Sunday, September 29, 2013

Are You a Player? The Positive Side of Gaming


What do football, hopscotch, Monopoly, Atari, Nintendo, the Wii and the iPad have in common? Games! We all have grown up with games so everyone loves to play them, but just how positive can they be on your brain development and learning? I had the incredible experience of hearing Jane McGonigal (The Gaming Guru) speak at the ISTE Conference this summer in San Antonio. She shared insightful information about the world of gaming.

Since many people have negative feelings about all the digital games currently out there, I thought I would spin the issue around to promote the positive side of gaming. There is extensive research which shows playing games is actually not wasting time or trying to escape reality. Although, is there really anything wrong with either of those from time to time? Whether you are avoiding blinking ghosts, catapulting an angry bird, shooting a basket, or playing Uno, gaming can challenge you with a variety of obstacles to push you past your personal best.

Here are some interesting stats:
  • 25% of gamers are over 50 years old.
  • Gamers fail 80% of the time which increases their motivation to be risk takers.
  • 92% of two year olds are gaming.
  • 65 % of gamers play with a friend.
  • By the age of 21, a person has played about 10,000 hours of games
  • Kids who are gamers perform 23% higher on creative tests than non-gamers.
  • To cure Amblyopia, researchers have found that one hour of playing the right action game is more successful of a treatment than 400 hours of wearing an eye patch.

These are 10 skills video games develop:
  1. Problem solving skills and negotiation
  2. Strategic thinking
  3. Networking
  4. Improved attention and vision
  5. Transmedia navigation
  6. Non-linear thinking patterns
  7. Hand-eye coordination
  8. Character development
  9. Independent learning
  10. Communication skills

10 Positive emotions released when playing games:
  1. Joy
  2. Creativity
  3. Relief
  4. Surprise
  5. Excitement
  6. Curiosity
  7. Pride
  8. Contentment
  9. Awe & Wonder
  10. LOVE!

So, get ready... no token or quarter needed...go out there and score!
This is your brain. This is your brain on games. Any questions?

Jane McGonigal: The Gaming Guru!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Is Multitasking a Myth?

With all of our techno gadgets, it's pretty easy to fall into the trap of multitasking. Often we feel the need to respond quickly to a few emails in the latte line, or glance at our friend's social media status while filling up our tank. How about checking the score of your favorite sports team while you should be watching your friends or child play on the field?  Just how many things can one juggle at once?

According to Psychology Today, "...multitasking involves engaging in two tasks simultaneously. It's only possible if two conditions are met: 1) at least one of the tasks is so well learned as to be automatic, meaning no focus or thought is necessary to engage in the task (e.g., walking or eating) and 2) they involve different types of brain processing. For example, you can read effectively while listening to classical music because reading comprehension and processing instrumental music engage different parts of the brain. However, your ability to retain information while reading and listening to music with lyrics declines significantly because both tasks activate the language center of the brain."

We hear how wonderful it is when one can multitask, that person who can do it all well and get it done quick...right?

Dr. Clifford Nass, a professor at Stanford University, would disagree that multitasking makes you more productive.  He explains that you actually lose time multitasking, and that it could even be killing your creativity. "The research is almost unanimous, which is very rare in social science, and it says that people who chronically multitask show an enormous range of deficits. They're basically terrible at all sorts of cognitive tasks, including multitasking."

Dr. Laura Janusik, a professor at Rockhurst University supports, what she calls, the Be Here Now strategies. She stressed the importance of tackling one task at a time, and being thorough.

When in a meeting or a class:

  • Turn off your cell phone totally
  • Don’t get distracted with eating or drinking
  • Only have open what you’re working on…your text, notes, etc.
  • Have one additional blank page near you. When you get an idea of something you need to do outside of class that you don’t have a reminder of elsewhere, like "pick up milk on the way home" or "send professor an email about this term", then jot it down on your "to do" list. Then ignore it. You can’t do it now, and you need to be here now, and you’ve made sure you’re not going to forget it by writing it down.
  • If your digital device is open, only be on the screen that you need to be on NOW.

At home

  • If you’re on a device, only be on the program/page that you need….close out/ shut down all other programs/pages you are not currently using. It decreases temptation.
  • Shut off sound indicators for voicemail/text/Facebook messages.
  • Set a timer for 10 – 60 minutes (your choice). During that time, work ONLY on one project. When the timer goes off, you may check your voicemail/email/Facebook, etc.

It seems clear that if you are trying to get through your day multitasking as much as possible, you may just be clowning around.

Here is an additional resource/video to watch:


Monday, September 16, 2013

Idea for an App? Avoid the Trap!


Everyone seems to have the next latest and greatest idea for an app. If you truly believe you have an idea for an app that is clever and creative, here are some things you need to know.

Adam Jones, from RareWire, was a guest speaker last week in the course I teach: "Technology in the Classroom: Applications and Implications".  He discussed the history of apps and current status of the ever growing phenomenon with the 'Appconomy". He also is the founder of TapTeach. This organization encourages teachers to develop the ideas for an app they dream of using in the classroom. Teachers work with professional app developers to support bringing to life their ideas to use the app in the classroom. Through the purchase of their app creation, teachers are able to raise funds for more technology integration in their classrooms. Win-Win for everyone. Teachers often feel they do not  have the technology they need and here is a system which allows them to raise the money they need to provide the resources our 21st century learners need.

Are you inspired to get your app out there? I have categorized his information as "The Good", "The Bad" and "The Ugly" to help those interested gain a wider understanding of app development.

The Good
  • 100+ Million iPads have been sold since it's birth in 2010. Obviously the iPad is on fire and growing in popularity. This accounts for 91% of web traffic.
  • App development is projected to increase at an incredible rate as 185 Billion apps are predicted to be in circulation by 2014.
  • 8 + Million apps sold to educational institutions.
  • Three different app stores you can develop apps for:

The Bad

  • Educational apps only account for 10.5% of all apps in the app store. While there is a process to publishing your app, the category 'educational' can often include apps which actually have no educational value at all.
  • 68% of app developers earn $5,000 with their MOST successful app.
  • There are three different platforms to develop your app, which can be confusing and misleading:
    • Native: $$$, fully featured device access, programmer needed, fastest and distributed through the App store.
    • Hybrid: $, fully featured device access, native speed, front end, distributed through
    • Web: $, partial device access, fast speed, front end creation, distributed though Link Economy.
  • It typically can take 10 weeks on the backend and 8 weeks on the frontend to create and develop an app. It is not something you are going to do on a Sunday afternoon. However, there is a push to move the app into circulation sooner than later and continuously update it based on reviews and test audiences.

The Ugly

  • 80% of app developers do not make enough money to support a business.
  • Google Play deleted over 60,000 apps earlier this year. Higher restrictions and expectations for apps are on the rise. The Apple App Store reps actually have said "we don't need anymore fart apps".
  • Even though you have the idea, you, most likely, will need an app developer to push it into play. Finding the right platform and host can be tricky. If you are serious about your app idea read these two articles:

We know the term "there's an app for that!" However, you may just have the next best app idea which could change the lives of those who are looking for the latest and greatest.

*Special thanks to Adam Jones! Check him out via the links provided above.

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Apple Doesn't Fall Far From the Tree: IOS 7!

True to Apple form, huge changes and improvements are coming to Apple users tomorrow, Tuesday, September 10th. Think Zen, Clean, Flat, and Simple.

If you haven't had the chance to view this video: take a look.

There are speculations as to what else Apple could be launching: here are some of those predictions:

1. iWatch.  I remember when Swatch watches (with those guards) were cool. Those don't even hold a candle to the realm of possibility Apple could provide with a smartwatch. Imagine a wristband mini-me iPad.

2. iPhone 5 S.  Updated processor which could mean running 30-40% faster, better camera/ dual LED flash for low lighting, and a rumored fingerprint scanner, no need for a locked screen.

3. iPhablet. I'll be honest, it's not the word I would choose, but it's a 'new' word for iPhone/Tablet combo. Not sure why iPad mini doesn't seem to work for some in the techy world, but iPhablet seems to making a case for itself. The iPad mini is about 7 x 5 inches, the rumor is they are coming out with a tablet slightly smaller 6 x 4 inches. Is a smaller iPad mini necessary?

My request: I want to be able to read my iPhone when it's sunny out! 

The beauty of technology is that it is always evolving and changing. However, the apple may look different and improved, but it's still falling from the same tree. We'll see what tomorrow brings!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Avoid Being a Slacker When It Comes To a Hacker

Is anything private anymore?

Think you are exempt from being hacked? Think again! Here are some straightforward tips on how to quickly be reactive if it happens to you. More importantly, reminders on being more proactive and preventative.

Reactive:   You have gotten hacked, here is how to recover:

1. Um, I think your email has been hacked. There's always that one friend that will reach out and tell you. The rest of us just delete the email and move on thinking you already know.  Being alerted that you have been hacked through email, or other accounts can frustrate, stress, and ultimately scare anyone. What does it mean when you have some unknown person creep into your world. You immediately need to change your password. See #2 under "Proactive" for help.

2. Buddy system. You need to immediately let your email contacts know that you have been hacked. Preferably from another account until you have reached out to your account provider and have recaptured your account. If they open up a message from a hacked account, they can become a victim as well.

3. So, you're sayin' there's a chance? You will survive, but you need to be assertive and take back your digital life.  Scan your device for anti-virus, anti-theft updates and software. If you do not know how to accomplish this task, find out! Here is a site to get you started:  Keep in mind, it is not 100%, i.e. New York Times.

4. Back it up. We carry hours, days and years of memories on our devices and yet we do not take the seconds or minutes to back them up safely. Take the time, it's important and once it is gone, well, it's gone. Do not leave personal, confidential, financial, private (you get the drift) information on any device without backing it up. Even if you think it may not be that important, delete it or place it elsewhere.

5. Blackmail, it happens. Criminal hackers will sell email addresses, photos, financial information, coding flaws, you name it, to other criminals who will then use those valuable materials to spread corruption. Or, hackers will turn around and try to blackmail their victim, especially if they think they will have significant leverage for sufficient monetary gain. If you are experiencing blackmail from a hacker, here some are steps you can take via ic3:

Proactive: Here is how to avoid the whole stressful mess of being hacked.

1.  Do the two-step.  That's two-step verification. As if Google wasn't already King, they really have been the leader with this preventive measure. For example, anytime I click "forgot your password" they will ensure I have a message  with a code sent to my cell phone. Which I then have to enter to access my email. Now, if your cell phone is stolen, this could cause a problem. So be sure to set up the recovering settings as you wish to retrieve your account information. Here are instructions on how to do so:

2, Create a 10-12 password already! Have we really become that lazy, that we can't think up a creative 10-12 password or are we so memory deprived that we just can't remember our passwords. Either way, be a responsible adult and you will be happy in the end.  Hackers love a challenge and deciphering the most common passwords brings them much joy. They do it with easy and are efficient. They can find out all about you in seconds. Choose uppercase and lowercase letters, symbols, and random word combinations then place it in a safe spot. If you want some good ideas of passwords, I would share a link with you, but that would be an oxymoron, hackers know the codes and habits people use when creating passwords.

3. You do not have a rich long lost cousin in a foreign country trying share his millions with you. This seems like common sense, but you would be surprised how many people fall for this. Same with banks and other companies who send you an email requesting you to verify something, anything. Delete immediately and do not respond. If you are receiving these email at work, please alert your administrator or tech team. 

4.  It's ok not to share.  Why do kids and people share their log in information? It is not safe, nor is it smart. I hear story after story about a student who was nice enough to let someone log into their computer station, shared either social media account info or walked away without logging out of their email account.  Change your behavior and slow down. Ensure you are logging out,  and doing so correctly. Just because you  shut down a system does not necessarily mean you are logged out.

5. Spread the word.  Pay this info forward. Help a brother or sister out, remind them the importance of exporting information from your accounts to other safe places where hackers cannot reach all those valuable photos or irreplaceable documents. Delete emails you do not need or would not want the world to see. CEOs, tech experts (read about Mat Honan from Wired), celebrities, and us common folk all get hacked on a daily basis.

Be proactive and stop the madness. For more helpful tips and how to talk to your kids about Internet safety, visit these websites. Yes, they are safe links. ;)