Student Digital Media Contests

With the ease and low cost of digital video editing software upon both the MAC and the PC, students are story boarding, filming, editing, and publishing great video work that demonstrates 21st century learning skills, fabulous creativity, and remarkable usage of sophisticated tools.  Some students elect to create video projects instead of papers, and they excel demonstrating these skills while relating to your academic content in creative ways.  If you have students with this talent, you should consider forwarding their projects for recognition and perhaps scholarships.

In the state of California there is a California Student Media Festival which celebrates student work annually, invites winners to a state educational technology conference, and awards nice prizes for students to continue pursuing their hobby or scholarships to college.  Adobe also sponsors the Adobe Youth Voices Awards for 13 – 19 year olds in order to recognize outstanding digital projects that promote social change.  C-SPAN hosts Student Cam, and is currently asking students “What is the most important issue that Congress should consider in 2013?”, and the Office of the President of the United States currently hosts a Student Film Festival.

Your students may not even take a course in video, but they have the passion for developing quality stories through this media.  Their projects deserve our attention, and these organizations are respectfully reviewing them with many awards, recognitions, and even monetary prizes.  If you have students creating intriguing informational content, exhibiting fabulous acting, capturing incredible photography, or producing unique points of view then you should make your students aware of these opportunities.

annual Adobe Youth Voices (AYV) Awards, which recognize digital media produced by youth ages 13-19 focused on driving social change in their communities. – See more at:
annual Adobe Youth Voices (AYV) Awards, which recognize digital media produced by youth ages 13-19 focused on driving social change in their communities. – See more at:
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Next computer? What to buy?

I am frequently asked by students, teachers, parents, and friends where to buy the next computer and what model should be purchased.  In the past this was a daunting question for me because I felt that a good model for me was not necessarily the best model for the average user and I was concerned that if I chose the wrong model for the user that I was somehow responsible for their success or failure with a new computer device.  Today, however, I ask a few questions to help them determine their needs;  I teach them about current models and options; and I expect them to help make the final decision.  I expect the user to reach an educated conclusion.

The first question that I ask is how portable do you need to be.   Tablets today are a great option for the average user because the portability can’t be beat.  However, tablets are not currently great devices for heavy processing and high end development such as video production or intense graphic development.  Tablets usually require additional newer technologies to connect to externals such as printers, projectors, and more storage.  Today, the laptop option is usually suitable for the more complex processing needs such as computer programming, animation development, graphics, and video.  If portability is not important then I refer users to all in one type computers such as those from HP and MAC.

The second question I like to ask is the PC or MAC question.  I remind potential PC users that while the device is more common, more compatible, and usually more inexpensive on the front end there are some costs associated with PC’s such as support, viruses, frequent updates, and software expenses.  The downtime alone on a PC can be costly and should be clearly discussed.  The MAC environment has a better track record for support issues and while the software can be expensive there are some very enticing free programs that come with the operating system.  I have used great models on both platforms, but I am trending personally toward a MAC environment at home due to the countless hours of time saved via no support issues.  However, I do like to remind people that I favor good computers, and I am not brand name loyal.

The third question that I ask is about the research that they have completed.  Frequently little to no research has been started by a user, and they are looking for a quick fix.  Consequently, I point them in the direction of Consumer Reports and Costco.  Consumer Reports has a great process for evaluating the best computers and then compares them side by side in nice charts to help you see how much you want to spend and how effective and efficient they are.  I have found Consumer Reports very reliable.  I have also found that the Costco computer department follows standards similar to Consumer Reports, and I usually recommend the computers that are on both reports to make it easy for the user.  Costco tests their devices too before purchasing in bulk so there are few models.  Those models are usually quite reliable and current.  If you are buying a MAC then I simply recommend buying it online from the Apple store in order to save some money.  Mac prices do not fluctuate in price due to that fact that they have a stronger control over where the new MACs are sold.

Finally I remind users that this is a major purchase like purchasing a car, and you should expect to use it for at least three years without problems and that the user should be actively involved in the process.  It is going to be your device that you will take to family events, the work place, and cafes.  Don’t leave everything up to the sales person.  I have been in many stores where sales persons have told me things that were completely wrong, perhaps fabricated, poorly researched, or simply hid the fact that they did not know the answer to a tech question.  I won’t reveal those store names, but I will caution you that there are many models of computers that are still in testing phases and should have never been released to the public.  Computer Science is a practice of trial and error, but business has a responsibility to the consumer.  So I recommend that you do your research and take the advice from Consumer Reports and Costco as a starting point if not a purchasing point.  More reviews are better than one, and I am not going to tell you what to buy.   Please do contact me with unique purchases that you make along your journey, and let me know if there are better reports that what I am recommending.

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How to play Zoombla, a math app for ages 8 and up

As Zoombla is my first app on the Apple App Store, I am receiving a lot of good feedback about how to improve it.  But I am also finding that some don’t understand its main benefit so I wanted to review the benefits of its design for teachers, parents, and students.  First, it is a math game with endless solutions.  It is not right or wrong.  There are many ways to win the game, and thus it provides competition and more fun when played head to head with two or more players.  It is also designed to help students think about math and not necessarily be right or wrong along the way, but to use and see math for a real purpose.

The five random cards that are produced each round can be used in a variety of ways to reach the target number.  Participants who use all operations and operands should be awarded more points, but I left the game open ended so that students and families could find creative ways to play and apply points to the game.  So while our natural inclination is to search for specific right and wrong answers.  Zoombla gives you a problem to which you apply creative math solutions and have fun with how you want to score the results.  Every solution should be rewarded as some are more challenging than others, and I wanted students and players to talk with each other instead of only facing some unknown on-line participant.

I have added a video link below that is currently on Youtube, and I hope it helps better explain the game.  I would also appreciate your suggestions for improvement.  In fact if you send me a direct review to my email (, I can send you a free promotional code so that you can give the app to a friend or a colleague.  As I finish my studies of Core Data, I am also beginning to find data game ideas such as State Facts Games etc.  If you have an idea that you would to see developed on the iPhone and iPad, let me know and I can give you a free copy of it if I design and develop it.


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Parents and Teachers, do you understand your wireless router configurations?

I recently posted a comment on Facebook about the fact that I am currently limiting the router Internet access so that my son is not using the Internet after hours via his plethora of computer wireless devices.  I posted something to the fact that my son was upset with the fact that I turn off his access from 9:30 pm until 8:00 am the next day and that he was calling me unfair and unreasonable.  My friends who are parents and teachers obviously commented positively, and because that Facebook post generated significant response I decided to elaborate upon this blog post.

So I am asking you, Parent or Teacher, do you know how to edit your router settings?

Most people have told me that they have a password for security, and understand the formats of login security.  However, there are other levels of access that you can restrict on your router too.  For example,  my Belkin router has a setting for scheduling when access is available and that is an easy way for parents and teachers to set a time that occurs every day for all participants on your network, but what if you want to simply disable your children’s or students’ access?  There is a way for you to continue to use your network while the children are forced offline.

To do this you need to better understand MAC addresses which are unique identifiers for each device that connects to your router.  These are predetermined numbers like a serial number, and they can be entered into a MAC address filtering service that only allows those devices to connect to your network.  Then you can simply restrict or allow specific devices at certain times of the day.  While this is not usually automatic (depends on your router) it does allow you to manually configure usage so you can continue your work after hours or limit the child student access when bandwidth is being absorbed by their games, videos, face time and music.

I thoroughly enjoy the fact that my son has access on so many devices for studies, research, communication, and even gaming.  However, we all know that too much time on these devices can detract from overall academic performance, social skills, and sleep time.  Today, I don’t worry anymore about my son contacting others after bed time.  I have even noticed that he gets better sleep now.  Yes, they will not like it at times, but it is fun when you can count down the seconds before your child will lose access.  It also eliminates those times when children say they are not on the Internet but they really are.

If you would like any more information on how to configure your router or if you need an expert to do that service for you, please contact me at for further information.  Local SOCAL homes can be serviced, and it might be possible to work remotely upon some routers.


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