When Kids Rock the Vote: Tech Educates, Unifies

Now that the elections in the U.S. are over, I am inspired by the culmination of what was a tedious, arduous, sometimes aggravating process. I am inspired because in the end, my daughter, who is nine, became engaged, excited and encouraged about the process and the result.

In California, we had a number of important propositions on the ballot, and my daughter was actively consuming information – on TV, the web and with friends and relatives – to do her best to understand the issues and decide what she thought was right for our state and our nation.

Wonderfully, our local County Board of Elections sponsored a “Kids Vote” at the polling places. They provided kids with ballots and then announced the results of the Kids Vote on their web site. Katie spent all day yesterday waiting for the results.

When we went to the polling place, we brought one of her friends with her. As they poured over the ballot, I was amazed to hear my daughter explain each proposition to her friend. I had no idea how much my kid had picked up. She had spent time on the Internet learning and even the Weekly Reader had helped her think through the issues.

We have a rule in our house – you are entitled to your opinion and it can be different from others – but you have to do your own critical thinking to justify your position. My daughter took that advice to heart and used the tools we have – most of them technology-based – to make up her mind in the election.

And thanks to a shared medium – the television – we sat together on Tuesday night as history was made. As we watched people all over the world share in an event that we can only hope will lead us all positively into the future.

I write a lot about kids, technology and relationships and this election was proof that these things can come together to help us think, connect and share.

I Got Your Innovation Right Here! Top Ten Ways Tech Could Help Tired Moms

Some days, I am so wiped out I just want to make a bowl of microwave popcorn, grab a Diet Pepsi and watch reruns. But no, I decided to be a mom. So I must soldier on. But it seems like tech could help me out just a bit. Here’s my list of what tech should do for me.

10. Get the kid ready for bed.
It has to check to make sure she brushed her teeth and did her homework. It also tucks her in and makes sure she starts reading. All I have to do is stop by for the loving – a kiss goodnight.

9. Kill spiders.
I hate getting rid of the things. I want a zapper – I am thinking a modified Wii remote – can just evaporate them with a flick of the wrist. Advanced skills let you zap flies too.

8. Make dinner (or any meal).
Think The Jetson’s. This combo microwave/refrigerator lets you press a button and the meal is served. Beautifully prepared and ready to eat.

7. Fold the laundry and put it away.
This would work like a Roomba: it would swoop up the clothes, deliver them to the washer/dryer and then somehow magically return them to drawers and closets.

6. Take out the garbage.
This man-bot looks like Steve Young (yes, I am a 49er fan) and would kick it all to the curb while looking good! And it wouldn’t forget to change the kitty litter.

5. Help me prioritize.
My cell phone would call me when something important was happening – like warning me when my mom was coming by for a surprise visit, telling me the cats are out of water or when the chickens have laid an egg.

4. Automate my shopping.
Anytime I used something in my house, a real-time Bluetooth inventory would know about it and then generate a shopping list and send it to the computer. Then I would send that to the store and have everything delivered.

3. Nintendo babysitting.
She’s playing the thing anyway. Let’s add a video camera and a GPS and I could know exactly what the kid is doing while I run an errand. I can see her, hear her and track her. What else do I need?

2. Burn calories for me.
This is the ultimate device; I am thinking a modified taser, would boost my metabolism and increase my heart rate while adding tone and definition.

1. Energy boosting subliminal entertainment.
Instead of drinking a Red Bull – or Diet Pepsi Max – I could just plug in my iPod and via special audio tracks, I would get a powerful energy burst that didn’t wouldn’t screw up my sleeping patterns later in the day.

Have an idea for the perfect technology? Let me know. We can always dream – if we can ever get to bed…

DTV Transition: Does it discriminate? Is it equal opportunity television?

Still ranting on the topic of how our culture is becoming stratified I am kind of getting myself worked up about it. When I wrote my other blog, I had forgotten about the changes taking place in television in the US in 2009 (forgotten isn’t really the word, I have been in denial, deep denial). I think I am okay because I have cable – analog cable – but it’s a pipe and it delivers signal. The point is, I can afford cable. Yet many of my neighbors can’t.

And thus it continues: the plight of the haves versus the have nots.

In this case it raises a real issue that should concern us all. And the quote below nails the question: do we have the right to television?

“The prospect of good, honest, television-loving Americans losing their signal has caused a lot of hand wringing of late. According to a January survey by the National Association of Broadcasters, (only) 79 percent of Americans are aware of the transition. … All this despite a huge information campaign and an incentive program that amounts to an investment by American taxpayers of up to $1.5 billion. … That, to me, raises the question: Do Americans have a right to television? … The question is not meant to be cynical. There is, after all, a public-interest rationale for as many people as possible to have access to the television medium. … Nevertheless, it would be naive to think that television’s primary function in most households is as an emergency alert or learning tool. And it’s illuminating to put the government’s $1.5 billion allocation in perspective. Consider: The proposed 2009 federal budget for adult basic and literacy education is $574.6 million.”
— Glenn Derene, Popular Mechanics’ tech editor, questions the priorities reflected in the spending to get Americans ready for the digital TV conversion next year.

What is the benefit of over-the-air broadcast? Safety? Speed? Accessibility?

As I talked about this with my mom, she reminded me that we all use our portable televisions when there’s an earthquake and the power is out. It was huge for me in San Francisco in 1989. I didn’t have power for a few days but I could see what was happening on my battery powered television.

When September 11 happened, we all gathered round the television to watch events unfold and understand what – if anything – we needed to do. I believe over-the-air broadcast television is a public utility and cutting people off – people who may need it most because they don’t have access to computers, mobile phones or other technology – puts part of the population at risk including the elderly and the poor. Who is going to make sure my elderly neighbor is hooked up? What about the family in the trailer who doesn’t even have a phone?

And one more thing about what Glenn says above, is anyone else outraged that we are actually spending our tax dollars on subsidies that are helping cable companies get more business?! And we are spending three times more on this than on helping adults learn how to read!

Is it too late to cancel this party? To make it stop and leave everything alone? I would love to hear your thoughts.

DTV 2009: Don’t know what I am talking about? Here’s the scoop:

On February 17, 2009, the era of analog broadcast television in the United States will end. The nation’s full power television stations will complete their transition to an all-digital system. While this change will mark the end of the traditional analog method of broadcasting over-the-air television, it won’t signal the end of free broadcast television, and your favorite broadcast programs and local television stations will still be available…

All you have to do is follow these easy instructions (yeah right): http://www.dtvtransition.org/.