Archive for November, 2013

Blogger Spotlight: The iMums

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

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Welcome to the Oceanhouse Media Blogger Spotlight with Mary of The iMums! Mary got the chance to check out Oh Say Can You Say Di-no-saur? from the Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library. Find out her favorite picks for bedtime stories and more below!

Oceanhouse Media (OM): When did you launch your website? How has it evolved since the beginning?

Mary (M): The website was launched by the Australian iMum Amanda in August 2011. Originally the site was The iMum, but soon after it launched myself (Mary, the British iMum,) Alison (The American iMum) and Grace (the Singaporean iMum joined Amanda. It originally had an Australian focus and evolved to a global perspective as we became The iMums and we now have a whole team of mums from across the globe working together.

OM: What is the mission or goal of your site?

M: To find the best apps and technology products for busy parents. We are all mums ourselves and have strict policies about what we will review- for our children’s apps we only recommend apps we would feel happy with our children using.

OM: Who is the most tech savvy person in your house?

M: That has to be my husband Victor, he’s been working in computer speech recognition for many years and is my tech “go to” person. However, he has been amazed by how much I have learned in the last few years and he will even come to me now with iPad related questions.

OM: What children’s book do you really want to see on the App Store that isn’t currently available?

M: I’d love to see The Gruffalo, by Julia Donaldson, my kids just love her books.

OM: Which app can you not live without?

M: Maps- I’ve lived in the USA for a long time but still get lost easily! Having the ability to always be able to look up where I am and how to get to my destination is a lifesaver.

OM: Which essential back to school app do you recommend for parents?

M: Lifetopix- a great app to help you to stay organized with all the activities going on in the school year– it keeps your calendar, to-do lists, shopping lists and more together.

OM: Which one for kids?

M: This is really hard as there are so many great educational apps out there The iMums recently compiled a list of our top 24 Back to school apps for different ages. One series I use a lot are the Squeebles- my son is currently using Squeebles Times Tables 2 to practice his multiplication skills.

OM: What book (non-children’s) are you reading right now?

M: How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn

OM: What is the favorite bedtime story at your house right now?

M: My oldest son is enjoying Hardy Boy Mysteries, and for my twins always love Dr. Seuss – “What was I Scared of?” is popular at the moment.

OM: Which dinosaur from the Cat in the Hat’s Super Dino Museum would you want to see come back to life?

M: The Brachiosaurus- he seems like a big, gentle giant much better than a fierce T.Rex!

OM: If you could be an archaeologist in the field for a day, which civilization would you go study?

M: Prehistoric Ireland – I’d love to find out more about the people who built Newgrange in County Meath, Ireland– it dates back over 3,000 years making it older than Stonehenge or the pyramids but we still don’t really know what it was used for.

Big thanks to Mary and all the ladies at the iMums for participating in our Blogger Spotlight!

Other Oceanhouse Media Blogger Spotlights:
Anne and Jayne of Teachers with Apps
Melissa Northway
Christie Dwyer of The Appy Ladies
Carisa Kluver of Digital Storytime
Shannon Des Roches of Squidalicious


Blogger Spotlight: Squidalicious

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

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Today the Oceanhouse Media blogger spotlight is on Shannon from Squidalicious! Shannon and her kids got the chance to check out Ice Is Nice! from the Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library series. Here’s what she had to say about her blog and parenting!

Oceanhouse Media (OM): When did you launch your website? How has it evolved since the beginning?

Shannon (S): I launched www.Squidalicious.com in July of 2003, so I recently celebrated my 10 year bloggingversary. It has evolved … considerably since then. My older kids, Iz & Leo, were four and two, and my youngest, Mali, was not here yet — it is very different parenting teenagers than it was parenting toddlers! Also, iPads didn’t exist and my kids rarely used technology themselves — they would need us to rewind their VHS tapes for them! I also started blogging right around the time of Leo’s autism diagnosis, and in a panic fell for some really harmful and unhelpful autism pseudoscience. Thankfully — for Leo’s sake — I have since figured out what’s what and in fact have become an advocate for evidence-based approaches to autism on another blog, Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism, though I have left all my previous blog posts up so readers can see how my thinking evolved.

OM: What is the goal of your blog?

S: Mostly I want to document what it’s like to be a parent in this complicated and ever-changing world, especially the parent of an autistic child. I also use the blog to talk about my advocacy work for vaccines and autism and iPads, and some of my geeky enthusiasms. Since my kids are now older, I am more guarded about their privacy and tend to write around them rather than specifically about them, or involve them in the decisions about what to post if I am writing about them. India gave her permission for me to use this photo, for instance.

OM: Which item of technology could you not live without?

S: My iPhone, probably, which makes me laugh as I just got one for the first time a few months ago. But it allows me to track, connect, communicate with, educate and entertain my family almost everywhere I go. I keep two pages of apps just for my kids.

OM: Who is Leo’s favorite storybook hero?

S: Leo likes stories that are about explanations or actions, which is probably why he loves Mr. Brown from Mr. Brown Can Moo! the best — Mr. Brown is demonstrating all the things he can do, rather than trying to compel someone else to do something, as in the Cat in the Hat or Green Eggs and Ham. Leo doesn’t like stories about social conflict as much, though he always enjoys book apps like those from Oceanhouse media that let him read the stories to himself via touching and hearing each word.

OM: Who is the most tech savvy person in your house?

S: A year or so ago I would have said me or my husband, but now our teenage daughter is not only eclipsing many of our skills, she is also keeping much more up to date with the latest tech developments though blogs like Gizmodo and Engadget. And she’s already far better at blog coding than I am!

OM: If you could live inside any Dr. Seuss story, which would you pick?

S: Probably Dr. Seuss’s Sleep Book. I could really use some more sleep. And my very own soft-tufted barbershop pole for doing just that.

OM: Which app can Leo not put down right now?

S: Leo always has a set of apps that he likes best. Right now he’s focusing on puzzle apps, like Duck Duck Moose’s Puzzle Pop, and free play music & sound apps like Cosmic Top, and Dr. Seuss Band. To the point where I go around humming the Dr. Seuss Band music all day long.

OM: Which app can you not put down right now?

S: I’m pretty practical — I use the Podcasts app to catch up on my favorite NPR radio shows while I’m working or driving. The app I’m most excited about right now is called AllowanceBot — we’re using it to remind the kids about mandatory chores that lead to full allowance, as well as giving them opportunities to increase their allowance through extra chores. Taking personal responsibility, going by chore checklists, and seeing the allowance tally up is apparently more motivating than “because I said so.” Who knew?

OM: Summer, winter, spring or fall – which is your favorite?

S: We just had the best summer ever, so I’m going to go with that — we went to Africa, spent two weeks at the beach in San Diego, and spent a week on a boat in British Columbia. Plus in between all that the kids went to their very favorite camps. We are feeling very very very lucky — even though the summer fun meant the kids were less than excited about going back to school.

OM: How many continents have you been to? What’s the next continent on your to-visit list?

S: Sadly for a Geographer, I’ve only been to four — North America, Europe, Asia, & Africa. Probably I’d want to go to Australia just because the animals there are so different than ours and my kids would love seeing them, plus Leo really loves going to the beach and Australian beaches are supposed to be wonderful.

Thank you very much to Shannon for participating our Blogger Spotlight! Stay tuned for more coming your way.

Other Oceanhouse Media Blogger Spotlights:
Anne and Jayne of Teachers with Apps
Melissa Northway
Christie Dwyer of The Appy Ladies
Carisa Kluver of Digital Storytime


Blogger Spotlight: Digital Storytime

Monday, November 18th, 2013

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Welcome to the next edition of the Oceanhouse Media Blogger Spotlight! Today the spotlight’s on our friend Carisa Kluver from Digital Storytime, who got the opportunity to check out There’s a Map on My Lap!: All About Maps from the Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library Series. See what she has to say about her favorite app as a mom and more below!

Oceanhouse Media (OM): When did you launch your website? How has it evolved since the beginning?

Carisa Kluver (CK): My husband Marc and I launched Digital-Storytime.com in the Fall of 2010. My blog launched in February of 2011 and we founded EdApps4Sale.com (our free app site) in 2012. I had been assisting my husband, an app developer, with marketing efforts for a smartphone app he developed in 2009 for Android. The experience was eye-opening.

Everything was a bit chaotic online when searching for kids apps, and I was surprised at the quality of the reviews (or lack thereof). I didn’t find many sites that were providing app reviews worthy of the picture book genre, in particular. Having worked for years with young families as a social worker and being the mother of a preschooler, I was alarmed at some of the content I came across aimed at kids.

I also found a lot of promotional and advertorial content on review sites, which concerned me as a parent and former educator. How were teachers and librarians going to find and recommend quality digital books without a trustworthy online resource, I wondered? And then it occurred to me that I was in as good a position as anyone else to take on the challenge.

The Digital-Storytime.com site has evolved over the past three years quite a bit, adding a deal page that automatically lists price drops and category listings for different subjects. We have also changed the look of our sites a couple times, including hiring a graphic designer to help us personalize things a bit more. Because we have a custom website, built into a database structure (and in-house IT support), we can do a lot of things other review sites and websites can’t do, like scan for accurate prices 4x/day and even reproduce our content almost instantly for book app formats like Google-Play, Kindle Fire & Nook Color.

OM: What is the mission or goal of your site?

My goal when I began the site was to provide a user friendly source of quality, thorough reviews of enhanced picture book apps. I wanted it to feel like a digital book store in some ways, with a quality, curated selection. So many wonderful kids app review sites are out there promoting great games and educational apps, but the focus on reading makes our site unique. It also allows me to review a lot more of the depth and breadth in the book category.

A secondary goal of my site was to influence the industry in a positive way by providing developers with insight into what parents and kids want (and need) in book apps. My blog, The Digital Media Diet, has given me a wonderful platform to share best practices and my thoughts on the evolving marketplace. I feel very honored that so many people read it everyday.

OM: Which app can you – as a mom – not live without?

CK: I don’t use a lot of ‘adult’ apps, since I’m constantly vetting new storybooks most of the time, but I really love the Epicurious app and most days I have my iPhone plugged into our stereo with The Mountain (103.7) app – my favorite radio station from Seattle (especially nice since I moved back to California).

I also count on the Dr. Seuss & Oceanhouse Media Bookshelf apps almost every night – with all the books so easy to access in one place, it’s often the first place we start when looking for a good bedtime read. We also read print books most nights, but my little boy really likes to start off with Dr. Seuss.

OM: What is the most popular bedtime story at your house right now?

CK: Hands down, Dr. Seuss’s Sleep Book – it has been our favorite in print and digital for over a year now. We also read The Kissing Hand a lot. My little boy kisses my hand nearly every day when I drop him off at school, in fact. I know he won’t do this forever, so I try to enjoy it as much as I can while it lasts.

OM: Who is your son’s favorite storybook hero?

CK: Right now my kiddo is obsessed with Big Nate … not sure if he qualifies as a ‘hero’ though. He also loves the Magic Treehouse and Magic School Bus series (might be something about ‘magic’). My son doesn’t really like traditional superhero’s (we don’t have a TV or watch many movies, so he hasn’t been exposed to a lot of mainstream media), but he’s really into physics and time travel, so I’m reading “A Wrinkle in Time” to him aloud by chapters, each night (after the required Dr. Seuss book app first, of course).

OM: Who is the most tech savvy person in your house?

CK: Absolutely, without question, my husband – Marc Kluver. He designed and built my website from scratch and solves most of my technical problems (sometimes I have to beg, but he’s MY hero). He’s really Digital-Storytime’s secret weapon. ;-)

I share many app reviews with him before publishing, too, so he can help me accurately weigh in on the technical issues I find when testing book apps. He is self-taught and started with Assembly language at the age of nine. I’m sure my son will someday be as savvy, but for now, Marc holds the title.

OM: Who is your all-time favorite Dr. Seuss character?

CK: I’m pretty fond of the Lorax and Horton, but those Sneetches are truly amazing – star-bellied or plain-bellied. They just have such a great lesson to share.

OM: How many states in the U.S. have you visited? Which state is on the top of your to-visit list?

CK: I think I’ve been to most of them, actually – at least in the airports. I used to travel a lot for work when I did trainings for health education teachers. Now I am doing something similar, by collaborating with librarians nationally. I have lived in Alaska even.

I don’t think I’ve been to Maine … but really, I’d love to rent an RV for a year and just travel to all the lower 48 again with my son. I love history and learning about things in the actual place where they happened is such an amazing experience. When I was a kid, I used to beg my grandmother in North Carolina to take me to all the civil war battlefields and lots of old cemeteries. She thought I was a bit ghoulish, but I was always an anthropologist at heart.

OM: If you had a time-travel treasure map that could take you back in time, which ancient civilization would you visit?

CK: What a great question! I would love to go back to the time of the Enlightenment and Renaissance, although it would be hard on me to be ignored just because I was a woman. I might get myself into some trouble there, I’m afraid. I think we live in a time that is nearly as exceptional, though – I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Thank you very much to Carisa for participating in our Blogger Spotlight! We have more on the way- stay tuned!


Introducing Chicken Soup for the Soul Apps

Thursday, November 14th, 2013

We just launched a brand new line of Chicken Soup for the Soul apps based on their best-selling series of inspirational books! Each app contains 21 heartwarming stories, in addition to special features including a personal journal, thought-provoking Soul Work questions, motivational quotes, and much, much more!

The first app in the series is “Angels Around Us”, available in the App Store today for the introductory price of $2.99. With this app you can dive into a collection of stories about angels, miracles, and other divine occurrences to uplift and inspire you!

The app got all of us at Oceanhouse Media thinking about the power of random acts of kindness, and how all of us can be an angel to someone! When has someone been an angel in your life? Leave a comment and let us know!

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”

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“It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” ― Mother Teresa

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“Love only grows by sharing. You can only have more for yourself by giving it away to others.” ― Brian Tracy

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Stay tuned for more Chicken Soup for the Soul app releases!


Blogger Spotlight: The Appy Ladies

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

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It’s time for the third edition of the Oceanhouse Media Blogger Spotlight, and this time we’re featuring Christie Dwyer from The Appy Ladies! Christie had the opportunity to take a peek at Oh, the Pets You Can Get! from the Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library Series. Read on to find out how she inspires her kids to read, what apps she can’t live without, and more!

Oceanhouse Media (OM):  When did you launch your website? How has it evolved since the beginning?

Christie Dwyer (CD): The page was launched 12 months ago by a group of women from around the world.  We come from a variety of backgrounds, including teachers, specialists, therapists and parents.   Although from different backgrounds and countries, we all have a strong interest in Special Needs and have the same focus, which is a desire to provide information about apps and accessories, to support for people with special needs and their carers, families and educators. The website is supported by a FaceBook Page, Twitter, Google and Pinterest boards.

OM: What is the mission or goal of your site?

CD: To support Caregivers, Parents, and Educators by sharing information in an accessible and fun way.  We provide app and accessory reviews, interviews with developers about apps, and of course our never-ending giveaways.  We also provide general information such as contacts relating to specific disabilities, State and National support services, and employment services for people with disabilities.

OM: What inspires your kids to read?

CD: My two very young children have each been listening to family members read since before they were born. As a teacher by trade, I know that the most effective way to inspire the love of books is by reading aloud to them, especially at an early age. Reading takes them on adventures they may not be able to encounter otherwise!

OM: What inspires you to read? What book (non-children’s) are you reading right now?

CD: I get inspired when it’s about pertinent topics to me that I can apply to my everyday life. I don’t have as much time to read non-children’s books, but I’m currently reading a Mary Higgins Clark mystery novel.

OM: Do you remember the first app you ever downloaded?

CD: Total Baby, as I was pregnant with my first child when the apps came out.

OM: What is the favorite bedtime story at your house right now?

CD: My baby loves Dr. Seuss and Sandra Boynton books. My preschooler loves to read the Frog & Toad series as well as Curious George stories before bedtime.

OM: If you were stranded on a desert island, which piece of technology would you want to have with you?

CD: My iPhone (and possibly a solar charger!)

OM: What app can you not live without?

CD: For the last few years, Total Baby has been my go-to app. But Facebook has been handy too.

OM: Do you have any pets? If so, what are they?

CD: Yes, my family has two cats.

OM: If you could be another animal for one day, what would you be?

CD: I would be some type of bird, so I could fly!

Thank you very much to Christie and all the wonderful people at The Appy Ladies for participating! Stay tuned for more spotlights!

Other Oceanhouse Media Blogger Spotlights:
Anne and Jayne of Teachers with Apps
Melissa Northway


Blogger Spotlight: Melissa Northway

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

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Welcome to the next edition of the Oceanhouse Media Blogger Spotlight- our new blog series featuring bloggers who use our apps! Today the spotlight is on Melissa Northway of Dandelion Moms, who got a chance to check out “A Whale of a Tale!: All About Porpoises, Dolphins, and Whales” from the Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library series.

Oceanhouse Media (OM): When did you launch your website? How has it evolved since the beginning?

Melissa Northway (MN): I launched my author website about four years ago and it looked much different than it does now.  Back then, I wasn’t doing much blogging, but after I changed over my site to WordPress, I started updating my author site weekly with interviews from people in the tech and book industry, App and Book Reviews, and Giveaways. I created a lifestyle website dandelion moms August 2012 and post daily on that site as well.

OM: What is the mission or goal of your site?

MN: My author site provides insight into the wonderful apps that are available as well in interviews with those in the industry. I like to interview authors, developers and companies on the cutting edge of technology and publishing. It is such a wonderful time to be a writer with so many options now to be published, I hope to inspire and educate aspiring authors to look into other avenues to getting their story published. For dandelion moms, I hope by featuring Inspiration Moms we inspire women to go after their own dreams – whatever they might be. As well as provide delicious recipes, fashion and parenting tips and other good content for them to enjoy while they take a break!

OM: Do you remember the first app you ever downloaded?

MN: Yes! It was my app, Penelope the Purple Pirate, back in January 2011. I can remember sitting there watching it on my iPhone for the very first time and really understanding how storytelling is changing. It was a magical moment for me to see my story I wrote the previous year come to life on the iPhone.

OM: How to you determine if a kids app is “smart”?

MN: If it engages children and provides a good story and the characters are positive role models for our kids. Do the illustrations help move the story along and engage the kids! These are things I look for when reviewing storybook apps.

OM: What was your favorite storybook growing up?

MN: I have loved reading all my life and read a lot when I was younger. I still read at night but I don’t have as much time to like I use to. As a child, I really enjoyed Anne and the Green Gables, Old Yeller, the Nancy Drew series, and my all-time favorite was Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell!

OM: Which kids book do you wish had a different ending?

MN: I remember being very sad about the ending in Old Yeller as a kid! I wanted it to end differently so badly.

OM: Who is the most tech-savvy person in your house?

MN: Gosh, it just might be my seven year old daughter truthfully! I find that she is not afraid to try things out on the iPad and can move around it better than my husband and I. But I try to keep up with the latest devices, apps and tech products on the market and like to provide reviews when I can.

OM: Which apps is your daughter obsessed with right now?

MN: Most definitely Mine Craft! She loves to build cities, towns, hospitals and the “coolest house ever with a waterslide.” per my daughter.

OM: Name a beach location on your travel bucket-list.

MN: A beach in Nha Trang, Vietnam. I visited Vietnam years ago while cycling across the country to raise money for UNICEF supported programs that educated women and children with skills they could use to make a living and absolutely fell in love with the beaches along the coast! My favorite beach was the one in Nha Trang – the water was so green/blue and clean! (see photo below!)

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OM: If you could swim with any sea animal, which would you choose?

MN: Most definitely a dolphin! When I was younger I was a bit obsessed with dolphins and even had some photographs of them hanging on my walls in my room. I guess I am not surprised I have a dolphin (Daphne) in my first storybook app.

Big thanks to Melissa for participating! Stay tuned for more installments of the Oceanhouse Media Blogger Spotlight.

Check out the first spotlight with Anne and Jayne of Teachers with Apps here.


Blogger Spotlight: Teachers With Apps

Monday, November 4th, 2013

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Welcome to the first edition of the Oceanhouse Media Blogger Spotlight- our new blog series featuring bloggers who use our apps! Today the spotlight is on Anne and Jayne from Teachers With Apps, who got a chance to check out “Clam-I-Am!: All About the Beach” from the Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library series.

Oceanhouse Media (OM): When did you launch your website? How has it evolved since the beginning?

Teachers With Apps (TWA): We launched TeachersWithApps on November 29, 2010. What started out as being a blog/outlet for Jayne and review/resource site for us to do “on the side” has become our main focus and full time job! We now have a monthly following of well over 50,000 educators and parents. People have come to rely on us as valuable online resource for finding the best education apps out there. We have our finger on the pulse of what’s going on in today’s educational landscape, and the passion to share the knowledge.

OM: What is the mission of your website?

TWA: Our mission has always been to be a viable and reliable resource for teachers, parents and students to find quality education apps.

OM: If you were stranded on a desert island, which tech gadget would you want to have with you?

TWA: iPhone

OM: Do you remember the first app you ever downloaded?

TWA: ABC Shakedown Plus

OM: What are the most important features you look for in educational apps?

TWA: We look at: content, presentation, and execution, and overall user experience. Having a long shelf life is also a consideration.

OM: Complete the sentence: My favorite thing about being a teacher in the technology age is ____.

TWA: We love the challenge of learning new ways of doing things and figuring out the best ways to implement these new tools into the learning environment, whatever that may be. It keeps us current and continues to keep us in the role of learner, not just teacher.

OM: What’s the first app you recommend for a teacher to download?

TWA: We have several that we recommend: News-O-Matic, any of the iTooch apps and iDevBooks – Educational Math Apps. Also, Letter School and Math Tools.

OM: Which app can you not live without?

TWA: Jayne – “As a Special Ed teacher, I can’t live without Letter School.” Anne – “NYTimes Crosswords.”

OM: Ocean or mountains – which is your favorite?

TWA: Ocean

OM: If you could be a sea creature for one day, which one would you chose?

TWA: Mermaids

Big thanks to Anne and Jayne for participating! Stay tuned for more installments of the Oceanhouse Media Blogger Spotlight.