Alyssa Walker

  • The best online STEM resources, according to a veteran teacher

    After the schools shut down last week, my social media feeds and inbox lit up with color-coded homeschooling charts and agonizingly long lists of everything I should use to educate my kids. Fear, panic and an overwhelming sense of grief settled over me as I considered not only how I was going to explain what was happening to my curious kindergartener and second grader but also how we were going to manage working, schooling, living and staying sane and healthy in our tiny condo for the foreseeable future. As veteran teachers, my husband and I vowed to maintain normal as best we could. We'd stay virtually connected to family and friends and let the kids play and be bored and eat cookies and watch movies and attempt whatever work their school sent home. To calm myself, I composed my own non-exhaustive list of resources, called "Things I might actually use if the internet doesn't die" and sent bits of it to a few friends, who exhaled relief and gratitude. "Thanks," they said. "I might actually use these!" Here it is, reconstituted. I hope it lets you exhale too.

  • mTiny robot review: Screen-free coding for kids

    My five- and seven-year-old constantly fight over who gets the iPad first. We have one, and they get to use it in tiny doses, usually when I'm at my wit's end. Their favorite app? ScratchJr, MIT's go-to coding tool for kids. They like to code. No. They love to code, like the good little 21st-century humanoids they are. They love coding so much and I am so unwilling to give them their own devices that I decided to try something new. It's also something that sounds so counterintuitive it actually might work: screen-free coding.

  • Technology alone won't make your kids smarter

    Ever plop your kids in front of some purportedly educational screen-based thing because you need 15 minutes of peace? Maybe, like me, you say to yourself, "It's 15 minutes. It's an educational app. It's not so bad. I just need to start dinner." There's nothing wrong with this, in theory. As a parent of two small children, I've learned lots of things. One thing that's helped: Kids love media.

  • A parent's guide to raising a good digital citizen

    "Do you know what you're looking at?" I ask my five-year-old and seven-year-old when we're on the iPad. "Yeah, yeah," they grumble as they swipe and tap during their 10-minute dip into deviceland. While we peruse pictures of dinosaurs or exploding volcanoes on YouTube or whatever it is that piques their interest, I ask a bunch of questions. Not surprisingly, they never know the answer to my favorite internet-safety question, "How do you know this one's not a joke?"

  • STEM kits that will get your kid's hands dirty

    Contrary to what you might think and hear, apps and screens aren't the best tools for kids to learn STEM concepts, even coding. Why? Innovation, pattern recognition, exploration, experimentation and creation underlie STEM principles. Kids need to manipulate tangible things. It's how they learn. While there are some great apps that supplement STEM learning, the best STEM activities for kids are blended ones -- the ones that require hands-on exploration, screens optional. Those that do require screens, like ones with coding apps, should augment the experience, not be the sole focus. Many of these toys and kits are designed for classroom use but are perfectly adaptable and suitable for home use, too, as my two kids, ages five and seven, will shout from the rooftops (supervised, don't worry). Check out these awesome blended learning STEM kits and toys. They'll have your little inventors ready to apply for their first patent in no time.