Formulas and Tables can't compete with Snapchat

Focus on Back to School Routines

Formulas and Tables can't compete with SnapchatIt’s back to school time, and for most parents, that means re-establishing routines. Around bed times, around getting homework done, around outside play, around proper nutrition, around limiting screen time… It can seem overwhelming. So many things to consider!

One thing I’ve found is that having clear rules helps – as long as they are simple, and as long as there are not too many of them! As a digital educator, there are two aspects I’d focus on: Screen time, and what to encourage the child to “do online.” Continue reading

Duo your lingo up with Duolingo!

This is a longer version of the article submitted to SkeriesNews for their 21 April 2017 edition.

duolingo-10So you’re thinking about that summer holiday, as you would, this time of year. South of France maybe. Or Italy. Spain beckons. Or that city tour to Germany you’ve been promising yourself? Finally make it to Russia, see the Kremlin for yourself? You could probably get by with English there, but wouldn’t it be more fun to be able to understand and speak the lingo a bit?

Indeed it would, and there is an easy (and free!) way to prepare yourself for the linguistic challenge – in just 5 minutes a day!  Continue reading

Coding for All – Really?

For a numberSkerries News September 2016 of years, “coding” has been touted as the next big thing, the skill that our children will need in order to be part of the “smart economy” of the future; the skill that will make our youngsters rich and their parents proud, once they have created that million-dollar app. Coding clubs, so-called CoderDojos, for kids have sprung up all over the world; a number of countries have introduced programming into their curriculum, and in June of this year, the Minster for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton, has asked the Irish National Council for Curriculum and Assessment to consider approaches to introducing the teaching of coding in primary schools. But is that really necessary? Is it even desirable?

As a former primary teacher (between 2010 and 2013, I worked in a number of North Dublin primary schools, both as resource and class teacher) and current “digital educator” (a term I may have made up myself, I’m not entirely sure), I can see both advantages and disadvantages of introducing every single child to programming. Continue reading

Learn it with Quizlet!

This column appeared in the 6 May 2016 edition of Skerries News.

Techie Column Header April 2016

Brushing up a language? Preparing for the Driving Licence Theory Test? Going on holidays, and you’d like to know the names of the most important sites to impress your pals who are going with you? Or even a Junior or Leaving Cert student with a list as long as your arm, of things that you ought to memorise, pronto?

Whatever your reason, there are many ways to learn facts, words, or numbers.

My favourite online place for this, and one I’ve recommended to anyone who would listen for long enough, is Quizlet. It’s a recommendation that my son brought home from school, and then promptly ignored. (He’s doing the Junior Cert this year.)
Life-long learning is one of the things I firmly believe in, and so I’m in the process of learning Spanish. Vocabulary doesn’t stick as much as I seem to remember it doing, so a different approach to just writing words down and hoping for the best was needed. So I went to and created an account for myself.

Continue reading

Why Multiplayer Games Might Be Good for Your Child

We’ve all seen it … once a kid is old enough to play computer games, the fascination grows and grows, and it sometimes seems very difficult to control their desire to immerse themselves fully in this virtual world. And this temptation will not get any smaller – just think what gadgets like the Oculus Rift will mean!

One issue I have with too much computer interaction is that it makes you think that cause and effect are always clearly and logically linked. You click “print” – your document prints. You click “send” – your email wings its way to its recipient. You tap your left mouse button – Minecraft Steve destroys a block of dirt; you tap your right mouse button – the same block is placed somewhere. And so on.

Life is not like that. At least not for a lot of the time. You do A, B, C – and F happens, or maybe I, or X, but not D. You mention you’d like to go for a cuppa, and all of a sudden there’s a dozen of you in Olive’s. You had thought one or two others maybe! But that’s fine. You ask a friend a simple question, and they look at you funny, turn around and walk away. Leaving you baffled. But you can wait for an explanation – maybe something happened that you are not aware of.

Learning to read people, learning to expect the unexpected and deal with it, is part of growing up. Too much of “I press X, then Y must happen” can make this realisation difficult for today’s youngsters.

And this is where I see a possible role for multiplayer games. Via the internet (and – especially for younger children – hopefully well-monitored and with clear community guidelines), children interact online. In our house, it was mainly Club Penguin at first, then Minecraft. And it was not always sunshine and ice cream… at times, there were even tears when someone had promised to play together but didn’t show up, or when a Minecraft creation was accidentally destroyed by another player.

But these things are good! They offer learning experiences. They help the child understand that if you do x, y does not always follow, and they help to learn how to deal with this fact.
The way our children learn about the world is profoundly different from the way it was when we were young. It can be difficult to understand, even for someone with such an eager interest in all things digital (and such a drive to be playing when I can). There are dangers out there, and I will address how to do our best to keep them manageable in a future blog post.

However, the advent of multiplayer games has added a certain unpredictability, and that is something I for one think is a very welcome development!Minecraft player in the woods - uncertainty in games helps learn