Current Event January 9, 2017
This week, the Obama administration announced sanctions against Russia after saying it was confident the Russian government interfered in last year's presidential election. The purpose is to deter Russia from cyberspace hacking in the future. The United States also expelled 35 undercover intelligence agents to deter Russia from harassing U.S. diplomats in Russia. Listen to hear more about possible retaliation and what actions are legal when the U.S. is not at war.
Current Event January 4, 2017
Five centuries ago, a German monk named Martin Luther protested the practice of indulgences. Christians who hoped to go to heaven and escape purgatory could make a cash offering to buy an “indulgence” certificate. The money often supported corrupt church officials and politics. Martin Luther presented 95 “theses” against the sale of indulgences, and sparked the Protestant Reformation. These ideas were circulated widely due to the recent invention of the printing press. Listen to hear more about how this technology changed religious ideas.
Current Event December 9, 2016
Law enforcement’s use of facial recognition databases is expanding, but the technology is not as accurate as it could be. Nearly half of all American adults, more than 117 million people, have been entered into a database for use by police and FBI. In large databases, it is more likely to find people who look similar. This technology also does not work well with darker skin. Listen to hear more about this technology and debate whether law enforcement should rely on facial recognition.
Current Event November 23, 2016
Since Donald Trump's election victory, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has come out twice to address the issue of fake news. A spokesperson said Facebook is not doing business with fake news apps. These are sites that promote false and inaccurate information which then goes viral. Facebook sells ad space inside its news feed and says these outside parties are not allowed to use the ad network. However, stories make money for Facebook when they are clicked, if they happen to get posted. Google, another tech giant, said it's working on a policy to keep its ads off fake news sites. Listen to hear more about this social media controversy.
Current Event November 3, 2016
Self-driving cars have been getting a lot of attention lately, with companies such as Uber, Tesla and Google trying out their autonomous vehicles on city streets. However, the big shift towards self-driving vehicles may not be with fancy electric cars, but with long-haul trucks. Trucks are well-suited for self-driving technology and will make the job of driving less dangerous. Listen to hear why people are predicting that trucks will undergo the shift earlier than cars.
Current Event September 16, 2016
Social media has an interesting effect on teenagers and the way they think. This study used social media and tested how teens responded to various photos online. Teens were shown an image that was deemed to have lots of "likes." The teens tended to like the image also. They found that teens responded strongly to the more popular pictures, regardless of which ones they were. Seeing popular pictures also produced greater activation in the reward centers of the brain. Listen to hear more about the effect of social media on the way teens think.
Current Event August 24, 2016
For the first time in history, two pilots flew the Solar Impulse 2, a solar powered plane, around the world without using any fuel. This technology will have to be developed more before the public will be able to fly in them. Nevertheless, this flight symbolized the innovative progress made by aviators and energy conservationists. Listen to the story to hear more about the flight from pilot, Bertrand Piccard.
Current Event July 7, 2016
Volkswagen, the largest car maker in Europe, is known for making cars that are good for the environment. Last year Volkswagen admitted to knowingly cheating the emissions tests of their diesel cars. They have now agreed to pay more than $15 billion to compensate customers and to fix damage done to the environment. This is the biggest judgment ever made against an automaker.
Current Event May 13, 2016
Uber is a ride-sharing company that allows users to request rides, and allows drivers to use their own cars to provide rides. When demand for Uber rides is greater than the supply, Uber uses “surge” pricing. During surge pricing, the rides cost 2, 3, or 4 times more than they do normally. The drivers like surge pricing since it accounts for a large part of their income. But the riders don’t like surge pricing because they pay more for the same ride. Uber is planning to end surge pricing. Listen to this story and debate the rights of both the workers and the consumers. Have students think about whether consumer rights are more important than worker’s rights.
Current Event March 11, 2016
There are at least 600 schools across the country that have handed iPads to every student. At Burlington High School in Massachusetts, the students are using iPads and not textbooks. The principal states that everything students need for learning can be found on their web-enabled devices. Textbooks are static and publisher-driven, whereas in this school they focus on personalized learning where students frame the coursework. Some say technology should be limited in order to engage students in real world experiences, and that textbooks are an important part of how students learn. Listen to the story of this High School and debate with your students: Are textbooks or tablets better for student learning?
Current Event March 4, 2016
After a shooting in San Bernadino, California, a controversy has erupted around national security and data privacy. A federal judge has ordered the technology company Apple to access private data on the shooter’s cell phone. Apple has refused to comply. While the government feels that accessing this data is crucial for national security, Apple believes that doing so would be an invasion of privacy. The results of the case could impact the ways that phones are designed in the future. Listen to the story and debate with your students the issue of personal privacy versus national security.
Update: The FBI dropped its case against Apple to require them to unlock the iphone because it was able to use a third party to access the data on the phone.
Current Event February 19, 2016
Most of the 1.3 billion people in India have no way to go online. Facebook has offered a free version of the internet to users in India, with selected apps. Since only selected content is free, India has prohibited this access. It upholds the principle of net neutrality, that the Web is open and prioritizes no service over another. The government of India doesn't want Facebook to be the gatekeeper of content and says people should be allowed to select their own content. Others say free service for the poor should be pursued. Listen to this story and debate with your students: Should the Internet be free or paid?
Current Event February 12, 2016
Cyberbullying is relatively easy to get away with, and nearly half of students report being bullied online. A new app could stop this trend. The app is called STOPit and allows students to report bullying anonymously. Schools buy the app and ask students to send in screenshots and report on when they see bullying on social media. Listen to hear more about this new way to address bullying and then debate with your students: What’s the best way to stop bullying?
Current Event February 11, 2016
Li-Fi is a lot like Wi-Fi, but it uses light to transmit data. In tests, it is 100 times faster than an average home Wi-Fi connection. Li-Fi uses LED lights to transmit data and these lights can become communication devices. The spectrum is larger and slow downs that are often seen in Wi-Fi are not an issue. Listen to hear more about this exciting invention.
Current Event August 18, 2015
Farm work is on the decline, but work in agriculture-related business is booming. Two ways that technology is transforming the farming business is in creating websites where farmers can find bargains on seeds and selling technology solutions to help farmers collect and monitor data. Listen to hear the many new jobs that are being created using technology in interesting ways to improve farming businesses.
Current Event June 19, 2015
Not all people can hear. Some people are born deaf and others lose their hearing during their lifetime because of an illness. Because hearing loss is complicated, there isn’t one solution. Hearing aids and cochlear implants are common solutions but they don’t work for everyone. A new procedure called an auditory brainstem implant might be the solution for people who don’t respond to traditional hearing aids. Listen to learn more about the human ear, causes of hearing loss and the new solution this procedure presents.
Current Event June 10, 2015
When veterans return from combat they bring with them memories of their service that can impact their mental health. Successfully screening returning veterans for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression is a challenge. The University of Southern California has designed a computer program, known as Ellie, that could help solve this problem. Ellie analyzes the tone and facial expressions of soldiers as they answer questions. It’s able to detect more than you might think. Listen to learn more about this promising new technology and how it can help veterans heal.
Current Event April 8, 2015
Social media is used to post pictures, follow others, and communicate with friends and family. But it can also be used to share pictures of everyday life with people across the globe, changing perspectives and worldviews. This happened when Ugaaso Abukar Boocow, a Somali refugee living in Canada, returned to Somalia to explore her home country and spend time with her mother. The media often focus on civil war, violence and poverty that has plagued Somalia since the early 90’s, but Ugaaso is exposing the world to the beauty and small moment of everyday life in the Somali capital Mogadishu through her Instagram feed.
The Amish are a Christian religious group who are known for their isolation and rejection of modern technology. Popular culture has shaped our understanding of the Amish community, from the Harrison Ford movie Witness to TLC’s show Breaking Amish. But this lens on the Amish doesn’t show the complexities of their religious culture. Listen to learn more about the Amish and their complicated but thoughtful relationship with technology.
Discussion of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emissions often occur at the national level. Nations promise to lower emissions and scientists look for alternative energy sources. But new software is providing data for this emission reduction discussion at a local level. The software allows people to have a view into their carbon emissions on the level of a city, neighborhood, block and even household. Listen to learn how scientists and local officials are working together to track and understand emissions at the local level.