M Learning

Learning with Mobile Technologies

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Mobile technology, once only referring to mobile phones, now spans a wide range of products, from tablets and laptops to even MRI machines! Wireless Internet has provided such a boon to technology that people find it hard to imagine life before. Even our TVs our wireless now! What we often don’t think about is how much better our lives are because of this technology in really fundamental ways. Sure, it’s really cool to be able to binge on your favorite Netflix series from your phone, but your phone can do so much more than that, and so can tablets and laptops and everything else that is mobile. One huge improvement that technology like this has made is in the arena of education.

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Teachers Can Teach

 While teachers have always excelled at what they do, the introduction of mobile technology has made it so much easier for them to teach in new and more efficient ways. The days of the overhead projector are nearly over! Now, teachers can project their lesson to the wall or screen from their laptops or tablets, and they can access new lesson plans at the touch of a mouse or screen. Moreover, schools are beginning to invest in tablets (like iPads) and small laptops (like Chromebooks) to eliminate the need for paper textbooks, workbooks, printed homework or paper in general. These tools have helped thousands of students, and provide a number of resources for teachers that were never even imagined ten years ago.

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Students Can Learn

 Never before in history have student held access to nearly every subject known to man. Interested in quantum physics? Look it up online! Interested in how to sew a blanket? Look it up online! Students in today’s education system have a unique advantage over any generation prior. They often have smart phones and laptops of their own, and often have access to laptops and tablets in school as well. Without this mobile technology, surely these students could still learn just as generations prior did, but it would not be nearly as effective. Another bonus to mobile technology is that it allows students to take their education with them wherever they go. They don’t have to always lug around huge textbooks, and they can access assignments from the school’s website or portal. Many students can even submit papers and homework from these online platforms, meaning that they never have an excuse like, “My dog ate my homework.”

Education Anywhere

 The other fantastic benefit that mobile technology provides is the ability to learn anything from virtually anywhere. Kids can be homeschooled without sacrificing any of the resources found in a traditional school. Kids can travel the world with their parents while still learning. College kids can earn a degree remotely, meaning they never have to step foot on a campus if they don’t want to. Adults can return to college and learn remotely, rather than quitting their day job and being unable to provide for their families. Mobile technology means that people can access the Internet to gain an education like no other generation has been given.

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It’s hard to imagine that expensive device in your child or teen’s hand being a learning tool. All of those social media apps, silly games, and concerns over sexting at any age lead many parents to dread the expected cell phone gift. Parents feel the need to give their children cell phones at an ever-decreasing age. Some surveys even indicate that parents feel children need their own cell phone by 10 years old. If you’re going to get your child a phone, it will most likely be a smart phone in this day and age (because how could a child work with less than a smart phone?). While you’re dreading all of the stupid emojis and Instagramselfies, there are also a number of apps you can use to actually increase your children’s brain function rather than just decrease it.

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Educational Games

 Whether your child is a preschooler or a high schooler, there are tons of “brain games” available through many app stores. Some apps even let the child graduate based on age, grade, or performance in the program so they can keep moving up as they move through school. The best part about some of these games is it hardly feels like learning. Feel free to browse your phone’s app store to see all of the options. Sometimes the paid apps (rather than the free ones) give you the best results, so don’t be afraid to try a few high-rated apps for your child(ren).

Documents and Spreadsheets

 The really amazing thing about smart phones is that you can literally run your whole life from the phone. If you have students who are at a point in their education where they have to type essays or homework in a document, they can even do it from their phone. You can also have your children type their spelling words into a document, or have their chores in a spreadsheet. There are tons of apps for that including the more popular ones by Microsoft and Google. Give your kids the tools to do their homework properly, and they will be ahead of the curve hopefully.

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Browsers

 While the Internet is full of things you hope your children never see (or do), there is also much more to learn from it. Children who have access to the Internet are, statistically speaking, much more likely to graduate high school and go to college. If your child is lucky enough to have a smart phone, he or she has answers at the tip of their fingers. Of course, this doesn’t mean you want them to cheat during a test or anything, but they can quickly research for papers, find a better explanation for a math problem, or check their spelling or grammar easily. The Internet is an amazing place that gives you so many answers to so many questions. If you use the filters properly on your phone, your child should only be able to use the Internet to improve their lives anyways!

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In the early ‘90’s when cell phones the size of walkie-talkies were common-place (but still a sign of status), there was a lot of concern surrounding the dangerous radio waves emanating from them, and what the long-term effects of said waves would be. Many early adopters felt that the risk was minimal, while others (who have since caved in) said they would never use a cell phone because of the possible risks. There are still those that insist cell phones are dangerous, and some science has been found to validate some of their concerns.

Science and Scares

 For many people, using cellphones is just an everyday basic occurrence that doesn’t warrant much thought. Some of us even sleep with our phones next to us on the bed or nightstand (addicted much?). However, the National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom has found no immediate effects from the exposure to radio waves found in any type of cell phone. They have found that being near a phone increases temperature in people, on average, about 0.2 degrees Celsius- hardly enough to raise alarms. However, none of these studies can explain or predict long-term effects from daily use of cell phones- nobody knows because cellphones are still a recent development.

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Children and Cell Phones

What scientists do know is that children are more affected by radio waves and any sort of electromagnetic field put off by any number of devices. This has even been linked to higher instances of childhood leukemia in neighborhoods with poor wiring. While this isn’t the same as how cell phones affect children, smart phones do emit some electromagnetic fields and radiation. To be safe, NHS and a number of organizations recommend that children are limited in their access to cell phones, tablets, and even television.

EMF

 In connection with the electromagnetic fields that emit from cell phones (albeit in small amounts), many people with pacemakers and epilepsy implants have noticed a lot of interference when using their mobile device. Because these things work on an electrical wavelength of some sort, their waves tend to interact with one another, and sometimes not in ideal ways. If you have a pacemaker or an implant for your epilepsy, make sure to evaluate how your device works when it’s around your body while you’re in the care of a doctor (just for the first time exposing yourself) just make sure nothing goes wrong.

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Cancer

 Since the 1970s, many people have been predicting that cell phones will be linked to brain cancer (or other types of cancer) due to overexposure to radiation. So far, there is no study that has found an increased phenomenon of any type of cancer in anybody or group. In one study, a small increase in salivary gland tumors was found in heavy cell phone users (people who are talking on them nonstop), but the data was not found to be statistically significant. At the moment, the scientific community remains unable to claim the long-term effects of cell phone use are detrimental.

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While the mid 1990’s to early 2000’s saw the proliferate release of a number of cellphones, new brands, and new telecom companies like Verizon, T-Mobile and Cricket, the cell phone wasn’t done evolving. Even today, the cell phone continues to amaze. However, most people in 2015 laugh at the term “cell phone,” as these devices have virtually replaced home phones and landlines. To most people, it’s just a phone, or a smart phone. Today, a minority of people (usually the elderly) still have basic cell phones that can call and text only. The majority of people in the United States (about 65 percent) own a smart phone, and some use that as their main device for everything. They do not own a computer or have Internet at their house- their phone is their sole access to the Internet except through work, a family computer, or a public space like a library. Clearly, cell phones have come a long way in the past 20 years.

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4G and the Battle of the Brands

 Today’s cell phone market is dictated by two major brands: Apple and Samsung. Anyone else developing phones is hardly a contender, and are considered the “off brand” phones that you only get when you can’t afford the big brands. Apple and Samsung now have about a yearly release for new phones and software updates (vital to the smart phones). Phones are used less and less for actual phone conversations, and more for texting, email, and social media. They even allow video conferencing and business support for people who need to work “on-the-go” or away from their office.

What started as a 1G digital cell phone signal has now morphed into a 4G, faster than ever thought and still not good enough phenomenon. Individuals will pay more each month to gain access to the fastest wireless network so they can access all of their applications and the Internet from anywhere. The technology is continually improving, and some people have satellite phones that will allow them to have access from anywhere around the world without working about each country’s individual cell phone or Internet structure. It’s pretty amazing how quickly advancements are being made.

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Market Shares

 In terms of cell phone manufacturing, Apple far and wide outsells the competition. Now on their third release of a new version 6, they have managed to keep a monopoly on the phone design and software region. Samsung is a close competitor, but still loses out when Apple releases a new phone. In terms of cell phone service providers, Verizon leads the pack, closely followed by AT&T. T-Mobile has been in the running for a number of years, but continues to lose out because they do not have a direct contract with Apple. The nature of smart phone sales and service has become quite the commodity business. People want new cell phones every 1 to 2 years, and companies have tried to find ways to accommodate that need while making a profit. Cell phone providers are some of the most profitable industries in the world right now, and they are only going to get richer.

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For many Millennials and Generation Z, the idea of life before the mobile phone is nearly unfathomable. They will never know the struggles of finding a payphone to call home, only to realize you don’t have a dime (or later, a quarter). They will never know the joys of holding up your family’s landline while you talked to your crush, hoping that your mother wasn’t listening on the other phone. Moreover, the concept of smart phones are a really, really new development. Even if someone did have a cellphone ten years ago, they were lucky if it had a color screen and backlit buttons! Now, phones do everything from wake you up in the morning to let you make sure you closed your garage door. It’s amazing to think about all of the things a mobile phone can do now, and what it will be able to do in the future, but it has also come a long way.

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The Beginnings

As early as the 1940s, “CB” radios were used in vehicles that used similar signals to communicate across radio broadband. These are still used today for truckers and train engineers and people in similar fields. From there, in the late 1950’s, phone companies began picking up on the trend and putting phones in cars. It became quite common for people to have “bag phones” in their cars through the 1970’s, although only the most affluent people had those first releases. Into the late 80’s and early 90’s more and more people were actually using handheld cell phones, that were fed by wireless towers sending signal “into the air.” There was naturally a lot of ruckus raised, and concerns about brain-melting cell phone waves were put to rest.

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Popularity

By the mid-1990s, cell phone manufacturers and telecommunication companies figured out that the future of cell phones was digital. Digital broadband towers and cables were invested in, and cell phone designs were improved because they did not require as massive of an antenna as previous versions. As the market began to improve, overall cost went down (still about $1,000 for some of the earliest basic cell phone models, even back then!) and services improved as more people invested in the technology. Then, Motorola and other manufacturers began improving their cell phone models on a nearly biannual basis, then nearly every 3-4 months. This increased public interest, as soon the phones went from large walkie-talkie styles, to “customized” styles, with different colors, different ringtones, and different light options.

As screen technology in improved, they released ever more exciting phones, eventually even releasing a color screen that allowed background screens to move! At this point, the advancements seemed endless, and those early adopters were correct. Even today, in late 2015, cell phones are continuing to adapt into ever-increasingly complex creations. Hard to believe that the cell phone started as essentially an overgrown walkie talkie with wider ranges than previous models!

The rest of this series will be continued in our next post!

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As more and more people begin to use mobile devices like smart phones, tablets, and laptops, they are becoming much more susceptible to hackers, identity theft, and a slew of other problems that arise from being on public Internet or having lax security. Of course, it only takes one time to realize that you’re not being vigilant enough, and hopefully there isn’t much damage done. If you’re hoping to learn more about your mobile device, buy someone a mobile device for a gift, or want to make sure you’re just doing as much as you can to use these tools wisely, here are a few ideas on how to stay safe while using your mobile devices.

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Lock It Up

 Just like you always lock your house when you leave, lock your device with a code. This is usually 4 digits, something easy for you to remember, and it goes a really long way in preventing someone from stealing your device or your information. It also is an extra safety measure in case your device does get stolen, as the thief probably won’t be able to use it and you can wipe the device clean from a remote location. They will never touch your information.

WiFi Security

 One of the biggest risks to your personal information and whatever you have on your device stems from using a free WiFi zone. Coffee shops, bookstores and even airplanes now offer free WiFi, but on a shared network it means that other people can go wherever the WiFi goes. This means that other people surfing that same signal can find your smart phone or laptop’s access, and essentially “enter” your computer. To prevent this, make sure the free WiFi is encrypted, make sure you have advanced firewalls on your laptop, and don’t open or share anything over free WiFi that you would be afraid someone could get ahold of.

Parental Controls

 If you are giving your child or teen a smart phone, tablet, or laptop, there are a number of tools you can switch on prior to giving it to them that will ensure they’re safe and do not use it for unapproved searches. Through the Internet settings, you can lock certain sites, keywords, or make it so you have to approve access to the browser before they can use it. There are also controls on phones to prevent the download of certain (or all) apps until you’ve approved, thus preventing huge bills and junk downloads (or inappropriate ones). You can also switch on the locators in most new smart phones, which comes in handy if your child is liable to make up stories about where he or she is, and also if the phone gets lost or stolen.

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Keychains

 A lot of times, people save passwords and logins on their phone so they don’t have to enter them each time. This is great, but make sure you have a lock on the phone itself to ensure no one else gets access to your keychain. It’s also not recommended that you keep payment info saved into accounts or sites, in case those accounts or sites get hacked from another direction.

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The numbers continue to increase: 85 percent of Americans say they couldn’t go a day without their cell phones, and 50 percent of them actually sleep with the phone next to them or under the pillow. Over 75 percent of the younger generations would rather go with money for a day than give up their phone for a day. These numbers are staggering, especially given that 75 percent of the population has a smart phone- that’s millions of people who are possibly addicted to this mobile technology. All of these numbers continue to increase, and many psychologists and mental health professionals are concerned about the long-term ramifications of this reliance. Some professionals do no want to label it an actual addiction, as it may not be a chemical reliance so much as a social or personal one. The good news? Chemical addictions are the hardest ones to kick. The bad news? All bad habits are hard to break. Here are a few tips to help you become a little less reliant on your cell phone.

Leave it Out of the Bathroom

Just do us all a favor, and leave the phone on the counter or table while you go to the bathroom. There are so many germs that studies have found on phones, and they’re expected to come from the restrooms.

Turn it Off

 If you’re beginning to wonder how addicted you really are to your smart phone, try turning it off until you need to use it when you’re out and about (and are not expecting an important phone call or email). Try to spend 5 minutes in line without checking Facebook or answering a text. It’s an interesting experiment to say the least.

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Leave it Out of the Bedroom

 Many couples have found that they spend too much time staring at their phones rather than sharing their days with their loved ones. When it’s time to go to bed at night, keep your phone charging on the kitchen counter or in the bathroom. Don’t keep it next to the bed- that’s too tempting.

Toss it and Leave It

 When you have a big party and want to see how well your friends do without their phones, put a big basket on the table and tell everyone to throw their phones in for the night. The first one to grab their phone gets to buy everyone’s breakfast the next morning (or order in takeout that night). It’s a fun game, and you learn just how much you share on social media when you should be present.

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Leave it at Home

 When you go for a run to the grocery store, or a walk around the neighborhood, leave your phone at home. But what will I listen to while I walk? How will I remember my list! There were ways people did all of these things without smart phones. Don’t let smart phones make you unable to cope with basic activities. You’re smart; you can figure it out.

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Today’s constant exposure to and use of cell phones often makes it difficult to remember what fascinating and amazing technology they really contain. Just ten years ago, you couldn’t use your phone to pay for your groceries, as you now can with programs like ApplePay. Now, it’s hard to imagine not being able to use your phone to find the best local restaurant or where to park. Smart phones have been second nature to us; how did we ever live before them? Of course, many people are now labeling overuse of cell phones as an addiction, and Millennials and Generation Z would rather give up a day’s worth of pay rather than lose their phones for a day (yes, they really said that). With all this concern over the use cell phones, it’s time to remember that they can actually be used for good. Here are a list of apps that remind us just how great cell phones and smart phones can be.

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Emergency ID

 Most new smartphones, including Samsung and Apple models, include an “Emergency” screen that can be accessed even if the phone is locked. This allows people to fill in information about emergency contact numbers, medical issues, and basic identification in case they are ever in need of emergency services and are unable to share that information with first responders. This has changed the game for EMTs and hospitals; just take a person’s phone out of their pocket, swipe to the emergency screen, and immediately know who and what you’re working with. Next of kin can be notified ASAP, and the whole process goes much faster. It can save lives!

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Instead

 There are tons of apps that allow you to donate money to charities, but Instead is a unique opportunity for you to choose how you spend your money. Next time you feel tempted to buy that overpriced latte or another pair of yoga pants at the department store, pull out your phone, open Instead, and give that money to someone else instead. Pretty cool concept right? There are a number of similar apps that let you donate in small increments to any number of charities, and there are a number of shopping apps that donate to a charity of your choice when you use the app. Make sure you’re set up for that, so you’re giving while you’re getting.

Health

 There are a huge number of personal trackers on the market today, but none that you will remember like your smart phone. Most new smart phones have a step tracker, altimeter (flights you’ve gone up), and a variety of other characteristics they evaluate. They also let you track your medicine, your food intake, your water intake, your exercise, and even your sleep. There are apps you can download that your doctor can see, and you can share the results with others to keep you accountable. Never before has technology helped individuals stay healthy like this.

 

Smart phones can literally save lives.