Great news from TTT&T Head-quarters: We’ve just completed the first full build of In the Footsteps of Giants, our time-traveling tour to Renaissance Florence, and it's looking great!


As luck would have it, we seem to be launching at exactly the right time too. Who knew?


Last Tuesday, I received this gorgeous message from a young fan, one of the original pilot-testers of Beware Madame la Guillotine. She wrote:
 

“Sarah, have you seen Pokémon GO? Your Time Traveler Tours are the same thing, only better, because they teach cool facts and skills!”


Her message was like a magical salve. I'd been hacking for many days straight at that point and a fatigue reminiscent of my Kickstarter days had settled in. I'd also been feeling a bit hopeless -- perhaps because of the fatigue? -- in the face of the violence and intolerance that has gripped our world. These enthusiastic words immediately strengthened my resolve to harness today's popular technologies to Turn History On.


Because the risk is too great if we allow the past to be forgotten. Knowing our collective history -- truly understanding the best as well as the worst of it -- is the only way to ensure that humanity builds on its successes, and that we avoid repeating our most atrocious mistakes.


If Pokémon GO is any example, the touchscreen is the perfect medium for engaging minds and pulling them into worlds once lived as well as imagined. And judging by the number of millennials now wandering around with their smartphones thrust out in front of them, tracking and capturing imaginary creatures, we're talking about all minds, not just young ones!


So I'm thrilled to say that Team TTT&T and I are mere weeks away from giving you Michelangelo's story app tour. And that we seem to be launching right on time. While it does not yet include augmented reality, that feature is on our roadmap and may very well be in the app before the end of the year.


Excited yet? Here’s a little visual candy to get you started!
 

Two days ago, I woke in a cold sweat with a to-do list as long as my braccio.* We're going full-speed ahead on building the app right now and while I'm thrilled with the results, it's a lot of work. So I wasn't really relishing the idea of taking time from my busy app-building schedule to compose our weekly blog and newsletter.


Then I opened my email. And inside I found a wonderful, truly unexpected surprise...


"Hi Sarah," wrote Rebecca Pickens, The Curriculum Junkie for HomeSchoolLife Magazine. "Hot off the press--it's the latest issue of HSL magazine," she continued. 


"Your review appears on pages 29-30. It was truly a pleasure reading your work. You folks have a terrific concept and I wish you the very best with all of your efforts."


Rebecca reached out to me months ago. I knew she was considering writing about us, but I didn't know when it was coming or just how lovely it would be! 


It's a review of Beware Madame la Guillotine, and not just the book but of author/educator and TTT&T Curriculum Developer Marcie Colleen's incredible Curriculum Guide as well, which truly deserves all the praise and attention Rebecca showers on it.


Rebecca's review is so positive that I'm going to let it speak for itself.


Thank you, Rebecca. This couldn't have landed at a more perfect moment! It truly is About Time!

*Braccio means arm in Italian. It was also a unit of measurement in the Renaissance era. 

 

Review Excerpts:

It's About Time

With a 21st century combination of text and technology, Time Traveler Tales bring history -- in all its complexity and controversy -- to life in your homeschool classroom. Rebecca Pickens takes a journey in time with this curriculum for middle school and older students...

IF YOU ARE SEARCHING FOR engaging resources that will help your kids fall in love with history, I have a treasure for you. A talented team of authors, educators, and app developers have joined Time Traveler Tales founder and writer Sarah Towle. Together they are creating a series of interactive history books, curriculum handbooks, and story apps that will ignite your child's curiosity.
      Beware Madame La Guillotine is the first book in this emerging history series. A curriculum handbook and an award-winning app based on the same story are available from this publisher as well.
     Twenty-four-year-old Charlotte Corday is the book's compelling young narrator. Her harrowing true story unfolds on the streets of Paris in the midst of the French Revolution... Corday identifies the root cause of the revolution as she also introduces the central figures who are at the heart of her nation's struggle.
     ...Curriculum developer Marcie Colleen has written an engaging handbook to accompany Beware Madame La Guillotine. Chock full of inventive lesson ideas, Colleen's curriculum teaches across the disciplines of history, social studies, English, and dramatic arts using a flexible formate that will resonate with many homeschooling families...
     ...Aware that all of us learn best when we engage with a subject playfully, Time Traveler Tales has combined artful storytelling with innovative technology...
     ...Throughout history our world has been rich with real-life stories as exciting and thought-provoking as the bery best in fiction writing. Sarah Towle and her team recognize this fact, and they are providing kids with an outstanding portal into wondrous stories of the past.
 

READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE



Click Here to Pre-oder Your Download of

IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF GIANTS
 

Following fast on its heels will come a remastered version of

BEWARE MADAME LA GUILLOTINE
 

Then, the next story in the Paris series:

LEGEND OF THE PLANT HUNTERS

 

Launch Delays. That's what!
 

And at Time Traveler Tours & Tales (TTT&T), we are no exception. On my trip to the States earlier this month, I gathered members of team TTT&T as well as a dedicated group of major supporters to alpha-test the first iteration of IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF GIANTS. 
 

It was exciting. It was fun. It was also very tasty for apropos the Renaissance Italian theme of our launch story app tour, we met at an NYC restaurant: Osteria del Principe. Highly recommended!


Our hope was to be able to turn the app right over to YOU for beta testing. But we encountered two unanticipated technical issues too serious not to fix. (*If you want to know more about what these were, continue reading beyond the pictures below...)

 
Fortunately, one of the greatest benefits the digital revolution has brought to publishing is "iterative development." It allows us to build and test in iterations until we are ready to share what most call a "Minimum Viable Product," but I prefer to call it our "Minimum Lovable Product."


So it's now looking like late July or early August before our fledgling will be lovable enough to take flight. Rest assured I will continue to keep you posted.


In the meantime, on behalf of Team TTT&T, I wish you and yours excellent adventures this summer season. Be sure to ping me if you find yourself in London. I'll be here all July. Working on the app.


Best and more,
Sarah


What did we find in this alpha-testing round?

Two technical issues that compounded with each increase in screen size, thus compromising our user interface design:


One of the earliest decisions we had to make as a team was whether to limit our app to Apple devices or go broad to include android devices as well. BEWARE MADAME LA GUILLOTINE launched before there were such things as android devices. But once other smart Apple competitors hit the streets, our market for BMLG shrunk to half the size.


Our present goal is to make all future apps equally readable from the smallest mobile smart phone to the largest tablet. But that makes development exponentially more complicated as you then have to program for multiple screen sizes. Team OnCell did an amazing job of enabling our images to grow in proportion to the width of each screen. But none of us imagined how that would affect the height of the image with each larger screen size. During our alpha test of 14 June 2016, which included 11 people and 12 devices, we found that as the screen sizes grew larger, the vertical images grow longer and thus fell further and further “below the fold.” 


The team and I didn’t want to make that same mistake again. So we agreed to develop all subsequent Time Traveler Tours to be accessible to the greatest number of mobile devices -- and therefore users -- as possible.

Our present goal is to make all future apps equally readable from the smallest mobile smart phone to the largest tablet. But that makes development exponentially more complicated as you then have to program for multiple screen sizes. 


Team OnCell did an amazing job of enabling our images to grow in proportion to the width of each screen. But none of us imagined how that would affect the height of the image with each larger screen size. During our alpha test of 14 June 2016, which included 11 people and 12 devices, we found that as the screen sizes grew larger, the vertical images grow longer and thus fell further and further “below the fold.” 


This means, quite simply, that beyond the iPhone 5, you could not see an entire vertical image on the screen, as in the image above taken on an iPhone 6. The team and I feel very strongly that you should.


Secondly, while we’d worked hard to ensure that images grow with screen size, we had neglected to apply the same logic to the text blocks. So at present as images increase from phone to tablet they become disproportionately large in relation to complementary text. An easy fix, I’m told, but one that should be made.

 
So it’s back into the studio we go to tinker with the tech a little bit more. Which gives us a bit more time to gather use permissions for the images we wish to populate the app.


Wish us luck!

And don't forget to pre-order your download of
IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF GIANTS.

 

Special thanks to Dan Blank of WeGrowMedia for taking the pictures featured in this post.
That's why he's not in any of them!
 

 

The summer travel season is in full swing. Opportunities abound to escape "normal" life, create cherished memories with the family, and share your passions with your children through a non-school lens.


Guaranteed: No matter where you travel this summer, you’ll be in a place steeped in backstories of historical importance.


So how do you weave that history into your family vacation?

 

 

Tip #1 – Find the “way in” that's perfect for you and yours


The key is to make learning seamless with experience. To do that, harness your kids’ own interests and curiosities to lead the charge. Whether you have a sports fan in the family or a budding artist, tap into what already motivates them to find your “way in.” This will make the past instantly meaningful.

If you’re traveling to Rome with a child who loves cars, for example, be sure to check out the ancient roads and bridges and aqueducts. If yours is a budding fashionista, use clothing styles throughout the ages for your unique historical lens. Or organize a cooking class while visiting Tuscany with your young chef.


Almost any interest can be turned into a learning opportunity and a way to link yesterday to today. 

 

Tip #2 – Look for connections to current trends or events

Are any of your children’s favorite musicians from the country or city you’re visiting? 
 

Were their favorite movies filmed there? 
 

Did their grandfather march across your destination country as a young soldier not much older than they are now?


A quick Google search before you leave using keywords pertaining to the history of your destination will help you bridge the past with the burning issues of today. It may even yield more information than you need. 

 

Travel guides often contain historical tidbits that you can read up on and then share when on site and the time is right. And you'll look pretty darn smart as you do!


You can also consult online sites such as www.tripadvisor.com for traveler recommendations. And don’t forget to tap the history buffs and history teachers — as well as friends and relatives — in your own personal circles. They can be rich resources for a quick history lesson... for you!

 

Tip #3 – Make it fun

DSC02011.JPG

Set up a scavenger hunt or a family contest. Search for treasures in the city or museum you’re visiting. To get you started, you can find some great tips here and here. To extend your activity, consider a family contest: 
 

The first to find the following X things gets to choose where or what the family eats, or the next sightseeing stop.


Challenge your young ones to act as photojournalists. Get them to take pictures and write about the places and things they're experiencing. Then let them share these personal tidbits in real time with their friends and family back home via social media.


I know, I know, you’re on vacation and hoped to leave Facebook and Instagram behind. You can, for most of the day. But then use these tools to get your kids communicating about what they’ve done and seen, thus scratching their itch to touch base with their peeps while also practicing valuable literacy skills.

 

Tip #4 – Include them in the planning

When Lily was 10, I had her plan out our itinerary for visiting Roman France. All she needed was a destination guidebook including all the potential locations and a map. Another time she helped chart our course through Morocco by seeking out all areas where Berber culture – her interest – is still alive and well.
 

Including your children in this way not only makes history relevant today, it also puts mathematics and reading skills to real world uses. They won’t even know they are learning.


While on location, task your kids with helping you decipher signs and menus in another language, identify next-stops on the map, and calculate ticket prices. Involve them in setting the vacation budget and/or making reservations for your trip. In addition to reinforcing school-based skills, it will get them further invested in the family journey.

 

Tip #5 – Teach about the old through the new

At Time Traveler Tours, our mission is to walk young people through history using story-driven mobile app tours. But we’re not the only ones passionate about enriching the travel experience. Search your favorite store for tourism apps and books about the target destination. You might just find perfect one.
 

Our app tour to Florence is coming soon. You can pre-order it here.

The key is to keep it enjoyable – it is summer vacation, after all – while taking advantage of opportunities to educate along the way. This is how you weave history, and learning, into a family vacation.
 

This summer, I urge you to invest a bit of time in research before you hit the road. Your reward will be rich memories, closer ties, and educated kids. Plus, they’ll have some impressive “What I Did on Summer Vacation” reports to bring back to school in the fall!

 

 

Happy travels from all of us at Time Traveler Tours & Tales.

Special thanks to Diane Krause of WeGrowMedia for helping to craft
and prepare this post while I was on the road... yet again!

 

Like this post? Please share it with your followers and friends. 

 
Coming soon...


Reflections on the 21st Century
Children's Nonfiction  Conference

Results of Team TTT&T's First Iteration Alpha Test of
IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF GIANTS

Breakthroughs at the Book Bound Writer's Retreat

Touring La Brea Tar Pits with Melissa Dusette,
TTT&T Museum Liaison
 

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