Monthly Archives: January 2011

Charter Schools

Yesterday, I wrote a little about homeschooling as an education option.  This is one route that provides huge flexibility and choice regarding structure and content.  Another non-traditional education path is the charter school.

Definitions for charter schools vary from state to state, as do laws, but generally a charter school is the following:

  • A public School.
  • Created when a group individuals petition a local school board or county board of education for a charter to open an independent school in their community.
  • Sponsored by another organization, such as a local university.
  • Typically founded by educators, parents, community groups or private organizations.
  • Operated under a written contract with a state, district or other entity.
  • Required to meet local, state, or federal standards of education.

Furhter definitions can be found at US Charter Schools.  These schools can be part of a larger public school district, or an independent district supported by the state and sponsors.The National Charter School Study has found that the top three reasons charter schools are created is to gain autonomy, realize a vision, or serve a specific group. These goals are met in a variety of ways.  Charter schools’ freedom allows them to structure the learning as they like.

Parents and teachers choose charter schools primarily for educational reasons–high academic standards, small class size, innovative approaches, or educational philosophies in line with their own. Some also have chosen charter schools for their small size and associated safety (charter schools serve an average of 250 students).  -US Charter Schools

The charter school which I used to work for, Avalon School, for instance, accepts 180 students from grades 7-12 and emphasizes growth through project-based learning — very different from the traditional public schools in the St. Paul area.

There are so many options for education available; what works best for your family?


Homeschooling is an increasingly popular choice among American families.  The number of homeschoolers increases by over 8% annually, and about one million US families already homeschool, according to numerous studies by individuals, organizations, and the census bureau.  Why do people homeschool?  For a number of reasons, whether it be displeasure with the public option or a desire to build stronger family bonds.  As many reasons as there are for homeschooling, there are just as many approaches.  Some of the typical homeschooling approaches are listed here.

Two of the main concerns about homeschooling are whether the children will earn to socialize and whether or not they will match traditionally schooled peers in learning.  Studies have shown that contrary to the belief of some, homeschooled children tend to be more confident in social situations and less peer-dependant. As to the speed and quality of learning, every child learns differently.  This is true of homeschooled children as well as traditionally-schooled kids.  The quality of their learning depends entirely upon their natural abilities and the parents’ commitment.  There is no reason a homeschooled child cannot have an education as good as or better than any public-school student.  The other worry is cost.  According to, one of the internet’s largest homeschool networks, homeschooling can cost as little or as much as the parent’s decide.  Resources include free work sheets and expenszive boxed curriculum.  Peripheral educational devices like computers can also be very important to learning.  Much of the free curriculum is available through the web, after all, and skills like typing and research are indispensable in today’s world.

To help both traditional and non-traditional educational programs, Chester Creek offers a 10% discount for orders that can be verified as part of a library or education program.

What techniques do you use in your homeschooling adventures?

My Mom is on Facebook

I was having a hard time coming up with a topic to write about today, so I took to browsing the internet – my solution to a wide variety of quandaries.   Among ideas like “Great things about my community” and “When I feel frustrated…,” I found this topic.  It’s true.  My mother is on Facebook (all the time).  My Grandmother has a Facebook, too.  And my Grandfather.  My mom’s best friend. My best friend’s mom.   My aunt.  My elementary school office lady.  While Facebook definitely began as a network for peers, it has grown into so much more.  Facebook has five hundred million active users.  500,000,000. On any given day, half of those users log on.
It is not just the younger generation surfing the net these days.  While older users are busily learning the ins and outs of the world wide web, they are also learning how to interface with the hardware that gets them there.  For a lot of these users, however, this presents problems.  They may have never learned to type, and hunt-and-peck for every letter.  They may not have the eyesight to read the monitor or the keyboard.  Arthritis may make typing or even using a mouse increasingly difficult.
That’s where some basic assistive technology devices come in.  For virtually every stumbling block to access, there is a tool to get past it.  Chester Creek specializes in this arena.  We are here to offer you, your mother, your grandmother, your grandfather, your mom’s best friend, your best friend’s mom, your aunt, and your elementary school office lady everything we can, to help you do what you want to do with a computer, from typing away on email correspondence to hitting level 47 on Farmville.  Come stop by the Creek and take a look around; I can virtually guarantee there is something you will look at and say “That would be perfect for ___!”
And speaking of Grandmothers, happy birthday to our favorite pay-roll/accountant/accounts payable/accounts receivable lady, Karen!

Learn to type

Typing was once a specialized skill reserved for the business, secretarial, and writing communities.    These jobs were high paying and considered high skill.  With the advent of the internet and the propagation of computers into every facet of life, this is no longer an optional ability.  Employers are demanding this skill, even for low-wage, entry-level work.


Learning to type does not have to be difficult.


Finger position and muscle memory are at the core of typing.  Traditionally, a student must first memorize all of the keys on a keyboard and how they are arranged.  Remembering exactly which fingers go on which keys is the next important piece of memorization.  In many classrooms, papers are handed out that diagram proper placement.  This leaves students repeatedly checking screen, keyboard, and chart, losing momentum, and constantly making mistakes.  The color-coded keyboards of Chester Creek present the perfect solution.  Start your children out with a colorful FunKeyBoard or LearningBoard to help them learn key locations.  For even younger kids, we offer the large-key kids’ KinderBoard.  For the budding touch-typist in your life, we offer the LessonBoard.  This keyboard naturally guides learners into correct typing habits by simple color-coding.  We have also just added the LessonBoard Pro to our lineup. Color-coded, but lacking labels, the Pro forces students to memorize location of individual keys, but continues to encourage correct finger placement, reducing the urge to “peek” later in life.  The Pro is actually my personal favorite of all of our keyboards, because it is such an interesting but obvious way to encourage kids and adults to learn more quickly and learn “better.”


The New Numeric Keypad

Along with other new products we’ve been working on for the new year, we are also now offering our new large-key numeric keypad.

With keys and coloring to match our white VisionBoard2, the keypad is a separate device, which plugs into any USB port for immediate use without installation.  While our VisionBoards offer the row of numeric keys across the top, they lack the typical number pad on the far right.  That is where this key pad comes in.

New Technology

This past week saw technology buffs and professionals from around the world gathered in Las Vegas for the annual Consumer Electronics Show.  The CES hosts nearly 150,000 visitors yearly, and is often the event of choice for tech companies to unveil new products and partnerships.  This year’s CES featured many new technologies and surprising developments.

Big developments include Microsoft’s venture into ARM-chip technology, which has producer Nvidia poised to threated leader’s like Intel and AMD; Intel’s deal with major studios to stream movies as soon as they are released to DVD/Bluray; the Motorola Atrix smartphone, which docs to run as what is essentially a fully functional netbook; IoSafe’s nearly indestructible hard drive; a robotic suit designed to aid in heavy lifting, physical therapy, and mobility for disabled individuals; a plethora of hot new tablets; wireless charging for mobile devices in GM vehicles; and some huge announcements for Vizio, a smaller, lower-end TV manufacturer.

These are just a few of the hundreds of new products and announcements showcased at this year’s CES.

Although CCT did not attend the show, we’d also like to take the chance to tell you about some of our new products.

     TextSpeak is a perfect on-the-go AAC (AlternativeAugmentative Communication) solution.  This intelligent text generating speaker and keyboard combo creates speech anywhere, right at your fingertips, and paired with many of our Chester Creek keyboards, including our large-print and large-key keyboards, allows individuals with speech impairment to be heard.  Great for students who need unlimited vocabulary, TextSpeak works right out of the box, can be programmed to male or female voices, and has 30 programmable phrases.  Small, light, and portable, TextSpeak is also an item users can throw in a backpack or purse for use as needed in social or work situations, and works from both battery and AC power sources.  

Chester Creek is now offering a wireless keyboard.  Our Wireless VisionBoard offers greater mobility, flexibility, and convenience while decreasing the clutter of cords on and behind your desk.  We also offer the option of purchasing this new wireless keyboard with a matching mouse, also wireless.

        Children often struggle learning all the correct buttons needed for computer use.  For those still learning and those who prefer a mouse without it, we have eliminated the scroll wheel in our new LittleMouse.  With two buttons, the left “green for go” and the right “red for stop,” teaching use of a mouse is easier than ever.  Like the Chester and TinyMouse, this model is also child-sized.

        Another new learning tool being offered this year is the LessonBoard Pro.  With the same color-coding and layout as the original LessonBoard, the Pro is for more advanced students and lacks letter and number labels.  Perfect for the classroom, the Pro continues to teach students correct finger placement and also encourages memorization of letter and number placement.

        Additional new products include transparent braille stickers for our large-key keyboards and educational software bundles for preschool and early elementary students. 

Kids’ Keyboards

Children, in some cases even toddlers, are now using computers at home and in school. However, learning the keys can be very frustrating for a child. All the keys look the same, the typeface is small, and the keys are often hard to reach. Children become discouraged and confused trying to remember the location of specific letters. Chester Creek’s keyboards for kids are great tools. Specially designed, with bold color-coding for vowels, consonants, numbers, and function keys, our children’s keyboards eliminate frustration and stress, providing a valuable, fun, and successful learning experience.

Teaching a child to use a computer at an early age can give them a head-start advantage. Knowledge of computer use and navigation can help stream line the process of creating projects and doing research for school. Later in life, good typing skills can cut work time in half for essays and papers, and in the work environment computer skills are a must.

An investment in your child’s computer skills is an investment in their future. One of the best values on the market today is a keyboard from Chester Creek. Chester Creek produces keyboards that are safe, sturdy, and practical. With boards in both standard and large-key layout, color-coded by character-set or finger placement, CCT has everything your child will need to learn to type quickly and correctly. Additionally, Chester Creek mice are designed specifically with a child’s hands in mind. Smaller and easier to grip and use, a CCT child’s computer mouse is also long-lasting, well-constructed, and color-coded. Our mice come with one or two buttons and with or without a scroll wheel, depending on what you, the consumer, need.

Check out this blog!

Check out this blog by journalist and freelance writer Cindy Downes!

She’s taking a look at one of my very favorite CCT products, the LessonBoard Our LessonBoard is coded by finger to help kids and adult alike learn to type in a quick and easy way.  I just wish we had had something like this in my typing class.  We also offer this sweet product as part of a really great classroom bundle, with TinyMouse, Headphones, and keyboard seal.

Buying as a bundle saves you more than $40!
While Cindy mentions covering the keys at a later date with tape, which can be sticky and inconvenient, CCT does also offer the SpeedSkin learning aid, which fit snuggly over the keys and is easily removeable, and will soon be offering keyboard, color coded like the LessonBoard for hand placement, which does not have letter labels at all.  You can expect to see this on the website soon.

Moderately Magical Mondays and High Visibility Keyboards

The only fun hijinks in the office here today include adventures in boxland and a heated discussion about the inadequacy of cordless phones.  With the rolling in of the new year comes the rolling out of old files.  Box them up and put them some place, never to be seen again. Of course, this involves assembling the boxes.  Watching Tasha do so? Mildly entertaining. Watching Karen make the attempt?  Hilarious.  They come in a big flat package, perforated cardboard sheets you magically fold into a box, the way a square of paper magically becomes an oragami crane.  Magic.  If you know how.  If you don’t, hilarity.


High Visibility Keyboards

For some, using a keyboard can be a challenge.  Small keys and smaller letters can be a struggle to identify.  For those who need their reading glasses just to type a quick note, who squint at their keyboards and strain their eyes, we introduce the ReaderBoard.  A relatively new product from Chester Creek, the ReaderBoard is a standard sized keyboard, with the standard offset QWERTY layout.  What sets our ReaderBoard apart from most keyboards is the size of lettering.  Each letter, number, function, and punctuation mark is 250% larger than standard.  This clear, bold, white lettering on a black keyboard drastically improves readability for those who struggle with sight but are accustomed to the standard keyboard.

For other users, who do not touch type or who are willing to adapt, we also offer large-key keyboards.  These keyboards all feature 1 inch keys with large, bold print.  Visibility is improved, and large buttons are often easier for those with shakiness or motor impairment of any kind.  These large-key boards are our VisionBoards2 series, and come in black on white, white on black, and black on yellow (Think caution sign — particularly beneficial for those suffering from macular degeneration).

For the young and young at heart with vision impairment, Chester Creek also offers a line of large-key keyboards in bright colors, coded by character set.  The differentiation of character set by color can also help those with poor vision to find the keys they want more quickly.