Technology

4 Ways Mobile Technology is Improving Your Motorcycle Ride

Motorcyclist using cellphone

(Photo Credit: World Bank Photo Collection)

Whether you’re a casual motorcycle rider or a hardcore biker, your smartphone can make your riding experience even better.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 93,000 people were injured in a motorcycle-related accident in 2012, a 15% increase from 2011.  Texting while driving demonstrates a lack of responsibility, but using a smartphone to enhance the safety of your motorcycle? Smart move.

High-Tech Helmets

Motorcycle helmets are quickly becoming more high-tech.  Recently, Reevu, Skully and Nuviz revealed modern helmets that have GPS, cell phone, rear-view camera and music player capabilities.  The Skully Operating System integrated in the Skully AR-1 connects to an iPhone or Android smartphone via Bluetooth, allowing drivers to send texts and take calls through voice commands—no need to take your eyes off the road. Skully announced that the AR-1 will be released sometime in 2014.  However, if you just can’t wait for the release of the AR-1, BikeBandit carries Bluetooth communications systems and other helmets with advanced technology, including advanced ventilation systems and carbon fiber construction.

Tap2Pass

Current technology enables smartphones to help keep us safe from the moment we start our engines to the moment we’re back home.  It’s now possible to turn a smartphone into an automatic garage door opener.  The company Flash2Pass created the Tap2Pass receiver.  This receiver communicates with a smartphone through the Tap2Pass app.  The system can be installed on up to 7 phones, essentially giving every member of your family with a smartphone his or her own garage door remote.  The four digit PIN offers an extra layer of security in case the smartphone is lost or stolen.  Tap2Pass works with both iPhone and Android smartphones.

Vehicle-to-Pedestrian and Vehicle-to-Motorcycle Safety Technologies

Although still in the testing phase, vehicle-to-pedestrian and vehicle-to-motorcycle technologies will soon become a possibility, thanks to Honda.  With dedicated short-range communications technology, a smartphone can detect nearby pedestrians and motorcycles and alert both parties of a possible collision using auditory and visual warnings.  In other words, the driver’s smartphone communicates with the pedestrian’s smartphone to predict the chance of an accident.  An app specifically designed for V2P technology will be able to determine a pedestrian’s position, direction and speed.  And get this: the app will even tell drivers if a pedestrian is texting, listening to music or on a phone call.

Spot Connect

This handy little device turns your smartphone into a satellite communicator, something that comes in handy when you’ve lost all cell phone connection and are stranded in the middle of nowhere.  Spot Connect assists you in reaching friends, family, service providers, and, of course, emergency personnel. Notable functions include SOS mode, which discloses your GPS location to the GEOS International Emergency Response Coordination Center, and a Help Mode that sends custom or predefined messages to your chosen contact group.  Spot Connect isn’t just for emergency situations, however.  It also enables you to share your motorcycle adventures with family and friends on Google Maps.  They’ll be able to see your ride progress and know exactly where you’re located.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Kids and Technology: Set an Example While They’re Young

Children and Technology

(Photo Credit: Digital Trends)

As most parents know, your kids are watching you all of the time.  You don’t have to sit down and have a formal conversation with them to teach them things; even kids who seem like they rarely pay attention are observing and learning from your behavior.

As your kids start getting their first smartphones, tablets and laptops, you want them to be responsible. You don’t want them to spend all day in front of a screen, and you want them to be kind to others over the Internet.  One of the best ways to ensure that your kids are responsible with their technology is to be a great role model with your own devices.

With this in mind, the following tips can help parents set an excellent example with their use of technology.

One of the best things parents can do to be good technology role models is to turn their devices off as often as possible—and definitely during family time.  While you might be excited about your new LG Optimus or the latest iPhone and all of the features and apps that can help your busy schedule, if you are on it all of the time, then your children will mimic your actions when they get their own phones.

Moreover, each time we take a quick peek at our texts while aiding our kids with their homework, or each time we interrupt them to say, “I’m sorry, I have to answer this email really quickly,” we’re sending a clear message that we prefer technology over people, claims Dot Complicated.

When your children get their own devices, you will still want them to pay attention to you, so when they are speaking to you, make sure to be fully present with them.  Resist the urge to constantly check emails and texts, and instead give them your full attention.  You also can avoid the distractions by setting some family rules about screen time.  For example, no phones or tablets at the dinner table.  Be sure to follow the rules you establish.

Limit Your Game Time

Yes, you’ve been trying desperately to get past level 199 in Candy Crush so you can crow about it to all of your friends on Facebook.  However, as DigiParenthood notes, keep in mind that your kids are keenly observing how much time you spend playing games on your phone.  Show them the importance of discipline, and that work should come before pleasure by finishing your necessary tasks first.  Finish your chores around the house, help your kids with their homework and walk the dog all before sitting down to play a game.

Many time limit apps out there such as TimeLock, allow parents to designate a certain amount of time their child can use the device.  This is a wonderful tool for you to track how long they spend on the Internet each day, and you can set your own time limits to show your kids that you limit your game time as well.

Be a Good Social Media Citizen

We can talk to our kids about the importance of privacy on social media sites until we are blue in the face, but if our Facebook page is full of posts about personal experiences and situations, our words will probably fall on deaf ears.  Use social media very carefully, and never post anything you wouldn’t want your young children to see—because chances are they will.  Also, be kind and polite while online, even when others are rude; this will help to show your kids the importance of online etiquette.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

How to Use the Internet as a Reliable Research Tool

Online Research

(Photo Credit: Exponential Programs)

Postmodern college students have a research tool not available to students decades ago: the Internet. While the Internet is a boundless source of useful information, it is also littered with less than reliable sources. Another issue many college students face is figuring out how to do in-depth, college-level research, according to Project Information Literacy (PIL). PIL’s online survey of nearly 2,000 college and high school students found that Google was the research tool of choice for nearly 90% of students. While Google can be a beneficial tool, it shouldn’t be your only option for research at the college level. This piece offers some tips about how to use the Internet in more useful ways to conduct research.

Explore Databases

Your high school librarian might have shown you how to access a research database from a workstation in the library.  Once you get to college, the number of online databases available to you increases exponentially.  PIL’s study found that college students today have 19 times more databases available to them than their high school counterparts.  Locate higher education institutions near you along with online resources associated with those institutions.

It’s important to know what database to employ to obtain information that’s actually relevant to your project.  Temple University’s Research Guide recommends that instructors suggest specific databases to use, noting that a 2010 PIL survey revealed that only about 14% of college handouts recommend specific databases.  If your assignment fails to specify, it never hurts to ask your instructor.

Review Individual Sites

The Internet grows larger every minute.  Not only is more information available online every minute, college students can get home internet access for less money than in the past.  A 2012 infographic from Domo divulges that nearly 600 new websites pop up online every minute.  As a student doing research for a credible academic paper, it’s your job to sift through websites to find the ones that provide information that’s accurate.

Luckily, myriad websites give clues as to whether or not you can trust them to offer reliable information. One way to judge the reliability of a website is to look at its domain or URL.  If you’re tracking down health statistics from a government agency, for example, a site that ends in .gov, such as CDC.gov or FDA.gov is going to provide you with accurate information from the actual Centers for Disease Control or Food and Drug Administration.  A website such as CDC.com or FDA.com isn’t necessarily connected to the federal agencies.

You can also discover more about the person who penned the article on the site.  Typically, a credible author will be an expert in his or her field, such as a doctor or a professor.  The article should ideally cite sources and direct you to those sources so that you can verify the information or learn more.

Connect with Your School’s Library

Although the Internet is full of information, there are other resources.  Print books and journals are still excellent sources when writing a paper or working on a project.  You don’t have to trudge to your campus library to track down the books you’re looking for, though.

You can locate books that might be relevant using your school library’s online card catalog.  Some schools let you put the books on hold or check them out online, and then pick them up the next time you’re on campus.  You can also download e-books from the digital collections at some campus libraries, meaning you don’t even have to pick up the books in person.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Make Homeschooling Easier with Technology

Homeschooling

(Photo Credit: Black Blue Dog)

The best learning experiences are the result of a dedicated educator, a student’s curiosity to learn and a supportive environment that values academics. Using technology as a resource can enhance these learning experiences and academic environments, whether lessons are learned in a school or at home.

You’re not just the parent of a homeschooler; you are also a teacher.  You want to inspire your child to think critically and stay motivated.  Technology can cultivate new ways of thinking and new ideas. Android or Apple tablets can specifically serve as creative tools and interactive textbooks.  Tablet materials and apps can customize the learning experience and tailor materials to suit the learning style(s) and meet the needs of a student.

Online Textbooks & iTunes U in Class

Enrich learning experiences at home with electronic textbooks on a tablet.  Services like iTunes U provide customized, hands-on lessons for homeschooled teens of all levels.  Texts and photos come to life when you use electronic textbooks.  Think back to the days when you turned pages and used a marker or highlighter to note sections in printed textbooks.  The postmodern student can learn by swiping a screen, engaging in interactive animations and even rotating a 3-D object.  Highlight notes with a finger.  Zoom in on a diagram.  Create digital study cards.  The tablet is a space-saving, all-in-one learning device that functions as any type of textbook, a note taker and study partner.  Keeping learning materials on a mobile device can be handy for your student to study anywhere.  Homework can be done on a car trip or at a friend’s house.

As a home educator, you can also use online educational apps to organize lesson plans and learning materials for a course in one central location.  Build courses using the iTunes U Course Manager, and your student can listen to an audio lecture, watch a presentation and organize coursework notes.  Then your student can complete assignments and share what he or she learns using any of the thousands of academic-oriented apps available, tablets and popular smartphones.  Help your teen engender a multimedia presentation using special effects in Keynote or a visual web journal using multi-touch editing.  A tablet-based learning curriculum is a dramatic improvement from the days of overhead projectors and plastic report covers and binders.

Smartphone Social Apps

While tablets enhance learning, reserve the smartphone for socialization and fun.  A blog post by Heather Sanders from The Pioneer Woman writes that as a home educator and mom, she welcomes smartphones as a communication tool that “can help students expand their specific hobbies or areas of interests.”  Her daughter Emelie turns to smartphone app Tumblr as her virtual inspiration board and Feedly as her blog reader.  She uses Instagram and Snapchat to share videos and photos with friends. The Kik instant message app also keeps her in touch with international friends.  Sanders’ other daughter, Meredith, likes Wattpad for writing books and reading stories from other authors.  You can even use the smartphone as a study break or incentive.  For example, if your teen aces an exam let her chat with friends on her phone or stream media from Netflix as a reward for meeting her goal.

With the sophisticated advances in technology, postmodern homeschooling can be a rewarding experience for both the teacher and student.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Noteworthy Engineering-Related Kickstarter Campaigns

Engineers always seem to have an idea for a project or two (or 10) rolling around in their heads, and a young platform is providing them with a chance to bring these ideas to life.  Kickstarter.com is a crowdfunding site where users can donate to aspiring startups.  Donors only pay if the project reaches a set financial goal, and campaigns offer incentives to boost donations.  From equipment that turns street scaffolding into furniture to toys that inspire girls to pursue engineering, innovative projects are gaining support from a pool of interested donors, and civil and technical engineers are flocking to this popular platform.

Softwalks

New York is a mecca for civil engineering. Construction and renovation are frequent, so city residents are used to scaffolding. Softwalks, a project that began at Parsons the New School for Design, aims to transform these unsightly frames into community relaxation spots.  The idea is to add seating, plant holders and counters to these structures.  Pedestrians can use these sidewalk shelters to take a phone call, read the paper or drink coffee. Softwalks raised more than $13,000 on Kickstarter, and it expects to begin renovating sidewalks in the near future.  If residents enjoy this beautification project, it could lead to increased interest in sidewalk scaffolding.

GoldieBlox

Engineering student Debbie Sterling loved what she studied, but she noticed her field was dominated by men.  In an effort to get little girls interested in Engineering, Sterling developed GoldieBlox, a series of books and construction toys geared toward girls.  It’s an answer to Legos, Kinex and Lincoln Logs, toys that build spacial skills but are generally geared toward boys.

Sterling’s idea took off.  She hoped to raise $150,000 on Kickstarter but ended up raising more than $280,000.  Today, GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine are available at Toys R Us, and another design is on the way.  A new generation of female engineers will unwrap this unprecedented toy for Christmas.

Formlabs 3-D Printer

Few technologies incite excitement about the future of technology more than 3-D printing.  Kickstarter is a breeding ground for this technology, and Formlabs developed one of the first consumer-focused 3-D printers.  The Form 1 3-D printer is one of the greatest success stories in Kickstarter history. Formlabs hoped to raise $100,000 during its 30-day campaign.  When the last day was up, it had raised just short of $3 million to develop this innovative device.  The Form 1 is available for pre-order and will ship in February 2014.

Melon

Who couldn’t use a little more focus?  Melon is a Kickstarter-funded EEG device that measures brain activity.  This headband connects to an app to deliver real-time measurements of your focus.  Melon also blew its Kickstarter goal out of the water, raising nearly $300,000.  There’s no word yet on when Melon will hit the market, but this jewel of technical engineering will change the way we stay focused.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison