Current Event March 27, 2020
A town in Washington state made plans to boost voter turnout by offering smartphone voting. Less than 1% of eligible voters showed up for a prior election in King County, Washington, and officials reasoned that making elections more accessible to all voters, including people living overseas and the disabled, would increase voter participation. Opponents say the security risks of smartphone voting threaten our democracy, since it is only a matter of time before they are hacked. Listen to hear more about the pros and cons of electronic voting, and then debate: Is smartphone voting a good idea?
Update: Since this story aired, the election has taken place, and voters cast ballots by smartphone or in person. Voter turnout was half of 1%.
Current Event March 13, 2020
Many stores have recently gone cashless, requiring shoppers to pay for their purchases with a credit card or digital app. These business owners say security is better without cash on hand, and check-out lines move faster. But not everyone has a credit card, say opponents, who claim that the policy discriminates against low-income shoppers. Several big cities have now banned cashless businesses in response to complaints. Listen to hear more about the pros and cons of a cashless economy and then debate: Should cashless businesses be allowed?
Current Event February 28, 2020
Fleets of self-driving cars may hit city streets soon, ready to give pedestrians a lift when they need it. But where will the cars wait to be called? To avoid parking fees, experts say driverless cars may circle slowly or even turn deliberately into heavy traffic, clogging city and residential roads and wasting fuel. To discourage this behavior, some have suggested charging cars not just for parking, but for the time they spend on the road. Listen to learn why some people favor “congestion pricing” and then debate: Should self-driving cars be charged for idle time?
Current Event February 12, 2020
A new NASA study is looking for ways to predict snowstorms more accurately. Weather forecasters can tell when a snowstorm is approaching, but they cannot predict how heavily the snow will fall. To help improve forecasts, the study is sending aircraft directly into the center of storms to gather information. Listen to hear a NASA scientist explain what they are looking for and how the data they collect will help forecasters make better predictions.
Current Event January 24, 2020
Unmanned drones are already being used for photography, inspections, and other local projects, but now companies plan to launch them on longer trips to neighborhoods, homes, and health clinics. Some say drones can save lives by delivering medicines and organs for transplant to clinics and reaching people in rural areas with limited access to healthcare. But drones bring added noise to neighborhoods and could cause injuries. Listen to learn more about the pros and cons of drone delivery and then debate: Should drones be used to deliver packages?
Current Event January 9, 2020
Gifted autistic teens can have trouble finding summer programs that push them academically while also supporting their particular social needs. The University of Iowa’s College of Education summer program welcomes teens with autism spectrum disorder and provides the social and academic supports necessary for students to explore advanced subjects in math, science, and the arts. Listen to hear teens with autism spectrum disorder describe their experiences and how this unique summer program has made a difference in their lives.
Current Event December 6, 2019
Smartphones can help kids wake up on time, stay connected to their parents and friends, find information quickly, and access other useful resources. But children with smartphones are also vulnerable to cyberbullying, harmful content, and other risks. A recent national study found children are getting smartphones at younger ages, raising questions about how they are using smartphones and concerns about how to best protect them. Listen to hear more about the survey results and then debate: should kids have smartphones?
Current Event November 22, 2019
Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook disagree on what to do with political ads. Twitter recently banned all political advertising, saying it could not fact-check the claims made by politicians and did not want to spread misinformation. But defining what counts as a political ad is tricky. Facebook continues to run political ads without fact-checking them, citing free speech. Critics claim that political ads on social media can be particularly misleading. Listen to hear an expert discuss these issues and then debate: Should political ads be allowed on social media?
Current Event November 7, 2019
"Alice in Wonderland" is now on Instagram. Social media fans can find five works of literature, including the classic novel by Lewis Carroll, on their social media feeds. The New York Public Library has posted multimedia versions of the works through its new Insta Novel project. By combining the fun and appeal of social media with popular novels and poems, the library hopes to attract new readers. Listen to hear a blogger describe her experience with "Alice" online, and discover how it lined up with the aims of the Insta Novel creators.
Current Event November 4, 2019
For many years, Americans have questioned whether our election system is secure. After Russians meddled in the 2016 U.S. election, officials have been trying to replace old voting machines and add other safeguards to ensure secure elections in 2020. In spite of their efforts, however, experts predict that millions of people will still vote on outdated machines in the next presidential election. Listen to hear about the risks to voting security posed by digital technology, how old-fashioned technology can help, and why more election interference is expected in the future.
Current Event October 25, 2019
A recent study says teens are experiencing increased rates of depression, anxiety, and other serious mental health issues. Although the causes of the trend are not clear, some experts believe hours spent surfing online and using social media have sparked feelings of isolation and anxiety among young people. Others argue the stress stems from teens facing an uncertain future. Listen to experts discuss the roots of this troubling trend and then debate: Can social media cause depression?
Current Event September 20, 2019
In response to mass shootings, many schools are turning to new technologies to help keep their campuses safe. There are a variety of systems that can monitor students’ communication and behavior and detect indicators of potential violence. However, some argue that these technologies violate students’ privacy rights and civil liberties. Listen to learn more about this complex issue and then debate: Should student communication be monitored?
Current Event September 13, 2019
Congress recently held a hearing to consider how technology companies might be endangering the news industry and threatening democracy. Some newspaper publishers argue that online platforms like Google and Facebook unfairly threaten their existence and are controlling public access to information. Some technology executives say this is not the case, suggesting that the news media are not keeping up with innovative competition. In order to resolve this issue, lawmakers have proposed a bill with bipartisan support. Listen to learn more and then debate: Are online platforms threatening democracy?
Current Event September 6, 2019
FaceApp allows people to modify photos to change their appearances, trying out different hairstyles or even seeing what they may look like decades from now. While the app is fun and silly, some political leaders have warned against using it due to privacy issues related to its facial recognition capabilities. However, a technology writer argues that FaceApp is no more dangerous than many other social media applications. Listen to learn more and then debate: Should facial recognition apps cause concern?
Current Event September 5, 2019
Renewable energy sources like solar power can help protect the environment and lower people’s electricity bills. Unfortunately, not everyone is benefitting equally from alternative energy sources and the technologies that harness them. One African-American solar technology professional is trying to reverse this trend. Listen to learn how he is bringing renewable energy to communities of color in Nashville and why this goal is so important to him.
Current Event August 30, 2019
It’s been 50 years since man first walked on the moon. Now, decades later, NASA is working on sending a manned spacecraft back to the moon. This time, however, the trip to the moon is part of a larger plan: getting man to Mars. However, NASA will need bipartisan political support to make their goals a reality, and some have dismissed this mission as unnecessary. Listen to learn how and why NASA plans to send astronauts to the moon and beyond and then debate: Should we send astronauts to the moon again?
Current Event August 26, 2019
A man recently shot and killed 22 people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. Just before he committed this terrorist act, he posted a manifesto describing his motivations in an online forum called 8chan. Two other mass shooters also published their intentions on 8chan before their attacks this year. Listen to learn more about the role digital technology can play in extremist violence and the consequences 8chan has faced since the El Paso shooting.
Current Event August 16, 2019
YouTube has started removing videos containing extremist content promoting white supremacy. Some people and organizations support this policy as a way to make social media platforms safer. Others point out that the system for removing videos is imperfect, and this policy could interfere with video creators’ right to freely express themselves. Listen to learn more about YouTube’s new restrictions and then debate: Should YouTube remove extremist videos?
Current Event August 5, 2019
It has been 50 years since the first moon landing. Astronaut Michael Collins orbited the moon while his more well-known colleagues Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin first walked on its surface. As someone who was just 15 miles away from this world-famous event, Collins offers a unique perspective on the moon landing. Listen to learn about his experience and hear why he believes humans should continue traveling into space today.