Tech Kids

Shouldn’t Alexa Have Every Song?

Today as the kids were getting ready for school my daughter asked Alexa (It’s an Amazon Echo if you don’t know who Alexa is…and it’s awesome if you don’t have one) to play a Justin Bieber song. Alexa replied that there was no Justin Bieber in our library. After hearing Alexa’s response, my 7 year old son turned to me and said, “Shouldn’t Alexa have every song?”

It’s pretty striking how quickly our perception of reality changes. My friend recently posted on Facebook the picture of a walkman and cassette tapes. What a pain in the butt it was to rewind and fast forward through the tapes to the song you wanted. Not to mention all the mix tapes that people would put together. There was a real art to doing it. I remember when CDs came about it was awesome that you could easily skip from song to song. Then, the iPod which could store so much music in such a small device.

Now my kids don’t even know what it’s like to have to buy music. They just ask Alexa to play a song and so far she’s been nearly foolproof. Who knew it would take Justin Bieber for Alexa to open my kids eyes to the fact that Alexa doesn’t have all the music in the world?

One day when driverless cars and maybe the hyperloop are a reality people will look back at our current time and wonder how we traveled so primitively. We’re pretty close to the point where light switches are unnecessary. What will our grandkids think about those odd switches on the wall?

It’s a crazy world we live in. For someone who loves technology, it’s a fascinating world of opportunities. For my kids, it’s just the status quo. That’s crazy to think about.

Dad Instincts Proud or Scared Tech Kids

The Hijacked Cell Phone – Proud or Scared Series

I decided I should start a series of blog posts I call Proud of Scared. In this series of posts (which I’ll do as incidents occur) I’ll highlight those times as a parent when you’re torn between being proud of your child or scared. In these situations you’re proud of their smarts, intelligence, creativity, or abilities, but you’re also scared as you enter a new stage in your child’s development. Sometimes you’re scared of the new stage and sometimes your scared of what this new talent will mean in the future. You get the idea?

Now for my first entry in the Proud or Scared series.

I took Crash Kid #1 and #3 to the park while I was playing ultimate frisbee on Saturday. While there I let Crash Kid #1 access my phone so he could play some games in the shade while I was playing ultimate frisbee. During one of my waters breaks I discovered that Crash Kid #1 had sent a few texts to Crash Mom in my absence. Here’s the content of the texts (as sent by Crash Kid #1):

Me: We are thinking of leaving soon would you like anything from Mcdonalds?
Crash Wife: Im good. I just had some leftover pizza. The kids would probably like chicken nuggets though
Me: Crash Kid #1 wants a banana strawberry smoothie should I get it for him?
Crash Wife: It’s up to you.
Me: I’m gonna play 1 more point and then I’ll be back at home
Crash Wife: Ok.
Me: Crash Kid #1 is annoying me so much about going to bounce U
Crash Wife: He is obsessed. Im not even sure it is open in saturdays
Me: Now Crash Kid #3 is following him and doing it as well
Me: STOP!!!
Crash Wife: Ahhh!
Me: I know
Me: Lol…that was all Crash Kid #1
Me: Pretty creative
Crash Wife: That is funny. What a little stinker

There you go. Should I be proud of his creativity or scared?

Daddy Blog Tech Kids

When Your Daughter Discovers Your Wife’s Cell Phone

I’ve started getting some somewhat odd messages from the Crash Wife lately. Although, the oddity eventually gets explained when I get a message from the Crash Wife saying “That was Crash Kid #2 texting you.”

It’s amazing when an 8 year old discovers their mom’s cell phone and what it can really do. Our kids have always had electronics, but we’ve really only partially explained what it can accomplish. I think some ignorance is bliss. However, that’s changing now as Crash Kid #2 is starting to figure it all out herself.

Luckily, it has some lovely side effects. Check out this picture and message Crash Kid #2 sent me yesterday as I was traveling home for the funeral:

Hi dad I wish you could be with me and know I love you very much.Daddy tell Crash Kid #1 I wish you could be here to help Crash Kid #3 walk and I wish you were here to go with us to lion house and eat food. Love, Crash Kid #2

Crash Kid 2

How sweet is that? I’m going to keep this for the days when she doesn’t love me quite so much.

Daddy Blog Tech Kids Video Games

Awesome Old School Video Games – Oregon Trail and Sim City

While we were in NY visiting the in-laws, we were able to go to some children’s museum in Rochester (I think it’s called the Strong Museum of Play or something). It’s a really cool place with a lot of fun things for the kids (and parents) to do. We all really enjoyed ourselves.

One of the highlights of the museum for me was on the second floor where they had all these old school video and arcade games. It was awesome. On one computer, my son (Crash Kid #3) and I sat down and I started playing Sim City. Yes, the really old school Sim City. I remember countless hours playing it. Turns out, I still love the game and my son might love it even more. He’s asked a few times if we can play that game again.

By shear coincidence, today I saw that the Web Archive (home to the awesome Wayback Machine) has started creating a library of MS-DOS based video games. The three that grabbed my attention were Oregon Trail, Bust-a-Move and of course Sim City. Pretty awesome and I love that their keeping a record of all these old school games and making them available for us to play.
Oregon Trail Video Game
I’ll admit that I’m not a huge video game guy. I chose my marriage over video games, but that’s that story for another day. However, I do love to occasionally binge on a game or two. Most new games take too much time and attention to learn and enjoy. So, these old school video games are much better for some binge video game playing. Plus, I love nostalgia and seeing games like Oregon Trail takes me back to elementary school. The problem in elementary school was that our computer time was never enough to actually complete the game. We’ll see if I have the time now.

Daddy Blog Tech Kids

Google’s Santa Tracker Advent Calendar App

I’m not exactly sure what Google has in store, but they’ve released a Santa Tracker app. As I understand it, each day Google will release a new module which will use games and videos to teach kids some basic programming skills. Of course, from a kids perspective they’re just playing games and tracking Santa. I’m going to show my kids the app tomorrow and see what they think of it. I’ll be interested to see how well the app does at making a game of coding.

Of course, many of you probably just think I’m a nerd that I want my kids to learn to code while they’re tracking Santa. You’d be absolutely right about me being a nerd. I’ll take that honor gladly (Nerds rule the world!). However, I think that teaching kids to code is going to be so valuable for their future.

Before all of you (both of you that read this blog) get your pantyhose all bunched up, I’m not saying that every kid should be a programmer when they grow up. What I am saying is that learning to code will benefit a child regardless of what they decide to do with their life.

In some respects, it’s basic computer skills. In other respects, it’s teaching them problem solving skills. In other respects, it helps them learn how a computer works which will help them the next time they use any program.

I’ve heard a lot of people compare learning a programming language to learning another language. Having learned to do both myself, I think there’s some similarities, but I don’t think the comparison is perfect. When learning another language you’re learning a well defined vocabulary and grammar structure. The same is true when you’re learning a programming language which has a well defined syntax. Get it wrong and the computer doesn’t do what you want.

However, when doing a programming language it opens you up to limitless creation. At its very core, programming teaches someone how to creatively solve problems. This is a powerful skill. Plus, even in the most basic program, you’re creating something. There’s something absolutely powerful about being able to create something yourself. The joy is indescribable when you see your very own creation. The cool thing is that with programming there’s never an end to what you can create. Once you’ve mastered one skill, you can learn another skill that will help you create something bigger and better.

One of the venture capitalist’s I read regularly (I already told you I’m a nerd) has a phrase he likes to say about programming:

Are you going to be the one telling the robots what to do, or are you going to be the one being told what to do by the robots?

While I think he takes what robots will become a little far, I think the concept of being able to tell the robots what to do is powerful. If you can program, you’ll be able to tell the robots what to do. There’s going to be a lot of power in this principle. I want my kids to understand that power. What better motivation than games and Santa? I’ll be sure to report back on how it goes.

Daddy Blog Tech Kids

The Touchscreen TV

The other day I was hanging out with my 2 year old Crash Kid. While I was sitting there with him, he looked up at the TV to realize that Curious George had been paused. Turns out we were streaming Curious George from Netflix through our Google Chromecast(Side Note: I love the Chromecast!) on to our TV. If you’ve been watching a number of episodes on Netflix (which we’ve been known to do), then Netflix wants to make sure you’re still watching the show and not just letting it run forever with no one watching (which the Crash Kids are known to do).

Long story short, Curious George was paused by Netflix and required you to acknowledge that you were still watching. My two year old saw it and wanted “George!” (that’s what he calls it, and yes he says it with an exclamation point every time) to start playing again. So, he went up to the TV and tried clicking the button on the TV screen that said that it was paused.

Yes, this is a really long story to tell you that my 2 year old thought our TV was touchscreen. He’s literally being raised to think that everything can be touched and will react to touch. That’s really fascinating to consider. Especially since it’s currently pretty far from reality, but it will be very close to reality in his lifetime. The efforts that large companies are putting in to make every surface touchable is extraordinary and is going to happen.

Soon, I’ll be the old man who can’t adapt to technology. However, I feel pretty good that the crash kids will be well prepared for this tech enabled world.