Chat with Mommy Blogger – MomMomOnTheGo (Heather Fox).

Bloggers, Education, Educational Toys/Games, Parenting

To kick off our first interview with a Mommy blogger, we spent some time chatting with Heather Fox, Founder of MomMomOnTheGo (great giveaway and review website for busy Moms). Read our interview below and find out about Heather’s invaluable tips for making learning fun for kids and her inspirational life story.

 “…..Being a child is about learning, growing, and having fun. So making learning fun is what I look for.”

1. What do you look for in educational toys/games designed for elementary aged children? What makes such a product great?

In educational toys, I look for products that are fun for my Little One (LO) to play and that in so doing, she doesn’t even realize that she is learning while having fun. I really think that the key is having fun. When kids are having fun and laughter with a product, they come back to it. When they are laughing and having fun, they don’t realize that they are learning. If learning does not feel like work, then kids love to do it.

Just sit a child down at a table and ask them to do exercises in a workbook, or heaven forbid, homework. They complain, don’t last very long, and can’t wait to be done. They are not having fun.

Put an awesome educational toy in front of a child that is fun and causes smiles and laughter, and the child will be engaged and play. The learning does not feel like work, so they have endurance to use it. They will also return to use such as product time and again. That is a winning product. The key is making the learning fun.

2. How do you test the products that you review for giveaways?

I like to personally test the products for reviews. I have my LO who is a girl and 7 years old as well as my step-daughter who is soon to be 12 and my step son who is now 20. So I cover all age groups except that baby stage now. I also have my local correspondents that can help me test products for other age ranges.

I like to personally test the items out whenever possible. I also do not allow guest posts on my website unless it is about charity or a great feel good story. I personally write everything except the articles where I introduce my Toronto correspondent as the author. My correspondents submit their articles to me and I make sure they are to my standard and publish them on my website.

Quality and image is really important to me. I feel like I owe a lot to my fans so I have to pay attention to the quality of the testing and the quality of the written review.

2. What trends are you seeing in the areas of educational toys/games and ed-tech targeting elementary aged children? What are some of this summers’ must have items in this market?

I am seeing a lot of things becoming electronic. We are the age of happening, now, fast and never waiting.

I love electronics and so do my kids. I also love good old fashioned board games and learning products. For me, the goal is to always find a balance of enough electronic and what I like to call traditional products accessible so that my LO has a balance of learning from all sources.

A lot of the trends these days are moving toward the electronic products. There are books on electronic devices, learning games on electronic devices, and electronic friends instead of stuffies. The one thing that I notice is that my LO still always loves great interactive time with MomMom. She still loves board games with MomMom, her stuffies that line her bed and room, reading an actual book, and more. So the key is balance here.

As parents, we have limited budgets for products. We cannot afford to get item A of something only to find out item Z is the best one for us and our child. I love testing things in every category because we do not have the money to waste on a product our kids will not love and use. It can get confusing picking what products to get, so I like to review products to help moms, dads, grandparents, friends and everyone else decide what product they will get.

3. As an influencer, what do you look for in brands (like Junior Learning) that you choose to collaborate with? 

I look to work with companies that are producing products that are making the products fun for kids. I don’t just want an educational product, I want a product that engages my child, has her smiling, laughing, and having fun. I want a company that is taking the school lessons and things that my child needs to learn, and making her love learning them. I don’t want to have learning time at home feel like school learning.

I also really love products that provide great family time such as game night. I love electronic products also and think they are good within limited screen time. They have their applications for sure and I do turn to them as well as the traditional products.

In the end, the key is what I have been saying all along….FUN. Being a child is about learning, growing, and having fun. So making learning fun is what I look for.

4. In your opinion, what are a few key things a busy Mom can do to help and support her children’s learning when at home?

As a super busy Mom with 3 kids, 2 dogs, 2 cats and a bunny, here is what I think that you can do to help your child’s learning at home:

  • Participate in their learning.
  • Read books to them and with them.
  • Participate in their online and electronic learning.
  • Balance learning gained from electronic learning and traditional learning.
  • Remember to exercise their body as well as their mind.
  • Remember that they learn from what they see. Do they see you reading and learning?
  • Make sure to dedicate time each day to learning together.
  • Research the learning tools and products you are thinking about buying so that you do not waste your money on a product that will sit on a shelf after a few uses.
  • Most importantly, remember to make learning fun. If you are having fun with your LO, they will love it and grow a passion for that fun and learning.

5. Please tell us a bit about yourself and Mommomonthego? When and why did you start your website with product reviews and giveaways? What makes Mommomonthego different from other Mommy bloggers and giveaway sites?

I started my website back in 2008. It was originally called ExpectingMom.ca. I was no longer expecting at the time, but just had my Little One who is now 7 years old. Here is the story behind why I started my website….

In 2007, six months after having my LO, and a C-section, my back started to hurt. My doctor at the time kept chalking it up to the fact that I just had a baby and the back pain would go away in time….. After months of physiotherapy, my back was getting worse. I knew it was time to get another opinion so I changed doctors.

By the time I got to my new doctor, I was having trouble walking. I was depressed, something that I never struggled with before. At this point, this was not me that I saw in the mirror. I was a strong, mentally and physically woman who could do anything, and was going to be a strong role model for my LO. Instead, I could hardly carry my LO, I had a limp from pain and loss of feeling on the right side, I was depressed, sad, angry, and just lost my love for life. I was used to keeping busy and struggled to just get around.

My better half looked at me and said “You need to keep your mind busy, why not start a blog, a mom website.” From that one statement and continued belief in me, despite my own loss of belief in myself, my website was born. Now when I couldn’t take the pain, I blogged. If I felt down, I blogged. My mind was being challenged again and it helped my spirits beyond words.

In the beginning I blogged about baby products, a few recipes I loved, and the experience of getting pregnant. Eventually, I was brave enough to contact companies and ask if I could review their items. I was getting positive feedback from companies and everything just steam rolled from there. Companies started contacting me and when I started working with household name brands, I knew that I had made something that people loved reading.

A couple of years in, I started to realize that the name of the website had to change. It had to grow and reflect how I had grown. I was now more mobile. My doctor had run tests by now, catscan, mri and so on….so we now knew that I had two herniated discs in the L4 and L5 region. All of this was causing excruciating nerve pain and right leg neuropathy which meant that I could not really feel my right side from basically my waist down.

I was now able to go around with my kids and their activities although sitting long and driving was pretty tough still. I would look out the window in the morning upon the sun, flowers and trees and would feel a love for life again. I was on the go, I was now MomMomOnTheGo and so; the website changed and grew even more.

I am back at work full time and have been for a few years now, but I have never given up my website. It is a passion and love of mine now. I could never turn my back on what helped to get me through tough times. Now MomMomOnTheGo has a Toronto correspondent as well as local correspondents to help me get work done. MomMomOnTheGo has grown to something that I never imagined back in those days that I was typing away to keep my mind thinking, busy and off the pain.

MomMomOnTheGo has a vast fan base made up of moms, dads, grandparents, and even kids. I like to have great laughs, the best reviews, and the most awesome giveaways you can find. I have fans from all over the world. I am amazed every single day at how MomMomOnTheGo has grown.

Thank you to the businesses for entrusting their products for me to review and giveaway. Thank you to the fans that have read my words, and entered my giveaways. Thank you to my better half that in just a few simple words, saved me from a downward spiral, supported and believed in me at my lowest time, and is really the one who inspired the birth of MomMomOnTheGo.

Make sure to stop by my website at MomMomOnTheGo.com. Read a few reviews, enter some of the best giveaways, and check out my Shout Outs to see what others have to say about me. After all, there is no MomMomOnTheGo without my fans.

heather 

Top Ten Facts about Teaching the Brain.

Neuroscience

brain

 

Following on from last week’s interview with Dr Duncan Milne on teaching the brain, we thought we’d share with you some quick fire facts on how the brain learns and how it works.

The brain is plastic.  It is not a static organ and changes throughout life.  Neural pathways and connections change every time a new idea or thought is formed.

Every brain is wired differently.  Learning changes the formation of our brain.  No two brains are identical, not even twins.

The brain is an interconnected network of cells.  How the brain is connected can explain learning.  When brain cells fire together, they wire together and activation spreads across the network.

There are parts of the brain that are functionally specialised.  Observation of the brain shows distinct areas that are specialised for different aspects of our cognition.

The brain uses parallel processing to carry out multiple operations simultaneously.  Parallel processing is fast as there are many parts of the brain at work.

The brain stores information in hierarchical form, so that neighbourhoods of ideas, language, or thoughts can be activated to support thinking and learning.

The brain integrates information across the sensors. It can move across one modality to another by transcoding (for example visual to auditory).

The blue print for the development of our brains comes from our genes.  Genes predict the types of abilities we may develop and the difficulties we may face in learning.

The brain has been passed down by evolution.  It has not yet evolved for classroom education and must recycle old systems for the purposes of learning.

There are a number of technologies used to examine the brain.  This research is in its infancy and there is plenty more to learn about how the brain works.

*Excerpt from Teaching the Brain – The New Science of Education by Dr Duncan Milne, co-founder Junior Learning. Brain illustration from How My Brain Learns to Read by Dr Duncan Milne. 

The Future of Classroom Education – Interview with Dr Duncan Milne.

Digital Learning, Literacy, Neuroscience, Numeracy, Touchtronic Technology

 Milne Headshot

In our first interview for Junior Learning’s new blog, we sat down with our co-founder Dr Duncan Milne to gain some insights into the future of classroom education. Dr Duncan holds a Ph.D. in Cognitive Neuroscience and Education from the University of Auckland, New Zealand; and is alumni of Harvard University. He is the author of 2 books on brain-based learning. His most recent publication: Teaching the Brain – The New Science of Education was released in 2013. He also volunteers his time as director of Tools for Literacy at Dyslexia International, and gave the keynote address at UNESCO’s World Dyslexia Forum in Paris.

JL: Your research and new book focus on how the brain learns and developing teaching and intervention programs that are underpinned by brain-based models. Why is it so important for teachers and parents to understand the science of how the brain learns in order to teach literacy and numeracy effectively to children?

Dr Duncan: In my opinion, the new science of education brings together teaching and the brain. Our understanding of the workings of the brain, gained through neuroscientific research, can be used to guide educational theory and practice. It is possible to consider each learning operation, such as speaking, reading, spelling, writing and mathematics, as a series of circuits and connections across processing systems in the brain. This understanding also allows us to consider brains that work a little bit differently (e.g the dyslexic brain) and guide personalized learning programs. Although the link between educational and neuroscience is in its infancy, the time is right to bridge educational practice and brain research in a way that is practical to teachers and parents.

 

JL: What are some of the key insights into your book: Teaching the Brain: The New Science of Education?

Dr Duncan: When children learn in the classroom they are acquiring cognitive tasks that have been invented. For example, the brain never evolved to do reading or times tables because these skills haven’t been around for that long. So, the brain must use older mechanisms, such as visual object recognition or sound discrimination and create linking circuits for learning. Teaching the Brain allows teachers to look inside to see the impact of teaching on the brain and best methods available for accelerated learning.

 

JL: What is the most exciting insight that you’ve gained through your work?

Dr Duncan: I think the most exciting insight is seeing the brain change in response to effective teaching. As connections are formed, parts of the brain light up during successful processing. Even in the case of children with learning difficulties or dyslexia, we see successful intervention leads to processing that looks like other good readers (normalization) or activations in other areas that are bought in to help an area that isn’t working very well (compensation). These brain changes relate to performance changes, and that’s very exciting.

 

JL: We know that the digital age is here to stay. What do you think are the pros and cons of educational technology in the classroom? And how can teaching and intervention programs be complemented with digital learning approaches?

Dr Duncan: There are many advantages of digital technology in the classroom. One of the greatest is the opportunities is multi-sensory learning, especially with tablet technology where children can see, touch and hear as they interact with the software. However, there is a limitation as young children don’t learn as naturally in a 2D world. For example, they cannot touch and feel the shape of the letter. Hybrid technology in the form of appcessories has overcome this limitation. Here, Touchtronic Letters enable children to touch, feel, and manipulate the letter in 3D space, whilst being able to take advantage of the benefits of the digital world.

 

JL: You have a passion for creating high quality educational toys, games and technology applications. Where do you see the future of Junior Learning’s products going?

Dr Duncan:

Digital learning applications are great at engaging children and providing them with feedback, but they are typically missing the important aspects of multi-sensory learning opportunities that are so crucial for helping young children learn. The manipulation of real letters for instance is important to teach children letter orientation and visual recognition. This is what has led to Junior Learning’s development of our Touchtronic Letters. We are blending the physical and digital worlds of learning. We see many opportunities for using this technology in the teaching of literacy and math, especially where we can take abstract concepts and explain them through interactive manipulatives.

*Dr Duncan Milne’s other publications also include a 3rd book – ‘How My Brain Learns to Read’, a children’s version of Teaching the Brain.

teaching-the-brain-cover-art--sam-hadleybrightenedJL140 Book Cover

A Tale of Tangible Interactions: Junior Learning’s NEW Touchtronic® Technology

Digital Learning, Touchtronic Technology, Uncategorized
Child with iPad using Touchtronic Letters.

Child with iPad using Touchtronic Letters.

With the introduction of the iPad, we (at Junior Learning) felt that the future of childhood education was about to shift in a monumental way. Every day, children constantly flick between digital books and educational apps as part of their learning programs. Parents and teachers alike are uncertain as to what effect this will have in the long-term on kids. What we do know is that children now expect to learn and interact through digital mediums. We also know that the digital era is here to stay and Junior Learning doesn’t want to be left behind!

With all this in mind, we wondered how can we combine the best of traditional teaching methods with digital learning opportunities? Surely, if we can achieve this, then children will be able to grasp key educational concepts (like learning the alphabet, spelling and reading) much more effectively?

Right from its inception in California (2009), Junior Learning was founded to establish synergies across the fields of toy design and educational publishing. All our educational toys and games are designed around the latest educational research combined with the “best of the best” in toy design. We feel our products make education fun and accessible for all children – strong in educational content combined with the excitement and physical nature of a toy. We like to call this ‘camouflage’ learning.

All this has led to the conception of our new and exciting innovation: Touchtronic Letters. Touchtronic Letters are the first physical classroom resource to work on an iPad. Touchtronic Letters comprise a set of tangible alphabet letters that interact directly with the iPad surface, and work with learning apps. Thus, we believe we have successfully combined the physical and digital worlds of learning for school aged children. We know that children enjoy learning with foam and magnetic letters, so why not create the next step – letters for the iPad?

Touchtronic Letters includes 26 letters of the alphabet, color-coded with consonants in blue and vowels in red. The supporting free App (available from the iTunes store), called Touchtronic ABC’s includes games for teaching letter recognition, phonemic awareness and word building. There are also exciting animations which reward children as they complete each different level.

As you can see, it’s a very exciting time for the Junior Learning Team. Over the past few months we have been working tirelessly to launch our Touchtronic Letters and Touchtronic ABC’s app. We are also working on future educational toys, so keep a close eye out for our new offerings in the Touchtronics range.

At Junior Learning we want to provide engaging and innovative ways for blending the digital and physical worlds of learning. In our view, this is the future of childhood learning. So, we decided to begin this blog as a way to share with you where we are heading with our products, and where we see childhood education in the digital era going. We welcome and look forward to hearing your views and perspectives as well.

In next week’s blog we will feature Dr Duncan Milne’s views on the future of classroom education, (Co-Founder of Junior Learning, PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience and Education, and Harvard Alumni).

Thank you,

Anna and Duncan,

Junior Learning Founders.