Sunday, January 11, 2009

Twenty-first Century Toys and Tools

Getting the hang of using new technology can sometimes be time consuming. I always wonder as I am learning how to use the latest gadget or program I adopt if it will actually enhance my life or at the very least help me to manage my time and resources. Some technology can prove to be a complete distraction from all of my goals, and some make my ends I am striving for so much easier to reach.

Satellite television has been in our home for many years, but over the past two years we have enjoyed a tool called a DVR that lets us not only record programs we like or want to watch for a time that is convenient for us, but it also allows the pausing of live TV so that people can come first. We can also "rewind" to parts we missed and if we are watching recorded, or previously paused, materials, we can fast forward through the commercials. I call it an enhancement, as I am only watching things I choose to watch, and I am not stuck with whatever is on the tube when I have free time. I can also do things in my life and still catch programming that I would have otherwise missed. Once I watch I can delete it from the disk. Each disk can store one to two hundred hours of memory, and about a sixth or that if we use HD. If I want to keep the program, I can burn it to a DVD for repeated watching. Although I did have a VCR that would do that job for almost two decades, the DVR is much more convenient. My dependency on the DVR had got to the point that if I was watching a program on a TV without the DVR, I missed the ability to pause. That is no longer an issue as we now have that ability on each TV.

I use Outlook at work to keep a list of tasks that are not daily routines and the status for each task. I use the electronic calendar, reminder system and of course the e-mail management within the program too. The program stays open throughout the day and is updated when needed and referred to many times each work day. It is my first link to co-workers, and the program helps me keep track of my work responsibilities outside of daily routines and upcoming events. Please note that there are many new types of technology at work that I do not use yet. I am hesitant because they will take such a large chunk of time to learn to use them before I could make them a part of my lessons. I do have a goal to add many as the years progress. But as I do, they will have to prove to be either efficient or motivating or they will not be continued.

The iPod is another tech tool that has proven handy, and I have only been using that over the past year. I can put anything from my music and book CDs onto this gadget including favorite songs and current Bible readings. I also download podcasts from radio or TV shows that are on while I am normally working and books or songs that I like. I can mix the songs from CDs or computer downloads into a variety of play lists, and listen depending on my current mood or activity. I listen to the iPod while I commute or while doing cleaning around the house. I am continuing to fine tune how I use the iPod so that it remains a positive part of my life. It has proven a real time saver since I am listening to podcasts or books on tape while traveling each day. It serves me as a motivating tool as I listen to podcasts or upbeat music while doing boring home tasks. I really enjoy my commutes and doing household chores with my iPod. My next step is to add it to my exercise time. I have done this before, but not with any regularity. I am currently downloading music designed for interval workouts and music for brisk walks or running from iTunes.

My newest and latest technology discovery has been an instant messaging site called Twitter. The nice thing about it is it is not like other instant message sites. It is real time, but if I am away from the computer, it will keep track of everyone I am following and their updates. I can follow other people as they answer the question, "What are you doing?" I can choose who follows me, send invitations to friends and family, lock or leave open who sees my updates, and block others from seeing my updates when and if I choose. I have only been using it for a week, but it has proven a wonderful tool so far. I can't use it at work, but that is probably a good thing. I do keep in touch with family and friends, and that is quite nice.

I am far from being ahead of the curve with technology, but with the encouragement from some Internet friends and my boys that do not know life without technology, I am at least in the game part time.

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