Meet the Author

One way to get excited about reading is to meet the author of a book. There’s something really cool about hearing about their writing process, the ideas that inspired their story, and even their thoughts about art. Here are a few places to see authors face-to-face.

YAK Fest 2015 will be January 24th in Forth Worth. It’s geared toward middle and high school students, as well as adults who enjoy reading YA literature.

Bookworm is for beginning readers and people who write for them (think 4 year old childen – 2nd grade students). This one will be in Houston on January 31. Five authors will be there to present and sign their books.

Bluewillow Bookshop is a well-known Houston bookstore that regularly schedules author visits, book clubs and other events. Check out the events tab to see the latest news. January is a rich month for middle school readers.

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Free Teacher Tools

Public, private, home school, and “just for fun” teachers will appreciate the free resources available through the Discovery Education web site. Start at their home page: http://www.discoveryeducation.com/ and scroll all the way down to the bottom to see the links.

As with any free tool, you’ll have to put up with a little bit of advertising, but the sites are fairly well organized and easy to use. I didn’t run across any tools that required the user to set up an account. What a relief, in this market-driven world!

One of my favorite links is Learning Adventures under Free Teacher Resources.

Enjoy!

Hour of Code – computer skills for the next generation

Hour of Code is happening this week! Hour of Code is an organized push to introduce students of all ages to computer programming–for free! Activities are designed for all skill levels, all platforms (laptops vs. tablets vs. smartphones), and several different computer programming languages.

Here is what the Hour of Code founders say about themselves:

Launched in 2013, Code.org® is a non-profit dedicated to expanding participation in computer science by making it available in more schools, and increasing participation by women and underrepresented students of color. Our vision is that every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn computer science. We believe computer science and computer programming should be part of the core curriculum in education, alongside other science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) courses, such as biology, physics, chemistry and algebra.

Hour of Code activities can be enjoyed without signing up for an account. But if you love it, you may want to create an account. It’s still free. Activities will be available after this week as well. It is a fun enrichment activity that will help prepare our students with skills for life.

Get started here: https://code.org/

Electronic Media for the next generation

Did you know most libraries have electronic books and electronic audio books? No, you don’t have to walk into the library and check out a disc, you can check them out from home, on the go, or anywhere you have internet access.

Usually, the electronic media catalog is a separate link from the regular library catalog. Cornerstone Christian Academy has a link to Follett eBooks on the library web page. Third through eighth grade students receive usernames and passwords to check books out.

Fort Bend County Library uses Overdrive Media to check out their electronic media. You need to have your FBCL card and your password handy, and you may want to look at the help menu to get started. But once you walk through checking out your first ebook, a world of access will open up before you.

Update: Cornerstone Christian Academy now also has access to Capstone Interactive eBooks. Login in with the school-provided username and password through the library web site.

Look creative for free!

Today’s featured tool: Animoto

Animoto is a cloud-based video production site. Users must create an account (free), then they can produce 30 second videos for free. You can use the stock music, videos and photos from the site, or you can upload your own files. Animoto links in to various social media sites, so take advantage of all those online photo albums you’ve already created.

Get started at www.animoto.com

Be sure you have permission to use any copyrighted images or music. But royalty free music can be found here: http://www.danosongs.com/ as well as on the Animoto site.

View the video I produced in less than 2 minutes here.

 

Staying Safe on the Internet – Pt. 2

As more of our internet use goes mobile, filtering, monitoring and managing time on the internet becomes more difficult. Here are a few products and settings to help:

Apple Settings

Apple devices offer basic restrictions, but unless they are password protected, they can be easily changed back. To set restrictions, go to the device SETTINGS (look for the cog icon), GENERAL, RESTRICTIONS, ENABLE. You will be prompted for a password. Write the password down and save it.

You may want to disable Safari and install the free MetaCert for iOS, which offers customizable filtering for the internet.

If you would like to be aware of the apps that are on the device, turn off “deleting apps.” Then your children can’t download and delete apps they know you may not approve.

Look at the ratings for ALLOWED CONTENT and set it appropriately.

Do not allow LOCATION SERVICES. These services can “place stamp” photos or posts your child puts out on the internet.

Android

K9 (mentioned in the last blog post) is a FREE internet filter available for Android devices as well as desktops.

Monitoring Software

Spectorsoft offers eBlaster Mobile, which monitors and reports on smartphone activity in detail. They also offer products for PCs and Macs.

TeenSafe is another detailed monitoring software that works for iPhones and android phones (not blackberries).

Curbi  is a less detailed monitoring software for Apple devices. It works on any iPad except the first model, iPhone 4 and newer, and iPod touches running iOS 6 and newer.

Of course, none of these products and settings replaces conversations we need to be having with our children about making wise choices and allowing ourselves to be accountable for our choices. However, it’s nice to have tools to help guide them toward independence and freedom.

 

Staying Safe on the Internet – pt.1

I just attended a great info session about internet safety, and I’d like to share some of the tools that were presented. I plan to concentrate on a different category of products each post. Today’s products: filters for desktops

Google has a search safety mode that can be activated on desktops (not mobile devices). Search “safe search” for step by step instructions on how to set it up on your computer. Then lock it, write down your pass code and put it somewhere private. The settings will need to be changed for each profile that is on your computer.

You Tube also has a safety setting (again, only for desk tops). Search “safety mode you tube” to see instructions. Again, the setting needs to be locked with a pass code if you don’t want young users to simply turn it off. This also needs to be set for every profile on the computer.

In addition to those two safeguards, you may want to install one of the following products to filter internet results and have some time controls on your Macs or PC (not mobile devices): K9 is a FREE filter that was highly recommended. Two good fee-based filters are Net Nanny and SafeEyes. I use Net Nanny at my home, but I may switch to K9 now that I learned about it.

Next post: safeguards for mobile devices

 

 

Equipping and encouraging with information and knowledge