Trialed & Tested & Solution found: Thanks to “OurPact”

One of the main source of conflicts between parents and teenagers these days is the excessive use of cellphone.  And this conflict often leads to other issues such as:  high data plan bill, cyberbullying and sexting, or lack of communication with family members.

This WAS (yes…used to be) very true in our household with a 15 year old teenager.

There were constant battles over:

  • convincing my stepson to put his phone aside during homework time
  • making sure the phone is charged in OUR room before bedtime
  • discussing issues with friends that arise on social media

And more…

Does this sound familiar to any of you?

At one point, I was fed up with the constant power struggle over technology.  I needed some kind of parent control app that enables me to guide my teenager to more responsible technology use.  I need an app that helps HIM take a break from device use so he can explore other activity options during his downtime.  This app would ideally involve controlling his phone remotely without physically taking it away.  Perhaps, it’d involve locking his phone during bedtime or homework time? Does such an app exist!?

After looking into several options, I decided to try out “OurPact”  From the start, I knew I needed the Premium version where I have access to features that were more specific.

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In a nutshell, Ourpact manages devices in three ways:

1.  Schedules

I use “Schedule” to check off times during the day when certain apps should be allowed or blocked.  For instance, during homework hours, only educational tools or apps such as Calculator, Google Classroom, Quizlet, Calendar are activated. During bedtime, only Spotify and Alarm are on.

Screen Shot 2018-07-14 at 9.20.47 PM.pngI know my stepson is at an age when he should really be self-regulating rather than relying on an app to block distractions for him, but this is another discussion worth a post of its own.  Long story short, there are some kids who are ready to self-regulate, and there are others who need a little bit more help to get ‘self-regulation’ into a habit.

The “Schedule” function on OurPact has really helped our family because I no longer need to pry the phone away during homework time, or lock up the phone in our room at 11:30pm sharp (bedtime).  It’s a game changer because I can now go to bed early with the comfort of knowing OurPact will shut off the apps after I fall asleep.

 

2.  Grant

“Grant” is another handy function.  I use it when, for example, my stepson is scheduled to have 3 hour study time during exams period (when all social media apps are shut off), but he comes to me and wants a 15 minute break.  With the “Grant” function, I could allowa 15 min – 8 hours break without affecting his scheduled apps time.

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3.  Block

“Block” works in a similar way as “Grant”.  If my stepson is scheduled to have his freeapps time, but he has forgotten to do his mountain of

 

laundry, I can quickly block his apps for a specific time frame without affecting his daily scheduled technology time.

One other extremely function on OurPact for my younger stepsons is…

4.  Allowance

This “Screentime allowance” function works very well with my younger stepsons (twin boys) who are in 6th grade.  Setting a daily technology limit is a great way to teach time management.  Each day, I allot 3 hours of “iPad time” to them, and it’s up to them how they want to budget their time. To start the timer, they just need to press PLAY on the OurPact Junior app, and if they want to save the remaining minutes for later, they press “PAUSE.”  Once the 3 hour allowance is used up, their apps will once again be blocked.

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What’s also great is that each day can have its own allowance.  For example, I can give them a 5 hour allowance on weekends.

The “Allowance” function has been extremely useful because I no longer need to set the timer on my own watch, and supervise them during their free time.  The app does the work for me counting how much time they have spent on their device, and blocking the apps when their allowance time expires.

 

Finally, what’s great about the functions on OurPact is that the setting of each function can be different for each child.  I have three boys at home, and their schedule, and allowance are all tailored to their routines and needs (OurPact can manage up to 20 devices!)

You can read more about OurPact on their website here.  The visuals and step-by-step instructions and online tutorials are very clear, and the online support is quick to reply and offer assistance.  I am aware that there are other similar apps out there, but it did take some time to figure OurPact, and try out all the functions for my three stepkids.  I decided to stick with OurPact.  It’s been 4 months since I started using it, and besides a few issues here and there (for instance, kids trying to unpair their devices from Ourpact), this parental control app has trained my boys toward more responsible iPad use.

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REVIEW: Why a busy mom can’t live without her Apple Watch (Series 3)

I didn’t think I’d ever need to get a watch.  Who needs a watch these days when there is an iPad and iPhone to tell time, with much more interesting information and entertainment?  That is… until I got myself an Apple Watch Series 3!
Here are some reasons why everyone, especially busy moms need an Apple Watch:

Camera Remote

  • One problem for many moms is they never have time to take photos of themselves WITH their babies, and if they rely on their husbands, the result isn’t always desirable.
  • Although the Apple Watch doesn’t have a camera, it has a Camera Remote app that connects to the iPhone’s camera.
  • This means I can set my phone on the side, and remotely take photos or videos using my watch.
  • For moms who are always behind the camera, capturing images of your family, the Camera Remote is especially handy for taking photos of yourself and your kids
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Answering phone calls, Text Messaging / Whatsapp

  • The Apple Watch IS a phone on your wrist: an eSIM can be embedded so phone calls can be received and made without your iPhone close by.   It even has a built-in speaker and microphone so you can talk directly to your watch.
  • Here is a very good post on how this can be done:  https://www.macworld.co.uk/how-to/apple/guide-phone-calls-on-apple-watch-3607555/
  • The Series 3 also lets you reply incoming message notifications (WhatsApp, WeChat, iMessage) by dictating your message or scribbling your reply.

Water Resistance

  • Because of this reason, I keep my watch on the whole day!

Siri

  • I never got into the habit of using Siri on my phone.  However, with a watch on my wrist, it’s easier using Siri to ask for today’s weather, setting the timer for your cooking, etc.

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Pop Up Notifications

  • When you are juggling different things and multitasking, you don’t always have an extra hand to hold onto your phone.
  • Whatever pops up on your phone will show up on your watch: Google Calendar events, text messages, Uber car arrival, news headlines, and much more.  This, again, makes it easier to put down my phone and focus on my kids, or my lessons while being instantaneously connected with what is happening.
  • I ran into the problem of NOT being able to see my notifications initially, so here is a good post on some of the reasons why:  https://support.apple.com/en-sg/HT204791

Exercise / Workout

Playing with my two boys, picking up and dropping them off at school and running after them technically count as working out, so I know I am active enough to stay healthy, but having an actual workout app on your Apple Watch just makes me more conscious of how active I am throughout the day.  I get ‘rewarded’ by the everyday hustle and bustle when I see all my ‘activity rings’ close, an indication that I have met my calories burn goal.  These rings are reminders that I am on target, and that I should continue to stay active.   However, what really motivated me to start exercising was the Activity Sharing feature on my watch.  When I take my boys for stroll in the neighbourhood or swim with them in the pool, I now consciously check the appropriate exercise option in the built-in Workout App.  Once the exercise is complete, a notification will be sent to people whom I have connected with, as a reminder that “Hey I have finished my workout, have you?” This just adds a bit of competitive element to exercising, which apparently is a stronger motivator. Another bonus is because the watch is waterproof, I can wear it while swimming and it will calculate how many laps I’ve done based on the length of the pool.

Here is a great post that explains how both apps work:  Apple Watch Activity and Workout App- Explored and Explained 

Comparison of Digital Storytelling apps- Puppet Pals VS Toontastic

The Grade 1 students will be focusing on the Central Idea that “Solutions to problems can be found through cooperation.”  This topic lends itself for integrating technology into this Unit of Inquiry (UOI), where the students will be asked to come up with digital stories that show the students’ creative side in solving problems within their group.

Here is a simple script that I created in order to create my own story using both Puppet Pals and Toontastic. I believe that for students to have success when creating digital stories, planning and writing out a logical script or outline is the key no matter what app / technology is used!

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Not only are digital stories a great way for shy and withdrawn students to express their creativity and ideas, but also, they enable other students to practice their storytelling skills at their own pace and comfort level.

Screen Shot 2017-02-22 at 9.40.50 AM.pngFor this UOI, Puppet Pals HD (Director’s Pass $3.99US) is an easy app that students can use to create their own problems and solutions through story telling.

With the paid version, students can take photos of each other to use as characters, and they can even customize their own background by selecting photos from their Camera Roll.

 

Here is a video I created as an example using Puppet Pals to show conflict resolution during recess:

Note: students can also use action figures / lego figures.

Another app that is suitable for storytelling is Toontastic HD.   Some difficulties I find when using Puppet Pals is that students can end up rambling if they don’t write up a script beforehand.  Therefore, what I like about Toontastic is the Beginning/Middle/End prompts that are sectioned for ease of use.   Students can take their time to record each part of the story, step by step.  Then, they can re-enact the story using the characters provided.

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Although Toontastic HD does not allow students to use customized characters from their camera roll, it does enable students to put their faces on the characters.  Also, unlike Puppet Pals whose characters cannot move, Toontastic characters have moving body parts.

screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-11-54-27-amToontastic does not allow a direct import of photos as background from the Camera Roll.  Users can, however, draw their own background which might be difficult for younger students.  To customize my own background, I painted the backdrop in green, and then used Green Screen by DoInk to incorporate my chosen photo as the background.  This, again, might be complicated for younger users.

Here is before the editing using Green Screen by DoInk

 

Here is the after edit:

In summary, here is a comparison of Toontastic HD and Puppet Pals:

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In conclusion, I feel that Toontastic has a more structured format that may be good with classes whose students need more guidance and prompts.  However, if classroom teachers spend enough time to plan, write and edit students’ scripts and dialogues, stories created using Puppet Pals would turn out just as logical and complete.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sticking with basic Apple Apps- Integrating Math with “Numbers”

Although there is a ton of very specific Math apps, you will find that ICT integration doesn’t take a costly app to be effective. It is good to take a look at some of the basic Mac apps that you already have on your iPad, and see how you can use them to enhance your Math lessons.

“Numbers” is one that I find to be user friendly and easy for students when  for example turning data into graphs. At the start of last year when I was working with G4s, I introduced a typing website www.typing.com so they could bookmark it and practice typing.  Trouble was, I wanted to integrate typing with what they were learning in Math: figuring out mean, medium and mode, as well as creating graphs.

I distributed the following chart to students, and had them complete each lesson 10 times (very easy, beginner level task that took less than a minute to complete).  Then, they calculated the mean and median.  screen-shot-2016-10-20-at-3-10-42-pmAfterwards, the following lesson turned our data into graphs on Numbers.  A great feature of Numbers is students can select from various type of graphs, so it is a “teaching moment” to discuss what type of graph was most suitable to demonstrate progress over time.

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Here is the criteria of a good graph:

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Although there are certainly Math apps that converts data into beautiful graphs, Numbers was more than sufficient for the purpose of a G4 lesson.  It allows students to input data, create different types of graphs. Numbers could also potentially be used during other Math units later on during the year. All in all, it is a versatile app that allows for ICT integration and it isn’t restricted to one specific feature like many Math apps that are available in the market.

G2 Poetry using Google Slides

The Grade 2 students have been writing different types of poems as part of their “How we express ourselves” Unit of . I thought this was a great opportunity to introduce Google Slides as a collaboration tool. Google Slides would allow students to create their acrostic poems digitally, and compile an anthology together as a class. Students would be inspirrd by others’ poems while writing their own, and the anthology could be easily shared with parents when it is completed.

1. To get started, I created a simple template of the Google anthology for all my classes, and dropped it in a folder that’s already been shared with students from previous projects.

2. To clear up confusions that might
happen if I let students choose their own slide to work on, I pre-typed their names on individual slides so they’d know exactly which one to use.

Google Anthology- blank slide

3. I then typed up my sample acrostic poem using my name.

 

In class…

4.   Students located the Google anthology in the “Shared with me folder”

5.  I reminded students on how to write an acrostic poem and showed them my example.

At this point, it’s crucial to explain some rules when working collaboratively on Google apps.  Since students are typing simultaneously on a single presentation, they are encouraged to view others’ poems, but not allowed to edit their classmates’ slides.  They must work on their own slide only.

6.  I did a quick demo on changing font colours and size, adding images and shapes on Google Slides.

7.  To help Grade 2 students get ideas on words that begin with letters of their names, I showed them this Adjectives vocabulary word-list from a-z from Enchanted Learning.

8.  Finally, the students began writing!

Here are some of the acrostic poems that they wrote:

Oscar

 

Sienna Perry

 

 

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Here is another acrostic poem that a student wrote of their choice:

 

 

 

 

From Hollywood right in your home: Creating Green Screen videos for your baby

Green Screen technology isn’t just for Hollywood stars.  My students loved creating green screen videos for their class projects.  In the past, we have made videos related to all sorts of topics studied class.

Here is an imaginary “Magic School Bus” video that brought my students on a whirlwind adventure to famous landmarks from around the world:

Because of my experience with green screen technology, I knew it’d be lots of fun creating these videos for my baby.  So the other day, I decided to try it out using the app Green Screen by Do Ink.  

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Here are the steps:

1. Pick a theme!  For this theme, I’m using the Japanese festival since I want Kai to be wearing the Japanese yukata.

2.  Choose a background picture / photo.  I just found this on Google Image Search.

matsuri

 

3.  Prepare a big piece of green cloth or paper (any colours work too as long as the baby isn’t wearing the same colour as the background)

2.  Place your baby gently on top.  Or if you have a toddler or an older child, you might need to set up the colour paper on the wall.

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(Source:  http://greyhouseharbor.com/tag/kids-party-ideas/  This Mom created a party using green screen.  She has some pretty cool photos!)

3.  Start taking videos / photos until you are satisfied with your baby’s pose

For Kai’s video, I put the green paper on the floor since he cannot sit or stand yet.

Next, you will need to transfer those videos to your iPad.

4.  Open up the Do-Ink app

5.  Select the + button to create a new project1.png

There are three rows where you can add videos / images.

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6.  In the bottom row, insert your background photo by clng on the +  Select the photo from your Camera Roll

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7.  In the middle row, insert your video by clicking on the + again.  Select your video.

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For the rest of the steps, it might be easier just watching this short tutorial:

Note:  If you want a green-screen photo rather than a video, just take a screenshot!

Ta-da!

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Isn’t it simple?  Green screen technology allows you to take your babies to many cool locations without the hassle. You can also let your imagination run wild, and transform your baby into superheros, arctic explorers, astronauts, weather forecast announcers, ancient gladiators…the list goes on.

Here is another one of Dorae-Kai:

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 I had so much fun creating these wonderful memories with my baby, and I’m sure one day he will have a good laugh looking at his silly self …thanks to his silly mom!

Top tech tools Moms (or even Dads) should use

And no, this post is not about what apps moms should download for their babies to use on the iPad.  Many of the apps mentioned in this blog are probably already familiar to you.  However, the way I use these apps are specifically for taking care of my baby.  I will share my top 5 apps and elaborate on them.

Evernote App

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I use Evernote for everything.  I cannot survive with it.  Evernote is a simple but powerful note app that I use it to store my favorite recipes, create t0-do lists, take notes on student learning, and to keep track of receipts.  Since Kai was born, I’ve been using Evernote to document our everyday life together.  Whatever I type on Evernote syncs across my devices (Mac Book, Samsung phone, iPad), so this makes it even easier for me to switch between my role as a teacher, and Mom.  At school, when I brainstorm ideas for my lessons on Evernote, these notes will appear on my iPad later when I’m home.  At home, when I’m documenting my day with Kai but interrupted by other tasks, I can continue to add photos later on on my Macbook after he sleeps.  My entires are brief, but it’s my way of recording how I spend time with him, so I can look back at these fond memories later when he is older.

 

Google Calendar

I use Google Calendar to keep track of Kai’s doctor appointments, important dates, and baby milestones!  If you are not familiar with Google Calendar, you can actually create different calendars within it to for different purposes.  For instance, I have a calendar for Kai, one for work, and one for pregnancy (when I was pregnant).  I also shared Kai’s calendar with my husband so he also knows all the important dates and major milestones for our baby.

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This video shows how I am using Google Calendar:

Pic Collage

I’m sure many people already use this, but Pic Collage is just a great app for me to create weekly collages for my baby.  I tend to go a little crazy with photos, so Pic Collage allows me to  choose my favorite ones and arrange them artistically on one page.  I then print them out and post them in Kai’s room or share with family and friends.

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YouTube

I upload most of my baby’s videos on YouTube after they have been saved onto my Computer (in Dropbox).  As a matter of fact, I have a private YouTube playlist for Kai.  The videos on this playlist can only be viewed by people whom I share the links with.  For videos that are over 3 minutes long, it makes it easier to share with others because I can just copy and paste the link, and they do not need to download the videos and use up their storage.

Another thing I like to do on YouTube is to store all my favorite songs on one single playlist.  When Kai is having tummy time, I don’t have to keep searching for different songs one after another, but can play all my selected songs one by one. (I only let Kai listen to the songs on YouTube rather than let him see the screen though)

Here is how you can create your own playlist:

Feed Baby App

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I highly recommend  using this app as soon as your baby is born.  I liked it so much I actually paid for the full version.  On the side, you can see all the features:  Feeds, Diapers, Sleeping, Pumpings, etc.

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I initially used this app to keep track of how long I was breastfeeding on each side since the timing is an indication of how much the baby is taking in.  As you can see, there is the L and R icon that stand for left and right breast.  You press the icon when you start breastfeeding and stop it when you are finished. Simple!

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Later on when I began pumping, I needed to record the time that I last pump. In the full version of the app, you can actually set a notification to remind yourself to pump every 3 hours, which is super useful because I often get so busy that I wait too long to pump.

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When I switched Kai to bottles, I use the same app to keep track of his feed intervals as well.

The most important feature on this app for me, is to record the time of my baby’s nap.  I am a teacher so I love structure and routines, so when I first tried to get Kai to sleep in his crib, I was adamant in making sure I record exactly how long each nap is.  It even helps you calculate your baby’s total hours of sleep each day.

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In the evening, I write down Kai’s feed and nap information on paper, which is posted in the kitchen.  I honestly think keeping track of your baby’s nap is very important because it helps you find his sleep pattern.

Here is my chart:
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I know most of my friends are not super tech savvy.  But I really believe, in the long run, learning how to use technology will help you cut through the clutter of everyday life.