SmartBooks: Paving the Way for Better Education

For centuries, the age-old textbook has been the mainstay of every educational institution every existed. Books of learning are the foundation of every teaching curriculum of every teacher, instructor and professor that ever attempted to impart knowledge to the following generation. However, this time immemorial tradition of using textbooks in school will soon get upgraded into the technological advances of today and is now being known as SmartBooks.

Cocept of SmartBook illustrated.SmartBooks are electronic devices that infuse the power of computers with the efficiency of textbooks and upgrading it into a modern method of learning which will revolutionize teaching methods in the future. It uses the adaptive learning process, which is the main concept of many computerized educational platforms already in existence. However, SmartBooks takes it a step further by allow a larger interactivity between the program and student and more.

SmartBooks and Adaptive learning

Ever since the development of computers, various methods of integrating this technology into educational systems automatically began and it developed the “adaptive” learning system. It is the inclusion of interactive experience in teaching, through computer programs designed for education purposes. SmartBooks uses the adaptive learning programs and techniques already used in other programs and improving it greatly with the help of modern technology. With modern computer gadgets, mobile devices, tablets and such, SmartBooks can now reach a much larger audience and can be more useful compared to other earlier adaptive learning programs ever developed.

Major Advantages of SmartBooks

The traditional textbook only delivers information in one way and practically relies wholly on the ability of the student to understand its text. SmartBooks on the other hand allows comprehensive interaction for the student and can also program study curriculum according to the level of the student, a feature so revolutionary, that it can drastically change established traditional learning methods and norms of today.

Features of the SmartBook

The “adaptive learning” concept is the cornerstone of the SmartBook development. The ability to help students learn in an interactive way is the main theme of every feature included in this education program. These are some of the known features of SmartBooks that is introduced by McGraw-Hill publishing company.

LearnSmart Labs — is an interactive program that provides a virtual, “photo-realistic” laboratory experience for students to work on. Students can easily perform laboratory experimentations without the hassle of preparing a real laboratory for students. It has been said that it is the closest virtual alternative for the real thing and it can drastically improve teaching methods.

LearnSmart Prep — it provides helpful information for students before entering difficult courses. Another “adaptive learning” feature of SmartBooks, this prepping program for students can really help them adapt to the difficult level of advance courses, especially when attempting to acquire a degree.

LearnSmart Achieve — This program helps student realize weaknesses in their educational career and provides an interactive and comprehensive “tutorial” help which targets these weaknesses. The program included various tutoring programs that will be extremely helpful for students who do not have the time for extra tutoring services from professors.

SmartBooks for Instructors

SmartBooks can also be used by instructors and not only by students. The same interactive programs can also be used to better provide an educational experience for students in schools and universities.

McGraw-Hill Publishing and its support in SmartBook development

One of the major supporters and developers of SmartBook technology is the McGraw-Hill publishing company, which is a major distributor and publisher of textbooks used in many educational institutions worldwide. The publishing company McGraw-Hill hoping to change education for the better with SmartBooks, has already began its intensive marketing campaign to promote this new educational innovation. Brian Kirby, current president of McGraw-Hill, said

Android Phones Continue to Increase Market Share Across the Globe

Samsung Galaxy Mega Smartphone photo provided by ATT.com.According to recent mobile industry reports from International Data Corporation (IDC) and ComScore, Android phones have the highest market share, followed by Apple and Blackberry. Microsoft’s Windows Phone, on the other hand, is growing slow and steady. IDC figures indicate the growing popularity and adoption of smartphones, with y-o-y sales up by 51.3% between 2Q12 and 2Q13. Android phones continue to increase market share across the globe, powered by an interesting mix of devices churned out by OEmaMs such as Samsung and LG, as well as the increasingly popular Lenovo, Huawei and ZTE. These vendors reportedly account for over 62.5% of Android phones, while local manufacturers in emerging markets also have risen to prominence in recent times.

The IDC Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker report as of August 7, 2013 includes a comprehensive dataset on the shares of major smartphone operating systems and their annual shipment numbers, as well as y-o-y change.

Android, which enjoyed 69.1% of the 2Q12 share, has, in fact, captured a lion’s share of the global market; 79.3% easily attributable to the 187.4 million units been shipped across the world as of 2Q13, achieving a 73.5% year-over-year change. With Samsung lining up one hi-end device after another to challenge Apple’s flagship iPhone versions, mobile users this time have taken fancy to Samsung’s Galaxy S4.

iOS, on the other hand, with just 16.6% of the 2Q12 share, hardly managed to ship 31.2 million units as of 2Q13, accounting for 13.2% share of the mobile market as of 2Q13, managing an year-over-year change of 20%.

Comscore quarterly statistics spanning March to June 2013 performance, confirms a clear duopoly in the US, with Android bagging 52% of the market share, while Apple stood second with 39.9%, Blackberry just edging ahead of Windows Phone (3.1%) to capture the third place with 4.4% of the US market.

As competition continues to heat up, experts believe that a decline in iOS’ market share is a direct result of the company’s product launch schedules that happen in cycles. With the highly-spruced-up iOS7 expected to hit the markets later this year, Apple is expected to bounce back into the game. A well-timed release of a couple of new iPhone versions is all that Apple needs to consolidate its stand.

However, Android is all set for the battle ahead, with Samsung prepared to launch the all new version of the Galaxy Note. According to Gartner statistics, out of the 178 million worldwide Android device shipments in the quarter, 40% were from Samsung, giving a measure of the popularity of the Korean company’s devices. In terms of mobile applications downloaded, Android is a clear winner according to the App Annie Market Index. The Q2-2013 Android app downloads were 10% higher than those for iOS.

Interestingly, a recent communication from the US authorities have warned Android users of the OS being prone to malicious attacks – 79% of such attacks being targeted at Android devices during the last year. iOS, on the other hand, hardly accounts for .7% of malware instances. Enjoying a wide market share is no matter of pride when Android’s innumerable versions, open-architecture and flexibility pose a threat to data security.

Android has, however, no reason to celebrate as far as the Q2-2013 earnings (19%) go, as Apple even with its older versions of iPhone steadily continues to rake up earnings (33%), despite a lower market share.

Can Traffic App Make You A Better Driver?

Image of traffic cameras.Can traffic app make you a better driver? That just may be one of the many benefits of the PhantomALERT app, available now for GPS devices and smart phones. With this app, drivers can receive alerts in both visual and audio forms indicating the locations of speed traps, DUI check points, red light cameras, speed cameras, and more. The notifications can help drivers to avoid traffic tickets, as well as to become more aware of their surroundings while out on the road.

How Does it Work?

The concept of the app is simple, and it is easily implemented with a GPS device or a smart phone. Drivers who are out on the road throughout the United States and Canada can report the locations of things like school zones, red light cameras, speed traps, dangerous intersections, DUI checkpoints, and more. Next, other drivers will get to verify and rate those reports, which will then be turned into alerts. The alerts can be downloaded onto a smart phone or GPS system in just a few minutes. These accurate alerts are delivered to devices in a timely manner, which allows drivers to plan and react accordingly.

The Benefits

The PhantomALERT app is a completely legal and safe way to help drivers avoid costly traffic tickets. By receiving alerts, a driver will have the opportunity to reduce their speed before approaching speed traps, red light cameras, intersections with traffic cameras, construction zones, and more. It is not safe to be exceeding the speed limit in any case, but many people regularly do. Drivers can see how many alerts are in the area, and prepare for all of those conditions as they set off on their journey. That may also mean choosing alternate routes in order to avoid certain conditions.

The alerts serve as a reminder to slow down and drive more cautiously. There are construction zones, school zones, and other similar conditions on many roadways, on any given day. Not only will a driver avoid being pulled over by the police and receiving a traffic ticket for being in violation of the traffic laws, but they can also become more aware of their driving habits. Awareness can lead to making changes that will have a positive impact over time. It is possible that an individual could change their driving habits in a way that makes them drive better and safer.

Alerts for school zones make it easy for a driver to prepare to slow down as they approach the area, or to avoid it altogether, if possible. There is also a feature for smart phones that allows drivers to access live traffic feeds, which can help them to avoid areas with traffic jams and delays. Traffic jams are a hassle that many people would like to avoid, so receiving an alert will allow a driver to find an alternate route to take.

Is it Legal?

The PhantomALERT app is absolutely 100% legal to use throughout the United States, Canada, and wherever it is sold. Drivers do not have to worry about being on the wrong side of the law when downloading this app onto smart phones or GPS devices. Police departments and public safety organizations have actually used the product themselves, and have shared testimonials.

So can traffic app make you a better driver? It certainly seems possible that the PhantomALERT can help a driver to become more aware of their habits and behaviors while out on the road. Having a greater awareness of one’s actions and surroundings can lead to improvement behind the wheel. There are various conditions that a driver will encounter on the road, on any given day. Keeping that in mind, the alerts will allow a driver to prepare. Drivers get the benefit of avoiding costly traffic tickets, as well as driving safer and smarter during their daily commute.

Why is President Obama Seeking Expansion of E-rate Program?

Internet access for students.In June 2013, President Obama initiated the most ambitious plan in 16 years for the expansion of Internet access to US schools. The existing Schools and Libraries Program, or E-rate, already provides subsidies to schools and libraries, to help them gain access to Internet services and digital devices. So why is Obama seeking expansion of E-rate program?

The E-rate program was originally set up in 1997, as mandated by the 1996 Telecommunications Act. However, in the 16 years of its existence, there have been very limited revisions to the program, while the world of technology has changed almost beyond recognition. Fewer than 15% of schools had Internet access when the program was set up, and most of the access that was available was by dial-up connection. Even where services are available, the speed is not adequate to allow large numbers of students to connect at the same time, and the requests for funding far outstrip the budget available.

President Obama’s proposal in June came within the context of the ConnectEd initiative, which has the objective of connecting 99% of students in the US at a minimum of 100 mbps by 2014, aiming at 1 gbps within 5 years, as well as providing a high-speed wireless connection in schools. This is required because it is not just technology that has moved on in the last couple of decades — classroom learning models have changed exponentially. Digital textbooks now allow for progressive updates as new knowledge is acquired, replacing the old dog-eared text books which became outdated very quickly. Students cannot take advantage of these and other developments, without good quality broadband.

The body responsible for implementing the initiative is the Federal Communications Commission or FCC, and on July 19, 2013, this body issued a Notice setting out the broad targets for updating the E-rate program, and inviting public comment. The challenge for the FCC is to modernize the program in a way that meets the ConnectEd objectives, while at the same time remaining fiscally responsible, and keeping the program cost-effective. The FCC also recognized the need to attempt to streamline the administration, which has become extremely complex.

One of the major questions is how the expansion is to be funded. Currently the program is funded through a charge on consumers’ telephone bills, and the initial proposal is to increase the amount customers pay by $5 per year, which works out at about 40 cents per month. Along with this, the FCC proposes to reprioritize the funding, by moving the subsidies from voice telecommunications, where they currently are, to high capacity broadband. It would also phase out subsidies for services which are seen to be outdated, such as directory assistance, paging services, web hosting, and stand-alone voice services.

Another suggestion for increasing funding is to reduce administration costs by streamlining the service. This may in fact prove difficult, given that some of the proposals will actually add complexity to the process, rather than simplifying it. However, there is still ample scope for making the application process less unwieldy — nearly 25% of applications that are unsuccessful are rejected simply because of errors in the actual application. In fact, many school districts are forced to hire consultants, as the only way of ensuring that their application is correct.

The answer to the question lies at least partly in the demands of both the national and global economy. To compete in the present-day global economy, the country needs a skilled workforce with strong education in technology, math and science. Along with this, in a national economy which is three-quarters driven by consumer spending, it is essential that the country should be producing educated workers who can also be highly-paid consumers. This, of course, goes along with the moral imperative that the students deserve this quality of education for their own sake.

Track Chairs Provide New Opportunities for Wounded Veterans

track-chairs-are-great-news-for-our-wounded-vetsImage courtesy of Fox News Video.

The average person takes walking on different surfaces for granted. Not so, for the wheel chair bound individual. They can’t easily go on a picnic or go to the beach in the standard wheelchair. The track chair removes all those old obstacles, with its ability to traverse all types of terrains. The track chair user can travel over gravel, grass, sand, snow and uneven grounds. The mobility it opens up to the wheel chair bound makes activities formerly restricted from their participation available once more, such as hunting, fishing, wading in water at the beach and camping.

The track chair is made with ease of use in mind. It’s controlled by a joystick, which the average person can easily manipulate. Powered by a 12 amp battery, the chair runs at 3-5 miles per hour with a 6 mile range. Comfortably transporting up to 350 pounds, it also has two cargo areas on the sides and in the back. The width of the armrests can be specified to accommodate a larger person or a smaller person, making maneuverability more convenient. Instead of the traditional thin wheels the track chair moves along on two 6.5 inch wide rotating tracks that propel the chair over all types of terrain. The latest incarnation of the chair is the Trackstander, which actually allows the paralyzed veteran the ability to stand with the aid of a built in mechanism that raises the individual to a standing position and locks them is safely so they don’t have to fear falling.

Use of the track chair, not only makes a huge difference in the social life of the amputee, because of their increased mobility; it expands the work opportunities in which veterans can now participate. Amputees can now seek employment as sports coaches, now that they can navigate a grassy playing field in their track chairs. Camping is now something amputees can return to with the aid of a track chair. Girls and boys groups who need escorts and team leaders have a deeper pool from which to recruit with the addition of all terrain ambulating wounded veterans.

If sportsmanship was something the wounded veteran enjoyed prior to losing his limb or becoming paralyzed. He or she has a greater chance to return to it with the use of the track chair. A fisherman can more easily traverse ramps, plank harbors, decks and walkways in a track chair. His added mobility could open up opportunities to host fishing trips and own or simply operate his own sport fishing or commercial fishing boat.

With the Trackstander, an amputee can stand and fish, stand and cut trimmings off a tree or bush and do a whole host of other activities that require standing. If they interview for a position that requires standing during their work hours, they have the capacity to do it with the help of standing option on the Trackstander. For hunters, the chair has a stealth mode which allows the hunter to sneak up on his prey and he can do it all while standing or sitting.

Track chairs cost approximately $15,000 each. If a wounded veteran can obtain one of these all-terrain vehicles, a world of opportunities can be made available to them. They can participate in more sporting and outdoor activities, plus track chairs provide new job opportunities for wounded veterans.

There are many reasons to feel compassion for amputees and paralyzed veterans, but their lack of mobility will soon be less and less of a reason. The cost is high, but if we put the strength of our great nation behind giving these veterans a chance at far greater mobility through track chair ownership, we will change many lives for the better. These newly mobile veterans will be employable at many different types of vocations and they will be able to enjoy activities that they thought were just great memories in their past. With the use of a track chair, once again they will be able to hunt, fish, camp, garden, go to the beach, play in the snow and explore the wilderness, plus a whole lot more that life has to offer.

The Independence Fund raises monies to fund track chairs for wounded U.S. veterans. Click here to visit their website.