Current Event January 3, 2018
People communicate in many ways on their cell phones. Twenty-five years ago, cell phones weighed 4 pounds and were only used to make and receive telephone calls. The first text message was transmitted Dec. 3, 1992, changing the way people communicate. Listen to hear more about how phone technology has evolved.
Current Event December 7, 2017
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decided to remove laws that protect net neutrality. Net neutrality is the result of laws that have been in effect for 2 years that prohibit Internet service providers from speeding up or slowing down any websites you use. Without net neutrality, Internet service providers could go from being neutral gateways to gatekeepers. There are differences in opinion about whether this will be helpful for consumers or the economy. Listen to hear from the former FCC chairman about his thoughts on an open Internet.
Current Event December 6, 2017
For people facing issues from stress to self-harm, there is a new way to get support. The Crisis Text Line provides free crisis intervention through text messages. Counselors have exchanged more than 50 million messages with people who are in crisis and need to talk with someone right away, but might not feel comfortable making a phone call to a traditional crisis hotline. In this story you’ll hear one volunteer counselor explain how she intervenes when people are in crisis and text for help.
Current Event November 17, 2017
Like the United States, Germany is grappling with fake news and hate speech and what to do about it. Offenses are banned under law, but on the Internet what is fake and what is hate speech is not always clear. The German parliament recently passed a controversial law imposing big fines on social media companies that fail to remove illegal, racist or slanderous posts. German ministry officials are anticipating a large volume of complaints about censorship. Listen to this story about social media and offensive posts, and the debate: Should social media sites be fined for not removing fake news and hate speech?
Current Event November 9, 2017
There is evidence that Russian campaigns on social media sent out fake news stories and false conspiracies to create divisions among Americans during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. Executives from Facebook, Google, and Twitter are being asked about this interference in the first public congressional hearings on Russian propaganda. Listen to hear more about how Russian propaganda affects people’s beliefs and behavior, and how quickly false stories spread.
Current Event October 25, 2017
Most people want to buy new phones with the latest technology, but new devices lead to electronic waste, or e-waste, when old phones are discarded. Phone companies used to offer free phones with contracts, which meant people got new phones every two years. Now contracts are changing and there are new ways people are thinking about phones. One way is the modular approach, where the components are detachable and replaceable. Another is to create longer-lasting phones that are better for the environment. Listen to this story about how new technology can help eliminate electronic waste.
Current Event October 20, 2017
Middle and high school students can spend a lot of time on their phones. Teens use technology to communicate and share information and a new study by the Pew Research Center finds this is helping teens be more creative and collaborative. But many teachers say students are taking shortcuts to writing and finding it difficult to understand longer material. Listen to this story and then debate: Does technology help or hurt writing skills?
Science Middle School
People rely on batteries to power our technology: laptops and phones run on rechargeable batteries. These can leak and are full of chemicals. But over time, these batteries stop re-charging, forcing us to purchase a new battery. But what if our batteries never died? A new battery was recently created that can last over 100 times longer than typical batteries. Listen to this story to figure out how one scientist has engineered a new battery.
Current Event October 18, 2017
The white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA in August brought hundreds of people carrying shields, guns, and torches who marched while shouting racist chants. Many people shared photos of these marchers to publicly identify them as racists. But there was at least one person misidentified. A university professor was flooded with people threatening him online because he looked like someone who attended the rally. This event highlights the fact that most people are not experts at identification. Listen to this story to hear the consequences of being mistaken for someone else in the era of social media.
Current Event September 22, 2017
In neighborhoods in and near Houston, Texas, many people stranded by the flooding brought on by Hurricane Harvey were not able to get through to 911. That's when social media sites such as Facebook, Nextdoor and Twitter became important connectors for people to ask for help. Some think these are effective when calls to emergency personnel don’t go through, and others encourage people to stick to 911 instead of social media. Listen to this story and then debate: Social media or 911: Who do you ask for help?
Current Event September 14, 2017
The cafeteria can be a scary place when you do not have a place to sit. Natalie Hampton, an 11th grader, has created an app to help students avoid this feeling. The “Sit with Us” app helps students find “open lunches”, which are tables with students willing to have people they don’t know join them. Listen to hear about how Natalie Hampton took her lunch time struggles and created an app to save students from facing public rejection in the cafeteria.
Current Event September 7, 2017
Minecraft has become one of the largest and fastest growing games of all time. It is a game of free realm, allowing people to build whatever they please, with creativity and innovation. Unfortunately, not everyone has equal access to Minecraft as it is costly to have all the equipment. One non-profit group is helping to provide access to a wider audience of future coders. Listen to hear about how this Minecraft camp exposes young kids to a future where creativity and computer science collide.
Current Event August 18, 2017
As more police departments around the country are using body cameras, a new debate is arising about who should have control over the images that they capture. As of now, the police themselves control the video images, which some believe may lead to a potential conflict of interest. This story explores both sides of the issue, and how police departments can work to improve their relationship with the public. Listen to this story and then debate: Who should have access to police body camera footage?
Current Event June 19, 2017
Recently, Uber announced plans to use new technology to create flying cars which will be ready for demonstration by 2020. Rather than picturing a car from a science fiction story, imagine a vehicle that looks more like a helicopter. In fact, Uber is calling them “vertical takeoff and landing aircraft”. Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas were selected as the company’s first United States partner cities. Listen to an aviation engineer from Uber explain this new technology.
Current Event June 9, 2017
A new technology has been developed that could help law enforcement detect if a person has been texting while driving. Typically, in cases of auto accidents, law enforcement has to get an order from a court to look through a person’s phone records to see if they were texting at the wheel. This is a lengthy and difficult process that many believe slows the course of justice. However, the “textalyzer”, if used, would allow police to plug into a driver’s phone and quickly see their last 90 seconds of phone activity to determine if they were texting and driving. Listen to learn more about texting-while-driving bans and debate the benefits and challenges of using the textalyzer to improve safety.
Current Event May 22, 2017
A recent unprecedented global cyberattack was responsible for 75,000 different infections in more than 70 countries. The ransomware, which is a type of software that locks files and demands money to unlock them, took advantage of a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows. The worst of the attack is over, since a security researcher was able to effectively trigger a kill switch to stop the infection from spreading and Microsoft issued an emergency patch for its operating system. Listen to hear more about this cyberattack and what was learned.
Current Event May 12, 2017
The Federal Communications Commission, or FCC, is in the process of trying to repeal regulations on internet service providers, known as net neutrality rules. The basic principle of net neutrality is that internet service providers should not be allowed to block or slow access to any websites, apps or other services. And service providers such as Comcast and Verizon should not be able to charge companies for faster access. Currently, internet providers are required to treat every website equally. Listen to learn more about net neutrality and the FCC’s plans to roll back internet regulations and then debate: Should all websites be treated equally on the internet?
Current Event March 16, 2017
Studies show that teen girls are more vulnerable to depression. In fact, girls are three times more likely than boys to become depressed, due in part to social pressures such as the overemphasis on physical appearance and the prevalence of social media. Not only are girls more likely to use social media, they also appear to be more vulnerable to the emotionally damaging effects of a constant, virtual connection. Listen to learn more about trends in teenage depression and the role of social media.
Current Event March 10, 2017
It is easier today for whistleblowers to leak confidential information to the press as a result of several new high-tech tools for leaking. Using encrypted messaging apps and email services, ordinary people are now able to give anonymous tips to news outlets. The Washington Post, New York Times and ProPublica have published guides that outline different options for sending in anonymous tips. At the same time, technology is also allowing the government and law enforcement to seize the personal information and communication history of whistleblowers and journalists. Listen to learn more about these new tools and then debate: Do you believe leaks are criminal or is leaking information acceptable in some cases?