Opinions and Reviews Archives - Eva Varga

September 7, 2017

Many teens dread giving a speech in front of their peers. They have difficulty capturing – and keeping – the attention of their audience. They struggle to structure and communicate their ideas successfully.

Integrating a variety of technology into your courses – whether it’s history, science, language arts, or a foreign language – will provide teens with a range of  multimedia and design tools. In doing so, teens are more engaged and thereby develop a range of skills related to production and video presentations. Best of all, they learn to communicate more clearly and more compellingly with their audience.

mysimpleshow video presentations

I was compensated for my time writing this review. All opinions expressed are true and completely our own. Please see my disclosure policy for more information.

Tips For Keeping Teens Engaged

Teens get bored easily – especially when instruction is delivered the same way or when asked to give yet another speech to demonstrate what they have learned. Keep teens engaged by designing lessons that include novelty, variety, and fun.

When teens use short and friendly video, they can awake interest for almost any topic. Creating explainer videos with mysimpleshow, for example, is easy and exciting, and it also trains users regarding the application of creative technology resources.

Focus student attention by incorporating demonstrations, role playing, hands-on activities, storytelling, and multimedia presentations to enhance instruction. Requesting students create explainer videos with mysimpleshow is a great means to structure content, provide guidance, and give an overview.

Did you know?

The great Roman orator, Cicero, recommended the use of images as part of memory training. He also used visuals, in the form of props, in his speeches. For this reason, he is considered one of Rome’s greatest orators and prose stylists.

Many teens love to socialize and do projects with their peers. Cooperative learning opportunities are highly effective in keeping students engaged and participating in lessons. With mysimpleshow, students can work in teams (either in small groups or with a partner) on video scripts and visualizations to aid in their collaboration skills.

Our Favorite Resource for Video Presentations

While there are many interactive presentation and slide show apps, mysimpleshow is our favorite resource for video presentations. It is the perfect medium your students need to make their project fun, engaging, and interesting.

mysimpleshow is an online tool that enables anyone to create concise and engaging explainer videos in just a few minutes. It is also a great option for teachers to create lessons and presentations with multimedia and interactive elements such as video, audio, and embedded assessments.

Writing the video script native to the mysimpleshow platform, enhances writing skills, as students need to use transition phrases and must only include the most relevant information to align with the storyline template’s character limits.

mysimpleshow video presentations

The screenshot visible above is excerpted from a video I put together for our Scout troop detailing the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse. On the left side, you can see two highlighted words – these are the words that are illustrated with graphics from the available gallery or images the user can upload.

I love that the user has the freedom to select the words to animate. As the slideshow plays, the selected image will appear as the narrator reads the highlighted word. The user will thereby need to make small adjustments to their script to assure the graphics appear in a timely manner – a great problem solving opportunity.

My daughter used mysimpleshow to create a fabulous explainer video for Ranger requirement #2g, “Make a presentation for your crew on communications equipment used in the outdoors with emphasis on how this equipment would help in a wilderness survival situation.”

She loved the flexibility of the program and looks forward to making another video to teach her Venturing Crew about Leave No Trace principles.

August 3, 2014

Whether  you are a new homeschool parent or a veteran, there are times when you just need a new idea or inspiration. The Big Book Of Homeschool Ideas is the perfect resource for those times. 55 homeschool moms share their expertise on 103 topics!

This post contains affiliate links.

big book homeschool ideas

Written by homeschool moms with years of experience, The Big Book Of Homeschool Ideas addresses 103 topics that affect homeschooling families. Some of the topics include:

  • homeschooling from pre-school to high school
  • subject specific ideas and resources
    • science
    • history
    • math
    • language art
    • fine arts
  • character development
  • homeschooling a large family
  • homeschooling during a move
  • homeschooling special needs students
  • budgeting & time management
  • tips for handling homeschool critics
  • field trip ideas
  • and much more!

The book is a whopping 500+ pages!

Get this amazing, resource-filled e-book download (including a chapter I authored on inquiry science for middle school) for just $10.99! Click HERE to buy or for more information.

Buy-it-now - Big Book of Homeschool Ideas

May 5, 20144

I’m sure everyone is familiar with the mass produced Monopoly, Life and Clue (among other) games that dominate American households. Sadly, there are so many more great games out there and many people are unfamiliar with them.

A friend of ours owns a specialty game store and delightfully, we receive new games for our birthday and Christmas each year. We have thereby discovered many fun, new games that aren’t found in chain stores. I would like to share three of our new favorites with you today.

This post contains affiliate links.

takenoko gameTakenoko is a game for 2-4 players that focuses around caring for a giant panda bear. This involves having a farmer grow different types of bamboo on their associated, watered fields and moving the panda around to eat it. The pieces are also beautifuland very high-quality; the bamboo and die are made of wood and the tiles of sturdy cardboard.

As the game progresses, players build a single garden (collaboratively or independently) and move a sole farmer and panda around it while trying to complete hidden goals dictated by drawn cards. The actions of each player influence his/her opponents directly and will often aid them in completing goals, adding depth to gameplay choices. When one player achieves a set target number of goals everyone else gets a final turn and then victory points for completed goals are totaled to determine the winner.

timelineThe Timeline Science & Discoveries Card Game is based on cards which you arrange in a chronological timeline. The game mechanics are super easy and it’s highly addictive – we enjoyed it so much that even after a winner was determined, we kept drawing cards just for fun. The cards are small, about half the size of a deck of standard cards, and each game comes with a set of 100. Additional expansion games include Historical Events, Diversity Game, Music & Cinema, and Inventions. The sets are interchangeable, and I’ve heard rumor that Monuments, Arts & Literature, Music, and Sports are soon to follow.

Everyone who I have played this game with has loved it. It has become an instant classic in my family. It is simple, quick, and fun. What I love best about this came, however, is the educational nature of the game design. You learn as you go! I can’t wait to incorporate additional expansions.


Tokaido is a beautifully illustrated board game whereby players enjoy a 33-stop journey from Kyoto to Edo, Japan. This is an essence a “race” game that relies not on cutthroat competitive mechanics, but instead rewards those with patience and calm. The goal of the game is to cleverly reach key destinations before other players and score as many points by the end of the journey in order to win.

The instructions state the game is designed for 2-5 players, but it is best with at least three people. One of the mechanics of the game is that whoever is farthest behind on the road gets the next turn. With each additional player, difficulty increases as resources become more hotly contested. You’ll be cutting each other off for panaromas by going to vista points, visiting shops to buy curios, meeting strangers, or donating money at the shrines. There are a variety of “characters” that play differently and thus require a tweak in your overall strategy, some who will naturally pit certain players against each other with their natural advantages.

August 15, 2013

A year ago, my kiddos took part in a summer science camp that focused on engineering and technology.  One of the many manipulatives or activities they had access to during the week was an elaborate marble run manufactured by an Italian company called Quercetti.  I was not previously familiar with the product or the company but each day the kids returned home, they talked so much about the marble rollercoaster, I knew I had to learn more.  marble run

The Quercetti company started in the 1950s from a vision and determination of founder, Alessandro Quercetti. Today, the second Quercetti generation enthusiastically carries on the family business under its original principles: making toys that speak kid’s language and that address their natural developmental needs.

The Quercetti rail system is a great product that introduces the child to a love of learning and builds upon that foundation for a lifetime of creativity. Students increase their own knowledge through self-initiated experiences.

I love that the kids are experimenting with different size marbles and how they affect speed.  Their play elicited questions that opened up opportunities to talk about surface area, volume, and Newton’s laws of motion.

 This is a great tool for math and engineering minded kids

The  Quercetti Skyrail Mini Rail Rollercoaster allows kids to build fantastic marble runs with suspended tracks up to 8 meters long. It has been specifically designed so that marbles of different sizes and materials can be used.  The design prompts kids to make interesting observations, while experimenting and discovering the world of physics (speed, gravity, centrifugal force, friction) and to intuitively understand its fundamental principles. We started with the Mini Rail system but additional expansion sets are also available including motorized elevators and pulleys.

I was not compensated for this review.  I purchased this product myself because it appealed to me and it fit our current curriculum.  The opinion shared here is honest and is solely my own.

August 1, 20131

What is a fallacy?  The very first sentence of the book defines it as “an error in logic — a place where someone has made a mistake in his thinking.” Sometimes unintentionally, but sometimes these fallacies are used intentionally to mislead others — consumers, the general public, and as you’ll see, even your family.The Fallacy Detective: Lessons in Logic - A Book Review @EvaVarga.net

The ability to recognize fallacies is important and we have thereby been working through the lessons in The Fallacy Detective as a family these past few months.  We typically bring it along with us on road trips and I read aloud the lesson, chuckling at the clever illustrations and anecdotes.  The lessons are presented in such a way that even my 8-year old son understands the material.  Let me share with a funny story relaying our lessns in logic detection.

Thus far, our favorite fallacies are the “Red Herring” and “Special Pleading”.  We have come to discover that a couple of us use these tactics regularly to varying degres of success.  Upon completing the exercises in The Fallacy Detective, we now recognize them as errors in logic and eagerly call one another it, much to their chagrin. I love it when my 8 year old, in the midst of a disagreement, yells out, “Red herring!!”

While driving north to Oregon recently, we departed early and my daughter was too excited to eat breakfast.  She thereby brought along an apple to eat in the car despite the fact that eating in the car is not permitted.  Her father is very adament about this and we’ve had many family related arguments discussions.  About forty minutes into the drive, she begins to eat the apple and of course her father (who is driving) reminds her of the rules and reprimands her gently about her failure to follow through.  She apologizes and carefully wraps the core in a tissue to discard at our first stop.

We continue on our drive and I read aloud the Lesson 6 – Special Pleading.  We work through the exercises easily and continue to the next lesson, Ad Hominem.  About 2 1/2 hours into the drive, we stop for fuel and as we are only about 15 minutes from our destination Dad suggests we go through the drive-thru at Carl’s Jr for lunch.  “We can bring it to the campground and eat there before we unpack. I know we are all hungry and we won’t want to delay eating once we get there.”  We all agree it is a sound idea and thus we order our usual as our bellies begin to growl with anticipation.

No sooner do we pull back onto the road and Dad asks me to hand him his burger.  Say what?!

“We don’t eat in the car!” we exclaim in unison as we all remind him.

“I know but I am very hungry.  I wouldn’t have suggested it otherwise. I know we all want to get there as soon as possible.”

“Well, can we eat ours then?” we asked.

“No!  We don’t eat in the car.  I am just very hungry and I’ll have to unpack when we get there,” he states.

“Special pleading!!” the kids yell out.

“You got mad when I ate my apple, Dad.  You can’t eat a messy burger!!”

Awesome!  I love how the lessons in The Fallacy Detective have come to life for us.  The Bluedorn brothers have put logic into an assessable, easy to teach, easy to learn format that has clear examples and plenty of exercises for review.  It is an excellent book to introduce lessons in logic and critical thinking.

I was not compensated for this review.  I purchased the book myself because it appealed to me and it fit our current curriculum.  The opinion shared here is honest and is solely my own.

April 3, 2012

Educreations is a fabulous learning tool.  Their motto is, Teach what you know. Learn what you don’t.   Using the app for iPad or your browser window on your desktop, you create simple little videos that you can share with others.  You have the option of making the videos private and sending a link to specific people or you can make your videos public.  You can also browse the library of public videos on a variety of topics and skill level.

Educreations transforms our iPad into a recordable whiteboard that captures voice and handwriting and thereby produces amazing video lessons.  It is very intuitive – as simple as touching, tapping, and talking.  We were first introduced to Educreations by our Mandarin teacher, 老师。 I was immediately impressed with the technology and am excited to see how this tool can be used in education – there are so many ways this can be adapted to different learning tasks.

Example #1
老师 assigned a set of vocabulary words for my daughter and she was to practice writing the characters by creating a short video on Educreations.  She then sent the link to him and he responded with another video pointing out the characters she had trouble with.  Stroke order is important in learning Mandarin so in addition to writing characters over and over again – Educreations provides a way for teachers to check the order the strokes are done.

Here is a lesson she created on writing the characters for the numbers 1-10.  She created this one as a sample to assure she understood what she would need to do.  She has made this one public but most of her videos are private and shared only between her teacher and her parents.  Though we occasionally send links to her proud grandparents as well.  🙂

Example #2
老师 sends a link to a video he creates that has characters and graphic images or pictures.  The kids can then interact with his video by drawing a line to match the corresponding words and pictures.

Example #3
The student can create a video that incorporates photos and characters to tell a story about their trip to the market, how to make a recipe, or a fictional adventure story about a little hungry mouse.