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    Rooftops: An Interactive Children’s Book

    A book about balancing real life and technology
    The launch screen of Rooftops interactive book app

    In our digital world there is a big, ongoing discussion about the balance of technology and in person interaction in our lives. This applies to all ages but like a lot of things the debate heats up when it concerns our children. A lot argue that too much screen time is detrimental to children’s growth both educationally and socially. But with the right balance you can use technology to your kid’s advantage. Join us as we enter the wonderful world of Rooftops.

    The Story

    Inside kevin's room, he is focused on his tablet
    Inside Kevin’s Room

    This book starts by showing the main character, Kevin, glued to his iPad. However, he forgets to do his homework and loses the privilege of using it. In the absence of his tablet he starts looking out the window of his room and seeing all the rooftops in the city. He starts seeing interesting things that eventually make him want to go explore outside.

    His parents take him out for a walk and head to the neighborhood park. There Kevin gets to interact with other kids who also see fun things from their windows. At the end Kevin learns that there are fun things to do that don’t include his tablet and is excited about exploring the world around him.

    Rooftops Trailer

    Features

    • Listen to the animated story, with narration, music, and sounds
    • Fun, interactive animations throughout the story
    • READ TO ME & READ BY MYSELF functions
    • Play a simple, create-your-own window game
    • Suitable for ages 4-8
    • Absolutely no in-app purchases, hidden costs, or in-game adverts. Perfect for Kids!
    • Created especially for the iPad
    Kevin at the playground

    The Developer

    Rustbot Studios is a brand new studio founded by two brothers, Juan and Carlos. They are primarily focused on developing applications that tell stories and Rooftops is their first children’s book.

    We at Rustbot Studios believe in the positive impact of technology when used responsibly and in accordance with more traditional, healthy habits. We don’t believe in demonizing mobile tech, which is a ubiquitous, complex, and relatively new interactive experience that cannot be shunned with blanket statements without considering all its nuances and implications for the future of the human experience, especially at an early age.

    Juan Santiago, co-founder of Rustbot Studios
    A sneezing chimney

    What’s Divine Say?

    As a parent who’s glued to my own technology, this is definitely a topic that I’m doing my best to instill good habits in my kids with. Balancing outside, learning time, and screen time can be difficult – especially when your child latches onto a piece of tech.

    My eldest, now four, has had a kid’s Kindle since he was 1 and he played baby apps on my old first gen iPad prior to that. (You know, those baby apps you just smack to interact with? lol) He now has to do sight words and have outside or non-screen play time every day in order to earn his video game or Kindle time. (He just got the new 10″ Kindle for his birthday he’s super hyped about!). Luckily he’s not so attached to it that it’s an issue when we cut down screen time.

    I think that this book is a great way to illustrate to kids the idea of balance and try to excite them about the world outside a screen. Hopefully that the developer makes many more to tackle even more hard to explain concepts early on. The art for this was great and the options for narration and reading along are great. I would definitely read these kinds of books with my kids in the future.

    Get the App

    Grab the app on the App Store and read it with your kiddos today!

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    Facebook Messenger Is Not The Devil You Think It is

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    Ever since I got on this website called Facebook and started sharing in my very own online community, I’ve been very cognizant of what Facebook offers me – for free. I’ve reconnected with high school acquaintances, discovered that my fellow college alumnae have created an amazing network of groups for every topic from race relations to fashion, and met some super-cool people I now consider my friends even though I’ve never met them in person. Like Marcia and Desirai, for example.

    And every time Facebook makes a change, I can hear the multitudes universally condemning Facebook – for no longer showing posts chronologically or changing its privacy rules or what have you. I always roll my eyes because, you know, Facebook is free, and no one is stopping anyone from leaving (unlike Comcast). Honestly, our society requires constant change to keep itself fresh and innovative. Change can be good.

    I guess I’m pretty laid back in general. Stuff like this doesn’t bother me.

    But naturally, I’m concerned about my privacy. When I first got the message on my lovely little Samsung Galaxy S4 that I was going to have to get the Messenger app in order to send messages on Facebook, I was indeed  irritated. I thought it was a bit high-handed of Facebook to make me download a whole new app to just send messages (I had just gotten my Samsung a few months ago after trading up from a phone that would barely show me any of my messages at all, so even getting my FB mail was an upgrade).

    I held out for a while, then got curious and downloaded it. (PRO TIP: Use Facebook through your phone’s web browser if you really, really don’t want to install Messenger. You can access your messages that way.)  Then I uninstalled it, because I was having issues with battery life that started around the same time and wondered if Messenger was the culprit. It wasn’t.

    So I reinstalled it, and guess what. I LIKE IT. I like the little Chat Heads that pop up and show me Desirai just sent me a message. I like its functionality and dependability. I find Messenger pretty seamless overall, and I use my phone for Facebook now more than even my regular computer.

    There have been a lot of complaints about the permissions that Messenger requires. I get it. It sounds like Big Brother. You look at the list, and alarms go off in your head. For like a minute.

    According to the applications manager in my phone, Messenger is allowed to: directly call phone numbers, read phone status and identity, edit my text messages, read my text messages, receive text messages, send SMS messages, take pictures and videos, record audio, find my approximate location through a network, find my precise location through GPS, read my call log, read my contacts, read my contact card, modify or delete the contents of my USB storage, find accounts on the device, read Google service configuration, change network connectivity, download files without notification, get full network access, view Wi-FI connections, run at startup, draw over other apps, control vibration, prevent phone from sleeping, change my audio settings, read sync settings, and install shortcuts.

    Whew. Freak-out time, right? I mean, WTF. All these permissions seem intrusive and risky. Until you think about it. The Facebook help page about Messenger says this: “we use these permissions to run features in the app. Keep in mind that Android controls the way the permissions are named, and the way they’re named doesn’t necessarily reflect the way the Messenger app and other apps use them.”

    That’s important, right there. Every permission that Facebook asks for helps Messenger, you know, operate. It’s what makes Messenger a good app. It gets permission to take photos because how else are you going to send them to your friends? Would you rather a statement pop up whenever you want to send your admiring fans a selfie, asking you for permission to upload and send it out? If you got that EVERY SINGLE TIME you posted a picture using your phone, wouldn’t you at some point choose to bypass the permission question anyway?

    If Messenger doesn’t record audio, then you can’t send voice messages and make voice calls. If Messenger can’t directly call numbers, you can’t call people. If it can’t receive text messages, you can’t add phone numbers to your account. If it can’t read contacts, it can’t figure out if a contact is already in your system and sync them. Here’s a nice article from Fidonerdi that breaks some of this down further: The Truth About The New Facebook Messenger.

    I think what’s gotten lost in all this hoopla about being required to install Messenger and accept its permissions is that it’s a good app, and it works well. So, breathe. It’s all okay. Facebook is not the devil.

    Yet.

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    Tales from the Dragon Mountain 2: The Lair Review

    lair

    I’m starting to really enjoy the point-and-click adventures from G5 Games, now that I’ve reviewed a number of them. The latest, Tales from the Dragon Mountain 2: The Lair, isn’t perfect, but it still may edge out most of the others to land in one of my top spots and it’s well worth the under-$5 price tag in Mac’s Apple Store.

    Players take on the role of Mina Lockhart, who apparently got rid of some bad guy named Strix in the previous game (I haven’t played Tales from the Dragon Mountain: The Strix, so I can’t really speak to the quality of that game). Apparently, Strix is back, and Mina and her sidekick Malik have to defeat him again in order to protect the mythical creatures of Dragon Mountain. her quest involves finding items, solving puzzles and opening a portal, all to locate Strix’s lair.

    Unlike some of G5’s other games, this “hidden object” title doesn’t actually include the type of mini-game in which you get a list of items and have to locate them all within a mostly static picture. Most of the puzzles here are actually logic games of one sort or another – slide balls along tracks to get objects where they’re supposed to go, solve tangrams, find all the things you need to make a loaf of bread, or plant and pick flowers. These little diversions are fun and usually make sense within the confines of the story, although they’re not especially creative compared to some of the puzzles in other G5 games. There were one or two that I had no earthly idea how to solve based on the instructions given to me, so I just skipped them.

    This particular title happens to be short on story, but that’s okay. One of my other G5 favorites, Nightmares from the Deep 2: The Siren’s Call, is much more intricate but also more pretentious and embellished, and I didn’t really mind the lack of  characterization, curses, and complications in this one. This game is simpler – the tasks are not complicated, the missions are relatively easy and more logical,  and the puzzles are challenging but mostly straightforward. I just felt like I didn’t have to think so hard to figure where to go to get things or how to put items together.

    According to a press release, this game features 63 scenes, 27 mini-games, five chapters and three difficulty modes. You can unlock achievements by collecting stone dragons and solving puzzles (you can skip the puzzles, but you won’t get the achievements). A “combiner” tool automatically shows you the silhouettes of the objects you need to solve a particular problem, and the ever-handy “hint” button is always available when charged. Attractive settings inside a town and a mountain include a flooded cavern, a pumpkin coach, a cemetery, a windmill and a garden. The voice acting is so-so but likable, although the words sometimes don’t match up perfectly with the written dialogue.

    Tales from the Dragon Mountain 2: The Lair from G5 Entertainment and Cateia Games is currently available for the Mac iOS, iPad, iPhone, Kindle Fire and Google Play (Android) for $4.99. The version I played was designed for Macs.

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    Disney Connects Parents with Kids’ Games

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    In Episode 29 of The Mommy Gamers podcast, Jason Smith asked us a question about the types of educational software we would like to see developed for early childhood education.  The new apps from the Disney Connected Learning Platform are the perfect answer to that question.

    It’s no big secret that kids love video games.  It’s also no secret that games have a lot of potential when it comes to helping kids learn in a fun an engaging way. When we were kids our educational games were Where in the World is Carmen San Diego and The Oregon Trail.    Unfortunately, nowadays most educational video games relegate the parents to the sidelines without any involvement short of starting up and closing the software, clueless as to how much their children might actually be taking from the experience.  That’s all changing, thanks to Disney Interactive’s new connected line of educational games and apps.

    Here are the games currently supported by Disney Connected Learning:

    With the new Disney Connected Learning platform, parents are finally given an active role in their kids’ gaming education.  Designed by Disney Interactive with the help of educators from two of the nation’s leading universities in the areas of Pre-K through 5th grade curriculum and educational technology development, Disney Connected Learning  includes educational curriculum in Science, Mathematics, Language Arts, Music, Social Studies, Art, Digital Play, and Preschool.

    msc.curriculum

    After signing into the Disney Parent App on Facebook and creating an account, parents receive detailed assessments of their child’s progression through the supported educational games and apps.  When children reach certain milestones in the games, parents can reward them by unlocking new in-game features and secrets via the Disney Parent App, while also using the information and tips in the app to help identify “teachable moments” where the parents can get more involved with the subject.

    We all have to face the fact that our kids are growing up in a time where technology is going to be a major part of our their lives. Too often I see parents just handing their kids their phone or tablet as a way to keep them occupied. It’s okay to try and buy yourself a few moments of sanity and silence, but put a little thought into what you’re handing them.  Games and apps such as these are a great way to ensure that you are putting something educational and worthwhile in their hands.

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    Games, Kids, Mommies
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