Category Archives: Technology

Time Out for Minecraft!

It’s been pretty crazy watching the world of MInecraft taking over so many households, including mine!  Kids can spend hours and hours in front of their computers and/or tablets creating virtual worlds that they can take part in with others inside the game.  At first, I just couldn’t believe kids could get into a game with such bad graphics.  Then, the realization set in that my own son was swept up in it, and there was no turning back.  As I watched Malachy play in Creative Mode and how he created different worlds and structures, how he watched YouTube videos to see how others used their inventories to create “new” items, I saw some of the positives in this game.  We limited his playtime, but we saw how it took over his drawings, his writing, his conversations, his Lego Building, etc.  There was even a New York Times article talking about the obsession and some of the benefits of it.  I was living it and witnessing it with my own very eyes. 🙂

Recently, LaunchPadToys came up with an awesome Minecraft contest using their Toontastic App called Toon Academy: Minecraft.  It’s like they read his mind when they designed this contest!  After telling Malachy about it, I knew he would go for it.  He’s already gotten so much support and encouragement from the online community, thanks to social media.  Very cool!

His video presentation demonstrated to me all the vocabulary and skills he was picking up through the course of his play.  It also made him really think about how to convey his message to others in a way they could better understand why he’s so passionate about Minecraft.  It took a few takes, but it was all him, and he put hard work into it.  It’s what engaged learning is all about.  Impressive.  Contest ends on Thursday (October 17th), so we’ll just have to wait and see… 😉

Time Out for StoryPanda

Check out the StoryPanda iPad app!

So, the folks at StoryPanda have a Mother’s Day promotion, where they are offering SIX of their e-books for kids for FREE until Mother’s Day! 🙂  It’s a very cool app, because not only can children read their fun stories, but they are able to change/edit the words to create their own versions of the stories.  Also, with Storypanda’s books kids can swap in different characters, props, and backgrounds, too!  The six free books that you can download until Mother’s Day areBlack Cat Big CityMompersBoy Who Cried AliensMy Extraordinary FriendPaul The Imaginary and Yawn Chairs.  They are usually $2.99 per book, so it’s definitely worth checking out!

Cat Creates a Book from Storypanda on Vimeo.


Time Out for KARATE!

Shien and I are really glad Malachy took up Karate.  It teaches respect, self-discipline, and the benefits of practice and hard work.  The more experienced ones help out the less experienced one, and everyone is there to help each other to get better.  They use a term, “OSU,” as a way of thanking each other and showing each other respect.  Malachy has used it at home every now and then with me, and says, “Dad, that means I really respect you.”  Very cool stuff.

Enter Malachy’s first tournament.  I couldn’t pass up signing up for it.  GUARANTEED trophy!  A couple of weeks before I found out about this event, Malachy had told me he wanted a real trophy, not just stickers.  I told him he’d get his chance… one day.  It would be the first one in our family.  I NEVER won a trophy.  I won a few ribbons in a Field Day once, got many certificates through the years, but NEVER a trophy.  My parents never put me into any competitive sports or activities, so the opportunity was never there.  I always dreamed of having a trophy in my hands, a REAL trophy.

Of course, I didn’t want Malachy to know there was a guaranteed trophy.  I told him he would have to earn it and that he had to do his best.  So, even though his Karate teachers (Sesei and Sampei) told him that everyone got a trophy for entering, and he even read it on the registration, I was able to convince him that there was no guarantee, and he bought my argument.  At the end of the day today, he was the one who told me, “Dad, it doesn’t even matter if I didn’t get a trophy.  I had fun, and I did my best.”  That’s my little Ninja with the big heart and the big mind.  I’m always trying to teach him stuff, and he winds up teaching me. 🙂

In the first event, Malachy was called first. I knew that meant he probably wouldn’t win. When they gave out the ribbons, almost everyone got one, because there were so many subdivisions in terms of belts, so there were many first and second places in this event. One kid was crying and needed to be comforted, but Malachy was fine. Then, came the next event… Freestyle. I knew Malachy would have energy, but didn’t know what to expect, as this was the first time I’d ever watched this one-on-one “no-contact” tournament. Plus, there were some much bigger kids in terms of size. I reminded myself that he would still get that beautiful trophy, no matter what. Well, before my eyes, he won Round 1, and then he won Round 2, and then came the Final Round! He was up against a Blue Belt, who was much bigger than him. Oh well, at least he was now guaranteed 2nd place! But no… he got first! Amazing! He saved some of his best moves for the last round. Later on, he said these moves were inspired by his fellow competitors. Unbelievable. When we got out of the train station, on the way home, he asked Shien, “Is this a dream, Mommy?” I think I was thinking the same. Proud of our little champ.

Time Out for Social Media!

Credit to Matt Hamm

Social Media (SM) has really amazed me time and time again with all its potential. Through Twitter, I’ve learned so much from so many. At first, just like in many social situations, I sat back and observed. Slowly, but surely, I started building a Personal Learning Network (PLN), and now I’m connected with amazing people all over the world!

People’s tweets reveal so much about themselves. Some tweet about all the great contests and giveaways out there (which has allowed me to win some awesome prizes like event tickets, gift cards, and a SMART pen!), some tweet about all the current events (which has enabled me to find out about things in real time, especially in education), some tweet to promote themselves (big businesses, small businesses, or no businesses), some tweet about their personal lives or thoughts (whether people want to know or not). The thing is, you get to choose who you want to hear from. Others have the same choice of whether they want to follow you. When someone retweets your words, it’s validating, because it usually means your words mean something to someone else. 🙂

Because of social media, I am able to leave a bigger digital footprint through participating in chats (#edchat, #kinderchat, and #ptchat) and submitting posts to other sites like,,, and It’s so empowering when people you don’t know read your words and comment on them. This is what I hope to convey to my students. Your words MATTER. If you have something to say, your words can cause a reaction in others. Sometimes good and sometimes not so good, but that’s okay.  It’s an amazing journey, and you come away learning so much from it. 😉

Time Out for Labels!

Saved By A Label! from TimeOutDad on Vimeo.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to put my name and my cell phone number on my flash keys? WHY? I had a few students leave their flash drives in the computer, and I had no way of knowing who left them in the lab. That’s when I decided to use my label machine and put small sticker labels with my name and cell number on them. So, yesterday, I was saved by one of my labels? I must have reached for my apartment keys, and in the process, one of my flash keys fell on the floor, right by the entrance. Luckily, someone picked it up, and gave it to the security desk. As I was on my way to my in-laws for dinner, I received a phone call. I didn’t recognize the number on caller ID, but thank goodness I answered. So much of my semester’s work was on it. I had it saved in other places, but this had some of the final drafts. Another lesson? NEVER use your flash key for primary storage. Too many things can go wrong with them! 😉

Time Out for Social Homework!

This past Saturday, I attended the first Tri-State Education Technology Conference (TSETC 2010) at New Milford High School in New Jersey. I found out about it from Lisa Nielsen, who did an awesome job as the Keynote Speaker. She is the author of The Innovative Educator blog and also the Technology Innovation Manager for the Office of Educational Technology at the New York City Department of Education. The conference was great. Most of the workshops demonstrated the “power of technology” in the classrooms and all the wonderful ways that technology can be integrated into instruction and professional development. There was also a whole lot of buzz about Social Media and its role in education. It’s all about connecting, collaborating, creating, and communicating with others. It made me think a whole lot about technology and its role in education.

Technology is often said to be a tool. Whereas most tools have a clear and defined purpose, technology doesn’t. I could be playing video games, and I could say I’m using technology, but is it meaningful? In education, we have to keep asking ourselves if technology is being used in a meaningful way. I feel when we think of technology in education, we picture the computers, interactive whiteboards, projectors, and all the other tech gadgets that are used in schools. Yet, it’s much harder for us to explain exactly HOW the technology is being used or WHY it is being used in classrooms.

This week, like any other week, Malachy got his Pre-K homework. It’s usually given on Mondays, Wednesday, and Fridays and due the following school day. This Monday, he was given a more unique assignment that’s due at the end of the week. It’s a worksheet from Scholastic, but instead of the typical circling, coloring, cutting, or filling out something, the assignment was to go on a Nature Walk. The instructions were to, “Go for a walk outside. Look for the things on this page. If you see one, circle it. It’s OK if you don’t see them all!” The rain finally gave way, so today, we were able to do the assignment! 😉

At first, it was just Malachy and me. I brought a camera because I wanted to document our homework and make it even more interactive. (Extra credit! 😉 ) After a few minutes of looking around and searching for the objects, two other kids asked what we were doing and asked if they could help us! They wanted in on this homework and wanted to help Malachy complete his assignment. So, we all walked around our building’s playground/park area, looking for the items. We were pretty sure we wouldn’t find a snail. Also, since there were no pine trees or oak trees in the area, the pine cone and acorn weren’t going to happen either. (Malachy and I did find an acorn later on. Or was it? 😉 ) What an awesome assignment this turned out to be!

Malachy’s homework “forced” us to interact with nature and with each other. We didn’t plan on getting outside help (networking!), but how cool was that to have others join in on the fun? This was a light bulb moment for me. To me, this assignment was like a microcosm of Social Media! It involved making connections, communicating, collaborating, and creating a meaningful experience.

It got me thinking about homework and technology and education. Homework shouldn’t be just between the student and a book or piece of paper. Technology shouldn’t be just between the user and a computer or other tech gadget. The goal should be about interacting and connecting with the outside world and with others and creating a meaningful experience. We should have more “nature walk” assignments for students, parents, and communities to work on together. When we learn together, we connect. Social Homework! 😉 That’s what it’s all about! 😉

This is part of the Tri-State Education Technology Conference (TSETC) Blogger Café Contest sponsored by edSocialMedia. TSETC is brought to you by Schoology.

Time Out for a Flashlight!

Let there be light! 😉

I LOVE flashlights! I have purchased DOZENS of them and have quite an extensive collection at home. Shien told someone that I was a flashlight Connoisseur! 😉

We arrived in the Poconos on Friday evening. We soon learned that we arrived at the perfect time. If we had arrived sooner, we might have gone out in a boat and gotten stuck in a HUGE thunderstorm. If we had arrived later, it would have been MUCH later, because we would have been driving in the storm, and there were road closures and reports of tornadoes!

While we were eating dinner, the storm came down so hard, that the electricity went out, but luckily there was a generator in the house. That kept the electricity running on the first floor. After dinner, while doing the dishes, I noticed that the water pressure was getting lower and lower, and by the time I got to the last few dishes, there was a trickle, and then… NO WATER! Ai ya.
These are the things that this city boy has hardly ever had to dealt with, except for the big Blackout of 2003 in the Northeast, where we did lose all electricity and water for many hours.
I don’t travel often, but when we do, I seems to always pack a flashlight or two or three… 😉 On a number of occasions, the flashlights came in handy, so that’s one of the first things I always pack. I might not have enough change of clothes or forget a toothbrush or toothpaste, but NEVER a flashlight! 😉
On this trip, the flashlights were great! Malachy got to see Dad use them in action and might have gotten the sense of why Daddy has SO many flashlights all over. There were candles and all, and I didn’t have to use my own flashlights, but it was definitely cool to have them around, with no electricity and running water. The generator was turned off and there was no electricity on the second floor, anyways, where we slept.
We went to bed with enough packed water to brush up and go to bed. Malachy was wondering about why he wasn’t getting a bath or shower, but he definitely didn’t mind… So, it was lights out really early for all of us! 😉

Time Out for IM…

Malachy on AIM...

Malachy started Instant Messaging before he was 3, mostly with his uncle and grandparents. In a previous post, he actually assumed my identity! 😉 His uncle thought he was chatting with me.
He always loved letters, so he naturally loved the keyboard and typing away. When he got older (can’t believe I just typed the word “older”), he learned that the Mac could use the Chinese Pin Yin system and type out Chinese characters. He LOVED that, too! He can now type on his own, and he will sometimes switch back between English and Chinese, just for fun. When it’s Chinese, he’ll just insert random characters. Sometime, he’ll ask me what he just typed in Chinese, and I’m like, “I don’t know. Go ask Mommy! 😉 ”
Tonight, his uncle was feeling a bit down, so before bedtime, I suggested that he call his Uncle Chris. He tried calling twice, but it was so loud on the other end, and it hung up twice. So, first, he left his uncle a voice message telling him he shouldn’t be upset and that people are just talking, etc…
Then, while Malachy was on the computer, his uncled IM’d from his Blackberry, so I had Malachy take a break to IM him. I sat on the couch while he typed away. I gave him suggestions on what he could type, but he typed what he wanted. This is what he had to say… At first, he didn’t finish the word “UPSET,” so I told him he could retype it. Instead, he thought he should just add the letters on the next line. Later on, I showed Shien and she asked, “What’s GN?” I told her, “Good Night. Your son decided to just type GN on his own…” Ai ya! 😉