Tech stuff that kids should know

Mobile phone, computers, electronic devices – technology is all around us. As you grow up, your understanding of technology and your skill at using it could make you more successful than others. It’s never too early to try and understanding the big changes that are taking place in the world of electronics and computers. So why not start right away? Here is an easy explanation of the cool stuff that people are inventing and using. Read it and you may even surprise your parents with your tech knowledge!

Cloud Computing

This is the BIG ONE. Sounds like a lot of fluff but it isn’t.  Imagine you and your friends are making some goodies for a school bake sale. At first, everyone get a small box of supplies – butter, flour, sugar, eggs, a few food colours, fruits, decorations and cake tins/cutters that have to be used to make the buns and cakes.  Halfway through, someone in the group gets a bright idea to pool all the stuff so there is a wider choice of ingredients available to everyone. With everyone sharing cutters, decorations, colours and fruits, there is a greater variety for each one. More creative cakes and cookies can now be made! It’s also more efficient – if your recipes needed more nuts but you had colours to spare, you could then trade with someone making a rainbow cake.

This sharing of resources is at the heart of cloud computing. In the computer world, these resources refer to storage space and computer power. A good example is an email service like Gmail or Yahoo, where your email is stored on the Internet rather than in a computer. As you are sharing the space with millions of others, it is far more efficient. Since your messages are not just in one computer (which may not be with you at all times), the other advantage is that you can check and read email anywhere in the world where you have an Internet connection.

Another useful cloud computing example is a photo, music or book storage service. Take an e-book reader like the Amazon Kindle. When you buy electronic books (or e-books) for the device, the books are stored in your Amazon account on the Internet. Whenever you wish, you could download the books to the device on which you are reading the book (could be a tablet, mobile phone or e-book device like the Kindle). No more loosing copies of that favourite book!

When everyone puts their information in one place (the Internet), it becomes easier and cheaper to manage it.


Look, no wires

Shut your eyes and listen hard. Can you the dozens of conversations going on around you at any given time? We’re joking of course – you can’t really hear anything but it is true that radio waves in the air around us are carrying voices back and forth between people speaking to each other. We are speaking of wireless communication that is used in cell phones and wireless sets.

Cellphones and other wireless devices use radio waves. Some of these have a short range – for example WiFi wireless networks that connect you to the Internet only work in a small area. With cellphones you can talk or connect to the internet over much, much longer distances. So, what actually carries your voice to your mother many kilometres away? It’s a kind of energy called electromagnetic energy that carries voices across long distances. Devices like phones convert these waves into sounds that we understand as language.

 RFID

In schools in some parts of the world, ID cards have RFID tags so the school can track where the kids are

RFID is a radio technology used to label or tag an object. RFID tags no bigger than a grain of rice can be used to keep track of objects that frequently get lost – like keys and small bags. A school in South Korea is actually attaching tags to children so that they can track their whereabouts at all times. So, no more sneaking off to play soccer at reading time!

It’s really simple – Do-It-Yourself!

Earlier, computer programming was difficult and only trained people could write computer programmes and create new games and applications. It’s now a Do-It-Yourself World – creating new programmes has become so simple that even kids like you can do it.

Websites like http://scratch.mit.edu/ offer an easy to use programming language that has been specially created for 8 to 16 year olds. Scratch can be used to create interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art. You can even share these on the web once you’ve finished. Others like www.alice.org will help you create small animations. There are even some websites that help you create websites using drag and drop tools!

Small is beautiful

How small is small? An inch? A centimetre? A millimeter? In the world of science, things can get much smaller thanks to something called nanotechnology.

Nanotechnology and nanoscience are the study of very small bits of matter, so small that they are invisible to the eye. These small particles are atoms, which are the building blocks for everything around us (including our own bodies). By studying and manipulating (changing) objects at the atomic or molecular level, scientists are able to achieve results that can be applied in all fields of science including chemistry, biology, physics, materials science, and engineering.

How is this useful to us, you may ask? Well, nanotechnology is helping scientists create new materials that have a big impact on gadgets we use every day. Nanotech inventions are directly connected to lightweight laptops, sharper screens on phones and tablets and even slimmer televisions.

With nanotechnology, things can get really, really small.

Tech in the Classroom

Technology is creeping into the classroom. You may have heard of ‘magic’ black boards that transform into screens where short video clips and animations connected to the lesson can be displayed. Another trend (not seen much in India) is digital textbooks. These are not just electronic versions of books that you simply display on a computer screen but books that come with video and audio clips and animated images. Imagine reading about water and its properties in your science text book and actually be able to see short clips of experiments that show what’s being explained. Won’t that be interesting?  In countries like South Korea schools are already moving to such digital text books for their students.