8 Ways to Create Engaging Engineering Activities at Home

Engineering Projects for Children at Home

I continue to be amazed at the natural engineering instincts of young children.  Ironically, with all the technology available to kids today (television, computers, tablets, video games), overuse takes time away from building and creating, both of which can lead our next generation of ethical scientists and engineers to solving some of the problems overuse of technology causes. Read the rest of this entry »

Three Programs Kids Can Use to Learn How to Create Video Games

Kids Creating Video Games

Many kids today are great at playing (consuming) video games but who will create the video games of tomorrow?  I think it’s fine for kids to play appropriate video games in moderation.  See Common Sense Media for reviews and ratings for video games.  However, many kids today only consume content.  What we really need in the future is for the next generation to create interesting, appropriate, and constructive content.  That’s goes for television, movies, websites, apps, and games and other media we can’t even envision now.  This activity is great for encouraging interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) subjects, as well as art.

Here’s three different ways kids can create video games at home or at school:

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Seven Values & Goals to Setting Technology Limits: A Personal Story

Technology Limits – A Personal Story

In January I shared a general article on setting technology limits titled, My Top Ten Tips for Setting Technology Limits. Setting technology limits for your family is a personal decision based on the values that you have, so there is no one policy that will fit every family.  So this month, I will share an intimate look at how my family works with setting tech limits…. Read the rest of this entry »

12 Great Educational Web Sites for Kids

Educational Web Sites for Kids

Today, I’ll point out some great educational web sites for kids. At our home, we attempt to balance educational and “just for fun” web sites with our five year old son.  For younger kids, simple things like printing out coloring pages (use Google Images with Safe Search set to Strict) or simply printing out posters of favorite characters or animals are some easy and fun ways to use the Internet.   We also look up answers to questions that we can’t answer ourselves at on Factmonster or using Google.   We also try to model appropriate use of the Internet.  Kids seem to ultimately follow what we do more than the limits we set for them. Read the rest of this entry »

10 Tips on Setting Technology Limits for Your Family

My Top 10 Tips on Setting Technology Limit

One of the best things you can do is to ensure the technology is being used for educating and creating, not just consumption.

Many parents are unsure of how and when to set limits on technology use for their children (and themselves).  I believe this is something we all need to think about, adults as well as kids. Setting technology limits is a personal decision based on the values that you have, so there is not one policy that will fit every family.  As a parent and educator who encourages students to use technology in a positive and creative way, but is also aware of some of the downsides to certain types of technology use, I have compiled the following guidelines. With technology more and more ubiquitous in our lives, it’s a good time to think through this issue for our children and ourselves: Read the rest of this entry »

Art Technology and Software: A Review of 5 Programs for Students

Technology, Art and Kids

Students use KidPix to create diagrams of their studies of volcanos.

Students use KidPix to create diagrams for their study unit on volcanoes.

I sometimes hear concerns from parents about technology and their children.  Are they too young to use computers?  Are they using technology too much?  What I have found, in my experience using technology with students for over 20 years, is that it is not so much “how much” and “when” but “what.”  In our work at the Williamsburg Schools, we aim to enable kids to use technology constructively and creatively while also helping teachers meet state standards.  Today, I’ll go over some commercial and free programs and give some ideas of how they can be used at home and in educational settings.   We will look at animation and comic book software in a future column. Read the rest of this entry »

2 Ways to Get Creative with Robotics

Creative Play With Lego Robots

On Saturday, December 10 in Agawam, MA from 9am-3pm, there’s a regional qualifier for the First Lego League, which is an afterschool program where kids from all over the world compete to build the best design for a yearly challenge.

Toddlers, preschoolers, and kindergarteners are natural engineers. They love sand castles, blocks, fairy houses, and other projects that support their creative, fantasy play.  We support this natural engineering instinct in schools with building bricks, Legos, and sand and water tables.  Yet, as students reach first grade and beyond, we remove all these activities from school and we expect them still be interested in engineering when they get to high school and college.

In the Williamsburg Schools, we have developed a preschool to grade 6 elementary engineering curriculum based on robotics: Read the rest of this entry »

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