Previous Image
Next Image

info heading

info content

Dolby Atmos Tech Update and Insurgent Preview!

.Please see the bottom of the post for giveaway details (GIVEAWAY CLOSED)!

 

Dolby AtmosLast Tuesday I not only had the opportunity to attend a preview of the movie “Insurgent” (released Friday March 20, 2015)  but the location was in the San Francisco office of Dolby Laboratories Inc in their theater set up for Dolby Atmos audio.

 

 

My sons and I read the Divergent book series and saw the first movie “Divergent“. Insurgent is the second this great adventure series and has also a top rate cast that includes Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Miles Teller,  Octavia Spencer, Zoe Kravitz , Noami Watts and Kate Winslet.  The Divergent series is an adventure movie with a fascinating premise: there are societal divisions that classify citizens based on their aptitudes and value: Abnegation (the selfless),  Dauntless (the brave),  Erudite (the intelligent),  Amity (the peaceful), Candor (the honest) and also Factionless. There is also a strong female lead (Shailene Woodley) which is always great for my boys to see.

 

The cinematography captures the adventure with spellbinding graphics. But what really makes the graphics come alive is the Dolby Atmos audio technology, which is part of the audio engineering process of the movie and is played out by the speakers in each theatre. Dolby Atmos creates moving audio with an object-based listening experience. So you not only see the moving train, glass breaking and other special effects, the sound makes you “feel” like you are in the action.

 

Here is a trailer of the movie Insurgent:

 


 
 
The good news is that Dolby Atmos can be found in theaters all over the country by checking the find a movie theater section . To find other movies that have Dolby Atmos sound, check out the list at the Dolby website.

 

Here are some fun techie details about Dolby Atmos:

 

Dolby Atmos is the first audio format based on audio objects rather than channels. In Dolby Atmos, any sound—the helicopter, a blaring car horn, a yelling child—can exist as an independent audio object, free of channel restrictions. It can be placed and moved anywhere, including anywhere overhead.” 

 

 

Dolby AtmosTechnical Details: 

 

1.  Supports up to 128 simultaneous independent audio objects in a mix for rich, realistic, and breathtaking sound.

 

2.  Descriptive metadata captures all the director’s intent and provides customized playback for the cinema, home theater, and mobile device.”

 

 

 

At Dolby Laboratories in San Francisco, they have a theater (or lab as they call it) set up with Dolby Atmos. We were thrilled not only to see the movie but to be given a behind the scenes tour of the movie projection area and of the speaker setup in the Theater. The Dolby Atmos system in each theater is controlled in the projector room.

 

 

 

Dolby Atmos speakers are set up in the sides, in this Theater they were actually in the wall panels:

 

 

Dolby Atmos

 

And Dolby Atmos speakers were set up in the ceiling and around the room to provide continuous sound.

 

Dolby Atmos

 

 

To celebrate the opening of Insurgent, I am doing a giveaway starting March 22 at 6pm and ending March 27 (2015) at 6pm (GIVEAWAY CLOSED). 3 Lucky winners will each win one Insurgent giveaway pack that  includes:
 

  • A branded drawstring backpack
  • An Insurgent t-shirt (Woman’s size L)
  • An Insurgent amp charger
  • A copy of the book Insurgent

 
Insurgent Giveaway #DolbyAtmos

 

 

 

Here is details on entering the Dolby Atmos – Insurgent Prize Pack Giveaway  #dolbyatmos .
 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 
Check out more about Dolby Atmos at their Twitter handle @Dolby or Dolby Facebook page.

 

Disclosure: The movie preview was a press event put on by Dolby Laboratories, Inc. This is not a sponsored post.

 

 

 

Movie Preview: 2015 Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

2015 Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Slate

2015 Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Slate

 

The hardest part about preparing to write this post was watching the previews because I CAN’T WAIT until the new Disney movies come out for 2015. Disney movies are a family staple that people of all ages can enjoy together. Especially during holiday time, our family enjoys re-watching our favorite Disney movies just released and the classics. What I find interesting is that I enjoyed Disney movies as a kid, but as an adult when I watch them I see new perspectives and details. Listed below is information from the press updated on the Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Coming slated for 2015. Which movies are you most excited to see?

 

Action – Adventure & Science Fiction:
 
December 18, 2015 – Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Lucasfilm)  #StarWars  #TheForceAwakens
 
I have to admit that The Force Awakens is the film my whole family keeps saying “Is it December 18, 2015 yet??? My boys have the same connection to Star Wars that I had watching the first movies come out. I love to see them role play with light sabers and of course we can’t get enough of the Star Tours ride at Disneyland. Just looking at the picture below makes me remember riding in that galaxy during the ride..
 

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Lucasfilm)

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Lucasfilm) © Disney. All rights reserved.

 

Here is information from the press release on the cast: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens ( Episode VII ) cast including Actors John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, and Max von Sydow will join the original stars of the saga, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, and Kenny Baker in the new film. Star Wars: Episode VII is being directed by J.J. Abrams from a screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan and Abrams. Kathleen Kennedy, J.J. Abrams, and Bryan Burk are producing, and John Williams returns as the composer.

 

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Lucasfilm) © Disney. All rights reserved.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Lucasfilm) © Disney. All rights reserved.

 

This is Daisey Ridley as Rey as seen in Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser.   Or as I would like to think of as my alter ego to being a mom driving a mini van around!
 

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Lucasfilm) © Disney. All rights reserved.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Lucasfilm) © Disney. All rights reserved.

 

 

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Official Teaser:
 

 

 

May 1, 2015 – Avengers: Age of Ultron (Marvel) #Avengers #AgeOfUltron

 

Along with Star Wars, Marvel comics have given my kids the most content for years of pretend pay. One of our favorite series is the Avengers. A new Avengers movie is coming out 2015 is called  Avengers: Age of Ultron. Beyond our love of the Avengers story line, the great cast is making this movie another of my must see for 2015.

 

 

 Marvel's Avengers: Age Of Ultron © Marvel 2015 All Rights Reserved.

Marvel’s Avengers: Age Of Ultron © Marvel 2015 All Rights Reserved.

 

Marvel’s Avengers: Age Of Ultron..L to R: Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), James “Rhodey” Rhodes/War Machine (Don Cheadle), Dr. Cho (Claudia Kim), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson)..

 

 

 

 
 

July 17, 2015 – Ant–Man (Marvel)  #AntMan

 

Another Disney movie coming out in 2015 is MARVEL’S ANT-MAN – Shot on location in San Francisco, Paul Rudd stars as Scott Lang AKA Ant-Man. Marvel Studio’s Ant-Man, scheduled for release in the U.S. on July 17th, 2015.
 

Photo Credit: Zade Rosenthal..MARVEL'S ANT-MAN  © Marvel 2014 All Rights Reserved.

Photo Credit: Zade Rosenthal..MARVEL’S ANT-MAN © Marvel 2014 All Rights Reserved.

 
 
 

May 22, 2015 – Tomorrowland (Walt Disney Studios) #Tomorrowland
 
Disney’s is taking the thrill and adventures of walking into Tomorrowland at Disney Parks to a new level. The movie TOMORROWLAND will feature a screenplay by “Lost” writer & co-creator Damon Lindelof and Brad Bird, story by Damon Lindelof & Brad Bird & Jeff Jensen and staring Britt Robertson as Casey will be coming out May 22, 2015. Here is more information from the Disney Movie Tomorrowland website“From Disney comes two-time Oscar® winner Brad Bird’s riveting, mystery adventure “Tomorrowland,” starring Academy Award® winner George Clooney. Bound by a shared destiny, former boy-genius Frank (Clooney), jaded by disillusionment, and Casey (Britt Robertson), a bright, optimistic teen bursting with scientific curiosity, embark on a danger-filled mission to unearth the secrets of an enigmatic place somewhere in time and space known only as “Tomorrowland.” What they must do there changes the world—and them—forever.”
 

Disney's TOMORROWLAND Casey (Britt Robertson)   ©Disney 2015

Disney’s TOMORROWLAND Casey (Britt Robertson) ©Disney 2015

 

Here is the Tomorrowland trailer.. And yes, that is is GEORGE CLOONEY’S voice.
 

 

 

FAMILY FUN:
 
Strange Magic   (Touchstone Pictures / Lucasfilm) #StrangeMagic is now released so you can go see it at the Theatres! Lucasfilm shared the plot as “Strange Magic,” a new animated film, is a madcap fairy tale musical inspired by “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Popular songs from the past six decades help tell the tale of a colorful cast of goblins, elves, fairies and imps, and their hilarious misadventures sparked by the battle over a powerful potion.”

 

 

Strange Magic  ©2014 Lucasfilm, Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

Strange Magic ©2014 Lucasfilm, Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

 

The press release also shared that “Bog King (voice of Alan Cumming), Griselda (voice of Maya Rudolph) and Marianne (voice of Evan Rachel Wood) are part of a colorful cast of goblins, elves, fairies and imps in “Strange Magic,“… Lucasfilm Animation Singapore and Industrial Light & Magic, which created the CGI animation for 2011’s Academy Award-winning film Rango, bring to life the fanciful forest turned upside down with world-class animation and visual effects. The Strange Magic movie story is by George Lucas and directed by Gary Rydstrom (Toy Story Toons: Hawaiian Vacation, Lifted).”

 

 



 
 

 

February 20, 2015 – McFarland, USA (Walt Disney Studios) #McFarlandUSA
 
McFARLAND, USA is one of the most inspiring movies of those coming out 2015 and is also tops on my must see list. Here is background on the movie from the McFarland USA Disney Movie website:Inspired by the 1987 true story, “McFarland, USA” follows novice runners from McFarland, an economically challenged town in California’s farm-rich Central Valley, as they give their all to build a cross-country team under the direction of Coach Jim White (Kevin Costner), a newcomer to their predominantly Latino high school. Coach White and the McFarland students have a lot to learn about each other but when White starts to realize the boys’ exceptional running ability, things begin to change…. With grit and determination, the unlikely band of runners eventually overcomes the odds to forge not only a championship cross-country team but an enduring legacy as well. Along the way, Coach White realizes that his family finally found a place to call home and both he and his team achieve their own kind of American dream.

 

McFARLAND, USA ©Disney 2015 All Rights Reserved.

McFARLAND, USA ©Disney 2015 All Rights Reserved.

 

McFARLAND, USA – L to R: “Damacio Diaz (Jamie Michael Aguero), Jose Cardenas (Johnny Ortiz), Danny Diaz (Ramiro Rodriguez), Victor Puentes (Sergio Avelar), Coach Jim White (Kevin Costner), David Diaz (Rafael Martinez), Thomas Valles (Carlos Pratts) and Johnny Sameniego (Hector Duran)…Ph: Ron Phillips..

 

 

 

 
 
 

March 13, 2015 – Cinderella (Walt Disney Studios) #Cinderella

 

Lily James is Cinderella in Disney’s live-action feature inspired by the classic fairy tale, CINDERELLA, which brings to life the timeless images in Disney’s 1950 animated masterpiece as fully-realized characters in a visually-dazzlling spectacle for a whole new generation.

 

CINDERELLA  2014 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

CINDERELLA 2014 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

 

Cinderella (Walt Disney Studios) Trailer:

 

 
 
 

April 17, 2015 – Monkey Kingdom (Disneynature) #MonkeyKingdom
 
The  Disneynature Monkey Kingdom website explains the plotline as “Life is an adventure for Maya, the clever and resourceful blonde-bobbed monkey in “Monkey Kingdom,” Disneynature’s new feature film set among ancient ruins in the storied jungles of South Asia. Maya’s world is forever changed when she welcomes her son, Kip, into her complicated extended family…When their longtime home at Castle Rock is taken over by powerful neighboring monkeys, Maya’s whole family is forced to relocate, where she uses her street smarts and ingenuity to lead them to untapped resources amidst strange new creatures and unsettling surroundings. Ultimately, they will all have to work together to reclaim Castle Rock, where Maya can hopefully realize her dreams for her son’s future.

 

Disneynature's Monkey Kingdom ©Disneynature 2015 All Rights Reserved.

Disneynature’s Monkey Kingdom ©Disneynature 2015 All Rights Reserved.

 

Disneynature’s Monkey Kingdom Trailer:
 

 

 

 
 
June 19, 2015 – Inside Out (Disney / Pixar) #InsideOut
 
Here is the storyline from the press release “Disney’s Pixar’s “Inside Out” takes us to the most extraordinary location yet – inside the mind of Riley. Like all of us, Riley is guided by her emotions – Anger (voiced by Lewis Black), Disgust (voiced by Mindy Kaling), Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler), Fear (voiced by Bill Hader) and Sadness (voiced by Phyllis Smith). The emotions live in Headquarters, the control center inside Riley’s mind, where they help advise her through everyday life. Directed by Pete Docter and produced by Jonas Rivera, “Inside Out” is in theaters June 19, 2015.

 

 ©2014 Disney?Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

©2014 Disney?Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

 
 
 
Inside Out (Disney / Pixar) Trailer:

 

 

November 25, 2015 – The Good Dinosaur (Disney / Pixar) #TheGoodDinosaur
 
Storyline from the press release: “The Good Dinosaur” asks the generations-old question: What if the asteroid that forever changed life on Earth missed the planet completely and giant dinosaurs never became extinct? In theaters November 25, 2015, the film is a humorous and exciting original story about Arlo, a lively Apatosaurus with a big heart. After a traumatic event unsettles Arlo’s family, he sets out on a remarkable journey, gaining an unlikely companion along the way – a human boy. “The Good Dinosaur” is an extraordinary journey of self-discovery full of thrilling adventure, hilarious characters and poignant heart. Directed by Peter Sohn (“Partly Cloudy”) and produced by Denise Ream (“Cars 2″, “The Good Dinosaur” opens in theaters Nov. 25, 2015.

 

The Good Dinosaur ©2014 Disney Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

The Good Dinosaur ©2014 Disney Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

OTHER DISNEY MOVIES COMING OUT:

 

October 9, 2015 –  The Jungle Book (Walt Disney Studios) #TheJungleBook

 

Disney's The Jungle Book Conceptual Artwork ©Disney 2015 All Rights Reserved.

Disney’s The Jungle Book Conceptual Artwork ©Disney 2015 All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

Unamed Spy Thriller:  I love spy thrillers and anything made by Steven Spielberg and that has Tom Hanks acting in it. So whatever this spythriller is named – I will be there to watch it when it comes out! Here are the details from the press release: ” Tom Hanks (left) stars in Steven Spielberg’s (right) Untitled Cold War spy thriller, which is the true story of James Donovan, an attorney who finds himself thrust into the center of the Cold War when the CIA sends him on the near-impossible mission to negotiate the release of a captured American U-2 pilot.”

 

 

Unamed Spy Thriller: ©DreamWorks II Distribution Co., LLC and Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.  All Rights Reserved.

Unamed Spy Thriller: ©DreamWorks II Distribution Co., LLC and Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

 

What Walt Disney Studios movies are you most looking forward to watching?

 

 
Disclosure: This is a press post
 
 

 

Five Ways To Use #Tech For #Halloween

I was not going to post on Halloween but I was so inspired by the fun press outreach (and seeing what my fellow bloggers wrote) that I wanted to share some of my Halloween inspired tech favorites. Please share yours and have a safe and happy Halloween!

 

1. LED and Laser Pointers to Light Up Your Jack-O-Lantern!

 

deathstar  pumpkin

PHOTO CREDIT: Fantasypumpkins.com

 

Our family favorite Make Magazine had a great link list of creative pumpkin carving ideas, including a Death Star and using LED’s and laser pointers to light up your pumpkins. The Death Star Pumpkin masterpiece is from the website Fantasy Pumpkins. May the Jack-O-Lantern Be With You!

 

2. Check out websites for last minute Halloween ideas

Cool Mom Picks has a post with the UItimate Last Minute Halloween Guide. Of course, Pinterest has a vast amount of Halloween inspirations to keep you busy for hours. Growing Up Goofy has (our family favorite Disney) Mikey Mouse Halloween crafts and Tinker Lab has Halloween craft ideas for kids. There are many other food and design blogs online to get ideas. Z Living and Rookie Moms have tips for a healthier Halloween. For Halloween fashion tips, I found a great R2-D2 skirt at I am a Funny Girl’s Fashion Friday post. For super last minute tips, Mashable posted with costumes you can make in 15 minutes…

 

 

3. Halloween Spirits For Adults

 

Halloween Cocktail Photo by Steve Murello  via HGTV

Halloween Cocktail. Photo Credit by Steve Murello via HGTV

 

 

After all the work creating costumes, decorations, food and more I think it is important for parents to give themselves some Halloween Holiday spirits. When searching online for Halloween ideas for kids, why not also search for some Halloween adult drink ideas to die for like the recipes over on the website HGTV.

 

4. Apps to help with Halloween Decorations

 

Home Outside App Holiday Halloween

Home Outside App – Holiday Halloween

 

 

Today I received a press release about an app called Home Outside that can help you create a landscape design for Halloween or for any occasion.  I may even try this app to make another attempt to landscape now that my boys are older. The last time we tried (many years ago) we had toddlers who went and pulled the tubing from our drip irrigation. I am sure there are many other Halloween apps to decorate inside and outside your house.

 

5. Think Geek – One Stop Halloween Shopping

 

 

thinkgeek halloween

Think Geek Halloween – Minecraft

 

The website Think Geek has the best selection of techie Halloween fun including costumes (regular and cosplay), decorations and accessories including lights and lasers to light up your night. Of course, many of the accessories, such as the Think Geek: Mega Stomp Panic, would be great for geeky fun throughout the year!

 

 

 

 

 

What are your favorite Halloween ideas? I know that we will celebrating throughout the weekend…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Facebook Family Tech Chalkboard: Tips and New Features

Facebook Family Tech ChalkboardWhen Facebook reached out to me and other parenting journalists to attend a “Facebook Family Tech Chalkboard” meeting at their campus, I was excited attend a press briefing on their new features.  As parents we have the dual role of using Facebook to communicate with our own friends (and family) as well as advising our teens on topics such as privacy and social media etiquette. Those of us with businesses or websites also use Facebook Pages to engage with our customers or readers.   Listed below is a summary of the topics discussed.

 

 

  • Facebook Groups Updates:
    • Facebook groups is a great way to have separate discussions with different “groups” of friends. I wrote a post (Tips For Moms on Using Facebook Groups) that discussed the different types of groups and details for setting up Facebook Groups. At the meeting we shared stories on how we use Facebook groups.
    • Facebook Groups for Schools: We learned about Facebook feature called “Groups for Schools” which allows people with an active school email address to join groups at their college or university. I am happy that Facebook still has this feature to allow only people in the college (that have the college “email” address) to join the college Facebook group.

     

    Facebook groups for schools

    Facebook groups for schools Photo credit: Facebook

     

  • New Facebook Feature “Save for later” The new Facebook “Save” feature enables you to save items (links, places, movies, TV and music) you find on Facebook for later. From a privacy standpoint we learned that only you can see the items you save unless you choose to share them with friends. This is a feature that is especially important to me  lately because while I find the most interesting articles on my timeline, I rarely have time to read the full article. Now I can “save” it and come back to it! Sometimes I flip back and forth in my Facebook timeline between top stories and most recent to see what articles people are sharing. But I always seem to go back to “top stories” because that is where some of the most talked about articles seem to show up.  My next step will be to create my own Facebook “friends lists” of my tech friends, parenting friends and more to help curate updates on my timeline (which I can now share!).

 

Facebook Save

New Facebook Save Feature. Photo credit: Facebook

 

 

 

  • Facebook Privacy Checkup:  The new Facebook feature called “Privacy Checkup”  offers a guided approach to setting up privacy controls. It will take users through steps to “review things like who they’re posting to, which apps they use, and the privacy of key pieces of information on their profile“. While I already went through the Facebook privacy settings with my teen when he first set up Facebook (and for myself), the privacy checkup is also a good way to have a guided review of settings.

 

 

 

 

 

  • Facebook Login & Anonymous Login: New Facebook login features, announced at the last Facebook Developer’s conference, offers “a brand new way to log into apps without sharing any personal information from Facebook, along with a new version of Facebook Login with even better privacy controls.” The  announcement explained the three new features as:

1. Anonymous Login:An easy way for people to try an app without sharing any of their personal information from Facebook.”

2. Facebook Login:A new version that gives people the option to pick and choose what information apps get.
3. Redesigned App Control Panel:A central place for people to see and manage the apps they use.

 

Facebook Anonymous Login

Facebook Anonymous Login. Photo credit: Facebook

 

 

The ability to signup for new apps without having to share all of my personal information is an option I have been looking for some time. App developers have a year to utilize this new feature so we will see this rolling out soon.

 

 

The last topic we discussed was Facebook Pages. I not only have a Facebook page for TechMamas but also manage some Facebook pages (and ad campaigns)  for clients so this is an area of great interest to me. At the same time, there is so much information to cover on this topic that I decided to split it up to be covered in my next post on Facebook Pages (so keep an eye out for that post coming out soon!).

 

At the end of the event we had a tour of the Facebook Campus and could not help but have some fun in the Facebook store with fellow parenting journalists – including Jessica Rosenberg who helped me model some fun tee shirts!

 

Facebook Family Tech Chalkboard Tour

 

 

Disclosure: The Facebook Family Tech Chalkboard was a press event. This post is a press update.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

High Tech Inspiration For Families: Chore-inator

Chore apps for kids: Chore-inatorBack to School is a time our family sets up school year routines and strategies. One of the routines that has been hardest for our family is a chore schedule for our kids. I set up our family schedule online and we are starting to set up a study routine. With a busy school day and after school activities there “seems” to be no time for our kids to do chores. But in reality, there is time but we have no way to organize when and how we fit in chores to our schedule.

 

When I received a press email about a new app called “Chore-inator” (Chore-inator.com), I was interested to check it out to help put structure into our family chore process. The Founders of Chore-inator, Diane and Kevin Hamilton of Binaryformations.com, have their own personal story on why they created the app. So I thought I would start by finding out about why they created Chore-inator, then trying for myself.

 

Chore-inator app

 

When I read the press release about the Chore-inator, I was happy to see that the app not only lists out chores but also a payout which I think is important for my boys.  In our family, earning screen time seems to always be a good inspiration to get things done.  For example, our current “payout” is our boys earn their screen time. We also offer our kids special family events when they do extra work. But we have never been able to organize or “automate” the chores to make sure it gets in our weekly schedule.

 

We asked the Founders of Chore-inator, Diane and Kevin Hamilton of Binaryformations, to share their story on why they created the app and more details about the app. Diane Hamilton responded with the information below.

 

The Chore-inator Story:
Our immediate family consists of Kevin, myself, and our six-year-old son Adam.

 

Chore-inator Founders

Chore-inator Founders

 

We are what the software industry calls indies. We are independent app developers. Our company, Binary Formations, is a small company building apps from ideas that come from challenges within our own family. Home Inventory, a Mac App for cataloging your household for insurance purposes or just to get organized and get rid of clutter, is our most popular thus far, plus we have handful of not so popular apps. This keeps us pretty darn busy and we are grateful to be doing something that we love and can share with others who may be facing similar challenges.

 

It may be surprising that we in no way started off with the intention of creating Chore-inator. Why add yet one more chore tracking app to the pile that already exist? Seriously, we know exactly how difficult it is to compete in a store with more than a million other titles, especially in an area where there are other well-established apps.

 

Our intention was to find something that would help not only get and keep our son, Adam, excited and motivated to do his chores but also to get and keep my husband, Kevin, and I consistent and accountable for chore management. And quite frankly we needed a better way to limit the amount of T.V., computer, and iPad time Adam was getting. None of us were very good at any of this, at all!

 

We tried a variety of approaches, from the good old-fashioned chore chart to trying a few of the apps, but nothing was working for us. They were either too complicated to setup, too complicated for Adam to use before he could read, or too simple and cutesy that Adam quickly out grew it. Also, we are data privacy freaks, so a solution that requires signing into a website and sharing and/or tracking of data is unacceptable. And finally, like many others, we are on a tight budget and are unwilling to pay a subscription fee to manage chores, which is often required for a web solution.

 

Chore-inator app to help keep track of kids chores

 

It was at that point that we decided to do what we do best – build an app to help us. So we put some of our other app ideas on hold and got to work. We had three primary goals when designing Chore-inator:


1. It needed to be so easy to use that you knew intuitively what to do when you picked it up whether you were a toddler who couldn’t read but had 1 or 2 basic chores to do, a teen who just wanted to get in and out so mom and dad would quit nagging, or a busy parent who needed to get it all set up very quickly.
2. It needed to be engaging enough to not only get kids of all ages engaged and motivated to do their chores but to keep them engaged and motivated without being too cutesy that tweens and younger teens were turned off. It needed to be flexible enough to grow with our family.
3. It needed to be extremely quick and easy for parents to get a status of all the family’s chore activity for the day, all in one easily understandable view.

 

We didn’t want an app that was just the electronic version of a traditional chore chart. We wanted an app that really focused on streamlining the process of managing the household chores, an app that exploited the latest and greatest technology and design available to create a workflow that was pleasing to the task at hand and would keep us all accountable without being an extra burden.

 

Like every other parent out there, we are busy too and want to spend as little time necessary on managing the household while at the same time teaching Adam discipline and motivation for a job well done when contributing to the household.

 

Chore-inator launched at Macworld back in March. What started as a family discussion soon won “Best in Show” in addition to being twice named “Best New App” and top banner feature in the Productivity section of the App Store. The experience, as well as the media attention, was confirmation that we were on the right path so we went right back to work when we got home to finish Chore-inator 2.0, which was a top banner feature in the Productivity section of the App Store once again.

 

Chore-inator has been such a big help in our own family. From a parent’s perspective, it has really helped keep Kevin and I consistent with both making sure Adam is doing his chores but also that rewards, such as iPad time or special treats, are limited and tied to positive behaviors. And there is never any doubt whether or not allowance has been paid. Adam recently spent a few days at his Grandparents. He would not let us leave until we looked to make sure there were no rewards or allowance outstanding!

 

From Adam’s perspective, he loves to take pictures of his completed chores to show us. It makes him feel good to be contributing to the household by being responsible for completing a few age appropriate chores and he is learning the value of saving, whether it is saving allowance or saving stars to redeem rewards.

 


How do you setup a chore schedule (and “payout”) in your house?

 

 

Disclosure: Press post

 

For more information check out their website: Chore-inator.com, twitter @Chore-inator and Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/binaryformations and on iTunes: Chore-inator  iOS app.  .

 

 

 

 

Intel Showcase of The Future Preview

*See Disclosures at the bottom of this post.
**GIVEAWAY WAS CLOSED 9/17
 

This summer I went to an Intel Future Showcase Press event in San Francisco to learn about  Intel’s current and new technology. I am always on the lookout to learn about the future and envision what exciting technology will help make my (and my family’s) life more efficient and productive.

 

Intel Edison - Showcase of the Future

Photo credit: Intel press release

 
GIVEAWAY CLOSED!
To celebrate, I am giving away an Intel-powered Dell Venue 8 Pro to a lucky commenter on this post who shares what future technology they are looking forward to using. Here are the details for the giveaway:

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 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. By entering any giveaway on this website you release Techmamas.com from any liability whatsoever, and waive any and all causes of action.

8. Contest starts Sept. 12 and ends Sept 17. Winner will be notified by Sept 20.

 

 

INTEL FUTURE SHOWCASE – PRESS EVENT

 

At Intel Future Showcase, the press was shown some impressive form factors, technology and trends. The press release explained, “Intel is working with the technology industry to accelerate and deliver a smart, seamlessly connected and integrated digital world. Because Moore’s Law enables us to continuously shrink devices , technology is beginning to disappear into the objects and spaces that we interact with on a second nature basis even the fabric of our clothes. One day the need to remember to ‘bring your device’ may seem quaint because intelligent objects will encompass you to suit whatever you need in the moment.”

 

 

 

*Personalization is an important computer trend and this new app takes it a step further with a new 3-D mobile messaging app called Pocket Avatars. Pocket Avatars allows you to choose an avatar and then give it your “facial expressions, head movements and voice, and then maps this data onto a 3D character chosen from a library.” The Pocket Avatar app is available now for download from the Apple App Store and Google Play.

 

Intel Showcase of Future: Apps

 

 

**2 in 1 form factors are a hybrid computer/tablet that can detach, flip or slide. It also has multiple form factors and input including type, touch and stylus to write. The key advantage for the 2 in 1 form factor (highlighted at the showcase with Intel(r) 4th gen core processors) is the flexibility to use the devices for work, entertainment, gaming and more.

 

Intel Showcase of the Future: Devices

Photo credit: Intel press release

 

The whole trend of versatile devices extends from 2 in 1 devices to smartphones. Some of the key features are:
1. Screens that can be detached from the keyboard to become a lightweight tablets. Screens that can be flipped around, switching effortlessly from a traditional notebook into a tablet., Stand-alone tablets come in a range of sizes, including compact 7-inch and 8-inch devices that can be tucked into a handbag.
2. Devices that offer a dual-boot option with both Windows* 8.1 and Android. Intel processors also power mobile phones, including tablet-sized devices running Android. With cellular capability offering up to 32 hours of talk time , these devices also are ultra slim and offer a powerful, full HD display.
3. Intel is at the heart of Chromebooks*, too. Chromebooks are low-cost devices that run Google* Chrome OS and connect via the cloud to your Google services.

 

Mobile Security:


The Intel showcase also highlighted the importance of mobile security by sharing a recent McAfee Mobile Security Report which found that Android malware almost tripled from 2012 to 2013. Here is some information about Intel’s initiative: “As part of Intel’s initiative to make security an integrated part of the consumer experience, a full-featured McAfee solution is free for all Intel-based mobile devices. McAfee’s mobile security suite takes a number of steps to protect your Intel-powered device, including alerts regarding risky Wi-Fi networks you are trying to connect to and the CaptureCam feature that snaps a picture of someone who has made multiple unsuccessful attempts to unlock the device. The suite is integrated with Intel® Device Protection Technology to provide atom-level security extensions. It is high-tech peace of mind designed to protect your phone from today’s threats.”

 

Wearables and Maker Movement:


Two areas I find most interesting are the Wearable tech and Maker (#STEM) movements.  Wearing our tech devices offers a more seamless interaction than using a separate device. The wearable tech movement is just starting to offer more functionality and has a long way to go. The Maker movement is exciting because that it allows the general public to experiment and create their own devices, some of which will propel the wearable movement forward as well.

 

 

Maker Movement: “Both Intel® Galileo and Intel® Edison are designed for tinkerers and makers, taking personalization to the next level by designing creations from their own imaginations. CEO Brian Krzanich first unveiled Intel Galileo at the Maker Faire Rome in October 2013. Intel Galileo is Intel’s family of Arduino-compatible development boards featuring Intel architecture and designed for the maker and education communities. The Intel showcase includes a light installation that is controlled through Intel Galileo.”

 

Intel Showcase of the Future: Maker Movement

Photo credit: Intel press release

 

 

 

Wearables: “One technology that straddles today and tomorrow is wearables, devices that make technology truly personal. Devices can now measure running speed, heartbeat, steps, blood pressure and even gauge the quality of your sleep via wristwatches that act as a companion to – or even replace – your smartphone. Intel’s strategy is to imagine and create reference design devices and platforms ready to be used by customers in the development of wearable products. At the showcase, you will be able to see one example of Intel’s commitment to wearable devices in the form of the Basis Health Tracker, in addition to browsing some of the top entries to the Intel Make It Wearable Challenge. The Challenge celebrates creativity by inviting individuals, teams and organizations to develop ideas for wearable products.”

 

 

Intel Showcase of Future: Wearables

Photo credit: Intel press release

 

 

 

What’s in store for the FUTURE?

 

 

The Intel Technology Showcase highlighted some very interesting future technology. I was first exposed to some of Intel’s future vision back in January at CES, when Intel demonstrated the Mimo Baby Smart Onesie that interacts with devices to let parents know when the baby is sleeping and can also help predict when the child is hungry (and in the future WARM the bottle to prepare)! The Mimo Baby used the Intel Edison system on a chip. As a mom of twins, it just would of been great to have that technology out years ago when the kids were babies!

 

Listed below is the press information provided about some of Intel’s future technology:

 

Llama Mountain: “An Intel concept design fresh from its debut at Computex, Llama Mountain captures the future of 2 in 1 devices while remaining feather light, super sleek and staying cool without a fan. The concept 2 in 1 detaches from its keyboard to function like a tablet, features a 12.5-inch screen and measures just 7.2mm thick. The Intel® Core™ M processor makes the sleek design possible with 14-nanometer Backgrounder transistors, which are smaller than today’s 22-nanometer transistors of 4th generation Intel Core processors.”

 

Wireless Charging:How many times have you had to hunt around for a charger and cable for your device? Families can often find that every plug in the house seems to have sprouted a charger with a mobile or tablet umbilical cord connected to the wall. And what if you have a device that doesn’t use a standard charger? If you’re running out of juice at someone else’s home or office and they don’t have the right connector for you to borrow, you’re in trouble.

Intel’s wireless charging bowl is a concept shown that is an example of how  meant to put an end to the ‘spaghetti junction’ of wires and endless hunt for a charging station. It’s a smart and smart-looking bowl that can charge a number of devices at the same time. Using smart charging coil technology, the wireless bowl is a consumer-friendly product that shows how powering up several different devices can be a no-brainer – even ones that use different connectors. And, as the icing on the cake, the bowl will look equally appealing in a chic corporate environment or in a home.”

 

Intel® RealSense™ Technology:Last year Intel made a foray into perceptual computing, which promises to bid farewell to the old way of interacting with technology: farewell to the mouse and hello to gesture-controlled devices. Since then, the technology has matured by getting smaller and neater. Intel RealSense frees you from clipping a chunky camera onto your monitor. The camera has been made smaller and moved into all-in-one systems and the lids of laptops. At the heart of the system is an integrated 3-D camera and 2-D camera model, which means devices can ‘see’ depth in the same way as humans.

As well as being able to control devices with gestures, Intel RealSense will be able to create 3-D objects on the computer that the user will be able to mold using natural gestures, and ultimately share those objects with others and print them out using 3-D printers. This will bring a whole new level of realism and interactivity to work and play: from gaming to calling grandma, from videoconferencing to designing product. Without the added distraction of bulky 3-D glasses, RealSense is the most natural way to interact with technology – and with distant people.

 

Intel Edison: “Honey, I shrunk the computer! Just when you thought they couldn’t get any smaller, Intel introduced Intel Edison a system-on-a-chip that isn’t much bigger than a stamp. The Intel Edison development board is a product-ready, wirelessly enabled general purpose compute environment. It is designed for inventors, entrepreneurs, consumer product designers and industrial IOT solutions providers that create wearable or small form factor devices to be sold through commercial channels to consumers. Intel Edison is slated for release in summer of this year. “

 

Intel Showcase of the Future: Edison

Photo credit: Intel press release

 

Make Your Own Robot:Meet Jimmy the Robot. Jimmy, who was shown off at the Maker Faire in New York at the end of last year, was created by Intel Futurist Brian David Johnson to demonstrate how anyone will be able to use open-source files to create their own robot and print it out on a 3-D printer.

 

Intel Showcase of the Future: Jimmy The Robot

Photo credit: Intel press release

 

Jimmy himself will soon be available for you to download and print for an affordable price, thanks to Johnson’s sharing of the “Jimmy template” with 10 teams at various universities. Once you’ve printed out and assembled Jimmy, the idea is that you’ll be able to program him and install apps to add to his capabilities in the same, simple way we now install apps on mobile devices.
Jimmy is a glimpse of a future when we will all be able to create and print our own robots – and their possibilities are endless. It’s up to you to come up with innovative applications for Jimmy; the only limit is your imagination.”

 

Future In-Car Experience:While there’s significant talk about self-driving cars, Intel’s vision of cars includes one where you’re still in control of the vehicle – although the car will be an intelligent device. You’ll be able to talk to your car and tell it where to go by talking to it – and the car will detect if you’ve got the kids on board and will automatically fire up their favorite movie to entertain them during the journey.”

 

At the Intel Future Showcase, a demonstration in the automotive space highlights how modern vehicles are now computerized. Many deeply embedded computers are responsible for monitoring and control of vehicle systems, such as telematics, infotainment, connectivity and advanced driver assistance systems. While such features enhance usability and convenience, they also widen the threat landscape significantly, increasing the potential for malicious activity. In the demonstration, there is a lightweight, trusted execution scheme optimized for the vehicle, which will demonstrate how malicious software manipulation can be successfully intercepted.

 

Intel Showcase of the Future: Car

 

 

Smart Solar Controller:Solar power is already ubiquitous, but Intel has envisioned a 500cm solar panel that uses the variable DC current output directly rather than converting the sun’s energy into AC. The aim is to use this device in developing world locations where there is no existing electricity to charge devices, such as the Intel® Classmate PC made for children. 

 

Intel Showcase of the Future: Solar charging devices

 

 

Embedded Security for the Internet of Things: One of the hot trends getting a lot of attention right now is the “Internet of Things,” where connected devices reach out to the cloud, sharing analytics and insights (e.g. data from local sensors) to add to and inform their functionality. Anything from cars to wearable devices and home appliances may be connected, but we have now given hackers a brand new, vulnerable entry point. Intel’s latest security research aims to identify these ports and ensure devices and information remain as safe as possible from cyber threats.”

 

 

This week was the Intel Developer’s Conference (IDF) where more future tech announcements were made: What’s New at IDF14.

 

 

One of the new projects it the connected Intel Connected Wheelchair Project explained in this video with Stephen Hawking:

 

 

 

 

What types of technology are you looking forward to in the future?

 

 

Disclosure: The information was obtained (in Italics) from a press event. This is press post. Products were given in the past for review purposes. All of the words are my own.

 

 

 

Carpool Management Tip: Get Help with Boost by Mercedes-Benz (Giveaway)

Disclosure:  This is a press post. One ride credit was provided to me for review purposes but I also paid for another ride. All of my opinions are my own.

Too busy motherOn TechMamas.com l write about innovative services, apps and websites for parents on TechMamas.com. But just recently as I ramped up my own work,  I realized as a parent with tweens and teens that the main help I needed was driving my kids to and from school/activities after school. I have carpools, but that does not always work because kids go to different activities afterschool. I tried to fit in work during school hours but it seemed like my kids were either always waiting for me to finish something so I could drive them, or waiting to get picked up at times when I was running late from a meeting. Yes, driving my kids around was the one challenge getting in the way of me ramping up my work. So I set off to find a service, website or app that can help me find a solution to my carpool challenges. As would have it, I was lucky enough to see an email from the folks at Boost by Mercedes-Benz on their new innovative transportation service for kids.

 

Boost by Mercedes-Benz

Photo Credit: Boost by Mercedes-Benz

 

Here is the information from Boost by Mercedes-Benz on the story behind their innovative transportation service. The current zip codes covered are in California – Palo Alto (94301, 94302, 94303, 94304, 94305, 94306), Los Altos – 94022, Menlo Park – 94025 and Mountain View – 94043:

 

Story behind Boost By Benz:

Busy schedules and the stress of scheduling for today’s youths seem to be part of the daily family life. Boost by Mercedes-Benz was developed to address that challenge. Boost by Mercedes-Benz (www.boostbybenz.com) is a proof-of-concept business launched by the Business Innovation Team at Mercedes-Benz Research & Development in Sunnyvale. This youth transportation service is designed to transport children safely and reliably to and from the educational and recreational activities that fill their day.

 

 

Knowing how important it is for children to balance school and extracurricular activities, it can be very tough for parents to get their kids from place to place – safely and on time. The goal at Boost is to make parents’ lives easier, while enabling children to participate in more activities. In addition, Boost hopes to minimize the number of vehicles on the road (and in the school driveway) by providing a safe, reliable youth transportation alternative for parents.

One of the goals in Business Innovation is to change the way people think about transportation and with Boost; the team has already seen this shift taking place.

 

 

Technology story behind Boost by Benz:

 

Innovative technology is the backbone of Boost by Mercedes-Benz. We built a seamless system that handles route planning, notifications and updates to allow our Boost Dispatcher, Driver and Concierge to focus on what’s most important, your children.

 

 

We kept a parent’s busy schedule in mind when we built our scheduling and notification system. A simple, three-step process guides you through the one-time, online account setup. Once your family’s info is in our system, simply schedule a ride online by selecting riders, pick-up and drop-off locations, and ideal pick-up and drop-off times. Confirm your child’s ride and you’ll get an email confirmation with the ride reservation details.

 

 

The rest is even easier. We’ve built custom tablet apps for our Boost Team to allow you complete transparency throughout your child’s ride. You’ll be notified via SMS or through our iPhone app 24 hours before the ride notifying you of our arrival time. Then, the day of your child’s ride, we’ll notify you that we’re on our way to pick up your child. When we arrive, we check them in via our technology and you’ll be notified that they’re aboard Boost. If so inclined, you can log in to your account while they’re aboard Boost to get a birds-eye view of their ride. Lastly, we’ll notify you to let you know they’ve safely arrived at their destination.

By blending the ease of technology with the best in transportation, you’ll rest easy knowing your kiddos are safely bound to their next adventure.

 


Overview of Business Innovation:

Business Innovation initiated in 2007 is Daimler’s ‘think tank’ for innovative solutions beyond the core business of car manufacturing. The team deals with future trends and technological, social and cultural developments to create profitable business models. Tested and evaluated on a pilot basis, success stories like car2go and Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy started here as proof- of-concept projects and have subsequently become prosperous businesses. Business Innovation teams are also located at the headquarters in Stuttgart, in Beijing, Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires and Sunnyvale, CA. Business Innovation at Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America, Inc. started in 2012.

 

 

Boost by Mercedes-Benz

Photo Credit: Boost by Mercedes-Benz

 

 

Details:

To sign up visit https://boostbybenz.com/. The hours currently are Monday through Friday from 12noon to 7:00pm.  The trips are scheduled online but there is also an Boost by Mercedes-Benz iPhone app and they send texts (I have an Android phone so I used the text option). Pricing will depend on the package you get, but for me it was cheaper then hiring a sitter for their minimum amount of hours per day. Instead I was just paying per ride which worked for my kids schedules.  In the van there is a driver (of course) and a Concierge that is in charge of watching over the kids and walking them to their destination from the car.

 

Boost by Mercedes Benz

Photo Credit: Boost by Mercedes Benz

 

 

Above is one of the press photos of the Concierge that rides with the driver. I used Boost to take my boys to an exercise class. The Concierge greeted me for pickup and then at drop-off walked my boys into the facility and to the class instructor per my instructions. The driver waits with the other kids in the van while the Concierge delivers the child being dropped off. In my experience, both the driver and the Concierge were very friendly and my kids enjoyed using the service (which is the most important thing!).

 

 

Now I just need to figure out my schedule in a way that I can plan the rides in advance.  Boost By Benz usually recommends scheduling rides at least 1-2 weeks prior but some time frames may be open if you need to schedule closer to the date needed. Boost also requires 48 hour cancellation to receive a 100% refund.  They will also be running over the summer! In fact, there is a special promo going on now dedicated to summer booking. Parents can use the discount code “SUMMER15” when they register and checkout on boostbybenz.com to receive 15% off rides (expires on April 30th).

 

 

I am thrilled to know that transportation services like Boost by Benz exist to help busy working parents manage carpooling challenges!

 

GIVEAWAY:

 

Please share your family carpooling challenges in the comments and we will randomly choose one comment to win ONE RIDE CREDIT received when they sign up for Boost by Benz.

 

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 zip codes valid to Boost by Benz stated above and 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. By entering any giveaway on this website you release Techmamas.com from any liability whatsoever, and waive any and all causes of action. 7. Contest ends May 6 2014 -10am pst. Winner will be announced by May 7 2014.

 

 

 

Disclosure:  This is a press post. One ride credit was provided to me for review purposes but I also paid for another ride. All of my opinions are my own.

 

 

 

TechMama Talks: Work, Family, Education and Mobile Tech

TechMamas talkIt may have been a month since I last posted, but that gave me some time to think. During that time I decided to channel my dear Grandmother in my writing, who as she got older decided to share her authentic voice. Of course, that involved some embarrassing moments such as when she met a new boyfriend of mine for the first time and asked “I look forward to seeing you walk down the isle together”. I joked and said “you mean at the grocery store?”. But my Grandmother must of been reading our body language because we did end up walking down the isle and are a happily married couple running after our adorable but energetic three boys. I feel privileged to have met an amazing community of bloggers online and share my insights on technology. Now I want to go back to sharing my musings on life and important initiatives.

 

Parents and Work: I am excited to see women developing initiatives to empower and promote career advancement for women at work.  But from what I experienced as a parent, the job market is very tricky these days so finding work that offers a salary to cover the costs of childcare and extra incidental costs is a challenge. Many parents also need some sort of offer flexible work environments, which can add to the challenge. The job market has changed, there are new job skills required including technology and social media. In addition, while online networking has created multiple channels for career advancement, choosing the right channels to create real business opportunities is an important consideration.

 

The childcare challenge is not just a mom problem – it is a “parenting” challenge. I started a lively discussion on Facebook about this topic and I was thrilled to see responses of parents that are overcoming all types of challenges to work and also parents making the choice to stay home. I made a comment that we all value time with our children, that their happiness is the most important goal of whatever arrangements are made. I look forward to share stories on my blog of women that have found creative solutions to adapt to the modern workplace. Including women that have taken time off for kids then not only ramped back up to work years later – they BLASTED OFF!

 

Family Technology: We are at a time where you can stream, automate, use voice, consume content and entertainment in many ways and multiple devices. But families are struggling with helping their kids set screen time limits, stay safe online, learn social networking etiquette, decide what devices they really NEED and HOW TO use them. To make matters more complicated, kids now grow up surrounded with technology so it is second nature. For example, I have an Internet connected TV and my kids are the ones that signed up and are power users of Netflix compared to me. I feel so old school watching shows on TV networks. I know how to stream everything on my PC’s but at night I still like to turn on the TV and watch a show. My kids hardly watch traditional TV networks anymore.

 

Luckily because of my business, I also consume information and social network online which allows me to talk my kids’ language. At the same time I realize the online world is a dangerous place for kids that require a new type of education. I have been writing online for years about the concept I describe as “Internet safety is the new sex talk”. I remember years ago when I first said that at a social media conference in New York there was silence (shock) then lots of tweeting to share. Now that mostly all devices have a web browsers, it is hard to lock our kids away from the online world.

 

My perspective is that parents need to first educate themselves, then their kids, then create regular conversations and family rules about Internet Safety (and logical consequences if they are not followed). For example, sitting down with teens “together” to look at the privacy controls for all the platforms they are on and “discuss” which should be set to remain safe. But open conversations are key, and it should include cyber etiquette and consequences for inappropriate cyber etiquette (including going to jail!). In our family discussions, I also share age appropriate news stories as examples.  I want to spend more time covering all the online platforms kid spend time on. Of course, I find new platforms cropping up it seems like every day! Automated internet safety controls such as web filters, monitoring apps and privacy control settings are also an effective supplement, but they won’t keep kids safe everywhere they go because as I said web browsers are everywhere! So parents need to do the balancing act of setting “relevant” automated controls, communication and education. That balance is not easy!

 

No matter what strategy parents have, new challenges come up. Like how I tell a bunch of 10 year olds during baseball practice last year that they “HAVE NO REASON TO BE ON INSTAGRAM.. SERIOUSLY!”. Or how do I tell a lovely teen girl (family friend) that the number of LIKES she receives on her Facebook photo does NOT reflect her TRUE BEAUTY. Or how smartphones have become a tool that can get kids arrested if they take the wrong picture or participate in the wrong social media exchange. Or how dangerous the online world is, so much so that I need to have a SCARED STRAIGHT strategy constantly updating the teens I know of the mistakes I read about hoping that they can learn from them. At the same time, I am regularly amazed at some of the positive ways teens are creating support online. When our beloved hamster died recently my son said he received comfort from a Reddit Hamster sub directory (created to memorialize Hamsters that had passed away).  My son received sympathies from around the world when he posted a picture of our Hamster.

 

Education Tech: One of the challenges of our education system is that while more and more kids relate to visual, interactive and experiential learning, many curriculum’s are still based on inflexible models filled with worksheets. The shining stars are the Teachers and Schools trying to transition to experiential learning. Luckily, now there are so many ways to learn online that I could spend weeks covering all the websites and programs. After speaking at a few education tech events and meeting the edtech company founders, I decided that sharing the exciting opportunities that exist in digital learning is a passion of mine. I want to highlight the education tech innovators on my blog as a way to help support their important contributions they are making to the future of education.

 

Family Schedule Tech:  One of the main reasons I wrote the book “My Parent Plan” was to help families learn project planning skills. After years of professional project planning I know the concepts but at times still struggle with how to balance it all. With three boys now going THREE completely different directions, I decided to dive deeper into tech solutions to help me manage. Or at least keep my head above water..

 

Health Tech: Feeding my family a healthy diet is one of the biggest challenges I have each week. While I like the concept of eating plant based foods I am also balancing understanding what is best for my family that has different nutritional needs. I will be covering some of online websites and apps that can help parents struggling with healthy eating solutions. I will also be covering my comic adventures trying to convince my sons why healthy eating is important. Including how my teen is “dreaming” of going to a local burger restaurant someday again as a reward. And how at times he sneaks out with his friends to get junk food for dinner after looking in the fridge filled with “green” foods.

 

So while I am far away from being a Grandmom myself, I honor her voice by speaking my own. Whats on your mind?

 

 

 

 

Guest Post: Life Hacks From Startup Co-Founder Vlada

Guest Post: If you are a parent and are thinking of starting a company, I have good news – you already have the world’s best entrepreneurial experience: you are running a family without any previous experience or a manual! Do you remember the endless questions you had when you (or your partner) were pregnant? Do you remember the anxiety you felt at your baby’s first doctor visit? Do you remember the pride you felt when your baby walked for the first time? Running a start up, in many ways, is very similar to running a family.  The hardest part is to figure out how to make time for both. The answer (unlike execution) is surprisingly simple, prioritize, prioritize, and prioritize.

 

 

Your first step was deciding to start a company, hopefully something that makes you leap out of bed every morning.  Your next step is to figure out your top few priorities, and deprioritize and potentially cut out almost everything else.

 

 

For example, one of my top priorities is to create a meaningful relationship between my kids and their family. Unfortunately, we don’t have the time or the budget to plan many vacations.  My tricks for staying close to the family is to leverage technology.

  • I’m lucky that my car has Bluetooth so I make most of the calls on my way to dropping kids off at school. My daughters love being part of the conversation and my family adores hearing from them. I love that I get to feel close without it taking up additional time in the day. If your car doesn’t have Bluetooth, try putting your phone on speaker, it works surprisingly well.
  • In addition to regular calls, we use Joya (www.getjoya.com) to easily send videos of our kids to our closest family and friends.  Thanks to the power of video, our family can feel like they are there when my daughter is learning to ride a bike. Or when my little one is eagerly “eating” yogurt by spreading it all over her face J. My kids also LOVE getting videos from their cousins and friends.
  • I use kids’ art projects for packages to send to family. I typically have 1-2 hours every morning with my girls. During that time we will usually do some sort of creative project. I love www.tinkerlab.com for really simple art ideas.  On project days I ask the kids who they are creating it for. Then, when they are done, I put it in an envelope and send it off. My kids love thinking of various family members, putting the stamp on the envelope, and “writing” a special note (i.e. combination of letters and scribbles J). The best part is then getting a video back of the family opening up their special letter.

 

 

In my experience, running a company and a family require a deep commitment and attention to how I’m living my life, almost on a moment-by-moment basis.  To be clear, I don’t believe that living a balanced life is a goal. To me it’s about living a consciously unbalanced life, being careful that nothing gets dropped for too long. Much like when a baby is first born, when you first start a company, it needs extra care.  So, that means you have to find ways to simplify, cut or get help for other parts of your life, and then over time everything gets adjusted.

 

 

When I think back to when I was pregnant and talking to my Mommy friends, I felt so scared, so unsure of how I’ll manage being a working Mom. I was truly in awe of my friends who were doing it. And then I became a Mom and then I had my second kid. It was hard but life adjusted and now I can’t imagine it any other way. I think it’s same when making a decision to start a company. Yes, it is scary, and yes, it’s hard. And it’s also worth every precious minute.

 

Guest post by @vladab :

 

Vlada co-founded Joya (www.getjoya.com), a mobile app that makes it delightful and easy to share mobile videos. Previously, she co-founded and sold AdNectar, a VC-backed ad tech company.

Vlada majored in computer engineering and art at Northwestern University. She has 10+ years of professional experience as product manager, designer and entrepreneur, building mass-impact products including MSN Messenger and Hotmail.

Vlada is also a proud Mom of two little girls who are the inspiration behind Joya. They pushed Vlada to dream about making staying in touch with family feel magically effortless, and so Joya was born.

Connect with Vlada: @GetJoya and @vladab and https://www.facebook.com/getjoya. Photo Credit: DharmaComics .

 

 

 

Sponsored: Tips For Teaching Kids Not To Text and Drive

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post for a campaign with AT&T.

 

 For today’s teens, texting is their natural and persistent form of communication. I realized just how deeply integrated texting is to my older son’s communication when he went to a friend’s birthday party at age 12. The kid’s mom had pre-arranged a great scavenger hunt in the back yard, the excited boys searched for hidden toys in silence, texting each other as they discovered treasure.
I soon realized that I needed to not only teach my teen texting etiquette and safety rules but also role model appropriate technology use. As my son approaches the age of driving I decided that one of the most important places to demonstrate texting safety is in the car. Especially when recent studies show that 75% of teens say texting and driving is “common” among their friends.  Here are some of my tips for texting safety, please share yours!

1. Create A Routine: I create a routine for what I do with my phone in the car and I share it with my teen. For example, there are some days where I hand my phone to my teen and he places it somewhere out of my reach.. I always say “look where my phone is – out of my reach while driving!”. Or there are some days where I turn on the AT&T Drive Mode and show my teen that I have it set so I can’t text until I turn drive mode off. ”When the app is enabled and the vehicle is moving 25 mph, the app automatically sends a customizable auto-reply message to incoming texts*, letting your friends know you’re behind the wheel and will reply when it’s safe.”

2. Show Them The Dangers of Texting And Driving:  My son not only watches YouTube videos but also films and edit videos. So I decided that another step in his education would be to watch some of the videos from the “It Can Wait” Campaign that show the dangers of texting and driving. Seeing those stories on video really helped him visualize why texting while driving is 100% not acceptable.

3. Simulate The Dangers of Texting and Driving: The “It Can Wait” campaign has a game simulator that allows you to experience the dangers and consequences of texting and driving.  I had my son try the simulator at home and he was surprised because he thought (like many other teens) that he could text while also concentrating on all the various visual cues required to successfully drive.

How do you teach your kids not to text and drive? I am looking for new creative ways to add to my list!