My young sons and internet use

My first son was born in 1999.  I had an internet-based business that year and have been glued to a computer ever since.  Therefore, my children have been brought up using computers, the connected generation.  Phones, computers and in the past few years, tablets.  The internet has become ubiquitous where it even now travels with us.  I have a lot of respect for all that it has allowed me to do and for how it has opened up the world and education.

But the power of the internet and it’s dark side scares me, too.

My children had limited access to the internet time up until the past couple of years and in that time the usage has exponentially grown into becoming somewhat excessive.  As I type, there is an Xbox downstairs with three boys, three laptops, an iPod, Blackberry and an iPad mini.  An iPad in the kitchen. Living room, possibly a laptop, etc, etc.  Scary.

My boys are 10 and 13 now and I’m becoming a bit more concerned about their internet use.  How can I keep track of what’s on all of those devices?  Luckily, and purposefully I am very aware and almost vigilant about what they play and watch online.  Keeping violence and pornography away from them at all costs is high on my list of priorities.  They are constantly on Minecraft and I have no problem with that. As a matter of fact, quite the opposite.  I can make an argument that it’s actually quite good if your child is playing it (in moderation).  I’m trying to teach them to be responsible.

Although right now I feel very confident in the positive way in which my boys are using the internet and technology, I will do everything I can to teach them that they have to use these powerful tools with respect and look for positive experiences and not use it for any nastiness, darkness or hurtful behavior.

Here are 13 ways to teach your children about the internet:

1. Teach them what open source is.

2. Why copyright is important.  Good info from CBC on it here.

3. Tell them to contribute as opposed to plunge, by writing, filming, recording, etc. as opposed to stealing, copying, etc.

4. Show them how to contribute by doing the following:

5. Teach them how to code so they can create things (ages 6 and up).  There are a TON of ways to do this.

6. Communicate with them with technology. Not ALL of the time, but show them you’re familiar with what’s “in”.

7. Share information of value with them online. What are your values?

8. Use it as a priveledge. They have to earn it to use it.

9. Encourage them to self-teach as much as possible using resources from the web (youtube a how-to video).

10. Encourage them to not spend ALL of their time online.  Go outside!

11. Be aware of who their friends are online.

12. Read up on internet safety for children… there are many resources available online to help.

13. Teach them to be be wary of how women are over-sexualized and that it is never, never okay to take a girl’s picture without her consent.

I’m sure you could add to this, and I encourage you to do in the comments or by emailing me,  or at the very least, think of how you can show your children better ways to use the internet.  Take care of your children… it can be treacherous out there!


Day 7: 7 Reasons I started The Techmobeel

1. I went to Indonesia and saw the technology that my brother was using in his grade 3 classroom, and I was blown away.

2. My friend back on PEI told me that her son went to the computer lab twice in grade five.

3. I found out there was an entire technology integration curriculum by the department of education that I didn’t feel was being adequately delivered after I went throughout the outcomes with my son and he knew less than 25% by the end of the school year.

4. Upon further research, I discovered that there was infinite free resources online for delivering education.

5. Dealing with the department of education and eastern school board was incredibly frustrating and disheartening, how incapable they were/are of giving straight answers.

6. I was inspired by teachers and principals that I spoke with who were excited about the use of educational technology, as well by the work being done within the school system by Peter Rukavina.

7. After developing and running two afterschool technology programs, I decided to get my own computers because of how unreliable the computers and internet were in a lab at a school that was brand new, in an affluent community.

So, I crowdfunded enough money to buy 12 laptops from my network that extended to around the world. More people and companies contributed and came on board so that I am now offering programming, robotics, 3D design and tutoring! Techmobeel to the rescue!!


Day 6: Cool Things About My Newest Course

I set up a programming and 3D design course at my son’s junior high in Charlottetown.  I hired an instructor from UPEI to teach it for the first part and the latter part is being taught by a good friend of mine, Tom Haan, who is an inventor and mechanical engineer technologist.  He owns a $30,ooo 3D printer.  We had our first class yesterday and the kids LOVED it!

1. Twelve kids showed up, ten boys, two girls.

2. One little girl came that I wasn’t expecting with a big smile, her $40 and sat right up front.

3. The instructor, Chris Vessey, demonstrated using “pukey kid” and “kitty cat”, recording himself making a puking noise so that whenever Pukey Kid ran into Kitty Cat, he mad the puking noise. The kids were enthralled (engagement level: HIGH).

4. Chris brought a UPEI computer science student named Fatemah to help. She is lovely and will be instructing as well.

5. We decided that the school computers were not reliable enough so kids brought their own and I brought mine. Six students used my laptops. I spend the afternoon collecting laptops from parents, picking them up and transporting mine in a suitcase.  Indeed, a true mobile computer lab, except the mobile part happens to be my falling apart, 10 year old Saab.

6. When I was collecting them, I asked each student individually if they had computers at home. The girl with the big smile was the only one that said that no, so I gave her the one that she was working on, on loan.

Three more students are coming tomorrow so we will have a total of 15 kids, ages 10 – 15 learning how to program and design using technology.  Wow… sometimes I can’t believe that this is actually happening!


Day 5: A Favorite Student

I held a technology camp last week in Stratford for ages 8 – 11.  Programming, robotics, 3D design, etc.  There was one student that was a real joy and here are five reasons why:

1. This little 9 year old walks into the classroom on the first day with a briefcase, pulls out his laptop and wireless mouse, gets set up and asks “Okay, what are we doing?”

2. It was a terrible week for weather and the last day was cancelled so I had to call his house and he picked up the phone.  I said that I was sorry that class was cancelled again that day and he said “WHAT? Are you serious?  TWO snow days this week? THAT SUCKS” and yes, the capital letters denote yelling.  So, I asked if he could come to a make-up class on Sunday and he said yes. I asked if he could check with his parents.

3. We had an expert autocad computer engineer come in and this little fella asked if he could build a fire-breathing-man-eating-dragon-robot.

4. He told me he was hungry and could he have some cheese.  He loved cheese.  So I went to the store and brought back some cheese for him.

5. I had said we may have a design contest if anyone was interested but with two storm days, the last day was cancelled so we didn’t. He showed up on Sunday with an intricate 3D village which he had been working on all week.  I asked if it was a template and he swore it wasn’t… so he won the contest.

Day 4 – Innovation

1999 – started my first business, an online golf travel agency. Not much more than a static website (which cost $5,000), it was my first foray into internet marketing, google advertising and search engine optimization.

2007 – joined Facebook, started a blog and got business cards designed and printed with “social media strategist” on them (a lot of “say what??”‘s). Was asked by ProfitLearn and the BDC to deliver workshops on social media.

2010 – traveled to Indonesia to visit my big brother and saw all of the technology that he had in his classroom. Came  home, developed a technology program for elementary school kids and delivered it, and again the next year which lead to…

2013 – launched “Techmobeel”, a mobile learning lab with 12 laptops and a Lego robotics kit, crowdfunded through Indiegogo.  Branched into Ottawa, delivering social media training program to the 50th company.

Self-employment… the road less traveled 🙂

Day 3 – three sets of three

1. I went to 3 high schools in 3 years in 3 provinces. My dad was in the forces.

2. I lost 3 very close friends, in 3 years to breast cancer when I was in my early thirties.

3. In the past 3 months, 3 families I know have been fighting cancer.

I used to love the number three when I was a kid. It was my number playing basketball and of the Great White Hope, Rex Chapman.  Now I’m not so fond of three and think I will retire it from my life 🙂

Day 2 – Old

Sally the Saab, April '12

Sally the Saab, April ’12


It's been a rough winter.

It’s been a rough winter.

Two things I own that are old and I should probably get rid of:

1. A 2003 Saab 9/3 which is falling apart, literally, I bought a year ago for $5k.  It was pristine but after a year it amazingly has started to fall apart.  The stereo, turbo engine and heated seats make it a little hard to let go.  Reliability-wise, not so good.  I have to rent a car to get to Ottawa next weekend.

2. A 140+ year old renovated house over-looking the water.  I’ve been renting it out for five years and living closer to town and my sons’ schools.   It’s a beautiful property with a big garage and loft, covered deck and south facing windows that look upon fields and the bay.