Sane tools for Parents

Chris Hadfield + Mars = The Kind of place to Raise your Kids


You know we’re all about intergalactic communication over here at NXHQ. Well, how’s this for a long distance call—careful now, roaming charges WILL apply!

Earthling (8 yrs old):‘When you get close to a star, what does it really look like? I’d like to know so I can draw them better.’

Commander of International Space Station (live via video link):

‘Stars come in all different sizes. The sun is just a little yellow star. There are red ones. Ones that look brownish. There are huge white ones, ones that look blue. It depends on what chemicals are in them and how strong they are. But from the space station, they look like perfect points of light. Like an absolutely perfect diamond of light. They don’t even twinkle. They’re just a brilliant, piercing point of light. There’s nothing in the way, between my eyes and the star, there’s nothing to stop the light. They’re perfect.’

Just in case you’ve been trapped under a moon rock for the past few months, that would be Chris Hadfield, Canadian astronaut extraordinaire, talking with a Grade 2 student from the public school in Milton that proudly bears his name. He’s taking social media into the stratosphere, and bringing our kids along with him!

Check out http://starstore.ca/products/renaissance-rocket-man – an awesome new e-read about what he’s been up to; and join the 500,000+ who follow him on Twitter @Cmdr_Hadfield for up to the minute-ers—

Who says ‘Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids’? ;)

Gamifying Laundry (try this at home!)


minute to win itWeekends are usually chore time around our house. I’m sure this comes as no surprise to all the working Moms and Dads out there. Much like the inevitable whining and complaining from the kids that comes with getting them to pitch in and help out.

After finally corralling my 11-year old in front of a mound o’ laundry to fold, and he had succumbed to his fate, I was thinking it would be about 3 t-shirts before the litany of moans and groans began. But what came out of him next threw me for a loop—but I guess it shouldn’t have—

He started into a full blown ‘Minute to Win It’-style narrative giving himself a minute to fold a certain number of clothes, all the while commentating on his progress. When each minute’s challenge had been passed, he moved himself up a level, increasing the difficulty of his task, but also the ‘cash reward’ he was heading towards.

Now, of course, there was no $125K bonanza for him when he had put all his pj’s away in record time, but he did get though his folding with a smile on his face, AND he put a big smile on mine as well. He GAMIFIED his task, nothing that kids haven’t been doing with the banalities of life for donkey’s years, but a good reminder that what we’re cooking up over here at NXHQ is gonna be all that and a bag of chips!

three jars

So while we’re on the subject of chores, here’s a really cool allowance/spending money management app that we’re going to take for a spin with our in house guinea pigs. It’s called Three Jars. Sort of a 21st Century version of the dreaded ‘list on the fridge’ that would appear on Saturday mornings—;)


Virtual Field trips: no-fuss family travels


Well, we ended 2012 with a bang and are rounding up the wagons to keep right on trucking into 2013! Happy New Year to all! Hope the holidays have been merry and bright, but if your HQs are anything like ours, the kids are getting a little squirrely—maybe more than a little—as we move on past the festivities into the decidedly less festive Januar-ities.

We thought we’d try to lend a hand with a little dabble into some of the fantastic virtual ‘field trips’ that are available out there. And these ones DON’T involve: entrance fees, removing your children’s shoes at the airport, or SCUBA gear rental charges. Just a quiet spell with you and yours, and the words ‘Hey, wanna see something really cool I found—pull up a chair—maybe a hot chocolate first?’ (more…)

Resources for parents & teachers talking with kids about the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy


Though there are times when it seems like there really are no words, we must keep talking. Especially to our children and students who will have so many questions, thoughts and fears they need to express.

Some resources for us all to share…if anyone has others, let us know.

Edutopia has gathered a compendium of resources for teachers and parents who are talking to kids and teens about violence and coping with tragedy.

The Share My Lesson website offers resources from teachers for teachers on responding to traumatic events and promoting safety in schools.

Kottke.org posted a comprehensive list of resources for parents and teachers talking about the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

The Crisis Management Institute offers a downloadable guide called “Talking With Children/Students About the Sandy Hook Elementary Shooting”


3 awesome Christmas gifts for kids, families & teachers


With only a couple weeks now until the Jolly Old Elf is set to make his annual visit, we thought we’d give you a selection of a few Nexed-approved holiday gifts. With a range in cost from the always affordable (free!) to the less so…

App: Show Me
PRICE: Free!!!

Ahhh, the Apple App store. So much to chew on here, and so much of it is priced very well for the budget-conscious. But it gets hard to choose what exactly is worth the time to investigate and what is fluff. Because fluff takes up valuable memory ;)

Now, when we say free, we are assuming that you have the fairly costly, but also fairly AWESOME, iPad. The App that we are talking about here is called ‘Show Me; it’s available free and only for the iPad right now. It basically turns your iPad into an interactive whiteboard, which can be written on like any other, either using stylus or finger. You can import images onto the whiteboard and draw on top of them. But the KICKER with this app, and why we have used it at home with our own kids, is that you can record sessions or lessons with voice-over in real time as you draw on the whiteboard. What we like to do is do a full on role reversal”flip the kids and the teachers, and we‘ve seen some pretty AMAZING results. With ‘Show Me it’s all about the sharing, and THIS is what makes it so attractive to the kids. They can see what they’ve worked on, watch it play back to them and then share their Show Me’s with any of their friends through social media or email. Check out my son working on his 3 Times tables! He‘s writing them out ‘old school, but what got him uber-excited was the thought that he could then teach his friends with the lesson he created.


eton hand crankGIFT AWESOMENESS #2
Hand Crank Mobile Device Charger
PRICE: $50

Our next suggestion does ramp up the price a little”but it’s coolness factor more than makes up for it! It comes from a company called Eton. Now, we‘ve all seen those hand-crank ‘flashlights, and seen how when our kids get a hold of them they can’t get enough! Well, this is a hand crank mobile device charger. They say that 1 minute of cranking gets you a 30 second phone call or a ‘few crucial texts. And we ALL know how crucial those 3 letter texts can be for our tweens and teens”LOL.


kobotapestriesGIFT AWESOMENESS #3
The Arc E-Reader From Kobo
PRICE: $199

Lastly, and this might be more of a whole-family-to- share type gift due to the price, but we HAD to mention it. Firstly because it’s WAY cool, but also because it’s WAY Canadian, born and bred in the Great White North! It’s the newest e-reader from Kobo, the Arc. Kobo has taken it up a big ol’ notch with this reader, and this has brought them into the realm of the full on tablet. But what we really find all that about the Arc are the ‘tapestries. Think of these as your PC’s or Mac’s ‘folders but done tablet-style! Kobo says you ‘Create your own experience! Basically what the Arc lets you do is organize your books, magazine and newspaper articles, websites, music, movies within a specific ‘theme or ‘tapestry. Pretty nifty, huh?

And what we over here at Nexed HQ can see happening in the very near future is putting these VERY affordable tablets/e-readers into the eager hands of a teacher and a classroom.

Imagine a teacher asking their class to investigate, for example, the history of the parliament buildings in Ottawa (as long as we’re talking Canada here, eh?). One group looking for web based articles, another for still images, another for video, another for e-books… and then all groups collecting them together in a ‘Class Tapestry that can then be saved, shared, edited and added to. We think that’s pretty AWESOME, and are super proud that it’s got the maple leaf etched into it‘s back cover (well not really, but you get the idea;)!

So better stay on the ‘good list”plenty of tech toys out there to keep you and your kids creative and collaborating this holiday season and beyond!

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