Archive for the ‘Oceanhouse Media Blogger Spotlight’ Category

Blogger Spotlight: Mommy Tech Bytes

Thursday, May 8th, 2014

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Today we are excited to feature Shoshana Stopek of Mommy Tech Bytes for the Oceanhouse Media Blogger Spotlight. A media professional, author, and mommy to 4-year-old Sasha, Shoshana shares some insightful thoughts about kids apps and parenting below!

Oceanhouse Media (OM): When did you launch Mommy Tech Bytes? What was the inspiration behind it?

Shoshana Stopek (SS): I launched www.mommytechbytes.com in December 2012 – when my daughter turned 3. I had been using educational and storybook apps with my daughter for several months and found a great deal of value in how they supported her early learning development. I wanted to share that experience with other parents and help them find apps and technology they might enjoy using with their children.

I was also inspired by the knowledge I had gained from creating content for kids for many years at Warner Bros. Global Publishing. Technology is a tremendous resource for parents and children, but the marketplace is flooded with digital content and that can be overwhelming. My hope was to develop a user-friendly site where I could curate and recommend apps geared towards the younger audience.

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

SS: The main goal of Mommy Tech Bytes is to help parents incorporate the best of technology into their children’s lives in a healthy, positive and meaningful way. My site features app reviews and giveaways, interviews with experts in the media industry, and some of my own tech parenting insights and curated content recommendations.

OM: How do you think technology has made parenting easier?

SS: Really interesting question! I don’t know if technology has made parenting easier or just different. I think technology has empowered parents with new ways to educate, entertain, and engage kids.

Social media has also provided parents with online communities where they can ask questions (at all hours of the night), make friends online with other parents, and follow parenting blogs. In this way, technology has united parents in an interconnected support system that didn’t exist before. That’s pretty cool!

OM: What is your favorite thing about being a parent in the technology age?

SS: At the moment, my favorite thing is trying out new apps with my daughter. We have a lot of fun together! I also love to watch her navigate devices and apps on her own. It’s amazing to me how quickly she is able to teach herself new skill sets.

OM: What are your daughter’s favorite apps right now?

SS: My daughter has become a very proficient hairdresser and creative concert conductor, thanks to the folks at Toca Boca. She’s also worked her way up the levels on Bugs and Bubbles, a game that reinforces early math skills, fine motor skills and STEM-oriented thinking. She also loves Oceanhouse Media’s Dr. Seuss Learning Library, which is a super fun way to learn new science concepts. Here’s a short list of her current faves:

Games:
Toca Boca Hair Salon
Toca Boca Band (she loves “Cello Guy”)
Bugs & Bubbles
Ariel Numbers & Counting
Dr. Pet Play (encourages pretend play)
Barbie Fashionistas Endless Closet
Play & Learn with Wallace

Storybook Apps:
Dr. Seuss Clam-I-Am!
Another Monster at the End of this Book
Curious George: The Perfect Carrot

OM: What are the most important features you look for when choosing kids’ apps?

SS: One of the most important things I look for in a kids’ app is whether the content is engaging and exciting to kids. I think about how concepts are presented and whether kids will want to return to the app again and again.

Depending on the app, here are some questions I may consider when choosing a quality kids’ app:
UI – is the user interface well-designed with user friendly navigation?
Graphics – are the graphics / artwork appealing to the child’s eye? Do they enhance the story content?
Is the content engaging – will the child return to the app after one play?
Educational value – what is the child learning and how are concepts presented?
Added value – does the app include interactivities such as stickers, coloring, puzzles, etc.?
Reward motivation – what is motivating the child if there’s educational content (sticker rewards, verbal motivation)
Are activities age-appropriate, or are they too easy or too hard?

OM: Do you think apps have revolutionized education?

SS: Absolutely! Apps have made education more accessible in and out of the classroom. Apps have melded the learning of technology with curriculum found at every grade level. In addition, apps have made learning more fun and interactive for children. I’ve seen this first-hand with my daughter.

Educational apps allow students to take their learning home with them, making the classroom more accessible than ever. When you add interactive technology found in many classrooms, such as the Smart Board, it is easy to see how technology has shaped a new era of education. I’m excited to see how apps will continue to make a difference in education as technology evolves.

OM: What are some of your favorite tech parenting sites?

SS: I follow various tech parenting sites to get different perspectives in the industry, and I really admire the hard work that all bloggers put into their content. Here are a few of my favorites:
www.coolmomtech.com – perfect mix of lifestyle and tech parenting
www.commonsensemedia.org – awesome nonprofit organization that reviews kids’ media across all platforms for parents using a ratings system based on age appropriateness and learning potential
www.theappyladies.com – amazing special needs-focused tech parenting site
www.teacherswithapps.com – app and tech-in-the-classroom recommendations from two tech-savvy teachers
www.theimums.com – great app and tech product reviews and giveaways (UK-based)
www.blog.momswithapps.com – thoughtful articles for parents and app makers from the brilliant Lorraine Akemann, Co-founder of Moms with Apps and App Friday
www.appsplayground.com – excellent roundups of apps by device and age group (UK-based, led by journalist Stuart Dredge)

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

SS: I swear I’m not trying to toot my own horn when I say that, at the moment, it’s me. But, both my husband and I read a lot and we embrace technology in our home. And, at the pace my daughter is learning, we are definitely going to stay on our toes! Just the other day, I paused while playing with a new app and my daughter said, “Mom, you have to click the back arrow.” I thought that was really awesome.

Thank you very much for participating in our Blogger Spotlight, Shoshana!

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Blogger Spotlight: Geeks with Juniors

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

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Today we are delighted to feature Eric and Camila (and their adorable elephants) from Geeks with Juniors for the Oceanhouse Media Blogger Spotlight! Discover their favorite apps for kids, how they think apps have revolutionized education, and more below.

Oceanhouse Media (OM): When did you launch Geeks with Juniors? What was the inspiration behind it?

Geeks with Juniors (GWJ): We launched Geeks with Juniors on Jun 22, 2012. We started the site because we believe we can offer a unique perspective to reviewing educational apps for kids. We are both developers, and Eric is a lecturer and a parent. We believe the intersection of our backgrounds in technology, education, and parenting makes our reviews unique.

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

GWJ: We want to focus on the intersection of technology and education because we believe that’s how our future is being shaped. And, we will always try to be in the forefront. For now, the fastest growing platform is the iPad, but we keep our eyes open to shift to where the future takes us.

With this in mind, our current goal is to help parents discover the best educational apps for their kids through our reviews and guides.

OM: How do you think technology has made parenting easier?

GWJ: Ever since the beginning of time and into the foreseeable future, parenting is always challenging. Technology in itself is a double-edged sword. If we use it properly to aid our parenting goals, technology can have an astounding impact.

No matter how good we are as parents and our kids’ teachers are at teaching, we can all use a bit of help. The iPad and the internet have made parenting and homeschooling resources easily accessible. It’s inspiring to see how developers, parents and teachers share their techniques and resources with us. Now, it’s up to us and our curating skills to make the best use out of it.

OM: What is your favorite thing about being a parent in the technology age?

GWJ: We believe it’s our job as parents to introduce new concepts to our kids, and teach them how to learn new skills. We need to be continually inspired in parenting. The internet has made it possible for parents to learn from their peers and adopt the most suitable educational tools for their kids.

OM: What are your kids’ favorite apps right now?

GWJ: Eric has two sons: Philip (4) and Noah (2). Philip loves to play puzzle games and create his own music. His favourite apps are Beyond Ynth, Amazing Alex, Toca Builders, and GarageBand.

Noah loves to sing and play with alphabet apps. His favourite apps are LetterSchool, Mini-U: Zoo Alphabet, Talking ABC, and Endless Alphabet.

OM: What are the most important features you look for when choosing kids’ apps?

GWJ: First and foremost, it has to be a fun app to play. Kids learn best through playing. If you can keep them engaged, they will eventually learn new things as they play.

We tend to avoid freemium apps. Even though there are a few freemium apps that are well designed, most are not. Nowadays we also emphasize more on an app’s unique value — what does this app offer that other apps don’t?

OM: Do you think apps have revolutionized education?

GWJ: Yes, of course. Here are some examples:

* Alphabet and number apps have made flash cards obsolete. Kids can recognize letters and numbers at a younger age than ever before.
* High quality voiceovers from native speakers make it possible for ESL kids to learn phonics and spelling correctly and easily.
* Many apps have made it easier for kids to experiment with coloring, word building, jigsaw puzzles, storytelling, and even various jobs/roles.
* Several apps even make it possible for kids to explore different parts of the world: new countries, the forest, and even the deep blue sea.

OM: What are some of your favorite tech parenting sites?

GWJ: Eric and Philip are now into playing LEGO with the basic bricks. If you have a bunch of bricks and looking for ideas to build, you might want to check [Brick Instructions].

If you’re looking for ideas and inspirations for DIY crafting activities with your kids, we’d suggest Pinterest. If you’re looking for app recommendations, we’d suggest subscribing to our RSS feed or following us on Twitter.

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

GWJ: Both of us are the most tech-savvy members of our respective families. Eric has high hopes that will change when Philip and Noah reach their teenage years.

Thank you so much to Eric and Camila for participating in the Blogger Spotlight!

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Blogger Spotlight: Deanne Shoyer

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

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Today we are thrilled to feature Deanne Shoyer for the next installment of the Oceanhouse Media Blogger Spotlight as part of Autism Awareness Month. Deanne was an admin and founding editor of AppAbled.com, as well as the author of Small But Kinda Mighty, a blog about her experiences raising twin boys who happen to be autistic. See what she has to say about using tablets with autistic children, her favorite apps and more below!

Oceanhouse Media (OM): I understand that you prefer to refer to April as Autism Acceptance Month. Why is that?

Deanne Shoyer (DS): In short, it’s because awareness campaigns have had a negative impact on autistic people. In one of my blog posts I wrote that, “awareness stigmatizes difference but acceptance values it. I value my boys, just the way they are.”

One of my favourite pieces explaining the detrimental effect that “awareness” campaigns have had on autistic people is “A Call for Accountability”.

(OM): When and why did you create Small But Kinda Mighty? How did you come up with the name?

(DS): I first started blogging 3 years ago using a free WordPress site. My partner and I had recently started dating and he asked why I didn’t have a blog. I couldn’t think of a good reason so I figured I’d better get cracking. As to the name, I wrote a post explaining that.

(OM): How did you find out about tablets helping autistic children? What has been your experience with this?

(DS): In February 2011 I heard an interview on the Autism Women’s Network blog talk radio show in which Shannon Rosa and Melody Latimer talked about the huge positive impact that iPads have had on their children’s lives. I started following Shannon via Twitter and her blog posts at Squidalicious were instrumental in my decision to get iPads for my boys.

iPads have been life changing for my children in so many ways – their communication, fine motor skills, language acquisition and ‘academic’ learning have all improved. The iPad has been a bridge that has helped them make sense of, navigate and connect with a world that isn’t designed with their neurology in mind.

(OM): Tell us about the fundraiser you did to purchase iPads for your kids.

(DS): At the time a 64GB iPad 2 cost about $1,000 and I didn’t have the money to buy one of them, let alone two. So I decided to see if I could use crowdfunding to raise some money. I emailed friends, family, work colleagues and spread the word via Twitter and Facebook asking people to help any way they could. I had a yard sale and made leaflets explaining what I was doing and why. My neighbours stepped up in style and I got a few hundred dollars just from the yard sale alone. People blogged and shared on my behalf and I was so impressed and grateful for the support I got, including support from people I’d never met other than through social media.

(OM): What are some of your favorite apps for autistic children?

(DS): This is a tough one to answer as there are so many. Two years ago I wrote a post listing my top ten favourite free apps for autistic kids.

Another way to check out my favourites is to look at the ‘apps for autism’ tag on my blog.

There are also some developers whose apps just seem to ‘click’ with autistic children. OMBooks, especially the Dr. Seuss and Byron Barton book apps are very popular as are most apps by Toca Boca, Little Bit Studio, Busy Bee Studios and Spinlight Studio.

Thank you so much to Deanne for taking the time to participate in our Blogger Spotlight. Tune in again next week for the last spotlight as part of Autism Awareness Month!

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Blogger Spotlight: Autism Plugged In

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

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So far we have featured Smart Apps for Special Needs and Shannon Des Roches Rosa in our Blogger Spotlight for Autism Awareness Month, and today we are thrilled to talk to Jack Kieffer from Autism Plugged In about his experience using ACC apps with autistic children. Read about his favorite apps and tips for parents below!

Oceanhouse Media (OM): When did you create Autism Plugged In? What was the motivation behind it?

Jack Kieffer (JK): I started volunteering with special needs individuals through a local organization, Northwest Special Recreation Association a few years ago, during the summer after 8th grade. I worked with several non-verbal autistic kids, and most of them had to carry around bulky communication boards in order to express themselves. Shortly thereafter, I started hearing about the benefits of technology like the iPad and decided to launch the website, Autism Plugged In, as a way to help parents find the apps that they need! Essentially, Autism Plugged In was created to help with the navigation of the digital app marketplace.

(OM): What has been your experience using apps with autistic children? How do you think it has helped them?

(JK): My personal experience has primarily been with AAC applications (Augmentative and Alternative Communication). I have found that children on the spectrum have much more going on in their minds than they are able to express. In particular, I have worked with a non-verbal teen now communicates quickly and at a relatively high level with the Proloquo2Go application, and this has really improved his life. When kids can express themselves more easily, there’s a lot less frustration.

(OM): What are some of your favorite apps for autistic children?

(JK): I’m glad you asked! We get a lot of parents asking about apps that address specific issues. For instance, communication apps, or AAC apps, allow non-verbal kids to communicate by tapping pictures on their iPad. Proloquo2Go is probably the most comprehensive AAC app available for the iPad, but it’s a bit pricey for some families. So, I like to offer alternatives such as Alexicom AAC or LetMeTalk – for Android. A wonderful scheduling app is First Then Visual Schedule HD, which lets kids see and plan for “what happens next” in their daily routine. Another group of essential apps for kids on the autism spectrum is social skills apps. i Create… Social Skills Stories is an iOS app that lets parents create sample storylines that demonstrate a particular activity, like feeding the family dog. By adding sequential photos of the child opening the dog food container, then a picture of he or she scooping dog food, and finally a photo of the child pouring the food into a bowl, it creates a visual step-by-step guide to everyday activities. Readers can also check out a list of my favorite applications on the website.

(OM): What tips do you have for parents, teachers, and therapists when selecting and using apps with autistic children?

(JK): Remember that one of the huge benefits that technology brings to the table is “fun!” If you are trying to use the iPad and its apps in a very conventional and rigid way, you’re not going to see the benefits – you might as well be working with a low-tech chalkboard. Apps work because they’re stimulating, interactive, colorful, and easy-to-use. As a parent, teacher, or therapist, your job is to facilitate the use of these apps and chime in where necessary. I would also say this: have your child try new apps, instead of letting them use the same one or two over and over again, but don’t force it. If your kid doesn’t like a particular app, for whatever reason, let it go and move on! If you keep pushing that program, kids will associate those negative feelings with the iPad as a whole, and they won’t want to work with the technology.

(OM): What is your favorite thing about Autism Awareness Month?

(JK): Autism Awareness Month is an opportunity for innovators to showcase their work, whether that is from a sociological viewpoint or from a medical perspective. It’s also a great opportunity for parents to learn about new technology, research, and therapies that they didn’t know about before.

Thank you so much to Jack for sharing his insight with us! Tune in again next week for another Blogger Spotlight as part of Autism Awareness Month.

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Blogger Spotlight: Shannon Des Roches Rosa

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

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Today we are honored to have Shannon Des Roches Rosa of Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism and Squidalicious for the second installment of our Autism Awareness Month Blogger Spotlight! We featured her back in November, but this time we wanted to talk to her specifically about her experience using apps with her son Leo. We also encourage you to read this article she published last week: World Autism Awareness (or Acceptance) Day: Hope and More Hope for Autism Parents Like Me.

Oceanhouse Media (OM): How did you discover that iPads and tablets are great tools for autistic kids?

Shannon (S): Completely by accident. Leo won an iPad in a raffle, about a month after they were released in 2010. I’m not an early adopter, so I was skeptical. But he dove right in and hasn’t stopped learning and having fun with iPads & apps in the nearly four years since. It was amazing how suited the iPad is to Leo’s visual learning style, how easy the touchscreen is for him to use (compared to a mouse), not to mention how competent he feels when can entertain himself with favorite videos and apps, completely independently (though of course if he needs help, we help him).

(OM): What is the first app Leo ever tried?

(S): I believe it was the drag-and-drop spelling app FirstWords. At the time, I wrote that “Leo loves First Words because it’s fun and easy. I love it because he’s learning to spell words, and the interface makes that learning error-free.” Leo and I both still really appreciate well-designed apps like FirstWords, and Oceanhouse Media’s OMbooks, of course.

(OM): What are some of Leo’s favorite apps right now?

(S): He’s a thirteen-year-old boy, so he loves the YouTube app. He especially enjoys watching videos of rollercoasters, and somehow finds the rollercoaster channels, even though he’s still working on reading. But he’s interested in Lego, and really enjoys their Duplo: Food app. He also likes to revisit favorites he’s had for a while, like Oceanhouse Media’s Rudolph Run! game, and Byron Barton’s Trains. And he really loves reading the custom photo and story books we make for him with Kid In Story.

(OM): If you could snap your fingers and instantly create the app of your dreams, what would it do?

(S): We’re lucky in that some of those apps are already here, like Oceanhouse Media’s Mr. Brown Can Moo, which lets Leo read one of his favorite books of all time to himself. I suppose I’d like a really flexible visual scheduling app that would be easy for Leo to use himself. Good basic-to-complex visual scheduling apps do exist, like First-Then Visual Schedule and ChoiceWorks, and their interfaces work for me, but they don’t work for Leo.

(OM): What tips do you have for parents using apps with their autistic child?

(S): Heh. I have a lot of tips! Remember that you are the parent, and need to set reasonable limits with the iPad as you would with any other media. I say this because I think there is too much brouhaha in the news about parents using iPads as babysitters, when in fact iPads are just another tool — and it seems silly to blame tools.

Be careful about buying apps, especially those specifically for autism. Do your research first, as apps can be expensive, and app purchases can pile up quickly. To help people with their app decisions, I work with an SLP, Jordan Sadler, and an autistic adult, Corina Becker, to maintain a curated spreadsheet of recommended autism apps. But there are other good resources, like CommonSenseMedia.org, MomsWithApps.org, or TechInSpecialEd.com.

Make sure you buy apps that your kids find fun as well as those just for learning! Sometimes parents of autistic kids feel as though everything in their kids’ lives has to be therapeutic or educational. Don’t forget that autistic kids need opportunities to chill and relax, too.

Thank you so much to Shannon for sharing her insight and experience with us. We look forward to following her family’s journey in the future!

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Blogger Spotlight: Smart Apps for Special Needs

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

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In honor of Autism Awareness Month, April’s Oceanhouse Media Blogger Spotlight will feature a handful of our favorite bloggers and app review sites related to special needs and autism. We’re kicking off the series with this insightful interview with the staff of Smart Apps for Special Needs.

Oceanhouse Media (OM): When did you launch Smart Apps for Special Needs? What was the inspiration behind it?

Smart Apps for Special Needs (SAFSN): Smart Apps for Kids, the sister site for Smart Apps for Special Needs, hit 1 million pageviews during Autism Awareness Month in 2013. This proved a high interest in apps and resources for individuals with special needs, so the idea of a new site to focus on this audience was born. Smart Apps for Special Needs was launched as a Facebook page in June 2013. It grew much quicker than expected, so in August 2013 the blog was launched to further support our expanding audience.

OM: Briefly describe how iPads and apps help children with special needs.

SAFSN: IPads and apps are beneficial to special needs children because of their ease of use, easy accessibility, affordable cost and use across a wide range of subjects including math, science, English, shapes and communication. Many apps are customizable to support various learning abilities. Kids can often learn and play at a speed that works best for them with apps. They empower children by giving them control of their learning, and by allowing self-correction much more than when their learning is directed by teachers and other adults.

OM: What tips do you have for parents using apps with their special needs child?

SAFSNFollow your child’s interests! If your child likes planets, find apps that teach around characters based in space or characters that are planets. If your child is fascinated with a certain character, find that character on the App Store. Getting a child engaged with the device under controlled circumstances (apps you approve of with characters they love) allows leverage to be built on how the child may utilize the iPad as they progress with their education. Make sure to set screen time limits and make sure you still do hands-on stuff with your child! Apps are wonderful, but people should not be replaced.

OM: What are the most important features you look for when selecting apps for special needs?

SAFSNWe look at six different elements for an app for special needs. We rate if it meets the intended goal, if it is worth the price, ease of use, educational value, entertainment and level of customization. We also think about apps for longevity. An app that is easy to use, but has no growth potential has a short shelf life. An app that is difficult for a child to maneuver without adult guidance prohibits independent learning and lowers the chances for building autonomy and growing self-esteem. Individuals with special needs are each unique; therefore, an app has to be considered for each person individually.

OM: What are some of your most trusted resources for special needs parents, teachers and therapists?

SAFSNIn order to best support our audience, we openly discuss with members of the special needs community — parents, therapists and developers. We trust the developers we work with and the suggestions from family and friends. We want to remind others that it is important to trust the therapists and teams that work with an individual child. It is great to get ideas from different places, but those working closest with an individual will be the best resources.

Thank you so much to everyone else at Smart Apps for Special Needs for participating in the Blogger Spotlight. Tune in again next week!

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Blogger Spotlight: Melissa Taylor

Monday, March 24th, 2014

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Today we are excited to feature avid blogger and literacy advocate Melissa Taylor for the Oceanhouse Media Blogger Spotlight! She runs one of our favorite parenting blogs- Imagination Soup- and is also the author of Book Love: Help Your Child Grow from  Reluctant to Enthusiastic Reader. See what she has to say about the importance of reading, book apps, and more below.

Oceanhouse Media (OM): When did you first create Imagination Soup? What was the inspiration behind it?

Melissa Taylor (MT): People used to ask me how I came up with such creative ideas to do with my kids. I thought, why not share what I do with other people who don’t have my background in education. So, I started blogging. At first, I did it just for fun while working as a freelance writer for magazines but it really has grown into a passion and a business.

OM: How did you come up with the name Imagination Soup?

MT: My husband thought up that name. We spent one evening brainstorming words and concepts for the blog – and would check if the URL was available. Kudos to him – I love the name!

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

MT: To share information with parents so they can make learning fun and part of everyday life.

OM: How has your site evolved throughout the years, and as your daughters grow older?

MT: Good question! Since I don’t have preschoolers anymore so I have to borrow friends’ kids to do some of my blogging ideas. Also, every year I’ve grown as a writer and storyteller.

OM: As the author of Book Love: Help Your Child Grow from Reluctant to Enthusiastic Reader, why do you think it is important for children to love reading?

MT: Reading is everything! It’s the way we learn new information, find we’re not alone in the world, and experience life from a new perspective. I wish the goal of early elementary was getting kids to love stories and books.

OM: How do you think book apps help inspire a love of reading for kids?

MT: Book apps give children another way to love stories. Technology is an enticing medium and so often motivates those kids who may not want to sit down with a paperback book. I’m a big fan of book apps!

OM: What piece of technology can you not live without?

MT: Oh, wow. Hard question. First, Google. Second, my Mac. I am a writer after all! :)

OM: What resources do you use to find out about the best apps for kids?

MT: I read a lot of reviews and buy a lot of apps that I find by searching key words in the app store. But it always comes down to what my kids and I actually enjoy.

OM: What children’s books do your daughters love right now?

MT: My 12-year old is really into Wendy Mass books – like 11 Birthdays. My 9-year old is devouring The Chronicles of Narnia.

OM: Who is your favorite Dr. Seuss character?

MT: This is so hard! I love the animals in Apples Up On Top because they’re so silly and lovable Horton, who dares to follow his convictions of kindness toward others.

Thank you so much to Melissa Taylor for participating in the blogger spotlight! Stay tuned for more. :)

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Blogger Spotlight: Common Sense Media

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

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Ingrid Simone from Common Sense Media- one of our favorite children’s media review sites- chatted with us about her site, technology, and more for this edition of the Oceanhouse Media Blogger Spotlight. See what she has to say below!

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

Ingrid Simone (IS): Common Sense Media was founded in 2003, and we launched our blog, Making Sense, in 2013. We’ve always reviewed media for kids and families, but now we also have great resources for teachers on our “Graphite” site: www.graphite.org.

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

IS: Our organization is dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in a world of media and technology.

OM: Who is the most tech savvy person in your house?
Probably my 8-year-old son. But his sister and I are no slouches.

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

IS: Definitely my iPhone, but I’d miss my iPad terribly if I didn’t have it.

OM: What iPhone game are you addicted to right now?

IS: Words With Friends has been a daily part of life for me for years — I’m such a wordgirl.

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

IS:  Parents: Wunderlist
Kids: That’s tough…there are lots of great apps out there, and it depends on their age. For younger kids, I’d say a good book creation app can go a long way because it can be used in a variety of subject areas. Book Creator and Kid in Story are favorites. For older kids, WordFlex Touch Dictionary and Evernote are good tools.

OM: What apps are your kids using now?

IS: Minecraft Pocket Edition–both my 8-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter would say it’s their favorite. They both love creating, and the open-ended nature of the app leaves them so much room to explore.

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

IS: Instant access to answers when my kids stump me with their questions.

OM: If you were a butterfly, what colors would your wings be?

IS: Blue, purple, and magenta.

OM:  If you were gifted the ability to fly for one day, where’s the first place you’d go?

IS: I’d fly to the Amazon rainforest to hang out with my tropical butterfly friends.

Thank you very much to Ingrid for participating in the Blogger Spotlight! Be sure to take a peek at Common Sense Media for trustworthy reviews of children’s movies, games, apps, & more.

More 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
Mary Mahon of the iMums


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: The Appy Ladies

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

BloggerSpotlight_AppyLadies

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