5 Chances to Win an Online Programming Class for your Child

Win a Game Programming Class

With more and more jobs requiring some level of coding – or at least an understanding of programming, most parents understand the need for children to learn this skill.

However, with only about 1 in 10 schools in the US offering program classes, it isn’t easy for students to get the knowledge they need.

Intro to Game Programming Class

FundaFunda offers a very gentle introduction to the world of coding in our 4 week Intro to Game Programming class. Students first learn game design, then how to create graphics for games, then they play games that teach logic – and finally they create an interactive e-card.

The class is aimed at 5th through 12th graders but has been successfully completed by some students as young as 3rd grade.

 

Students have access to the lessons 24 hours a day – for 4 weeks. If they get stuck, a teacher is on hand to help them. Their work is graded and if they complete all the assignments they will earn a certificate at the end of the course.

Our next class starts on August 4th and we are going to give one class away free on each of our 4 main social media channels – Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google +. Be sure to follow of us one or all of those for a chance at winning.

In addition, one reader here will win simply by signing up for our monthly newsletter – see the details below. If you are already signed up for our newsletter – well, then just go ahead and register as you are all set.

Image Credit: Scratch Screenshot, Running Script“. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
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Geography funnies to cry about?

Funny world map

Photo from https://www.flickr.com/photos/smokeonit CC BY 2.0

 

Over the years that I have taught geography I have come across many “funnies” (not least from my students). And as a South African, I get asked things like “Do you speak African?” and “I met someone who comes from Ghana, do you know him?” But even as I laugh, the lack of knowledge of our world does also bother me.

I doubt you will get through this 6 minute video without laughing aloud at least once. But really, how can we be failing so badly to teach students very very basic geography?

 

You may have seen this one in which Miss Teen South Carolina gets hopelessly confused.

 

 

And last year Buzzfeed asked a group of people to fill in the countries of Europe on a map. You can see all the results here – and some were actually pretty good, but here is one that will make you laugh.

americans-place-european-countries-on-map-7

 

Unfortunately this lack of knowledge can affect current affairs, watch this:

The point of my post is for us to laugh – but then to stop and think how we can improve the geography knowledge of our children and our students. My next post will list a lot of fun ways for kids (and adults) to learn geography – and it will include a giveaway for a great geography board game. So be sure to sign up for blog post notifications or come and check our blog in the next few days.

And if you homeschool, don’t forget to include geography in your school day or sign your kids up for a class at your co op. Another option is to sign them up for our online class (an adaption of the class I teach at our co op). I incorporate lots of games and fun activities to make it as engaging as possible.

 

FundaFunda Academy’s Fall Courses

 

THE BEST THINGAVAILABLE

We are very excited to be offering 4 online courses starting this Fall – with more to come in Spring. These classes are intended for homeschoolers but anyone is welcome to sign up.

As always we will be focusing on making these FUN and ENGAGING and full of great CONTENT. No dry text books. No boring lengthy lectures.

All these online classes will be run similarly to regular classes. There will be classmates – the students will meet in moderated chat rooms and in online conferences (some classes). There will be homework assignments. There will be due dates. There will be grades.

Online classes are not easier than “regular” classes – they are just a different way to deliver instruction so don’t choose this option if you are looking for a quick and easy credit. Instead, choose our courses if you are looking to learn a lot – and to enjoy the learning process.

Grades will reflect how well assignments are completed, but because we want students to do as well as possible, there will always be opportunities to resubmit assignments if they want to get a better grade.

Students can log on and work on their assignments any time they want to. Spanish is the only class that does have one set time each week (noon ET on Tuesdays) where students need to get on their webcams and “go to class”. They will take part in a live discussion which is pretty fun to do.

Here are the classes we are offering

Scratch

Online Scratch ClassThis will be a 16 week course and consist of our beginner, intermediate and advanced courses. Scratch is a drag-and-drop language that allows students to easily create games. It is a good way to start learning about programming concepts before progressing to other languages which require users to learn the syntax.

By the end students will be able to program games like Hangman and Space Invaders.

Photography

online photography classThis is a year long course divided over 2 semesters. For those who remember the children’s program “Fetch” we use a similar style but adapt it for teens. Students taking the course will watch videos each week where 4 teens are taught some aspect of photography and then they are issued a challenge. Once they have watched the teens perform the challenge, students in the class will get to complete the same challenges.

They will also take online quizzes and do various other assignments each week.

Geography

Online Geography CourseStudents will learn geography by watching videos, playing online games and completing fun assignments. There are two different versions of this class – for younger students activities will take about one hour each week. For high school students there will be all the activities the younger ones do plus extra assignments. Many of these extra assignments will involve watching DVDs as actually “seeing” the areas we are studying is a far more interesting and effective way to study geography.

I will also suggest optional activities which some families may enjoy adding each week: books set in the countries we study, board and card games, CD Rom games and apps.

Spanish 1

SpanishcourseThis is intended as a high school Spanish 1 class. No prior knowledge of Spanish is needed.  The instructor, Suzette LaPorte-Ayo, a native Spanish speaker, taught all my own children Spanish and the three oldest either did well enough on their AP exam to be exempt from languages at college, or they placed into advanced Spanish classes. And my children all really enjoyed the way she taught – which is why we asked her to join our teaching team .

The classes will include video instruction, online games and exercises, quizzes and regular online live discussion times each week.

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Sign up for one of these classes here. And check back here in a few days as you also be able to go and try out a demo class free.

If you want to get updates on our FundaFunda Academy course offerings, just let us know  and we will keep you updated whenever new courses are starting.

Pocket Law Firm: a fun Civics app that teaches the amendments

Pocket Law Firm app

Do you know your constitutional rights? Do you know what each amendment relates to? And do your students and children know?

If you answered ‘no’ to any of these questions, then I can recommend the iPad app from iCivics (you can also play it online here as ‘Do I have a Right?’) which makes learning these things a lot of fun.

You start by choosing who you want to be and then you select a partner.

Clients start to arrive at your law firm. It is your duty to meet them and hear their problems. If you think their constitutional rights are being ignored – introduce them to a lawyer who can help them. Initially, only your partner is available but as the game continues and your firm earns prestige points for winning cases, you can hire more. Each lawyer comes with one amendment they are experts in – and then as the game progresses they sometimes acquire more.

Pocket Law Firm Screen

It is your job to make a correct match to a lawyer who can help – or to refuse a case where the client does not have a real right.

Pocket Law Firm Screen

The game is played over 7 days and things get busier each day. Prestige points can be used not only to hire lawyers but also to upgrade the waiting area so that customers are prepared to wait longer, and to purchase adverts in the local newspaper.

The office gets really busy and it is hard to remember which amendment is which (you can get in-game help but that wastes time so you WANT to remember). And you have to think strategically how to spend your money at the end of each day.

Pocket Law Firm screen shot

I like this game – a lot! I have played it 3 times and each time I have done a bit better. I keep playing because it is fun – but I have also learned that the 2nd amendment = right to bear arms ,3rd = soldiers can’t be quartered in your house, 4th= no unreasonable searches, 5th= double jeopardy and government can’t take property without compensating you, 8th = no Cruel or Unusual Punishment, 13th = no slavery and 14th – equality under the law. All of these I could not have told you 3 days ago before I downloaded the app. By the way – I wrote those down from memory and didn’t cheat at all. I was actually surprised by how well I had remembered.

And did I mention the app is FREE? It is.

So if you have an iPad – go grab it now from the iTunes store. If not, you can still enjoy the game online. There are a number of other games from iCivics on their website. And there are lessons plans for teachers. These lesson plans are really detailed and even provide creative worksheets (not the usual boring ones I was expecting).

Any one used this app or the online games? If so, how have your children / students responded to it?

Scavenger Hunts: a great way to explore a city

While I was planning a recent trip to Washington D.C. with my 14 year old daughter, I discovered Stray Boots. This company has created Scavenger Hunts in many major cities of the USA which one plays using a cell phone (Android or iOS).

Strayboots App

Please note: this is not a sponsored post and Stray Boots has no idea I am writing this review. We had fun and I just want to share our experience.

Buy your tickets online (one per player) and then you download their app and use the code you bought to unlock the game. You can do all this before you leave your hotel. In fact, that is the better way to do it. We didn’t realize this and had to find the nearest Starbucks to get everything working. In fact, we had entirely missed the fact that we had to download the app and so phoned the number on the payment receipt. The phone was answered immediately and a nice lady explained exactly what we needed to do. Great customer support!

Once you have the app up and running, select the Scavenger Hunt you want and then it is a simple matter of following the clues.

Reading a clue for Strayboots scavenger hunt

Solving a clue in a gift store

We did the one that started at Ford’s Theater. There were 15 clues and it took us about 2 hours. There were 4 of us – my daughter and her friend, her friend’s mom and me.

Every time we solved a clue we got points and some interesting facts about the location which my daughter read out to us all. And then we got the next clue.

What happens if you can’t figure out the answer? Well, you get multiple attempts (yes, first hand knowledge of this!) and if you are really stuck you can ask for a hint. (We only needed that once.) You can also opt to skip a challenge (proud to say we didn’t do that).

What are the challenges like? Ours had us scouring museum shops, looking at signs outside stores, examining the sidewalk and reading information on windows of buildings.

Posing as spies

You have to take photos in various fun poses – we had to dress up like spies for one and with a statue for another. (These can be skipped).

We walked a lot – not sure how many miles, but we got exercise along with knowledge! Fortunately it isn’t timed, so you can stop for a drink along the way.

You do receive a score – which means you could play against a rival family or split your family in two and see who does the best. We lost points for wrong guesses and needing a hint at one point.

I am glad Strayboots has challenges in many different cities as I will definitely be a repeat customer.

Photo proof for Stray Boots

Proof we had found the statue

And – they allow you to create your own hunts too so I am planning on creating one for my home town. You can even make them for things like birthday parties and just share with friends.

You can find the Strayboots apps on the iTunes and Google Play stores.

A little bit of googling revealed 2 more similar apps - Klikaklu (you have to take photos that prove you are in the right place,) Munzee and Huntzz (most of these are in Europe). Klikaklu could be used in a classroom setting but the others could all be part of field trips.

If you have done any Stray Boots hunt or anything similar, please share your experiences in the comments.

7 Reasons Why Online Computer Classes work so well

Online vs Offline Classes

This year I have taught both offline and online programming classes to 5th-12th graders. My conclusion as I look back over this year is that the online classes were far more effective than the ones I taught in a physical classroom.

I bet you are wondering why! Here are my reasons (please remember these relate specifically to teaching programming – not to lessons in general)

1. Every child goes at their own speed

In a classroom I explain how to do something and then ask if everyone has understood. There is always at least one person who doesn’t and the others have to wait while I explain again before we can continue to the next concept. In an online environment, students can just replay the video again. And again. And again if they need to. They can also pause me – and try it out for themselves and then come back to the video.

2. Students can work when they want to 

My class this year was right at the end of the day and the students were already zoning out. If my lectures had been available online, they could do it when they were more focused.

3. No student has to wait on the teacher 

Ok – now this may sound backwards, but let me explain. In the classroom I would go to each student to check their homework and help them with problems. The others could work on something else till I got to them, but it was always disruptive and sometimes they really needed me to help them before they could continue. In an online environment they could send me their problem and go off and something else – and return later to see what I answered.

4. The teacher can solve problems at his/her leisure

Sometimes I just wouldn’t be able to see what the problem was and I would feel the pressure as I knew other students were also waiting for me. In online environment it is much less stressful to debug programs. You don’t have any students looking expectantly at you as your brain tries desperately to figure it out.

5. It is easy for students to help each other

Again this may sound like I am confused, but it is true. In a classroom students would sometimes help the students near them, but online everyone is near you. I always make sure to provide a “chat room” where students can go to post problems or just to chat. Students will visit the chat room before or after they start there own work – so helping someone isn’t as intrusive as it is in a classroom.

6. Everything is in one place

Grades and feedback and assignments and lectures are all in the same place. It is very easy to interact with students and grade them. In an offline situation you have to look at a program and assess it, then go to your laptop / tablet and enter a grade. And I found I had to post assignments even for my physical students as they could never remember what I had told them to do. Doing everything online helped keep me and the students organized.

7. It is less distracting

In class, someone was always making a funny comment, or using some strange sound in the game or getting up to go to the bathroom. As a result far less got accomplished than could have been. Online this doesn’t happen. Interaction between classmates still does occur in the chat room, but this isn’t distracting.

Have I piqued anyone’s curiosity as to whether it does work as well as I say? Well you can give it a try. I have a number of online programming classes available this summer and one is even free!

And I am giving away one Intro to Game Programming Classes (Full Version) worth $9.95 to two readers. Just enter the giveaway below and if you win one you can choose between the two different ones offered. If you have already signed up and then you win, I will refund you the money. Use the comments if you have any questions or input.

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How is Education doing in the US?

I found this infographic a few days ago and it sadly confirmed my own suspicions and other similar posts I have read. What worries me most of all is that US students don’t understand how far behind they are falling in comparison to the rest of the world.

I had a discussion with my programming class just last week and they were surprised when I told them that in a few years time there wouldn’t be enough programmers to fill programming positions here in America. And that so few students in our State even take the AP Computer Science Exam. In fact in 2013 in 17 States, less than 100 students took the exam and 13 states had a decrease in the number of students taking it!!

And it is not just in the Math and Science fields we are having problems!

This infographic explores the relationship between these trends and the way we educate – with out taking the differences of students’ learning styles into account. Of course, if one homeschools this is easier to deal with – but how do you do it in a classroom setting?

Would love ideas and comments!

 

How Personality Affects Learning
Source: Top10OnlineColleges.org

Rev It Up Reading Review

Disclosure: I got this product as part of an advertorial.

Rev It Up Reading Logo
I like to read. And I read a lot. And I thought I read fast – until I I took the test at the beginning of the Rev It Up Reading class. Apparently there is still a lot of room for improvement.

As reading is something everyone has to do a lot of, whether they like it or not, I was intrigued to try out this speed reading course. This is the sort of thing every high schooler should be doing to prepare themselves better for college – and the rest of their lives. I am planning to let my 14 year old work through it as soon as I am done.

***Interested … keep reading – I have one course to give away FREE to one of you.

The course has been created by Abby Marks-Beale, who has written 2 books on speed reading which have great reviews. It consists of 10 modules and you have 90 days to work through them all.

I have decided to blog as I go through it so you can see my progress (or lack thereof) as I do it. So keep checking back to follow my journey!

Day 1:

Rev It Up Reading Welcome screen

I signed up and watched the intro video. I was happy to discover there are many different ways to improve reading speed – and this course helps you figure out which ones are best for you to use.

Then I had to do my first test. One can do it online – or you can print off the ebook and read the paper version. I did it online and my comprehension was 60% (sad, I know – it was late at night!) and my reading speed 265 words per minute. Which makes me average. Hmmmm….

Day 2

Progress Chart

I printed off the Progress Chart they supply and recorded my rather poor score from Day 1. I do like the way it is easy to keep track of how you are improving.. hopefully I will improve.

Then on to module 2.

I learned how my brain and eye function when it comes to reading – and learned a neat trick to help eliminate distractions. I had to do two timed reading tests and using this new method I got achieved 448 and 420 words per minute. I was surprised how much I improved!

Day 3

I continue to be impressed. I learned a new technique and took two timed tests. The first I got 405 wpm; the second I got 480 and 90% comprehension. So much better than my “pre-test”.

 

What I like about the course

  • The modules are short!! I am extremely busy and if I can find time to do this, anyone can.
  • Everything is easy to understand and follow
  • The reading material is often about speed readingIt is easy to keep track of your progress
  • You get an ebook you can download / print off so you have something tangible after the course expires.
  • It works!

What could be improved

  • Once you complete a module you have to go back to the main course and select the next one – you have been working in a separate browser so that is irritating
  • If you leave a module part way through and come back the next day, you can view what you did but can’t carry on without closing everything and logging back in. It isn’t obvious you have been logged out though.

Overall impression

So far – I think it is really useful and I am enjoying using it. Will continue to update my thoughts as I continue through it

 

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I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Modern Egypt for Kids: Mystery of the Painted Pyramids

Egypt Mystery for Kids

I am teaching a current affairs class this year and covered Egypt a few months ago. In searching the internet for resources I found a lot related to ancient Egypt, but very few modern Egypt activities for kids.

So, I set about creating a fun Egyptian Mystery to introduce students to the history, culture and geography of Egypt.

I must give credit to my daughter, Amy, who actually came up with the idea of a mystery and that it should involve “Culture Culprits” who the students have to track down. She also gave input on some of the puzzles and checked it all for me. My husband did the layout and my son, Jason, photoshopped the one culprit into an Egyptian scene which my husband photographed. So – it ended up as a family affair.

And of course, my class went through it and I did make some adjustments based on their feedback.

Our intention is that this will be the beginning of a series of mysteries where upper elementary and middle school students can learn about a country through solving mysteries. We want this to be affordable for everyone, so they cost only 99 cents and are delivered electronically as a pdf which parents and teachers can make multiple copies of.

Students will need internet access to solve the clues and they are likely to take about 3 hours to work through them all. In my class they worked in groups and took 3 or 4, 50 minute periods to complete.

The mysteries are aimed at 5th – 8th graders.

If you would like one, you can purchase it right from this post and download it immediately.

 

Cool Building Toys

Cool Building Toys
Here are yet more reviews from my students – this time on Cool Building Toys. (Their earlier reviews are on Board Games and Educational Software). All these items can be purchased from Amazon and with Prime you can get them in 2 days.


Tekton Tower Building Set
Tim H recommends the Tekton Tower Building Set includes beams, columns, bases, roofs, signs and more. The set teaches you how the insides of buildings are made. It has facts about towers and buildings in the idea book along with architectural vocabulary.
This toy includes panels that look like windows and doors to make your project look more life-like. The idea book gives instructions to build a hospital tower and an office building but with this you can build anything you can imagine. Other Tekton sets include a bank building, a plaza, a fire station, and a post office.


 Snap Circuits SetTim H also recommends the SC-300 Snap Circuits set which includes a fan, 2 jumper wires, batteries, 2 switches, a speaker, a motor, and more. The two project books show how to build them and what happens in the circuit. These projects include The Music Radio Station, Space Wars Sounds, and a flying saucer.
All the circuits can be built by just snapping together pieces without tools or parents, but occasionally you need something like a cup of water for the Quiet Water Alarm. This toy is a lot of fun and learning.


ZoobsJonathan Z likes Zoobs. Zoobs are fun, mind-bending toys. Useful for keeping fidgety children busy, Zoobs are similar to Kinects. Zoob pieces connect using balls and sockets, allowing the pieces to bend easily.

Zoobs come with an instruction book telling you how to build fun models. Some really fancy sets come with wheels and motors enabling you to make a car that actually moves!

However, you do not have to follow the instructions. You can build whatever you want, from trees to houses to guns! These flexible toys are great for exercising your brain, while at the same time you are occupying your fingers.

 

MindstormsAnd McCrea F says Lego Mindstorms is worth the cost. The newest Mindstorms robot, named EV3, was released on January 4th, 2013. With the newest addition to the Lego Mindstorms line came four improved motors, lighter and faster than the previous version; a remote control; and the newest feature, a micro sd card slot. EV3 comes with pieces for 5 base models (only comes with physical instructions for one, but you can get the rest online) named TRACK3R, R3PTAR, SPIK3R, EV3RSTORM, and GRIPP3R, but as with all Lego you can make this robot your own by combining the Technic pieces to form  a unique robot.

With an easy-to-use image-based programming system, for Mac or PC and using commands, ranging from the most basic instructions to complicated logic loops, you can program your robot to walk around the room avoiding furniture and family pets using the color, ultrasonic, infrared, and  touch sensors plus, many, many more, not included in the set, but available separately.

If you stick with it and learn well, you can do one of my favorite things: ambush an unsuspecting family member trying to sneak into your room.

 

If these suggestions aren’t enough for you, you can also check out a post I wrote on Building Toys for Boys a while ago. And do leave more suggestions in the Comments.

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