iPads for Parents

Being Online and Mindful

It's hard to sustain mindfulness browsing the internet. Two or three clicks into our quest for information or edification, we find ourselves like passengers in a self driven Tesla navigating only to the closest shopping center. Marketers know all too well that adrenaline and dopamine direct our online activity more than any intention we might have to find what we need or get some work done. Amazon and Groupon evidently rev us up more than The Wall Street Journal and BBC.

Perhaps no surprise to many, recent surveys by Independent market research groups like Childwise show what some might consider a monumental shift in our kids' media habits from the TV "tube" to online video sites and social media.

The latter might be considered a two-edged sword. online social exchanges become as significant as those they have in person. While as middle school educators we continue to educate and direct kids regarding their school and online social behaviors, we also continue to be impressed with the tremendous capacity they have to care for each other without any help from us.

A recent short New York Times piece, How to Be Mindful with Facebook, points out that students can apply mindful awareness to all areas of their lives, including their time online. Author David Gelles offers this advice for social media use, something great for all of us:



Take a moment before you log on to your phone or computer.

Evaluate your intentions.

Before posting anything on social media, ask yourself three questions:

Is it true?

Is it kind?

Is it necessary?

Post only if the answer to all three is yes.

Posted by Brad B. on Thursday September 29, 2016
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iPad Apps Used in Middle School Classes

 Over the course of our iPad years, the Middle School faculty has adopted a number of “Go-To” apps – ones we use in numerous classes and ask all kids to have on their devices. Required apps are purchased and distributed by the school.

There is much to say about all these apps, so I will condense , sharing just three today:


Dropbox helps make sure student files are kept safe online and mirrored on any other device they install it on. We also like that Dropbox is integrated with many other apps to tie into their service and use them for cloud storage and sync as well. Students can also create share links to their files and email or text the links to peers or teachers who request it.


Countless note-taking apps flood the App Store, but Notability is one which we feel does best at leveraging the power of the iPad . In this app, students can make not only all kinds of annotations, but they can also make recordings. And they can save all to Dropbox.

Explain Everything is a screen-casting app. Screencasting is the combined capture and narration of all of the action on a computer screen. Screencasting has been popular with teachers seeking an alternative to Powerpoint or other “slide” apps. Kahn Academy videos are great examples of screencasts. Some teachers also urge students to create their own screencasts as an alternative to a paper to share what they are learning.


For an upcoming post, I’ll have English and social studies teachers share what students are doing with some of the unique apps used in those classes.



Posted by Brad B. on Monday September 5, 2016
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Parental Controls and Resources

Many parents have found that reviewing and putting in place some fundamental restrictions on the iPad is a good way to make expectations clear for young people who are using mobile devices for the first time.

Children can be captivated by electronic devices and their content, and we have always benefited from the great advice and resources we find at Common Sense Media, hands-down the best, biggest and most current clearinghouse for all things media and internet.  Taking a few minutes to read their ten beliefs about kids and media is a great introduction to the amazing work they do.

As you know, when students use the internet at school, their browsing is filtered for content which is inappropriate or not educational.

You may or may not have that capability at home.  I find a great deal of interesting reading at a site called  Be Web Smart which is a resource for parents who like to keep current with the internet kids live in. At Be Web Smart you can also find reviews of apps kids are using, and learn more about not only the lure of the apps, but also about the positive things kids might be using them for.

At the website, you will find a page dedicated to parental control tools for parents who want to limit both time kids spend on their devices and the content they access. As you will see, some of the tools are designed for mobile devices, allowing you to tweak your home internet settings and filtering on the fly. Other subscription services are also available. And hardware is also available.

Torch, for instance,  is a newly designed wifi router which may be a game changer for parents who’d like some basic tools for supervising and limiting device use in the home. Reviews suggest that it is very easy to use. Torch seems pricey, but could work nicely for parents who want a hardware solution more like what exists here at school.

We agree with the Be Web Smart belief that while "parental control tools can certainly assist you, they don't replace you. Meaning, you can’t just rely on a parental control software product alone.  Ongoing discussions with the kids is key to establishing healthy internet and device usage habits."

Posted by Brad B. on Monday August 1, 2016
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iPad Backup

Students with a high volume of personal media such as photos, videos, music, etc. may encounter storage issues with their devices. Additionally, many game applications can eat up the iPad's storage capacity. I am one of numerous teachers available to help students having trouble with their storage. That said, our advice is often the same: “Throw away some stuff!”

Photos are most frequently the storage eaters. I'd guess you've seen this clever commercial about Google Photo storage.

Students can manage their storage on their own through their iPad settings by going to Settings > General > Usage. Here they can see just what is hogging their storage space and often resolve it. 

Students are required to backup their iPads to either a home or school computer. An alternative storage solution is to use Apple's cloud storage called iCloud. At this writing (9/2016) Each Apple ID has 5GB of free storage. Additional storage can be purchased:

 50 GB for $0.99 / month

200 GB for $2.99 / month

1 TB for $9.99 / month

Here are five easy steps to back up an iPad. We will walk students through it at school, but perhaps you might also have them show you what they know at home. Maybe they can help you back up your own device !

Posted by Brad B. on Friday July 29, 2016
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iPhone Contract Heard Around the World

For parents who feel their kids could want too much time with their iPads, here are a couple of good sources about contracts you can use either as they are or tweaked to suit your family concerns.iPhone Contract Hear Around the World

The iPhone Contract Heard Around the World

The story:


The contract:



Posted by Brad B. on Wednesday July 1, 2015
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