moment together. I acquiesced and let her use my Netflix subscription for its instant viewing option. And she is sorely disappointed, as the movie she was watching last night stopped and asked her to wait over an hour for the download. This doesn't make sense to her 10-year-old mind. We explained bandwidth and pipes for about 15 minutes, and she still shook her head as to why this happens with our cable modem. Not only do we have 3 shared computers but in the evening we are sharing the pipe with all our neighbors who are online. So in the morning? Not so much a problem.

So we have a little piece and a bit more quiet than normal and we're finding a little more space in our week for solo work. Nice every so often!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Google's Lively -- more than hanging with 20 year olds from Ireland?

I've peeked into Google's Lively virtual world a few times in the past two weeks. It's like Second Life with premade stuff (rooms, furniture) and based on rooms, so a bit Habbo Hotel-ish. You can add music, which does add some interesting atmosphere.

You are supposed to be older than 13 to use it, etc., which means you have a place for 14 year olds and up all in one bucket.

So the other evening I spent some wasted time building a few rooms (Video coffee bar and Goth Room) from starters with furniture and enjoyed the creative elements of taking videos from YouTube and photos from Picasa and adding them as room elements -- screens, floors, room dividers.

Then I went into some of the more popular rooms. Findings?
-- Blaring music and basic public spaces
-- Interesting internationally themed rooms -- for users from France, Brazil, Portugal, etc.
-- Young men who had changed nothing about the standard starter character's looks (so all looked nearly the same) all telling everyone their ages and countries (e.g. 23, Ireland). Many of them were using the kicking and punching aspects to throw punches at each other.
-- A smaller proportion of young women standing around in vapid conversations with same guys above.
-- Folks just wandering around.

Most folks were just citing how boring it is. What all can it be instead? Art sharing rooms? Video screening rooms?

The second most asked question, according to Lively's FAQ, is How can I create items? The answer is that for now they are just createable by professionals.

How Lively is that?

Summer -- Digital Family Style -- Earning Fun

So how has summer changed?

When I was growing up, we would bum around, my sister and I. Both my parents worked and we were expected to do chores, go to the movies, read, go to friends houses. I'd need to earn my allowance, which gave me my budget for summer fun.

With my three children's friends families, they all seem to overbook summer. Summer school, family trips, summer programs with museums and organizations. Mom and dad might both work, if there are both, but the kids are expected to be booked up, just like during the school year.

My own kids are enjoying a mixed summer. They are going to the community pool together, reading, using the slip & slide, heading to the local movies, and getting together with friends. But their friends are hyperbooked -- traveling, in summer programs, not around.

Where does the digital media side fit in? If it was up to my tween son, he'd be on computer games all summer and never see the outside of the house. We have limited him to about 2 hours max/day, which he has to "earn" with points for chores and doing good things without being asked. Our Point system we set up when the kids were very small, giving them colored stones in a jar for doing things without being asked. That has turned into a long-term ecosystem, with scores on the refrigerator by child. Points are spent on TV (unless watching it with a parent), computer time, and buying things. A point is a dollar in the real world. TV time is 3 points per half hour and computer time is similar (depending on if the child had bought the game).

The nice impact this summer is that the kids are budgeting their resources, taking on small projects around the house in order to earn more TV and computer time (with so much spare time in hand). My kitchen is cleaner, weeds are pulled, and most of the laundry is done.

What are they choosing to do with digital media?
-- Youngest is on Webkinz, but mostly spending her hard-earned points on the critters themselves. It is hard to earn that many points regularly without doing a lot of household chores. She is doing a nice job on the lawns and small yard tasks. She also makes everyone lunch, which earns her points. Excellent at Top Ramen and sandwiches. Mac & cheese is a favorite. She even cleans up after cooking for extra points.
-- Tween son has been doing more kitchen duty like breakfast and dishes. Points earned go right to computer time.
-- Teen daughter? She is reading and writing her summer, as well as taking Mandarin at the local community college. Her use of earned points? She's catching up on past series with I've just bequeathed to her our Netflix subscription so that she also can (a) shephard our orders to plan family viewing and (b) see the first two seasons of Doctor Who on demand streamed right to her computer.

Our Points system has infiltrated a few other homes over the past few years, as other parents have asked us for tools on how to help them offer media as a choice and reward instead of an entitlement. My kids have developed wonderful skills, judgment, and budgeting talents. They know they have tradeoffs to make.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Finding Information Online -- The Family Soap Opera and Teachable Moments

Yesterday was a teaching tool time in two weird ways:

Saga #1 -- My car started making crazy, metal chattering noises half-way through my drive to UCLA. It had made some muttering noises the day before, so I had taken it to my local shop. 20 minutes later they had found nothing after checking all the hoses and belts. I've had this car for 8 years and 165,000 miles. I knew something wasn't right, but they patted my head nicely and told me not to worry. So the next day when it started getting mad and making these metal-on-metal rattling noises, I was worried despite having no warning lights.

So with my government-insisted headset on (which I've been using for years already), I called my husband on the cellphone to find the nearest dealer to my location. I didn't want to get this car on the freeway.

So my husband gave me an address -- and nothing was there. No car dealer service people, no sign. Lots of car dealers -- just not this one.

So I called my husband back. Where did he get this information? It was from an online site that had all the car dealers in this area. So I asked him to go directly to Chyrsler (yes, a Chrysler) and look at their site. I got an indignant response -- why would their information be any better? With my car chattering away, I sweetly responded that they would be responsible for updating at least their own information, and this other site had no such motivation and no reason to believe that they would stay valid...

End result -- finally found them on my own 1-1/2 miles later while husband was still defending his original online site. Car will be in the shop for quite a while with possible engine or other malady. Three technicians already stood over it clucking for a while, agreeing I shouldn't take it back on the road. Got a mediocre deal from Enterprise for the rental car, as they saw I was in need...should have booked online.... :)

Saga #2 -- I had asked my responsible 15 year old (not an oxymoron) to check out roundtrip train fare from LA to Washington DC for a possible vacation. So yesterday I asked for the results. She had procrastinated as she didn't know how to get started. Last night, I spent some time with my oldest daughter at my right elbow and youngest at my left showing them (a) how to find Amtrak and use the website to look at possible trips (yikes, quite expensive for the right to sit up and sleep for 3 nights) and (b) while we were at it look at how to register for Comic-Con in San Diego this month.

They were surprised for the latter that some tickets were sold out and their procrastinating actually cost them opportunity. So from this endeavor, they learned how to investigate options on a service/sale site AND they learned that a stitch in time saves nine...or something like that.

Not sure what my husband learned from my car incident. I think I learned to instead say a sweet thank you, then pull over to the side of the road and use my Blackberry and offdeck search with Google or Yahoo myself.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Adventures with Filtering & Blocking -- and Team Parenting

Difficult to be a working parent with different perspectives than your spouse.

I tried to set the Internet Explorer settings to need a password to get to new locations on the web. The point was for my young son and daughter (12 and 10, respectively) to need to talk with us before trying new websites. This was working fairly well when I was working from home a lot recently. But on my way home from working at a client's office, my husband called me on my cell to doublecheck the password. He just wanted to keep waiving my son through sites so he could work on his Boy Scout merit badge on Environmental Sciences.

When I got home, I sat down with my son to talk further when he asked me to waive Wikipedia through. He was looking for a place to research oceanographic careers. When I asked "Why Wikipedia?", he just knew that it was a good starting point. So we spent 15 minutes with a continuing discussion about how you search on the web, all the good web search tools for kids that are out there, that Wikipedia is a good starting place but not the be-all, end-all, etc. I really do like Wikipedia for the outside links toward the bottom -- it is a good place to find a basic definition and then expand from there into the outside resources to see the variety of quality research that is available. But it isn't what a 12 year old should be using as his primary information on oceanographic careers. We took the time to scan through links to about 6 universities' career pages in their oceanographic research departments. We were able to get to these from Wikipedia indirectly and then went to other search engines to see what we could see from there. (This is why I created, so kids could have other search starting points for finding great things online.)

But it does take (a) the time, (b) understanding what is out there (which many parents dont' know), (c) uniform behaviors from both parents (which we ourselves don't have), and (d) equal or sufficient knowledge from one or more parents (which my educated the web savvy husband really doesn't have abundantly).

We really are on different "pages." Do other families have this issue?

My husband says that he "trusts" the kids and does not feel responsible for making sure they are learning how to find their way in the world. He's happy that our kids can find Google and get to websites. He doesn't care much about what websites they go to as long as they are "safe," whatever that means.

As my husband says, "If it doesn't matter to his teachers where he gets his information, why does it matter to us?"



Thursday, June 19, 2008

Do I Let My 14 Year Old On MySpace, Part 2

I've noted before, if you respond to your teen's request to be on MySpace with "no," chances are he/she will head one of two directions: tiptoing around you to do it anyway or go somewhere else. And as I wrote recently, they could end up at someplace worse, like Stickam.

Take a look at the Parent Care tools at MySpace under Privacy Features. You can easily find its overview video and download at It is a nice feature to provide a background monitoring and authentication of your child's age, etc.

Also, for insights on other places to take your kids, take a look at Connected Parent at Yahoo! Kids. They have a recent post as to the results of the recent Symantec poll that we don't really know what our kids are doing:
Site overall:

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Stickam -- Different Things to Worry About than MySpace

Another note from the Nielsen Online report yesterday...and another thing to worry about: Stickam.

About six months ago, one parent of a 14 year old approached me with her "answer" to MySpace. "I just won't let my daughter go on it," she said proudly. I told her "that's fine -- where did she go instead?" "What?" "Your daughter," I continued, "is doing one of two things. She is going onto Myspace anyway with some other means, like a friend's house or some other web access. That's the better answer, but means you need to figure out how to communicate with her better."

"More likely, she is going somewhere else that is probably even less attractive."

The mother saw me a couple of days later and said she had found out her daughter went to Stickam instead. I blanched. And according to the recent Nielsen Online report, for 12 to 17 year olds, Stickam is now the #1 online video source.

Table 3: Top 10 Online Video Destinations: Age 12-17 (U.S., Home)
Unique Viewer 12-17 Unique
Brand/Channel Composition % Viewers (000)
Stickam 44.3 106 42.9 310
Atlantic Records 42.7 273
Epic Records 41.5 180
bebo 40.2 114 40.1 123
NABBR 37.4 1,336
GamesRadar 34.6 180
Paramount Films 33.8 198
Photobucket 30.7 767
Source: Nielsen Online, VideoCensus
100,000 Unique Viewer Minimum

Not surprised at most of the above, but parents probably don't know what a bunch of these are. is a rapidly growing social network around music. bebo is a social network, largely focused around music. NABBR is a social widget company that aggregates music and teen media sites and helps promote them.

But Stickam? Live unmoderated webstreaming. I haven't looked in a few months...and looked again to find it worse. Live radio shows, young teen girls talking to their webcams, chat rooms that look more like places to hook up.

It is owned by Advanced Video Communications and runs out of downtown Los Angeles, but according to a July 2007 NYT Article, it is owned by Wataru Takahashi, "a Japanese businessman who also owns and operates DTI Services, a vast network of Web sites offering live sex shows over Web cameras." According to the article he owns over 40 pornography sites.

As a parent, this gives me the jitters. MySpace, with all its challenges, as tools to protect kids from their own behaviors as they are learning to be real people online.

This site instead brings out the voyeur in everyone and encourages behavior that I'm not sure these parents are aware of...


Do any parents have good experiences with this? Or suggestions on where they should encourage their 12-17 year olds to go instead?

Related Article: July 2007 NYT link regarding porn and the parent company

Monday, June 9, 2008

Kid Vid Online

Today's Nielsen Online just showed what I'm already seeing -- kids are event more entranced with online video than us adults. Obvious, you say? I'm saying kids, not just teens.

The numbers that just came out from Nielsen is of their estimate of Unique Viewers, kids 2-11 who are watching online videos are watching 51 streams/viewer and 118 minutes a month. Kids 12-17 are watching 74 streams/month at 132 minutes/viewer, with more time per month than adults according to Nielsen Online:

Table 1: Monthly Online Video Consumption among Kids, Teens and Adults
(U.S., Home Only, April 2008)
Unique Viewers Unique Viewer Streams per Min per
Age (000) Comp % Viewer Viewer
2-11 7,966 8.4 51.0 117.9
12-17 11,632 12.3 74.2 132.4
18+ 75,122 79.3 44.3 99.4
Source: Nielsen Online, VideoCensus

And what are these kids watching for their 51 streams/month (almost 2/day)? According to Nielsen Online:

Table 2: Top 10 Online Video Destinations: Age 2-11 (U.S., Home)
Unique Viewer 2-11 Unique
Brand/Channel Composition % Viewers (000)
Disney Records 49.6 179* 48.0 161
MyePets** 47.6 161
JETIX 46.9 159
Playhouse Disney 43.9 340
PBS Kids 43.1 281
LEGO 40.9 137
NickJr 39.6 718
Barbie 39.6 105
Nick 39.3 1,009
Source: Nielsen Online, VideoCensus
100,000 Unique Viewer Minimum

* is aggregated site for Barbie, Polly Pockets, My Scene, Furryvile and Doggie Daycare
** MyePets is owned by MGA, the folks who run Bratz, and according to is running at about 225,000 uniques/month now
....there are about 4 million people in each "age" in the U.S. Some more, some less. In fact, we're in a bit of a boom right now...

So if I am understanding these correctly, about half of the 12-17's (6 years of kids, so 12MM/24MM) are watching online videos in April and about 20% of kids 2-11 (10 years, so 8MM/40MM). Adults 18+ in the U.S. are 229MM out of the 303MM 1/08 according to US Census, so that pencils to 32% usage among adults. So kids are nearly at the adult adoption rate, and half of teens are using online video. Very interesting.....

And we're still at about 1-1/2 hours per month for adults and around 2 hours/month for 2-17...but that's an average. The skew under those averages for teens must be quite interesting, as I meet more and more teens who watch "video" mostly online.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Lessons from the Clinton Campaign -- Not to Forget

One forgets sometime, despite being a mom in my 40's, that life has not always been with its current abundance of opportunities for women. I had not been thinking of the election as a learning experience for my children until yesterday's speech by Hillary Clinton --
You also can listen at NPR at

I'm asking my children, especially my daughters, to listen again, specifically to the following perspective:

  • To all those women in their 80s and their 90s born before women could vote who cast their votes for our campaign. I’ve told you before about Florence Steen of South Dakota, who was 88 years old, and insisted that her daughter bring an absentee ballot to her hospice bedside. Her daughter and a friend put an American flag behind her bed and helped her fill out the ballot. She passed away soon after, and under state law, her ballot didn’t count. But her daughter later told a reporter, “My dad’s an ornery old cowboy, and he didn’t like it when he heard mom’s vote wouldn’t be counted. I don’t think he had voted in 20 years. But he voted in place of my mom.”
My husband and I spend a lot of time talking with our kids about life from the past -- that life has not always had the opportunities it has now. On the fun side, we have been using Netflix for expanding our children's perspectives about how life has changed. We have had a tremendous about of both fun and indepth conversation following anything from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes to Some Like it Hot on the lighter side while my younger kids are still in elementary and middle school to show them that women haven't always had the broad lives and expectations that they have now. We take them with us, especially when they are younger, to vote to see how this is important in their lives, and talk about the challenges of getting the vote. But I had forgotten about yesterday as a teachable moment...and a moment in history itself.

My daughters will probably be explaining this year to their own children when they walk them to school or watch old movies...

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Summer School Online?

My oldest daughter is looking for online high school courses to add to her summer online. We found the Harvard Distance learning program, which evidently closes out some time ahead. We have found the expected forces from Kaplan and the like, as well as the Christian-focused resources. What else is out there? More to follow soon on this topic...especially if she finds a great Japanese course.

And what else can we steer our tweens and teens to experience online? So far in the things my 14-year-old is looking at, she loves In fact, her quote is "Ted Rocks." I do agree.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Company stuff a bubblin'

I'm trying to figure out what's up with all these efforts:

HP's fall product launch for teens -- -- Ameer Karim, director of HP's future and innovations group for consumer PCs, announced launching a new line of products designed by teens at SD Forum's second annual Tech for Teens event, Teens Plugged In.

Sun's spinout of Fresh Brain -- -- a cool learn-to-do-digital toolbox for online teens, sprouted with Sun tech and Sun people.

And during June 2-4, 2008, Parsons The New School for Design's in New York is the platform at its 5th annual Games for Change -- -- for two companies' annoucement:
Fascinating that these are projects facing the tech communities, and not facing educators, parent groups, and the like. Or are they? Anyone know of any plans to actively market these endeavors to parents and families directly through their own media?

Friday, May 30, 2008

Self publishing in the Kindle world

Now the Amazon Kindle price has dropped to $350 but not sure I want that getting lost at home. So far Kindle users are buying more than 2x more books with Kindle books. Whispernet brings the books to your Kindle and credit card in 60 seconds with a Sprint 3G EVDO backend. 125,000 books are available including textbooks.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Crowd Sourcing as Driver and Creator

How is crowdsourcing being used by family resources? Jeff Howe from Wired talked about his Aug. Crowdsourcing book discussion at Book Publishers Association. Fascinating -- I had missed his blog and a lot of the online discussion on the impact of "open calls" as societal drivers online.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

20 Search Tools -- Better Family Search Online

Lots of great options are there besides the top 5 search engines:

From our friends at

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Getting on the Same Page

Communicating -- 2008 style. So much press goes to either the kid gone awry, problems with the school system, or how our kids are multitasking. But how do we work with communicating with each other on making life happen? How do we do mundane things like share videos just with friends of our child's recital, planning for a field trip or reunion, or reminding our spouse that our daughter has a doctor's appointment coming up?

This is where the differences in communications expectations both trip us up and provide interesting opportunity:

-- In a world where tweens IM and may not email, it has been fascinating to work with three 14-year-old girl scouts on their Silver Award. I have been showing them basic uses of Excel for project management and using a Wiki ( to share information. We have gone to "old fashioned" snail mail as a backup to emailing, cell phone, and text to make sure that the girls adequately communicate with adults that they are working on the project with.
-- It has taken more than 12 months to get a group of moms in a middle-income community comfortable with Google Groups, and still one-third of the regional scout leaders won't sign up. It has taken until this year for all of them to check their e-mails more than 2x/month, if at all.
-- People in my business environment text my non-cell number at least once a week and are surprised I didn't get anything.
-- My home has tried 3 different family calendar programs -- and still has a paper calendar on the refrigerator.
-- We have to go down three screens on our cable system DVR to see what shows we have recorded and down another 3 screens to watch the show (thanks, Time Warner).
-- We had wildfires 3 miles from our house recently and watched the water dropping helicopters from our backyard -- and the only current news was on a.m. radio until the blaze got in the LA Times online 2 days later.

The pending richness of "Web 2.5" -- interactive + presence -- is the ability to improve our lives. Right now, a lot of this is great for single interactions, one-to-one immediate communications. Lots has been made of the overabundance of digital clutter...emails, Twittering, Facebook pokes, texting, unlimited Yahoo! mail, gigantic hard drives, and the like.

Where I am fascinated is the ability to group create, synthesize data, make immediate but insightful connections, touch our souls, and touch our lives. Right now, we are making interesting assumptions that other people are connecting like we are. Or we are carving out digital noise that we don't want and missing beats from connections from others.

The next big thing might be something to synthesize and connect. Two folks have sent me Mobile Tribe -- maybe that's a beat in the music here. Or blending in Copernic's computer search tool with the rest of my home media and family data. Or maybe that data/life/group integration is the real power of the Google empire going forward as their mobile search and Maps begins to creep into true mobile dominance.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Parental Divide -- between parents

We had an "incident" yesterday that was pointed. Pointed back at us!

Our house rules were intentionally simple. We were trying to build trust with our kids, ages 10-14, so didn't have digital barriers any more for about 6 months. The ground rules were you must talk to one of your parents before going to a new website.

Two challenges in this setup:
-- Both parents need to be at the same level of attentiveness, follow through, and online knowledge
-- The system needs to be actively supervised

Additional challenge -- I travel a lot and am not home many evenings.

So...I called my son and husband to my children's computer yesterday. It is in one of the bedrooms, but with the door always left open...but on another floor.

My son had been doing things that were ok if monitored and discussed ahead of time. But (a) he hadn't and (b) my husband had not been paying attention when he is home and I'm not. So my son had gotten a Yahoo email account that we didn't know about, used it to be IM'ing with friends, had signed up for YouTube, had created an account to set up his own website on Jimdo (but hadn't yet), and had left his email address with dozens of "free" online gaming sites that were sending him lots of email, offers, etc. And surprise, surprise was getting a bunch of SPAM.

He understood that he did what he was not supposed to do. He knows how to clear his History and had not done so, which he used a bit in his defense. It has me rethinking filters, but that doesn't face the fact that he needs to build trust with us...and he is at friends' houses a lot.

But it did get the heavy discussion going between my husband and me. As he lamented "why should he have to spend the time to watch our children's online behavior?" And he hadn't been noticing or checking at all. So when I'm home, the kids know to do what they are supposed to do and when only dad is home, they know he won't be around to check.

So do I need to design my family's Internet world around my husband's lack of participation?

Do other families have issues of very different perspectives on use of the Internet between parents? How do they get a central POV? Is it as good as the least experienced/interested parent?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Teens Pulling Online Tools Together to Create

I've had 3 13-year-olds in the past 2 days either show me their web pages or ask me how to build them. They aren't asking about Facebook, MySpace, or creating a Blog. They want to put up their art and graphics, as well as their thoughts on specific topics, in a web page. They are asking about the tools to create these things themselves.

In the mix of virtual worlds and fancy tools, one of the kids at our house this afternoon shared what he's working on. This 13 year old is musically inclined as well as into graphics, so combined the following resources:

-- Jimbo ( -- free webspace
-- G-force music visualizer ( -- free trial
-- Line Rider ( -- free but really irritating banner ads -- lots of YouTube videos with the resulting magic + music

He created this video (, which is quite interesting despite the illegal use of the music. From my feeble attempts to do create with Line Rider, it seems to be MUCH harder than it looks.

And on the Jimbo page ( shows fascinating Gforce art.

All free...

Sandbox Summit's New Board

One of the most interesting events I went to this year was the January 2008 Sandbox Summit at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. It highlighted lots of interesting digital products for kids -- as well as lots of overmerchandised sponsors trying to get attention. The sales part was a bit overwhelming, but the variety was quite interesting.

They just announced their board for 2008 in preparation for the 2009 event.

-- Good group of experts with a variety of experiences -- especially good practical academics and non-profits. Individually interesting backgrounds -- feel free to check out the links below to each of their adventures.

I'm curious to see what their perspective will be for January 2009:
-- Everyone is East Coast -- and mostly from New York. That probably makes it easier to meet, but ignores the whole Midwest and West.
-- Should this be International to go with the International CES? No one is even included from Canada, let alone the rest of the world.
-- Only one media outlet was included -- owned by Disney -- and no parenting groups.
-- It seemed skewed to younger kids -- maybe just my read of it -- and seemed to not be including the virtual worlds and games. That's what every 6-12 year old I know is parked in front of instead of learning tools.

From this board, what type of audience are they designing this for? I'm eager to see.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Watching Kids Use Online

Another insight into online family use -- Warren Buckleitner, editor of the Children's Technology Review, recent released a ethnographic research report for Consumer Reports -- He worked with 10 families with 15 kids to record their children's consumption of digital media.

A bit sobering, funny, and not all that unusual from a parent's point of view. For example, a six-year old finding "Littlest Pet Shop" via Google -- -- isn't that unusual even for parents of older children.

He found that of the 21 websites they observed usage of, most were highly commercialized (3.47 out of a high of 5 on his scale) and were heavily focused on consumerism. The videos show the kids' savviness and confusion at the same time. They understand the game, but the free giveaways, nature of subscriptions, association of ads and banners, and registrations don't make sense. Having mommy's email address as a limit is shown to not be a good barrier, as most kids quickly are aware of that phrase -- Though one child did have a good idea -- how about

Do designers really look at how these youngsters use these products? When 6 year olds are falling into these online tools, how do we expect them to react?

Preaching to the Converted...and getting to the Rest

Parents and kids online. The "bad news" on parent beliefs about the web for social growth got a little press. The "good news" stayed in the room and to a small group of us on the webcast and SecondLife.

The "bad news" was in the press release issued May 8, released by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop and Common Sense Media:

"Three out of four parents in the survey (75 percent) agreed that knowing how to use digital media is as beneficial for kids as traditional skills like reading and math, and 83 percent of parents said that digital media gives their children the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century.

But parents expressed skepticism about the value of many digital media platforms, particularly when it came to whether digital media could teach kids how to communicate and collaborate, skills that are essential in a 21st-century workforce. For example:

• 67 percent of parents said they did not think the Web helped teach their kids how to communicate.

• 87 percent of parents said they did not believe the Web helped their kids learn how to work with others.

• Three out of four parents do not believe the Web can teach kids to be responsible in their communities."

The good news was the charming conference -- invitation only -- on May 9th that was broadcast on the web live, as well as on Second Life, at Global Kids. It was filled with all sorts of companies enabling healthy teaching products to our kids. Soon its tidbits should be available for further viewing -- they aren't yet up. But the day was missing:

1) Obvious press presence
2) Discussion that I heard (though I missed a bit of the event) on how these insights will be disseminated to parents and teachers.

So far, I have found that US News Dave's Download Blog, Broadcasting & Cable, World Screen, eSchool News, Fox Business Online (press release copy), Kidscreen, and Reuters UK Blogs covered the "bad news" pre-announcement. I'd like to see what was covered from the great stuff on Friday, but so far haven't seen anything from the event and webcast.

So how do we get these dialogs out to parents at large?

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

A Different Digital Divide

I have been spending quite a bit of time looking at what tweens and teens are doing with their families in digital media that I haven't been looking the other way -- older.

So I walked right into the fan blade of family yesterday.

Two of my older relatives visited us the other weekend and had the "fun" of experiencing a normal weekend with me, my husband, and my several tween and teen children. We ate meals together, but otherwise were in different rooms of the house, doing projects, using computers, fixing desks, and for my relatives, watching TV.

I got an earful from them yesterday about the experience. Now, we thought all the differing activity quite normal. Our relatives wanted to watch as many minutes as possible of the basketball tournament and took over the high def TV in the living room. We aren't a basketball household (sorry). So I spent my sadly normal hour a day catching up with emails and other online correspondence, but did bring my laptop into the living room to spend time with them, despite the game. My children quietly spun to other sections of the house, either reading or doing quiet online activities. In fact, one of my children sewed a lovely dress from a pattern, one of her first adventures doing that.

Instead of the older relatives being appreciative that they were given peace to watch the sports games, they evidently were furious. They thought it incredibly rude that I was using my laptop, despite the fact that I was doing work and they were not interested in anything that I wanted to do. To them, television is the ultimate group activity and they were truly offended that I was spending any time on the computer while they were visiting...and watching my own television. They expressed no interest in anything that was going on in our lives or wanting to talk. For these relatives in their 60's and 70's, the television was the ongoing center of activity and we should not be doing digital activities while they were visiting.

I would entirely agree -- if we were avoiding talking, walking, visiting, or other social activities. But it was fascinating how our own family digital divide opened up. These are adults whose media activities focus around local TV news and national sports. Our lives revolve around school and kid activities, outdoors and nature, kid sports, crafts, and creating and consuming digital media. When I first entered this family 20+ years ago, I had to work in the social matrix of what the elder relatives thought was normal for a planned "together" weekend.

The fascinating fact is that this divide had existed for years! At family gatherings, I would bring a book and slink into a corner. (I know, my bad.) I hadn't dealt with the lack of mutual interests as it was an obvious barrier and I didn't think it would change.

The amazing thing was that replacing the book with a laptop caused such ire and discontent. And that the social center circle of the television as the family digital hearth was deemed to be of such higher social superiority....for sports and local news. If we were watching socially meaningful drama or cultural commentary, and talking over the shared experience, I could see it. Or if we were having fun times with family humor or education that we were talking about, I get it.

I smile at myself with all of this. Should I have been on the laptop, doing work to avoid the friction (and the games)? No, I should have not been avoiding the 20-year-old situation and actually talked about what I really wanted to do. I could have pushed back finally to request or find some common ground of interests. (We could have DVR'ed the games, but that was beyond their patience and understanding.)

But who has the right to say what is "right" in family social circles with media? Are families actively discussing it? Or are they assuming that "what always has been" is ok or that "separate media" has become the norm?

How are we setting family discussions on what is community interest and activities? How are we not just including our tweens and teens, but also our seniors? And who has family priorities to set the media-consuming agenda for the family community?

And how do we deal with the pride that exists in certain people not understanding technology? Weekly I hear adults fluffing off use of digital media in the "I don't understand that thing and it isn't worth my time" in over 40 in non-office based social circles. And I got that from these relatives -- even though I make much of my living from Internet-based activities, it is (vocally) of no interest to them at all.

Do they need to understand it? Are we trying hard enough to be inclusive of parents and grandparents? Are these challenges just reflective of intergenerational tensions that have bubbled for generations past, but now we have all these cool avoidance and separation tools? Or can we use some of them -- email, digital photos -- to nurture the connectivity of all this stuff to be family empowerment and glue?

I'll probably be stuck together with better glue when I know my elder relatives are (a) all willing to own a computer (not all are willing to now), and (b) willing to check their emails more than once/month.

At the same time, I'm just getting my middle child to introduce himself nicely on the telephone and my oldest to realize that emails can be used really communicate well and influence decisions...and that spreadsheets can be used to organize school and scout group projects...

Boy, this is all hard work!! ;)

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Roaming Computers and Parenting Time/Attention

Happy New Year to all! I'm getting ready to watch the Rose Parade in high def, waiting for my kids to wake up. I'm debating whether I want to watch it with laptop in lap, catching up with some programming ideas I had yesterday.

That spurs thoughts about a Los Angeles Times article today -- Michelle Quin's "Desktops? They're So Last Year": It ends with a little girl getting a pink Barbie laptop and sitting next to her mom working. The article isn't about kids' lives and laptops, but it does spur my thoughts in that direction.

I recall when friends at Intel were hyping the Centrino chip in 2003, they were seeing a life spread around by wireless connectivity. For 2007, the article says laptop sales rose 21% to 32MM and desktops dropped 4% to 32MM. They quote IDC as saying that portables will be at 66% of corporate (40% in '06) and 71% of consumer (up from 44%) computers. The article cites that Japan sped past this about a year ago, heading instead to hyper portable phones and other devices.

Lots of citations were shown in the article about parents and families roaming the house -- kitchen, TV, etc. -- while using the Internet. It also features the hotspot phenomenon, both connectivity throughout the house and around the community.

So what happens to kids, TV viewing, and working with parents? Does this mean that parents are working with their kids more, or that Internet use will interfere just like background TV with the very valuable resource of parent time with kids? Is this the New Normal?