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CTR September 2020
Vol. 28 No. 3 Issue 242
Download this issue as a PDF
Simulations get interesting; Back to School Techlist, The ABC Mousetrap and the Dos and Don'ts of Zoom

What makes the new Flight so revolutionary is that it's simply the most detailed and realistic model of Earth yet created. Call it a digital twin ... The buildings, the hills, the vegetation, the water, the sky, the clouds — it's all there, everywhere. The degree of freedom produces an intellectual effect that is at first a bit disorienting — perhaps akin to the first time you realized you could just type a question into Google and get an answer. Seth Schiesel https://bit.ly/3aDw5HX
What’s so exciting about the latest Microsoft Flight Simulator? 
We’ve all heard about VR (Virtual Reality). What about RR (Real Reality)? On the cover for this issue — a flight simulator that lets you fly through photo-realistic airspace — in theory anyway. Before you rush out and buy Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 for $60, know that it runs poorly on low level Windows computers, and the controls are impossibly difficult to fly with a traditional mouse/keyboard interface. But if you happen to have a powerful computer, great wifi and a flight controller, you’ll be able to take off from authentic-looking runways, and then fly over actual terrain. That’s because the engineers at Asobo Studio used two petabytes of satellite and photographic information from Microsoft’s Bing Maps, along with an AI engine to create a 3D rendering of the entire Earth. As you fly, you pull down portions of that map, as needed, from the cloud. Yes, you can actually fly over your home town, or take off from your local airport, on a runway that looks just like the real thing. Mix in the ability to fly with other pilots from the Flight Aware database, and pull in real world weather information, and you have a pretty impressive Real Reality simulation. And a VR version is in the works. Read the review, at https://bitly.com/3iqzmgO

Watch and Discuss: The Social Dilemma by Jeff Orlowski
“You have to watch The Social Dilemma — right now” (a text message from Keli Winters). Readers of CTR know that I’ve been sounding the alarm about the “culture of manipulation” that is so common in the children’s section of any app store. In the new Netflix docudrama — The Social Dilemma — you hear from some of the designers from Apple, Facebook and Google about how they’ve engineered their products to profit from human behavior. Noteworthy quotes are scattered throughout the 90 minute film, starting with “Nothing vast enters the world of mortals without a curse.” (Sophocles) and “There are only two industries that call their customers ‘users’: illegal drugs and software.” (Edward Tufte). And the promo text captures the core of this work — "the manipulation of human behavior for profit is coded into these companies with Machiavellian precision: Infinite scrolling and push notifications keep users constantly engaged; personalized recommendations use data not just to predict but also to influence our actions, turning users into easy prey for advertisers and propagandists." The film is worthy of discussion, especially for those in the children’s interactive media business. Links: 
Netflix —> https://www.netflix.com/title/81254224
Review —> https://dpo.st/3iqBncV

Yikes: ABCmouse is fined $10 Million
Age of Learning (publishers of ABC Mouse and others) made misrepresentations that led to “tens of thousands of people to be renewed and charged for memberships without proper consent” according to a September 2020 FTC complaint which states “ABCmouse didn’t clearly tell parents that their subscriptions would renew automatically, and then the company made it very difficult for them to cancel.” ABCmouse advertised “Special Offer” 12-month memberships for $59.95, failing to disclose that the plans would automatically renew forever. They also attached automatic charges to a 30-day free trial deal, and made it famously hard to cancel on their own website through acts of intentional complexity. This technique (called “good business” by some) resulted in thousands of confused parents, and paid subscriptions. Read the FTC statement https://bitly.com/2F8RwFq
My reading of this complaint brings up four issues that may be overlooked.
1. ABC Mouse is only the tip of the evil iceberg in children’s interactive media. There are thousands of additional, less visible services that are intentionally designed to manipulate young children explicity for profit.
2. Age of Learning (publisher of ABC Mouse) might be the one fined for robbing consumers, but it was app store owners like Apple and Google that also profited. They didn’t rob you, but they did drive the get-away car.
3. This is a complicated issue. Age of Learning employs many honest, well-intentioned educators who have worked hard to make a quality product. Their work is marketed by those that have a profit motive.
4. The FTC fines in this are the result of behaviors outside of app stores, and they don’t directly involve the apps stores.
The bottom line? People who choose to sell children’s content — in whatever the form, should be held to a higher standard.

Fauci’s on BrainPop!
Kids need good information about COVID-19, just like adults. That’s why we were pleased to see a Brainpop interview with Anthony Fauci on what kids can do to help stop the pandemic. He explains how vaccines work and reflects on the importance of turning to scientific truth to guide our actions. watch at

By Warren Buckleitner

I’ve been writing back-to-school technology roundups for many years, but this and hopefully my last pandemic version. I was motivated to create this remote learning version by NPR radio host Ann Fisher, who asked me to share tips for her September 1 radio show. You can listen at https://youtu.be/LQfMYKm4rT8. Here are some of the key points from the 20 minute segment.

Set the stage for informal school learning
If you’re sharing a home with a child of any age, get an iPad and load it with carefully selected apps that mirror the school curriculum. You should have done this years ago, but just in case you haven’t, here’s the recipe.

Start with a new iPad (currently $330 for the 32 GB, Wi-Fi version) from http://www.apple.com/ipad, and purchase a light foam protective frame from a company like Big Grips http://www. biggrips.com (about $30). When buying a frame, simple is better. Don’t block the home button and don’t bother with screen covers, because the existing iPad screen is strong and easy to clean. Screen covers just blur the responsivity.

Carefully set up the new iPad before you hand it to your child. Use the iPad’s existing parental controls to simplify the start up process. Make sure to turn off such things as in-app purchases.

Choose your apps. Now for the important part. Use CTREX to pick out at least a dozen PAID, gimmick-free, ethical, highly rated apps so that every app icon leads to something that supports your child’s interests. Apps like Toca Band, Thinkrolls, Tinybop, SagoMini Forest Flyer, My Very Hungry Caterpillar, PBS Kids Video, The Elements and so on. Teach them to use the camera, and keep your app selection small and fresh, with quality, ethical experiences on the first screen. Here are some recommendations for each age.

Preschool (127 titles) —>
Early Elementary 130 titles) —>
Upper Elementary (122 titles)—>
Middle/High School (58 titles) —>

Now that you’ve given your child the best hardware, let’s focus on how it’s used to support your school’s curriculum.

Essential tech
How do you bring school culture into your home? Your first consideration for creating a home learning center is to find a place in your house where the wifi signal is strong, and the potential for distraction is weak. At the core of any remote learning center is a connected, reliable laptop. My favorite is the last one that Steve Jobs helped design – the MacBook Air ($1000 for a 256 GB solid state hard drive).

There are also dozens of great Chromebooks for a fraction of the cost (between $300 - $500) that can serve as a second screen or a backup. A good time to invest in a high quality laptop for college is the year before college starts — while your child is still home (providing the pandemic ends) — so they can fully learn what it can do. Other essential items that might be immediately obvious include: 

• Paper notebook and physical calendar for mapping out the semester, recording dates and sketching ideas. Keep the calendar in view.
• A Blue Yeti Mic, ($130) that plugs into your USB or USB-C port. You might also consider a headset. One of my colleagues uses an Audio-Technica BPHS1 Cardioid Boom Mic, and he sounds great. But it costs over $200.
• A Sandisk 512 GB USB-C solid state hard drive ($80). Your child will use it to backup his/her computer and swap big videos with friends.
• A sturdy music stand (Manhasset basic model, $42 at https://amzn.to/2RnD9je) placed near the desk, that can double as an adjustable laptop stand. This will keep the laptop’s camera at eye level, and it makes it easy to turn in case you want to feature your dog.
• A smart speaker. Either an Amazon Echo or a Google Home device can be synced to your calender for verbal reminders. Add your class times, breaks and weekly reminders to keep the week moving smoothly. Pro tip for parents — your kids will listen to your smart speaker more than you.
• A place to plug in and recharge. A multi-plug power strip and USB charger can keep essential devices powered, and avoid cable clutter.
• A zip lock baggie for adapters, cables and dongles — including an HDMI adapter to enable plugging into a large screen TV.
• Cleaning wipes for the mouse and keyboard.
• Noise canceling headphones (about $100). These can be essential for concentrating on big projects.

For College Students at Home
I asked my own students at TCNJ for suggestions on what to tell their parents as they cope with remote classes. They said “stop giving me chores!” This brings up an important point. It’s important to establish a school culture at home — so that your student can have some space alone to get away and “be in college” mentally, despite being physically at home. One way to help with this is to respect the college time blocks.
Dos and Don’ts of Zoom
Imagine if you were to host a party with for 20 of your children’s classmates. Chances are, you’d straighten up the house. Start up your camera, take a still shot and check your background. Check your lighting to make sure your face is easy to see, or not too washed out, and remove personal or embarrassing items from view. Here are some other things to keep in mind.

Some things NOT to do: 
Hide. Show your face and your background as it doesn’t interrupt the lesson. Introduce your dog, family, fish, sister or roommate. Use this as a way to share your own story and personalize your relationship with the class.
Accidently share personal information. When you share your screen, your bookmarks, browser tabs and email might be visible to the rest of the class. To be safe, restart your computer before class and close any unnecessary tabs. Remember everything is recorded. Don’t say something you might regret later.
Fall asleep. If you do, turn off your camera and mic. Don’t laugh, it’s happened.
Browse or check social media unless it’s related to your class, of course.

Some things TO do:
Be five minutes early with your login. You can often talk individually with your teacher or other classmates. Also hang out at the end – don’t be afraid to say “professor can I ask you a question” just to clarify an assignment. Make these informal relationships before you need them.
Organize your bookmarks. Put each class, and related links, in a folder, so that all your key items are one click/tap away.
Master the mute. If it’s quiet, unmute so you feel part of the group.
Check your front lighting, so that your face is visible and close to the screen, and plan your background. If you use Zoom, you can have a few themed backdrops on hand for occasions.
Share examples. You might say “Professor, I found an example of what you’re talking about, would you like to share it?”
Sit in the virtual front row. If you start getting bored, ask questions and lean into the lesson. You might ask to be the co-moderator to help manage things like muting background noise, turning on/off the recording or creating breakout rooms. Think of it as the analog version of the teacher’s helper.

2020 will go down as the year of the pandemic. Fortunately, we have the technology to keep us connected and learning. We’re all learning as we go... if you have do/don’t lessons you’d like to share send them to me! warren@childrenstech.com.

Titles in this issue:
Acer Chromebook Spin 311,

BriteBrush GameBrush,

Circuit Explorer,

Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics,

Coaster Cubes,

ConceptD Ezel Convertable Notebook ,

Digimon Digital Monster,

Don't Guess My Race,


Good Notes 5*,

Hands Full!,

Heston Hogs: The Way Home,


KidiZoom Creator Cam,

LEGO Duplo World: Creative Building*,

LEGO Duplo World: Under the Sea*,

LEGO Duplo World: Winter Holiday*,

LEGO Duplo World: World Animals*,

LEGO Super Mario,

Lingokids - English for Kids,

Mazaam - The Musical Genius,

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020,

NES Building Kit,

Nick Jr. Presents Noggin,

Oddbods Oddlife,


Pepi Doctor 2.0,


Science Island,

Smart Language Flashcards with GIFs,

Sony PlayStation 5,

Tamagotchi On,

TikTok - Make Your Day,

Tobi Robot Smartwatch,


Who Am I? Race Awareness Game,

Woot Tutor Escape Rooms,