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Twitter Party 3/20: Making Screen Time Beneficial #SylvanPlay

One of the top daily struggles I have with my boys is with screen time. Luckily there are many new educational apps and websites to help make that screen time beneficial (a win-win situation!). Please join me (TechMama) and co-host Mike Johnson of PlayGround Dad for a Twitter Party on March 20 from 6-7pm PST. The topics we will discuss includes screen time, finding educational games and apps, how we can empower our kids to learn on digital platforms, helpful resources and more.  The Twitter party is sponsored by Sylvan Learning, which has a personal approach to learning including the latest digital tools. I am excited to share that Sylvan Learning just launched a mobile game network for kids (the press release is below).  

 

Sylvan Learning

 

 

#SylvanPlay Making Screen Time Beneficial Twitter Party Details:

 

  • Twitter Party name: Making Screen Time Beneficial
  • Twitter party hashtag #SylvanPlay  ( @SylvanLearning  )
  • Time and date of the event: 6pm PST/9pm EST Thursday March 20
  • Host’s: Mike Johnson (@Playgrounddad) and Beth Blecherman (@TechMama)
  • How to join the party: Follow join in our discussion by sharing tweets with the hashtag #SylvanPlay on Twitter.  Party hosts will share the party questions. 
  • Prize details (optional)– Three $50 iTunes cards will be randomly be awarded to those participating using #SylvanPlay hashtag.
  • Rules: No purchase necessary to participate. A purchase will not improve your chance of winning. Winners will be randomly selected from those who participated during the party and answered at least one question using the Hashtag #SylvanPlay. Winners from the Twitter Party must be 18+ Years of Age and must have a valid USA mailing address and email address to receive the prize.

 

PRESS RELEASE:

Sylvan Learning Launches Mobile Games Network For Kids

SylvanPlayHelps Kids Build Critical Grade-Level Skills Through Fun, Educational Apps

 

BALTIMORE (March 13, 2014) – Is it ok for kids to binge on mobile games? Sylvan thinks so – as long as they are the right ones. But how can parents find games that guarantee their kids’ screen time is actually beneficial? To help take the guesswork out of choosing from the thousands of apps available, Sylvan Learning introduces SylvanPlay – a comprehensive, educational mobile games network for kids in 1st through 4th grade. SylvanPlay provides the best collection of educational games that reinforce grade-appropriate lessons in fun and engaging ways and enhance what kids are already learning in the classroom while on-the-go.

 

Rather than just one individual app, SylvanPlay is launching with a library of eight fun, Sylvan-approved edutainment apps all packaged together in one network. The games, which have been developed to help students build critical skills in reading, math, science, geography, strategic thinking and more, include:

 

  • Critter Cruise (ages 6 – 9): Inspires math and language learning as kids take a landmark filled road trip across North America, filling up their gas tank by correctly answering questions.  This game was developed exclusively for SylvanPlay and aligns to specific grade level content and the Common Core curriculum.
  • Battle Station (ages 6 – 9): Helps kids improve number sense as they defend their ship from enemy submarines by estimating their location using marker buoys. Will be an exclusive SylvanPlay launch.
  • Angle Asteroids (ages 6 – 9): Helps kids develop an intuition for angles as they position their laser to blast away the incoming asteroids. Will be an exclusive SylvanPlay launch.
  • Pizza Party (ages 6 – 9): Helps kids master fractions by splitting up the treats at a pizza party with fun tools like the Slice-o-matic. Will be an exclusive SylvanPlay launch.
  • Sushi Scramble (ages 6 – 9): Develops language skills through a multiplayer word-building game where 2 to 4 players collaborate or compete to “serve” up the most words or longest word.
  • Get Rocky (ages 6 – 9): Inspires an interest in science through a geology-based racing game that takes kids to the core of the earth.
  • Not Lost in the Universe (ages 6 – 9): Kids learn about how wind, the sun, water, and heat create lasting sources of energy while helping the brave explorers on the Planet Blarp refuel their power cells.
  • Wonder Bunny Math Race (ages 3 – 8): Helps younger kids ages 3-8 learn numbers, counting, addition and subtraction as they help Wonder Bunny win the race and collect carrots along the way.

 

“Sylvan Learning is focused on providing a personal learning experience using the latest technology to engage and connect with kids,” says Julia Fitzgerald, Chief Marketing Officer at Sylvan Learning. “We developed SylvanPlay as a way to extend the learning that happens in our centers and provide parents and kids with Sylvan-approved games they know will be fun, educational, and grade-appropriate. With SylvanPlay, parents can be confident that their kids are turning game time into brain-building time.”

 

The SylvanPlay network will continue to expand on an on-going basis and the content range will soon be available for kids up to 6th grade.  Additional edutainment apps and subjects will inspire more kids to play anywhere and learn everywhere in new and engaging ways.

 

SylvanPlay is available for both iOS and Android operating systems and offers an assortment of free and paid content ranging from $.99 to $4.99 To download to any mobile device, parents can type in “SylvanPlay” or any of the app titles into the search function of either the Apple App store or Android’s GooglePlay store to locate the educational mobile games network. All apps within the SylvanPlay network are free for current Sylvan Learning customers.

 

“As kids became more comfortable working with technology, Sylvan has moved its curriculum to iPads® with the SylvanSync platform,” continues Fitzgerald. “Sylvan continues to follow what families are doing and adapting the curriculum to the devices they prefer.  Why make parents say “no” to apps and games if we can turn them into educational tools that help their child succeed?”

 

To build the new educational game network, Sylvan Learning partnered with Fingerprint, a global technology company, to leverage its well-established mobile technology platform and proven network model. Now SylvanPlay can provide a fun and safe edutainment hub for kids and parents alike.

 

For more information on SylvanPlay and Sylvan Learning log on to http://www.SylvanLearning.com/resources/SylvanPlay or www.SylvanLearning.com.

 

# # #

 

About Sylvan Learning, Inc.
With more than 30 years of experience and more than 800 locations throughout North America, Sylvan Learning is the leading provider of personal learning for students in grades K–12. As the leader in supplemental education, Sylvan is transforming how students learn, inspiring them to succeed in school and in life. Sylvan’s proven tutoring approach blends amazing teachers with SylvanSync™ technology on the iPad® for an engaging learning experience. Sylvan programs include study skills, math, reading, writing and test prep for college entrance and state exams. Sylvan also provides educational services to public and nonpublic schools. The company was founded in 1979 and is headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland. For more information, call 1-800-31-SUCCESS, or visit www.SylvanLearning.com or Sylvan’s Mom Minded blog at www.SylvanLearning.com/blog.

 

About Fingerprint

Fingerprint is a mobile technology company offering a dynamic technology platform through customer networks. Fingerprint’s enterprise platform solution, with an easy-to-use SDK and curated play-and-learn content from top developers around the world, enables global brands to license and develop customized and localized networks of their own. Fingerprint is funded by leading consumer tech investors including Corus Entertainment and K2MediaLabs. For more information, visit fingerprintplay.com or facebook.com/fingerprintplay.

SylvanPlay and SylvanSync are trademarks of Sylvan Learning

iPad is a registered trademark of Apple Inc.

 

Disclosure: The Twitter Party is sponsored by Sylvan Learning.
 
 

 

Tech Tour of Microsoft: Windows 8.1, One Note, 3D, Xbox One and More

 I previously shared the top 5 ways I use Microsoft Office 365 to #GetItDone and explained that I am excited to be an Office Champion. Last month fellow Champions and I had the opportunity to learn lots of new information at the Champions Summit up at the Microsoft Campus in Seattle. Here are some of the fun highlights and I will be sharing more during the coming months.

 

 

Here are a few of us getting ready to start the tour!!!

 

 

The features of Office 365 Home Premium, Windows 8 (8.1) and Windows devices enable me to be so productive. At the Champions Summit I  took notes using Microsoft OneNote,  which synced across my smartphone and Windows laptop via SkyDrive. I used a Windows Phone for pictures, SkyDrive to store them and OneNote, Word and PowerPoint to create my blog post. Best of all, I was able to embed my PowerPoint presentation showing the highlights of the event into this blog post via SkyDrive and the PowerPoint Web App:
 


 
Listed below is a summary of information covered at the Champions Summit. But there were so many great tidbits, that I will also be sharing more in future blog posts!

 

WINDOWS 8.1

 

We started with a demo of Windows 8.1, the news update to Windows. I have already updated the family desktop, but laptop was still running Winows 8. What I like about Windows 8 (now 8.1) is that no matter what Windows device I am logged into with my Microsoft account – I see my same “desktop” with my live tiles configured consistently. While Windows “tiles” are similar to what people know as “app” icons, they differ in that they are constantly updated with the most current information.

 

Windows 8.1 has many new and exciting features resulting in a fast and more fluid experience:

  • Swipe from the right to pull up the date and Windows charms.
  • Swipe from the left to see the other current apps/information open on your desktop, then drag the screen (app) next to another open screen (app) to create a  split screen. Then drag it down to close.
  • When you are in an app, swipe from the bottom to see additional functionality.
  • Pinch in and you can move around whole sections at same time.
  • Additional new  capabilities include the ability to customize groups of apps to sort by different categories and to purchase Microsoft app gift cards.
  • One more feature I enjoy using is the Bing Smart Search. My standard technical benchmark for search is to type “Ryan Gosling” and check if all the information I need is in one, easy to view location. Seriously, it’s a great topic to test the quality of Internet search.

 

The Microsoft website has lots of information about upgrading to Windows 8.1, including tutorials such as this post on upgrading from Windows 8 to Windows 8..1 My tip is before you do any upgrades make sure your Windows updates are current,  which is usually automatic.

 

ONE NOTE

 

 

Picture credit: Microsoft

Next, we discussed One Note, which is a note taking app used for jotting down ideas, information, adding pictures, audio, video, web – a true digital scrapbook. You can place things anywhere in a page. The concept is similar to a three ring binder with sections on top and pages underneath (you can create as many pages as you want). I use One Note for so many things, and for this conference I used One Note to organize my travel information and keep track of the day’s discussions. All notes were automatically synced via Skydrive to all of my devices.

 

One Note came in really handy when I decided to finally upgrade my laptop to Windows 8.1 during the conference. I was able to have the software upgrade running on my laptop and take notes on the smartphone One Note app – picking up exactly where I left off in my notes. Before, (comma inserted) I used to jot down some handwritten notes on paper notebooks and then type other notes. Unfortunately, it always seemed like I lost the notes or forgot the file name. Now, (comma inserted) with One Note, I have “notebooks” for different events with all of my notes, research and important information (such as travel information) filed and labeled appropriately. The search feature in One Note is also powerful enough to sort through all the text in my notes just in case I forget the location of specific information.

 

Here are some of the key features we discussed:

 

  • So Many Uses: Use OneNote for work, home, school projects or class notes, to-do’s, recipes, flight, hotel, schedule, documents, people, map and more. You can TAG info to be searchable. Or search by keyword in the search box. If you have recipe book with lots of recipes  – you can search for what is in your fridge and it will bring up recipes with those ingredients (i.e. spinach, chicken). Important documents such as a passport with the associated travel information can be kept in One Note and accessed anywhere in the world with an internet connection (via SkyDrive). One Note can be the place to store household paperwork to live a paperless life.
  • Digital Clipping: You can add screen clippings (insert tab), pictures from SkyDrive or locally, images found using Bing, scanned images and recorded audio and video. Choose “screen clipping”, go to internet page and then click and drag to drop clipping into a section. Put all your information in one place. If you just want to include reminder it will include a URL for reference so you can go back.
  • Storage: OneNote/ SkyDrive offers 7GB of content for free. Evernote limits to 60 MB per month for free. If you have Office 365 you have 20 GB plus the 7GB.
  • Co-Authoring and Sharing: With One Note you can have simultaneous co-authoring for free. Evernote Premimium does not support simultaneous edit. One Note Notebooks can be shared so that everyone can edit and view, seeing not only the changes but also who made them and even share with people who don’t have OneNote.
  • Online and Offline: No internet, no problem: Office access  offline is included for free. This is premium feature for Evernote.
  • Across devices and platforms: ” OneNote comes with Office 2010 and 2013, and Office 365 for PCs. OneNote is also available for free on the Web, Windows Phone, iPhone, iPad, Android phones, and as a Windows 8 application for tablets.” One Note also works with the rest of office, so I can even insert PowerPoint presentations or other Office documents and then annotate it!
  • Value Proposition: Office 365 Home Premium is $99 per year, and is a full suite of products, delivering a better value than Evernote Premium at the price of $45..

 

*NEW* ONE NOTE FEATURES

 

I really enjoyed the demo of the now announced update to the touch enabled One Note app in the Windows Store.  Here are some of the key details covered in the  One Note update announcement: “Capture it all: Capture your screen with the share charm and capture documents, magazines and whiteboards with camera scan, Browse and find your notes easier than ever: Search for text in scanned documents using Optical Character Recognition and find your notes faster than ever before with recent notes and page previews, Annotate and take your own notes on the things you’ve captured: Write better with ink and see your notes in full screen! “

 

With Windows 8.1 you can capture and send it to One Note using the “Share Charm” . It’s  exciting that I can use the camera in my touch enabled device to take a picture of the screen, documents, whiteboard or other important information and then “scan” it to One Note using the camera scan function. Here is a video:

 

 

Even better, after I use that camera scan feature (with a receipt for example) I can then use the text recognition capability to search text in One Note (and then find it later when I need it!).

 

Here is another video of the recognize and search text:

 

 

For more information, check out OneNote.com.

 

OFFICE 365 HOME PREMIUM

 

We also discussed what is included with Office 365 Home Premium and the top ten features.

Here’s some information from the press release fact sheet highlighting key features:

:

“Top 10 Features of Office 365 Home Premium:

  1. If you are reading, not writing or editing, click or tap View, then Read Mode in Word to hide the writing tools and menus.
  2. On your Windows device, re-open a document or presentation and keep reading right where you left off with Resume reading in Word and PowerPoint.
  3. Like a data assistant that finishes your work for you, Flash Fill in Excel detects what you want to do and enters the rest of your data in one fell swoop, following patterns in your data.
  4. Dress up your data with conditional formatting such as bars and color scales through the Quick Analysis Lens in Excel.
  5. Tired of trying to precisely match the colors of shapes and pictures in PowerPoint? Let Eyedropper in PowerPoint do the work for you.
  6. With an improved Presenter view in PowerPoint, the audience views your slides on a main screen, while you control the show on another screen that only you can see.
  7. Inline replies in Outlook allow you to reply with one click by typing your response right in the Reading Pane.
  8. Grab a quick glance at your schedule, an appointment or your to-do list with peeks in Outlook, without having to switch from email to calendar or other modes.
  9. If the sound of typing is distracting, you can handwrite notes in OneNote instead of typing them. This is also useful if you’re faster at writing than at typing.
  10. Instead of re-typing information or relying on links to documents, feel free to embed files in OneNote to keep them handy online or offline.”

 

 

MICROSOFT ENVISIONING CENTER

 

Next was a fascinating tour of the Microsoft Envisioning Center. We were not allowed to bring our cameras, but luckily there is information on the Microsoft Website about the Envisioning Center..

 

We were not allowed to bring our cameras, but luckily there is some information about this research center on the Microsoft Website.

All I can say – is that I want the kitchen of the future NOW… But really, everything covered in the Envisioning Center tour was the perfect match of technology, home and community working together in a much more efficient way than we do it now. Luckily, the future is not too far away.

..

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The new Envisioning Center explores how technology will transform the way we live, work and play in the future.
Envisioning Center - March 01, 2013. The new Envisioning Center explores how technology will transform the way we live, work and play in the future.

 

 

 

MICROSOFT’S 3D BUILDER APP

 

 

Then if I was not already excited enough about the technology in the Envisioning Center, we had a demo on 3D Printing and learned about the newly released Microsoft 3D Printing app. The Windows blog post explains more about the 3D Builder coming to Windows 8.1: “A few months ago, you may have heard that Windows 8.1 makes 3D printing possible because it is native to the operating system, meaning the OS offers plug-and-play support for printers, understands 3D file formats, and connects lots of apps with lots of hardware to deliver offering a seamless printing experience for customers. Now, with the 3D Builder app, we’ve made it even easier for people to create and print objects in 3D” .

 

What I find interesting is that while 3D printing used to seem like some sci-fi fantasy, now it is not only becoming more accessible with all types of 3D printers hitting the consumer market but is also includes 3D apps (such as Microsoft 3D Builder) that help design objects. With Microsoft partners such as 3D Systems, Autodesk, Dassault Systemes, MakerBot, netfabb, Materialise, Stratasys, Tiertime (PP3DP) and  even MakerBot at the Microsoft retail store – I am getting closer to soon seeing a 3D printer in our family workspace soon.  Of course I started thinking about all the cool things I could create with my kids. Especially after seeing this 3D printed version of a DNA. Now that would be a science project my boys could be extra proud to bring to school!

 

 

Our last stop was techie heaven for me, located in a conference area that had selection of Microsoft Devices to demo.  The tour included a product and technical deep dive into the Surface 2 and Surface 2 Pro, which packs many features making them very productive tablets.

 

 

We also had *drumroll* a demo of the Xbox One that just became available to the public. While I have not given one a test drive just yet, it is tops on our list, especially for our Xbox gamer sons! I can’t wait to play with the new capabilities of the  Xbox One, especially the advanced voice and gesture commands, entertainment options and innovative features that will really make it an all-in-one device.
 

 

 

 

What new technology are you looking forward to trying (or just started using)?

 

 

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. All of my words are my own.
 

 

 

Black Friday Roundup: Tips and Tricks!

Today is BlackFriday and many people are probably not reading posts but working like crazy to check off their shopping lists. I wanted to provide a roundup to save time of some of my favorite BlackFriday posts. Please share your tips!!

 

1. SHOP SMART – USE PRICE TRACKERS & AVOID SCAMS: Save money by understanding the true pricing across stores by using a price tracker. Also, take time to learn about the scams.  Here are some recommendations from Techlicious:  Price Trackers that Can Save You a Fortune  and 3 Holiday Online Shopping Scams To Watch Out.

 

 

2. MAKE A HOLIDAY SHOPPING PLAN: I shared my Holiday and social time shopping tips to recommend taking time to make a shopping plan but also a plan for spending time with family and friends. For example, instead of just shopping for gifts at stores, check out gifts for your loved ones or yourself that invest in your health or provide fun throughout the year: Health Club or Sports Club Memberships (like in San Franciso area memberships to YMCA or JCC’s, Western Athletic Clubs, Indoor Rock Climbing or more), Memberships at Art or Family museums (such as Exploratorium), Season tickets for your favorite local professional, minor league, college or sports teams (like the SF Giants or Stanford Sports – GoStanford in my area!).

 

Also look for opportunities to invest in education for yourself, kids or the whole family (cooking classes?) by purchasing online or local classes/instruction. I purchased indoor rock climbing lessons for our family as a holiday gift and will be purchasing tickets for the SF Giants and Stanford Sports.  We also want to learn how to program ( i.e Code Academy, Tynker, Girls Who Code and TED 10 places to learn to code) and to speak Spanish, so we are looking for education classes in those areas to invest in. Use the holidays to invest in a success plan for yourself and your loved ones!

 

 

 

3. SHOPPING ONLINE IS A GREAT OPTION:  Develop a shopping plan that is less stressful by doing some shopping online! First make a list of your favorite stores and check online. Then check the holiday gift guides online such as for Cool Mom Tech, Cool Mom Picks, Techlicious, Mom Trends, The Shopping Mama and more. When shopping online, check the coupon sites for coupon codes (such as Coupon.com and RetailMeNot.com). I found a 30% off code for pants for my teen from RetailMeNot!

 

4. Mind Your Budget, Walk away if needed:

 

 

What are your favorite Black Friday Shopping Tips?

 

Invisalign Smile It Forward

After years of dental work to fix my teeth that were caused by my own overcrowding, I promised myself that my kids would get their teeth fixed when they were younger. My older son started out with metal braces, but after getting poked and many other painful mishaps – he was done with metal braces. But he needed a second set of braces as a teen to really fix his crowded teeth. I was thrilled that not only was my son was a candidate for Invisalign (a series of nearly invisible, removable “aligners” used by adults and teens to gradually straighten teeth WITHOUT metal or wires) but I was also able to join in the Invisalign Mom Advisory board (full disclosure, I received complimentary Invisalign treatment in exchange for my participation on the Invisalign Mom Advisory Board). Best of all, I had the opportunity to smile it forward to a charity and everyone else has the opportunity to win $500 for themselves and $500 friend.  (see below for details).

 

 

As I write this, my son is on his second week of Invisalign clear braces. He needed spacers first to widen his bite before his Invisalign treatment. Next he had this high tech scan taken of his mouth to send in.  Invisalign then does some type of high tech magic to use that scan to plan out the Invisalign aligners for my teen’s treatment. After the spacers were out he received his first set of aligners.  Instead of the painful installation of metal braces, with Invisalign he just popped the tray in his mouth. He did say it felt tight – but so comfortable compared to the metal braces. My teen was so excited to have his teeth fixed, that he took on the responsibility of keeping track of the aligners full force. He happily brushed them at night. He even did not seem to mind taking them out of his mouth (and putting them into a case) when he was eating.  Overall the process of using Invisalign has seamless integrated into his daily schedule. And I am feeling great about being proactive about my son’s dental health (and improving his already charming smile).

 

I am thrilled to smile it forward by donating a $500 gift card to the Tomorrow’s Smiles to help prepare teens for success which “to help prepare teens for success, caring dental professionals agree to provide pro bono treatment services to a pre-screened motivated youth.  In return for receiving this life-changing care, accepted teens Pay It Forward by serving as mentors and sharing their newfound oral health knowledge through interactive oral health lessons with younger children in their community”. I was supplied this gift card by Invisalign to “Smile It Forward” to a charity of my choice. I chose Tomorrow’s Smiles because it is not only an organization that provides treatment services to youth, but also teaches them to give back to their communities.

 

There is also an opportunity to win $500 for yourself and $500 for a friend by entering  Invisalign’s Smile It Forward Sweepstakes that is running through December 18th, 2013.   Click on the image below to enter:

 

 

 

 

Disclosure: I am a member of the Invisalign Teen Mom Advisory Board. My son has received complimentary treatment from Align, but all opinions expressed are my own. Here is the link to the Invisalign Smile Assessment.

 

 

 

Curious.com Launches Video Seminars With Sunset Magazine

After years of school it was not until college that I realized I was a visual learner. Now as a mom with three kids, I found out that my kids are also visual learners. I have also come to the conclusion that many people are also visual learners. Just ask someone how they learned to make their favorite meal. For me it was watching my Grandmom make chicken soup which now I make the same way.  Or watching my Pilates teacher demonstrate what using “core” stomach muscles really means (i.e. – not the cheater’s sit ups I have been doing for years using my back instead of my stomach).

 

 

That is why I have been so excited to see all the new learning options online using visual platforms such as video. Curious.com is one of those exciting websites with video lessons that inspires their online community to learn, teach and share a wide range of topics. They also believe that learning should happen beyond the classroom: “At Curious we believe in lifelong learning. Learning for its own sake. Learning that happens beyond classrooms, and not only in academic subjects (unless you count beer brewing, pipe soldering, and organic gardening as academic). Learning as a necessity of living “.

 

The new announcement out today is just in time for the holidays, especially those “Turkey cooking challenged but have lots of family coming over” like myself. Curious is collaborating with Sunset Magazine to create Sunset Seminars: “Sunset Seminars” will initially contain lessons in three courses: Sunset’s Perfect Holiday Meal, Sunset’s Essentials of Wine, and Sunset’s Guide to Container Gardening.  See the press release below. Looks like there will be Turkey (and lots of other holiday) cooking and entertaining video lessons in my near future!

 

What are you Curious to learn?

 

 


 

PRESS RELEASE:

IN TIME FOR THE HOLIDAYS, CURIOUS.COM LAUNCHES “SUNSET SEMINARS” IN COLLABORATION WITH SUNSET MAGAZINE
Sunset and Curious.com Share Food, Wine and Garden Inspiration through Interactive and Entertaining Video-based Lessons

 

Menlo Park, CA, November 21 – Curious.com, Inc., the marketplace for lifelong learning, today announced the launch of  “Sunset Seminars” on Curious.com. Created in collaboration with Sunset magazine, the premier guide to living in the West, “Sunset Seminars” will initially contain lessons in three courses: Sunset’s Perfect Holiday Meal, Sunset’s Essentials of Wine, and Sunset’s Guide to Container Gardening. Available now, Sunset Seminars can be accessed by going to www.curious.com/sunsetmagazine.

 

Each course, which is taught by one of Sunset’s expert editors, consists of 6-8 video-based lessons. In time for the holidays, Sunset’s Perfect Holiday Meal features Sunset food editor Margo True sharing invaluable insights on everything from a 1966 recipe for Thanksgiving stuffing that’s withstood the test of time, to how to prepare the perfect bird on the grill. In Sunset’s Essentials of Wine, a comprehensive primer on wine appreciation, wine editor Sara Schneider takes wine lovers on a journey of “Old World” and “New World” red, white and sparkling wines, plus takes a trip to the supermarket wine aisle. In Sunset’s Guide to Container Gardening, garden guru Johanna Silver teaches everything needed to cultivate a vibrant container garden from choosing the right containers and, selecting the best plants to maintaining a beautiful garden.

 

As with all lessons on the Curious platform, Sunset Seminar learners will have the means to ask their instructors questions and receive input on their own creations, providing a rare and intimate level of access to some of the world’s leading food, wine, and home and garden experts.

 

Sunset Seminars represent Curious’ first co-branded lesson collection giving Sunset a new platform through which to share their expert editorial content, while also infusing Curious with more lessons from the world’s best teachers. Curious already allows learners to browse over 3,000 lessons by theme through other collections, including such favorites as Languages, Art & Photo, Tasty Treats, Green Thumb and Learn to Code. Adding quality co-branded content is the next logical step.

 

“Sunset’s readers don’t want to just read our content. They want to live it,” said Peggy Northrop, Sunset Editor-in-Chief. “This collaboration with Curious.com allows us to give our fans–plus millions of passionate consumers who are actively seeking quality DIY instruction on the Web–what they want: new ways to access and learn from Sunset’s trusted experts anytime, anywhere.”

 

“Sunset is an iconic brand, known for covering the West’s best flavors, destinations, design trends, and innovations. Sunset’s content and amazing editors are ideally suited for the Curious flavor of video-based lessons,” said Justin Kitch, founder and CEO of Curious.com. “But even more importantly, the Sunset team shares our vision and passion at Curious for helping people achieve, grow, and learn.”

 

How it works:

 

Beginning today, anyone can go to Curious.com to access Sunset Seminars. The Sunset Seminars will initially feature 19 lessons on food, wine, and gardening. Designed specifically for learners, all lessons on Curious are comprised of interactive videos broken into “bite-size” conceptual sections. They also include exercises and additional resources, such as recipes, product and book recommendations, and a special Sunset magazine subscription offer. The Sunset Seminars can be accessed 24×7 via computer or iPad so that people can tap into Sunset’s expertise anytime.
To access Sunset Seminars at Curious.com go to www.curious.com/sunsetmagazine, or view other lesson collections at www.curious.com/learn.

 

About Sunset
Sunset (www.sunset.com) is the leading lifestyle brand in the West. Through magazines and books, events and experiences, and digital and social media, Sunset covers the West’s best flavors, destinations, design trends, and innovations. Sunset engages and inspires an audience of over five million educated, active and affluent consumers every month through its five regional print editions—Pacific Northwest, Northern California, Southern California, Southwest and Mountain—as well as via all tablet devices and its website. In addition to its print and digital publication, Sunset showcases the region’s unique lifestyle and noteworthy destinations through its flagship events, established home programs, licensing partners, books and International Wine Competition. Sunset is part of the Time Inc. Lifestyle Group.

 

About Curious

Founded in 2012, Curious.com, Inc. offers an innovative and engaging marketplace that connects lifelong learners with exceptional teachers around the world. Curious is home to short-format video-based interactive lessons that help anyone learn about anything on their own time. It also provides a range of free, easy-to-use tools for teachers that enable them to market, share, and monetize their lessons to millions of learners. Curious is a private company funded by Redpoint Ventures, Bill Campbell, Jesse Rogers and Justin Kitch based in Menlo Park, CA. For more information visit www.curious.com.

 

Disclosure: This is a press release.

 

 

 

Four Tips To Create Your Professional Brand Online

*Sponsored series. See Disclosures Below.

 

While some of us (and many generations before us) held the same job for many years, that employment model has been replaced with a mix of entrepreneurship, traditional full-time jobs, part-time jobs, freelancing and more. With this new, more transient model, everyone needs to manage their professional online brand and be the master of their “professional image”. Many potential or current employers will search the candidate’s name online before the first job interview. Many recruiters, conference organizers and employers also searches online. Impressions are made and lost well before the first face-to-face discussion. Here are four tips for making a good first impression, even before the first conversation.

 

 

1. DECIDE on your professional “story” and choose role models:  Similar to creating a resume to highlight your job profile, an online professional profile can help highlight the parts of your professional history that YOU want to share. The first step is to decide what type of professional story do you want to share online. Then, find role models in your business area that you feel have done a great job of telling their story online. What type of headshot did they use? Do they have an “about” page on a website or do they just have professional social media profiles across different online platforms?  How do they describe their story and how do they consistently carry their professional brand across online platforms. In 2006, I used Guy Kawasaki, BlogHer, Grace Davis and Charlene Li as my first social media role models.  Then I met knowledge experts to help me understand skill new areas. A great example is how Kimberley Clayton Blaine helped me learn about video presence. Over the years, I add to my list of role models in order to see what innovative techniques other professional brands are using online.

 

The next step is prepare and practice telling your own professional story. What is your 20 second elevator pitch describing who you are, your past experience and the professional service you offer? What are the key professional terms that describe you? What are your top strengths? Look at the job description of either the job you have or the job you want and see what terms they use. Then put that all together to create your professional story.

 

 

2. AUDIT your online search profile:  Because many people use social networks such as Facebook and Twitter for social interaction online, it is important to view ANY sharing of information online as something you are ok with sharing with your current or future employer. If you already have online social networking profiles, now is the time to audit your own social media footprint – and clean up anything that you don’t think is professional. Even if you can’t ever truly erase your past footprint – you can clean up your current one. Start by doing an online search of your name, because many employers start by doing the same. Then make sure all of your private social networks (such as your Facebook wall) are set up to only allow “friends” to view.  Those privacy settings can change so it is important to always keep an eye on account settings. At the same time, keep communications with friends on a level that if an employer saw your language – that would still be ok. Operate as if no matter what privacy settings you use, nothing is truly “private” if shared online.

 

 

3.  DESIGN your professional image:  Now that you have your professional story, audited your current online profile and have an understanding of how your role models are presenting their professional brand online, it is time to craft your own online brand. The first step is to start with an official headshot, that depending on your industry, should reflect the image you want to portray.  You can use anything from a professional headshot to a photo taken while on the job or at a speaking event. It is best to start with a high resolution photo and crop as needed for different situations. Next, update your resume to make sure it is not only current but uses “current” terminology to reflect your career or the types of jobs you are looking for.  Then you can use parts of your resume to create your bio in different formats including long format, 75, 150 or even 300 words that can be used for different platforms.  Your bio, headshot and resume should tell the “story” of what you want your professional image to be. This should all tie together with your professional story.

 

 

4. CREATE Professional Profiles Online:  Next, decide on your professional niche and which social media platforms are a good fit to highlight your professional image.  To support your professional image you need to not only share information and discussions, but also have a clear “story” to tell about who you are and your professional background.

 

A good place to start is setting up a profile or “about me” page. Many people buy the URLs for their name or use sites such as About.me to set up their professional landing page.  Setting up a blog is a great way to not only have a landing page for your professional brand, but also share your voice on a regular basis. Also, currently blog posts have great SEO (search engine optimization) and that gives you more control of your online search profile. I have bought my name and have that URL forwarded to my website “about” page on TechMamas.com. But I am also thinking about building a website around my named URL and have that be my professional landing page. Decisions decisions!

 

When it comes to choosing an online professional social network, a good place to start is to set up a LinkedIn Profile utilizing all the features to tell your “story”. For example, include presentations or articles for people to read more about you- similar to what I added to my LinkedIn Profile (Beth Blecherman – but I also include my online brand name “TechMama”).  When it comes to online brands, the current trend is to use your name, so that should be the goal for those setting up new profiles.  There are many articles on how to set up LinkedIn profiles, they even have a series on the LinkedIn blog that gives tips such as More Than Just a Resume: Share Your Volunteer Aspirations on Your LinkedIn Profile”.  The LinkedIn profile page also has a column on the right side that shows “Profile Strength”.

 

Along with LinkedIn there are many places to set up online “professional” profiles. But the key to the phrase is “professional”.  For example, while I use @TechMama on Twitter as my main public platform along with my blog, I am also looking into creating a professional Facebook page. Here are several Facebook pages I am using as great examples of online community building: Samantha Ettus’s Working Mom Lifestyle , Simple Green Smoothies, Maria Smith and event pages such as Be Blogalicious.  My other role models include Kimberley Clayton Blaine’s inspirations, Robert Scoble’s Tech and Guy Kawasaki’s sharing on Google +. I have seen those with a focus on fashion create beautiful Tumbler’s and those with a focus on crafts and design and more highlighted on Pinterest. There are also ways to expand your voice and build communities in each of these platforms. For example with LinkedIn, joining groups relevant to your profession and getting involved in discussions in these groups can be a great way to network online.

 

5.  SETUP the right technology and tools: When looking for a job, networking or just keeping up on industry news it is important to have the right tools. When you get a response from a potential business partner or employer – it is vital to respond in a timely manner. I only use my smartphone or tablet to respond to quick requests or share information across social networks. If you are looking for a job or creating your online professional profiles on a website or across social networks, then using your smartphone may not be the right tool to use, especially if you need to draft a cover letter (which believe or not can still be important when applying for a job).

 

When I am updating my online professional profiles or my website, working on a project proposal or communicating online with a potential employer, I use my laptop, business software and my own mobile WiFi to answer respond quickly using the appropriate technology. If  someone requests my resume, professional information or replies to a project proposal, I don’t want to keep them waiting!
And if you are overwhelmed by all of the different ways to create your professional brand online, just start with one step at time and take your time with the rest. The most important thing is to provide a way for potential employers to find you and your “story” online.

 

How do you manage your professional online brand? Please share!

 

Disclosure: This is a sponsored series. I received an AT&T Unite mobile hotspot as part of my sponsorship. My words are my own. I am happy to say that my AT&T Unite has enabled me to  have WiFi wherever I need to share my professional story online. For more information, visit att.com/Unite or connect with WiFi Family powered by Netgear.

 

 

 

#BlogHerPro ’13 Conference For Professionally-Minded Bloggers

*GIVEAWAY IS OVER – BUT PLEASE FEEL FREE TO USE FRIENDS DISCOUNT SHARED BELOW!.

BlogHer as been a big part of the most “important” reason why I got involved in social media: Community! I joined in 2006 because I had pivoted from a career in a top consulting firm to starting my own business. Over the years I have gained the value of not only meeting a great community of social media entrepreneurs but also learning so much  from BlogHer and the BlogHer conferences. That is why I am especially excited to attend BlogHer Pro 2013 as one of the Keynote Speakers on the  Monetization: Brands & Bloggers Keynote Discussion with some fantastic fellow social media professionals including Ana Picazo of Finding BonggaMom, Jim Lin from Ketchum PR and Busy Dad Blog, and Sarah Penna from Big Frame.. BEST YET – I have a discount code and am giving away TWO BlogHerPro13 conference passes! Can you tell that I am excited to be sharing the fun with others?

 

Just check out the other BlogHer Pro 2013  panels and speakers that include content management, mobile and business intensive workshops. Here is a link for where to  register for BlogHer Pro 2013 and more details: “BlogHer PRO is a multi-track conference for professionally-minded bloggers looking to take their business, marketing, and technical skills to the next level. Improve your knowledge and hone your skills on everything from personal brand to personal finance to personal privacy.” Honestly, this conference is also for anyone in business that wants to learn more about the powerful medium of blogging and social media for business.

 

DISCOUNT CODE: First of all I have a friends discount code to share (because my readers are my friends of course!Use Friends Discount code, PRO13FF, for 30% off registrationRegister today!

 

GIVEAWAY:  Second, I am giving away ONE CONFERENCE PASS to BlogHer Pro 2013 for TWO WINNERS (one conference pass will be given to each winner – 2 winners total).

TO ENTER: Please comment on this blog post (by Oct. 11, 12pm PST) and then share on Twitter that you have entered this contest.

DETAILS:  PLEASE COMMENT ON THIS POST BY OCT 11, 12PM PST. To enter, please comment on this post then tweet out “I entered @TechMama’s #BlogHerPRO ’13  giveaway  http://bit.ly/GDRZf4″.  For the comment please share what type of questions you have about being a social media professional? Do you have legal, SEO, content, questions about interacting with brands or general questions about how this all works? Or I would love to hear your story on how you use social media professionally.

 

WINNER CHOSEN AT RANDOM: The winner will be chosen randomly using Random.org and will be notified by Oct. 11 at 2pm pst. Winner must respond with confirmation by October 14 2pm pst.

 

Rules: 1. One Blog Post comment per person. One Blog Post comment is equal to one entry (so only one entry per person)  2. Winners are limited by geography to US residents only 21 years of age or older. 3. If a valid email address is not provided in the entry, another winner will be chosen. 4. The prize is not redeemable in cash and must be accepted as awarded. 5. Approximate value of prizes may vary. 6. All decisions are final. 7. All Federal, State and Local taxes and travel expenses associated with receipt of prize is the sole responsibility of the winner. 8. By entering any giveaway on this website you release Techmamas.com from any liability whatsoever, and waive any and all causes of action.

 

 

Disclosure: As a speaker on the Keynote Panel discussion for BlogHer Pro 13, I was assigned conference passes that I decided to share with my readers. All of my words are my own. The idea for this giveaway was also my own.

 

Take #itcanwait Pledge, Texting and Driving Is Life-Threatening Epidemic

 *This post is part of a sponsored series by AT&T

Texting and Driving is a life-threatening epidemic. I have been participating in the #itcanwait campaign with AT&T because I wanted to help get the word out.  But it has also given me a great opportunity to educate my family and other parents on the dangers of texting and driving by taking the It Can Wait Pledge. My son will be driving in a year and my twins may only be in 5th grade but it is never too early to educate them.

 

 

September 19 (today!) is Drive4Pledges Day  so I encourage EVERYONE to take a stand on this day and put an end to texting and driving. Here are numbers to show how texting and driving is a life-threatening epidemic:

 

 

  • Texting and driving makes you 23 times more likely to be in an accident
  • More than 100,000 texting-related accidents every year result in injuries or deaths
  • 90% of teens say they’d stop texting and driving if a friend in the car simply asked them
  • 97% of teen drivers agree that texting and driving is dangerous
  • 75% of teens say that texting and driving is common among their friends
  • 43% of teens admit to texting and driving
  • 49% of adult commuters admit to texting and driving
  • 77% of teens say that adults tell them not to text and drive, but do it themselves “all the time”

 

Here is how you can help:

  1. Take the It Can Wait pledge TODAY at http://www.itcanwait.com/.
  2. Take the simulator test and show others at Texting and Driving Simulator: http://itcanwaitsimulator.org/.
  3. Parents and educators should not only share information about the dangers of texting and driving with kids but also set up a strategy for themselves! I printed out the ItCanWait Activation kit and had my kids color in the stencil which I display in my car as a reminder.
  4. Share information on the “From One Second to the Next” documentary. There is a 34 minute version – but here is the 12 minute version:

 

I am heading to my local health club today with the #itcanwait Texting and Driving Simulator to have club members take the pledge and use the simulator to experience the dangers of texting and driving. I had my teen son use the simulator last night – and every time he took it he failed, which successfully taught him that texting while driving is not only dangerous, it is also life threatening.

 

 

 

 

 

Disclosure: This post is part of a sponsored series by AT&T

 

 

 

10 Tips To Get Your Household Ready For the School Year

*Sponsored series. See Disclosures Below.

 

With three kids and two busy working parents in our house, the beginning of each school year requires a family management system to simplify school year logistics. Here are some tips we use to get our household ready:

 

1. Create an online calendar: The first thing I do each year is gather all of the school and activity calendars together and create a color-coded online family calendar. Because our teen and twin sons are so busy this year, I made separate calendars for each child and assigned them unique colors (I grouped my twin sons together because they go to many of the same activities). There are many calendar options including Microsoft Outlook, Google Calendar and Cozi.com.

 

2. Identify location friendly activities: With my busy work schedule, the only way to survive the school year is to find location-friendly afterschool activities. With some luck and lots of investigation, I discovered great programs close to home. For example, my kids are enjoying Karate lessons at the local dojo rather than the location two cities away attended by many of their friends.

 

3. Set up carpools: At the start of the school year it’s good to talk to other school parents as well as review class and afterschool activity directories to find other families close to your house for potential carpooling. This reduces my time spent on the road or my kids’ time spent on bikes traveling across town. For families requiring flexibility, it’s best to find carpool families who are similarly flexible.

 

4. Create weekly menus: For many families, of the most stressful things about the school year is meal planning.  Creating weekly menus can help streamline busy school weeks by using some weekend prep time to prepare ready to eat meals in the fridge. For nights when cooking or “re-heating” is out of the question, having a list of local restaurants that either have delivery or will carry out to curbside (such as California Pizza Kitchen) comes in handy .

 

Low on meal ideas? Luckily there are so many online recipe and food blogs that include recipes for every taste and level of cooking experience. I find it helpful to find a meal strategy that fits with our family schedule. For example, we like using a crockpot to cook food during the day that will be ready for mealtime.  Another option is finding budget friendly staples that we can bake in advance like beans & grains and then throw in difference ingredients to spice things up.

 

5. Develop digital shopping lists:  Once you have a weekly dinner and other meal requirement list (including kids’ lunch meals), the required food shopping can be greatly simplified by using a digital shopping list.  Tools such as One Note, EverNote and more can help you have your shopping list available on all the family devices.

 

6. Identify family chore lists: The start of the school year is a great time to review household chores and then identify those that are a good fit with your kid’s schedule.  For example, one of my 10 year old sons is a natural at moving laundry through the washer and dryer. Next step is to teach him to sort and fold clothing.

 

7. Establish well-stocked school work areas: The beginning of the school year is a great time to empty out the old, broken and worn down school supplies from last year and start fresh with new pencils, pens, paper and rulers  located near homework spaces. This will help to silence the “I can’t find a pencil” complaint!

 

8. Set up school year screen time limits: During the school year we have screen time limits to allow our kids to relax while prioritizing the completion of homework. Some families have no screen time during the week. We settled on somewhere in the middle, which means our kids get limited screen time only after they get their homework done.

 

9. Evaluate Assistive Tech: At the beginning of each year I talk with each of my kids to see if there is any ways we can help support their learning with technology. In the past this has included finding a dictation app to help with writing exercises or using other Assistive Learning Tools.

 

10. Update Household Technology:  Each year it seems we need to add some new technology or update our current computers to match our kid’s school needs. This year we needed to buy an extra printer to allow my teen access to print from his desk. We also realized that we needed the ability to do homework on the go, so having mobile WiFi has enabled us to complete assignments between activities on the road or work at the park on nice days and enjoy some fresh air.

 

What’s in your back to school preparation list?

 

Disclosure: This is a sponsored series. I received an AT&T Unite mobile hotspot as part of my sponsorship. My words are my own. I am happy to say that my AT&T Unite has enabled our family to have WiFi wherever we need to get work done. For more information, visit att.com/Unite or connect with WiFi Family powered by Netgear.

 

 

 

Digital Kids EDU SF 2013- Innovations in Education through Digital Media

As a family tech journalist one of the most exciting trends I have seen is the combining of education and technology to inspire new ways of learning. My kids have grown up using technology for communication, entertainment, and yes… learning.  Their assortment of educational tech includes math apps on mobile devices, listening to audiobooks, using assistive tech tools, learning to program online, watching instructional videos and even participating in fun and educational mutli-player games. It’s because of their positive experiences with technology and learning that I am so excited to speak at this month’s  Digital Kids Edu in San Francisco. Here are the details:

 

“At a time when the market for digital learning is exploding, the September 18th Digital Kids Edu  day in San Francisco gives you what you need to know to create and use best-selling digital learning products for kids.

 

District technology directors, curriculum designers, administrators, educators and researchers looking to integrate digital learning tools in the classroom are encouraged to attend.

 

The event also caters to technology professionals, publishers and digital directors along with media executives seeking to educate kids via digital devices are encouraged to attend.

As a courtesy to educators, Digital Kids is offering an exclusive discount code for $100 off registration.

 

Here is information on the panel I am moderating at Digital Kids Edu:

10:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m. (Sept. 18 2013)
Emerging Platforms & Technologies
As kids continue to immerse themselves in the digital space, new ways to inspire learning are frequently emerging. The digital kids education space offers unique complexities including interactivity, immersion, scalability and intense user involvement that new technologies are now leveraging. This session will examine the new technologies and platforms being used as education tools. Speakers will also discuss the alternatives that are available for the various platforms.
Moderator: Beth Blecherman, Founder/Editor & Chief Technology Mom, TechMamas.com
Srinivas Mandyam, CTO/Founder, Tynker
Nancy MacIntyre, CEO and Co-Founder, Fingerprint
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Josh Chan, CEO, LightUp

David Baszucki, Co-Creator and CEO, ROBLOX

 

Check out the Digital Kids Edu speaker list to see who will be sharing their edutech insights and the schedule for the panel list. The next day is Digital Kids Summit which also has an exciting list of speakers.

 

You can register here for Digital Kids Summit and Digital Kids Edu (Sept. 18-19): http://digitalkidssummit.com/register/.   Register by September 13 and save $100! Attendees have multiple registration options: registering for Digital Kids Summit, registering for Digital Kids Edu or registering for both events at a discount.  I also want to share my speaker discount, so use this DISCOUNT CODE speakervip to get a 10% discount.