Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs...For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations. Psalm 100:1-2, 5

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

PG Key

I was given an opportunity to review a PG Key Safekey. It is a “key”  you plug in to an available USB port of your family’s computer or your children’s computer and it immediately creates a safer online environment. The cost of the Key is $49.99 + shipping and that is all you will pay ever! Go to the website and read all there is to know about the PG Key, but here is a snippet from the website about the features of the Key.

Access Control
Control computer use by inserting or unplugging PG Key.

Time Allowance
Decide the amount of time the computer can be used daily.

Content Filtering
Eliminate unwanted results from innocent searches.

Site Blocking
Block sites you decide are inappropriate.

Activity Tracking
Review all activity on the PC with a DVD-like interface.

Activity Notifications
Be informed via text message or e-mail of any flagged activity.

Chat and E-mail Logging
See both sides of chat and e-mail conversations.

Computer Configuration
Properly configure all users of the protected PC.

User Name and Password Logging
Keep track of user names and passwords.

Inappropriate Activity Evidence
Use video recording to show obvious or suspected inappropriate activity.

The video viewer is a really cool feature of the PG Key…it really truly lets you see every place the computer has been or done. My children are still young and I do not allow them on the computer everyday. I am a bit overprotective when it comes to my kiddos, I still like to be around them when they are using the computer, they also know what websites they are allowed and are not allowed to “surf”. The Key allows you to block any website you deem inappropriate and of course allow websites that you deem appropriate. Here’s something I found worth mentioning…if a child types a possible inappropriate word or a definite word that you have blocked in the safe search box it will still list the websites that contain that word, though no pictures show and a password protected screen automatically pops up, so you can’t go to any of the listed sites without permission, and if the child tries to close the password protected box they still can’t go to any of the sites shown, it goes to a blank screen and says site is blocked. We only have one computer for our family, so it is password protected to use it, so it was a admittedly a little frustrating when I tried to get online and go to my usual places to find it wouldn’t allow me to. Of course none of my sites are by any means questionable, so I needed to change the selected users so that the Administrator isn’t protected by it. When my son was online it wouldn’t let him go to some of the child-friendly sites I allow, so I had to put in the parent password to allow him to go to the site. It did get a little tedious when it kept asking because it would ask about anything that was on the site…ads, Google, etc, so it could be 10 times you allow or block just for one site. Sometimes it would ask something I had no idea what it was for, but it can mean a safer online environment. A word to the wise---it seems to only work with Internet Explorer and you need to choose SafeKey Safe Search as the default screen. You can easily use the viewer, see the blocked websites or notifications, get a tutorial, or get help or see your options by clicking on the PG Key icon on your taskbar.

I would recommend this Key because of the features it provides for the price with no additional money. I would make sure that you have it set it up properly and if you have any trouble I have heard that the customer service is very good. If you have more than one computer that you would want a Key for, then you need one for each. The Key is for one installation. You may ask…what if they take the key out? Easy…the computer can’t be used.

UPDATE 11/04/10: I have noticed my computer a little slower and it is not opening files online...I'm not sure if it is due to the PG Key or not, but the Key shouldn't be interfering on the unprotected administrator account, yet there are issues with my computer. I plan on calling the company to see if they might know. I feel like this was an important issue to bring up since it can be rather frustrating not to be able to get the files.

Disclaimer---I received this from the vendor for free in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Read, Write and Type Online Edition

I was given the opportunity to review Read, Write and Type online edition from Talking Fingers.

{ Talking Fingers---Mission and Method:
Our goal is to empower generations of children with excellent writing, reading, and thinking skills that they can use to enrich their personal lives, earn a livelihood, and contribute toward a more literate and thoughtful society.

The Talking Fingers approach is unique and is based on a simple idea: text is speech made visible! We use our mouths to talk, to make the sounds of words. We use our fingers (with a pencil or keyboard) to represent those sounds on paper. When children learn to link speech sounds with letters, they can use the alphabet code to write any word they can say. Their fingers are "talking". This approach is aimed at maximizing the activation of the left side of the brain where skilled reading and writing are processed. }

The Read, Write, and Type program is geared for grades K-3.  It costs $35 for 1 user, $55 for 2 users, $70 for 3 users, $85 for 4 users and 5 users for $100.
Since the website itself explains it so much better than I could, here are the basics at the different levels.

Step 1 (click for larger image) 
1. Children begin by connecting each sound with a friendly keyboard storyteller. The keyboard storytellers present their phonemes, their place on the keyboard, and their favorite stories. Children learn how new sounds come alive when 2 letters team up, like "aw" or "sh".

Step 2 (click for larger image)
2. Children then look at a picture, identify the sounds in each word, and type the letter or pair of letters that make up each sound. Forty beginning, middle, and ending speech sounds are linked to their place on the keyboard.

Step 3 (click for larger image) 
3. Children begin to build words by typing sounds. No other program combines the sounds of phonics with correct finger placement, so children easily learn to type the sounds they hear.

Step 4 (click for larger image)
4. Children start to read and write simple stories. They practice writing at the Story Tree in 40 delightfully animated scenes -- just by listening, looking and typing.

Step 5 (click for larger image)
5. Children move on to creating their own stories, with their newfound typing and phonics skills and the Read, Write & Type!™ simple word processor and talking keyboard.

Step 6 (click for larger image)
6. For further practice, children can send messages using the simulated email feature. The messages they "receive" are actually stories written by real children from different countries around the world.

Step 7 (click for larger image)
7. Children build on their typing skills by playing the Power Fountain with Vexor, or they visit the Bonus Blimp for practice in areas where they need the most help.

Step 8 (click for larger image)
8. In the Sound Game, children practice sound recognition by saying the name of the picture displayed and then typing the correct letter or pair of letters that represent the beginning, middle, or ending speech sound.

Step 9 (click for larger image)
9. The Reading Game provides extra help in reading comprehension by matching a picture to a word or sentence. Children read a word or sentence at the top of the screen, and then match a picture to that sentence.

11. In this illustration, Adam has scored 57%. When he starts to exit, he is told to return to RWT!™ and play five Bonus Blimps before he tries to pass the Spaceship level again. The Bonus Blimp keeps track of his scores on all activities. When he clicks on the Blimp it will take him automatically to the activities he needs to practice. He will be credited on his certificate for any Bonus activities he chooses to play. He can play any number at any time. When Adam returns to the Spaceship to try again to pass this level, he will be better prepared.

Step 11 A (click for larger image) Step 11 B (click for larger image)

12. Teachers or parents can print out individual or group reports of student progress and be able to see at a glance whether students are having difficulty at the level of phonemic awareness and phonics or whether their problems lie in Spelling or Reading Comprehension.

Step 10 (click for larger image) Step 10 (click for larger image)

I had my daughter, who is 7 1/2,  use this program. She seemed to like trying to get from level to level, though it wasn’t without her occasional outburst of frustration. I think that she had a difficult time with her fingers working correctly on the keyboard. I found her at times pecking the letters rather than doing it as instructed. Since I don’t really allow my kids access to the computer daily, she is currently at level three. Even though she was getting frustrated at times she still wanted to keep going and move on so that she could get her certificates. My first impression of the program was that the graphics and learning would be too young for her, but she actually did like doing it and seemed to enjoy the graphics. I will have her continue doing the program, it is a good review of phonics and reading, as well as, of course, learning to type. I think that this program could be especially helpful to those who are just learning to read. I think the price is pretty comparable to have learning to read, write and type all in one program.

To read more TOS Crew reviews on this or other products…TOS Crew.

Disclaimer---I was given this program in exchange for my honest review.