Tag Archives: kids

Effects of Computer Use on Students

As technology is becoming more and more prevalent in both our society and our school systems, students and teachers are integrating computer use into most every aspect of learning.  Since the advent of affordable computers for individuals, there have been studies focusing on the impact these resources have on the students.

  • In 1994, Jame Kulik found that students who used computer-based instruction scores at the 64th percentile, compared to students in control conditions without computers, who scored in the 50th percentile.
  • He also found that students learn more when instruction incorporates technology, and students have a more positive attitude when classes include computer-based learning.
  • In 1998, Jay Sivin-Kachala found that students saw a positive impact on all major subject areas when in technology rich environments.  This increased achievement occurred from pre-school to high school and in both regular and special ed classrooms, though the depth of impact depended upon many factors.
  • He, like Kulik, noted that student’s attitudes improved when computers were used for instruction.
  • Dale Mann conducted a study of the West Virginia Basic Skills/ Computer Education initiative in 199, and found that participation in computer eduction raised students’ scores on standard tests.    The largest improvement was seen in low-achievement students.
  • He also found that girls and boys benefited equally from computer access.  
  • Moreover, Mann found that computer education was more cost effective than reducing class size, increasing instructional time, and cross age tutoring programs.
  • Findings by Harold Wenglinsky in 1998 are supportive of the above findings, as they relate to fourth- and eighth-grade students.  His study was controlled for socioeconomics, class sizes, and teacher characteristics to ensure accuracy and significance of the findings pertaining to technology.
  • These references are from an article, “The Impact of Education Technology on Student Achievement” by John Schacter.

Distributors in the Land Down Under

Last week, I introduced you to some of our Canadian Distributors.  This week ,we’re going to take our imaginary jet plane all the way to the other side of the globe: Australia.  In a land often portrayed as home to rugged cowboy-types, crocodiles, adventurers, and lost but likable fish, keep in mind that there are real people with real lives just like those of us in the US.  Over half of Australians use the internet at work or school.  About 70% have access to the internet in their home.  That’s a lot of Aussies surfing the web.  And with roughly half of seniors using the internet at home, there is certainly a need to assistive technologies in computer use.  That’s where Chester Creek and our resellers come into the picture.  (Stats from wikipedia)

Effective Ergonomics started out with one person, Natalie, a director and occupational therapist.  Occupational therapists work with organizations and individuals to help people do what they need to do.  They work on ergonomics and rehabilitation to get their clients back to work or to help them continue to work.  Effective Ergonomics supplies everything an Occupational Therapist might need for his/her clients, but also offers products to individuals or companies that are looking to make their workplace more usable.

Spectronics, on the other end of the spectrum (haha) from Effective Ergonomics, is Australia and New Zealand’s largest supplier of assistive technology and software.  It was founded in 1985, much like Effective Ergonomics – by an OT who had a hard time finding the products he needed.  To solve this issue, he slipped into the role of a supplier, founding Spectronics. Their staff encompasses a wide array of professions and they work closesly with assistive-tech and special-ed professionals to offer a great selection of products.  

NovitaTech works to help individuals and organizations find solutions to the challenges that differently-abled individuals face, both at work and at home.   Like Spectronics, they maintain a staff with a wide variety of skills and work with professionals to continually adapt their product line for the consumer.  The staff work closely with customers to get them the perfect fit in assistive technology.  NovitaTech’s products range from computer accessories to wheelchairs and back again, with an easy to navigate website.

Tricky Terms, part two: CPSIA

Earlier this week, we discussed RoHS, the Restriction of Hazardous Substances directive, as well as what that means for you and for us.  Today, I’d like to take a bit of your time to take a look at another acronym you will find on most Chester Creek products: CPSIA.

CPSIA stands for Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.  This act was passed in 2008 in the wake of several recalls and scares involving faulty toys and products with high lead content.  It authorizes a higher budget for  the Consumer Product Safety Commission, creates stronger restrictions, imposes deadlines, and calls for increased penalties for failure to comply.

The CPSIA calls for reduction of lead in children’s products to fall first to 600 ppm, then 300 ppm, then 100 ppm, and sets deadlines for these standards.  The standards apply retroactively to everything on store shelves.

The CPSIA also make testing of all products meant for children mandatory.  Products must be tested for restricted substances and must have certificates of compliance that provides standard information, including applicable rules, dates of manufacture, etc… in English.

Chester Creek diligently ensures that all of it’s children’s products meet or exceed requirements set out by not only the CPSIA, but RoHS as well.

Tricky Terms, part one: RoHS

On just about every page on the Chester Creek website, you’ll see this phrase: RoHS Compliant.

Now, most people shrug that phrase off, assume it means something good, and move on. To be honest, before I started working at Chester Creek, I had never heard the acronym, either. In fact, most people in the US probably have either not heard of RoHS or haven’t paid any attention to it.

This is because RoHS stands for “Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive,” (the D must be silent) and directive doesn’t sound much like a US law term, that is because it’s not.  The RoHS directive is a European Union directive that took affect in mid-2006 in all the member states of the EU.  While Chester Creek is not based in the EU (think Minnesota), and our keyboards are not made in the EU, CCT has chosen to make it’s products available to EU countries.  Moreover, while RoHS is not law in the states, it does provide strict guidelines that Chester Creek has chosen to adhere to.

Ahh, now we come to the heart of the matter.  Just what are those guidlines, you ask?  Probably a good question, since we’re three paragraphs in, with nary a hint of the actual, practicable meaning of the term.

RoHS restricts use of:

These are substances that are found or have in the past been found in a large number of consumer electronics across a broad spectrum of devices, including batteries, lamps, paints, and vinyl.  Heavy metals like lead and mercury are widely known to be dangerous, but low-level toxicity results from use of the other restricted materials.  Chester Creek strives to produce only the highest-quality computer accessories, bringing you the safest, sturdiest, and funnest (if you know what I mean, how is it not a word?) products on the market.

Summer Learning Loss

Summer is on its way.  Can you smell it in the air?  I can smell it in the fog rising off the lake.  Even out here in the Northland, the snow is all but gone and the first flowers are blooming, little green and purple surprises.  Accordingly, kids all over are feeling that anxious itch for summer vacation.  To be honest, I am too, even though it doesn’t mean vacation for me anymore.

Summer has one downside, though.  Summer learning loss.  Studies have found that on average, students lose about one month’s worth of learning over the summer.  This number varies across demographics, location, and subject.  In fact, students tend to lose just over two and a half months of math knowledge.  Low income students tend to be set back about two months of reading.

Only about 9% of students K-12 in the US attend summer programs.

So how can you keep your students on track through their summertime adventures?  How about incorporating it into their daily life?  Learning doesn’t only happen in the classroom.  Have them pick up a book, and talk with you about it when they’ve finished reading.  Take them on nature walks and explore the wonder of the world around you.  You can learn together.  Educational computer games are fun for a rainy day, too.  Check out Chester Creek’s new educational software packs for computer adventures through science, logic, math, and more! Throw in a LessonBoard to teach them good typing skills while they’re at it – a skill sure to come in handy next fall, giving them a leg up over their peers.


The last few days, I’ve been doing research on germs (ewwwww) and bacteria and the like.  I am officially considering germaphobia as a life choice.  Although, really, that seems like a lot more effort that I would want to put forth.  Anyways, here is some of what I’ve learned.  (Those with children in school may not want to read the following.)

Forty percent of parents say that they have sent their children sick to school in the last year.  That is a lot of sick kids running around in school.  In fact, in Minnesota, where we are located, thirty-two schools have reported outbreaks of influenza-like illness in the last week alone.  That includes only cases of illness that were reported.  There have also been more than thirty hospitalizations and one death in MN in the last week due to the flu.  In a report from England, the median length of stay in a hospital for influenza was over 10 days. Ten days of serious hospitalization!   In the US, thirty-five percent of children under five who contract the flu suffer from serious complications.

The average American child will have 6.5 colds a year, and each will last three to five days. One person each second catches the common cold in the US alone.  Children are more than twice as likely as adults to contract a cold.  This is because as adults, we have had many of these strains of colds before and our bodies have immunities built up.  We don’t get sick as often, because we got sick a lot in the past.

Parents – ready for the scary stuff?
Seventy percent of classrooms are not regularly disinfected by custodians.  Classrooms are the number one workplace for germs.  Contrary to popular belief, floors and toilets are some of the cleanest surfaces in school.  The yuckiest include desktops, paper towel dispensers, water fountains, and computers.  A keyboard actually has on average three times the concentration of bacteria as an animal cage.  Bacteria found on the above listed surfaces include high concentrations of e. coli, pneumonia, streptococcus, salmonella, and staph.   Some of these bacteria can live for days and even grow if left unchecked.  Even disinfecting can be tricky, as the more effective products must be left on a surface for approximately ten minutes - hardly practical on computer equipment and between classes.  And its important to disinfect throughout the day when items are in use almost constantly; tests have shown that germs build rapidly throughout the day,.   In one tested environment, influenza A was found on 13% of surfaces in the morning and on 50% by afternoon.  An even more startling statistic – at least for me: only 58% of girls and 48% of boys in high school wash their hands after using the lavatory.

Are you as freaked out as I am?

Some solutions include seals for keyboards and mice that can be sanitized, placing hand sanitizer at every doorway in schools, and washing, washing, washing of hands.

But still.

Colors of the Wind

“I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.”
-Georgia O’Keefe
We see the world around us through an array of colors. Red apples, green grass, blue skies. The colors we see affect our impression of the things that we are seeing, whether we know it or not. For instance, a bright red has been shown to stimulate the autonomic nervous system, creating a slight change in pulse and blood pressure. These effects occur because color is perceived, not only on the surface of the brain, but also in the limbic system, which is often referred to as the “primitive brain.” Red, given this fact as well as its cultural associations, can influence people to be more risk-averse and detail-oriented. Even blind, color-blind, and blind-folded individuals have been shown to experience different physiological sensations under different color lights.

Blue and green, conversely, have been shown to have a calming effect on individuals and to stimulate creative thinking. Certain shades of blue have even been shown to slow the heart rate. It is for this reason that “cardiac blue” is so frequently used in medical centers and hospitals. The debate about certain color improving productivity has gone on for a long time. The truth is, different colors can encourage different types of productivity: red for detail-oriented work and blue for creative work. Blue has also been shown to act as an appetite suppressant. Yellow caution signs and the like work well because yellow is an attention-getting color. Too much yellow, however, can cause headaches and irritability because it over stimulates the eyes.

Similarly, experts advise refraining from over use of color. More than six bold colors in any one piece (wallpaper, for instance) can be overwhelming and inhibit cognition.

Children are usually drawn by warm, bight colors. Using these colors in learning environments can have very positive affects. A classroom decorated in friendly colors can reduce stress, improve visual processing, increase focus and attention span, and aid brain development in visual thinking, problem solving, and creativity.  In fact, color speeds up learning and retention by as much as 78% and use of bold colors (as oposed to black and white) can increase IQ by up to 12 points.

For special needs children specifically, color can be either helpful or harmful, depending on how it is used. Regular, geometric patterns can be used to stimulate the pattern seeking part of the brain and reduce visual stress (in comparison with irregular or more complicated patterns). Autistic children in particular can be overwhelmed easily by color. Researchers have found that approximately 85% of autistic children see colors with greater intensity than do their neurotypical peers. This is not to say that the learning environment of a child with an ASD (Autism spectrum disorder) should be devoid of bright colors or decoration, but rather that bold colors should be used carefully, in that setting. In fact, we have heard from several parents and instructors that children on the spectrum benefit greatly from our colored keyboards because of the color-coding.

Dyslexic children generally benefit from well-used color.  A study has shown that 80% of dyslexic children showed increased understanding of read materials when displayed with a colored overlay.  Color-coding by character set can help with spelling on keyboards for those with dyslexia. Those with ADD and ADHD are also helped by the use of color.  Color has been shown to help with focus for these individuals as well as individuals with Down Syndrome by maintaining interest and breaking monotony.

The benefits of using more color are not limited only to children; repetition of colors has also enhanced the memory of nursing home residents and productivity across most demographics.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day, all!  Do we all recognize the stunning cartoon to the left?  No?  But it’s Carl Sagan! Amazing astronomer of great renown.  He was a huge part  of the space program, made great discoveries about the universe and solar system, and starred in the awesome mashup music video below.  Carl Sagan also has the dubious honor of being featured in my new favorite Valentine, as you may have noticed.

In other space-related news, spacecraft Stardust is making a historical second fly by of a comet. Twelve years ago it was the first spacecraft to collect dust particles from a comet.  Now, it will be flying past a second comet, with only a cup of fuel left, to take pictures of a man-made crater.  This is the first time one comet has ever been studied by two different spacecraft.
Other items of interest:
  • Since 1986, more than 295 billion gigabytes of data have been stored.  In case you were wondering, thats a whole lot.
  • Playstation hops on the mobile tech bandwagon with a new smartphone that will feature 50 games, including the popular Splinter Cell, Guitar Hero, Assassin’s Creed, and more.
  • A new human-aware computer is taking on Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, both champions, on a special episode of Jeopardy airing tonight.  Jennings commented at a press conference, “One of the first things I thought was, ‘This time, I’m not just playing to pay my mortgage or something, or to feed my kid’s college fund, I’m actually sort of representing 7 billion human beings against our new machine tyrants.’”
  • Research in Motion, makers of the BlackBerry smart phone, are releasing a new tablet, the Playbook, which will function on three different 4G networks.  This can be contrasted to the super-popular iPad, which is not yet available for the faster 4G.
  • Our new software bundles are in!  Each bundle contains five titles, which in turn contain fun and educational games or programs.Look for these up on the website soon!

Software Bundles

I know, I know.  We’ve been telling you all about new products that we’re coming out with, but actual introduction of the items for sale has been slow.

TextSpeak is up. This is a great, ultra-portable little Augmentative Communication keyboard device that allows people to talk through their keyboard, no computer required.

Braille Stickers are up.  These are the only Braille stickers for large-key keyboards, and are clear so that the large-print legend remains visible.

Headphones and the LittleMouse are new.  Chester Headphones are sturdy and adjustable enough for everyone, plus comfy and with convenient inline volume control.  The LittleMouse is perfect for kids still learning (color-coded!), or anyone who doesn’t want to worry about a scroll wheel.

Large-key numeric pad is up coming soon. This keypad is intended as a companion to any of our large-key keyboards for those who prefer the grid layout of numbers, but is also useful paired with any keyboard for those who like or need larger keys.  The keypad should be available by the end of the month.

The Wireless VisionBoard should be in by the end of the month, as well.  This keyboard is very similar to our VisionBoard, but includes f-keys, and will be available in black and white to start with.

We also have some great educational software bundles coming in soon.  We will be offering a pre-K bundle and an early elementary bundle, both of which will feature five titles.

The pre-K bundle will feature:

Baileys Book House
Millie’s Math House
Trudys Time and Place House
Sammy Science House
Thinking Things Toony the Loons Lagoon

Our early elementary bundle will include:
Mighty Math Carnival Countdown
Reader Rabbit 1st Grade
Typing Instructor for Kids Platinum
Reader Rabbit 2nd grade
Zoombinis Island Odyssey

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?