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Community Treasures

 Overlooking the mighty Ohio River from the southern tip of Illinois, this majestic location has been preserved and maintained since 1908, when it became Illinois’ first state park.

Kids Eat Free... or close to it

Computers With Schoolagers

kids and computers  Computers With Schoolagers

When your child has an idea, she wants to learn more about it, to give it voice, to see it built. This exploration is a key part of your child's development. A computer, whether it sits on a desk or is a portable e-reader, can spur it along.

Like libraries, the web is a great place for your child to explore and learn. As your gradeschooler uses the Internet for homework, you can help her form good "habits of mind"—the practice of asking critical questions. Establishing a routine of asking questions, rather than copying and therefore accepting information, teaches your child there is no single expert, no single source of information and no single way of doing something. In using the web, you also can help her learn to organize information and develop successful search strategies.

5 Ways to Make the Most of Computer Time

  1. Introduce your child to the librarians at your local branch.
    Librarians are information specialists; they know how to sort data that is available digitally. They can also help teach your child how to search the Web to find answers to her questions.
  2. Encourage your child to recast Internet information in her own words.
    If your child uses a digital picture from the web, have her write an original caption describing the action in the picture — and what it means. Also, teach her to credit the source when she uses something — a quote, a picture or an idea — that isn't hers. One common way to do this is to cite the website address from which she pulled the information.
  3. Stress the importance of online safety.
    Help your child become a savvy Internet user, focusing on issues of privacy, levels of engagement with others and “netiquette.” Talk about the value of personal information, discouraging her from sharing her name, address, phone number or any other details that could identify her to someone else online. Show her how to select and use a screen name — never her real name — and how to set privacy preferences on social networking sites where she has a profile.
  4. Introduce your child to search engines, wikis and built-in browser tools, pointing out how they function.
    Though your child may receive an introduction to online tools at school, many classrooms have content locks and other restrictions that make home computing different. You’re tutorial may be as simple as going over the basics of an image search, checking out the latest widget or delving into the nuances of cloud computing, depending on your family’s preferences. To stay up on the latest technology trends as they relate to learning, check out the New Media Consortium’s annual Horizon Report. And, if you are more comfortable starting with a kid-friendly web browser, try Kidzui.
  5. Help your child scrutinize online sources of information.
    To help your child hone her information literacy skills, start the habit of asking key questions:
    • What is the main idea?
    • Who is speaking? Is it a person, an organization, a company, a government agency?
    • Why is this information here? Is there a purpose? Is the website trying to sell me something? Make me believe something? Get me to do something? Is there an "About This Site" page?
    • Where do the facts that support the main idea come from?
    • How is the main idea communicated — in words, pictures, personal histories, opinions or as research? How does the format change what I think about the information? (For instance, are pictures and personal stories more believable than wordy facts?)
    • What is missing? Can you think of any information not covered by the website? Are certain people and opinions absent?
    • Who cares? Why does the information on this website matter?

Creating with Media: Pre-Teens

Other ages: Preschoolers | Grade Schoolers | Teens

Adolescence is a time often characterized by conformity as well as self-expression. As pre-teens form close bonds with groups of friends, it’s not uncommon for them to feel lost in the shuffle or uncertain about how they fit in. Everything from the clothes and shoes they wear to the clubs and activities they join become ways to express who they think they are and how they want to belong.

Now is a good time to help your child find new creative outlets, which may involve pointing to tools he can readily use as well as places he can go for inspiration. In addition to traditional art supplies, such as colored pencils and watercolors, digital media tools, like a mobile video camera and editing software, can fuel your child’s imagination.

  • Get your pre-teen making visual art.
    Digital cameras will put your pre-teen behind the lens and get her thinking about framing a shot, while software such as Adobe Photoshop, which is used by designers and other professionals, will put her in front of the computer screen where she can manipulate her photos and design original artwork. Likewise, introducing your pre-teen to the inner workings of photography by making a pinhole camera, may alter how she uses a camera phone. Sites like Oatmeal Box Pinhole Photography or the Pinhole Spy Camera offer step-by-step instructions.
  • Introduce your pre-teen to new ways to tell stories in both written and oral forms.
    Take your pre-teen on a tour of the many online magazines and Web journals where she can publish her poetry, stories and thoughts. Help her make her own book, magazine or literary blog with photographs and construction paper or using freeware that incorporates electronic text, images, sounds and video.
  • Encourage your pre-teen to experiment with sound and to learn about radio production.
    Youth Radio, Radio Rookies and Radio Rootz are just three of the national organizations where young people are using music and words to tell their own stories.
  • Encourage your pre-teen to take a course or explore local library and web resources on film production.
    Apple's iMovie and Cyber Film School are two online tools with tips on shooting, editing and making use of visual effects. For inspiration, introduce your pre-teen to youth-produced films, like those found at Listen Up! Youth Media Network and the Educational Video Center.
  • Find out how your pre-teen understands social networking as an opportunity for creative expression.
    Whether it’s decking out a profile space with personal photos or writing on a friend’s wall, social networks are outlets for self-expression. No doubt your pre-teen is putting thought into how she represents herself among her peers and talking to her about these choices may be an eye-opener for you as well as a gateway to her creativity.
  • Let your pre-teen know that there is a larger community of youth filmmakers.
    While your pre-teen may not be ready to formally submit her videos to film festivals created for students, such as the Urban Visionaries Film Festival and Young Cuts Film Festival, it may be inspiring to know they exist.
  • Encourage your pre-teen to create original songs, recordings, and sound effects.
    There is an abundance of tools that will give your pre-teen the freedom to manipulate a recording and to share it online. Explore audio production tools from the free to the commercial, talking about what it means to try and build a following of listeners among people your pre-teen may not know.


Courtesy: PBS Parents 

Top Five Tips to Choose Education Apps This Holiday Season

If your child has drafted their holiday wish list, it’s likely that some type of tech item is at or near the top. And there’s a good chance that you’ll purchase it—or  another tech gift.
A recent survey of parents with kids between the ages of 2 and 10, found that more than half (54%) of parents plan to purchase or give a tech device to their children this holiday season. At the top of the list for all parents planning a tech purchase this holiday season are tablets. With all those tablet purchases, nearly 7 in 10 parents say they currently purchase or plan to purchase apps for their children.
To help parents navigate successful selection and use of apps for their kids, PBS KIDS is offering the following five tips:
Think about what your child is passionate about.
Look for content that builds on your child’s excitement. Media should engage kids and spark their curiosity about the world around them.
Distinguish what is truly educational. Consider whether the content of the app is curriculum- and research-based. Mobile platforms can amplify learning gains for children.
Develop a media plan for your family. A balanced media diet includes setting limits. This is also something for parents to keep in mind, too, as kids often model their parents’ behavior.
Play together. For kids two and up, apps are another opportunity to explore with your child. Talking with kids about the game or activity as you play offers both the opportunity to bond as a family and also identify teachable moments.
Avoid apps that try to sell: Select apps from trusted, reliable sources, and make sure that they are not trying to market to your child.

Children &Media: Tech Trends You Can Use

Keeping up with the latest technology trends can be a challenge for parents. As soon as you get used to the camera on your new phone, your daughter insists on an even newer one because it can run the latest Facebook app!

And it’s not just the gadgets that are multiplying; what you can do with e-readers, smart phones, netbooks and other digital devices is ever-changing, too: communicating with sound and video; keeping up with friends and relatives regardless of location; playing games with hundreds if not thousands of other players; following the thoughts and opinions of people you’ve never met. The list is endless! At times, it can also feel confusing, especially when trying to raise well-balanced, healthy kids.

Worry not.

Although part of technology use is technical — knowing what button to push or what settings are needed — much more of it is developmental. Media habits and technology interests follow developmental needs. For example, in their quest for identity, teens are looking for ways to define who they are. Online spaces can be very useful in helping them do just that. Some websites are outlets for individual self-expression while others are meeting grounds of like-minded peers.

Adolescents, on the other hand, may be wrestling with ethics and or sorting out what it means to be part of a group vs. remaining loyal to a best friend. How they text and their online encounters will likely mirror these discoveries of right and wrong and social loyalties. And very young kids, because they’re just learning about basic behavior, can seem to have an limitless appetite for repetition. Watching an online video over and over again is their way of studying scripts and getting down how characters — and therefore people — are supposed to act.

Raising children is never going to be easy. But using technology to support your child’s development is a much better than being overwhelmed or intimidated by it.

FromL pbskids.org


When to Introduce Your Child to a Smartphone or Tablet

By Laura Lewis Brown , courtesy of pbskids.org
ts-girlwithtabletpcFrom the time they can grasp an object in their hands, children reach for electronic gadgets of all kinds, particularly our cell phones and computers. When you start noticing more child-size fingerprints on your iPad than your own, it may be time to consider introducing your child to a handheld wireless device. 
A smartphone is a high-tech cell phone that runs its own operating system, allowing the user to talk, email, surf and take high-resolution photos and videos. A tablet computer does everything your laptop does but in a small, portable flat form with a touch screen. Here are some helpful tips on when and how to introduce your child to one or both of these technologies. 

Read more: When to Introduce Your Child to a Smartphone or Tablet

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