The (digital) sandman: Embracing technological tools

By Jason Thomson on January 09, 2013


This should be chaos.

Six kids – five under one roof – getting ready for bed. There’s LIT (13-year-old, girl), Jester (11, boy), The Bloodhound (7, girl), The Advocate (6, boy) and Hurricane (2, girl). Because everyone has different bed times, the potential for nuttiness is high.

But we’ve found an ally, a way to manage the whole kit-and-kaboodle. Hello “technology”.

Education apps. Videos and shows. Books. Streaming music. We use it all as a way to help us keep our sanity and get our kids to bed on time(ish).

Because we don’t have the time to set up a ton of technology, we take the easy route. Everything around here starts with Apple’s closed loop system (look away Android lovers). There are three iPad minis, two iPads, two iPhones, two Apple TVs, a pair of creaky old Mac Minis, a couple of Macbooks and extenders to boost the power of the network everywhere in the house. Together, this hardware creates a latticework of technology that helps with everything from homework to zzzz’s.

The education apps

Every kid has an iPad or iPad mini – it’s way cheaper than investing in computers and the education apps are fantastic. The Jester struggles with reading and writing, so I’ve been creating spelling tests using Spellboard. It lets you record your voice reading the word and challenges him to type it out. I get him to do that (and promise some Minecraft time) while we put the smallest ones to bed.

Videos and shows

Thank you Netflix. We use this $8-a-month wonder to put TV, videos and documentary on screens around the house. The LIT has been catching up on old episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the little ones have figured out how to find videos of the Skylanders video game on YouTube.

Interactive books

Tablets and phones are changing the ways our kids read. Take the Sesame Street classic, The Monster at the End of the Book.  It’s not a book anymore, it’s a rudimentary interactive experience. We use the interactive books with the little ones (although, now that I’ve written the post, I’ll use them some more). My favourite over the last year has been Bartleby’s Book of Buttons. It folds in a gameification element that challenges the reader to get into the story by solving puzzles and clues to get to the next page. It’s really, really clever – and there’s a second volume now on the market.

Streaming music

Every song we own is available for streaming. We rock out to playlists during dinner. I stream UK radio via TuneInRadio on the iPad on the weekends. We’re Rdio subscribers, which is a huge help with the toddler who constantly asks for new music at bedtime. We create playlists for the older kids – they’ve been listening to Dumb Ways to Die a whole lot this past month.

Tech is a big part of my daily life. I blog for Intel and run my own community for anyone who wants to take better snapshot. And as I spend more time with it, I’m taking a deeper look at how to make it a more powerful part of our lives. It feels some days that too many parents are afraid of what’s out there. Bedtime proves to me that we’re at the tip of the iceberg, and I’m going to charge forward and find out how to make everyone’s lives even better.

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