Saturday, December 02, 2006

Life-changing Technologies

I recently had an experience with my new cell phone quite similar to one that Will Richardson blogged about recently. With our oldest daughter going to college, we changed our cell phone plan and switched to Verizon (if you can believe it, this was her first cell phone--I know, we're pretty cruel parents). Normally I am too frugal to upgrade from the standard phone, but I did so in this case and purchased the computer-like LG 9800 (there was a rebate, of course).

Now, it turns out that I have loved the camera included in this phone, and I take pictures with it that I can send directly to Flickr--and when their communication with Blogger is working correctly, can even post directly to my private blog as a kind of family journal. That has been a LOT of fun.

What I didn't realize, though, was that my phone also has a built-in GPS device, and for a relatively modest fee ($9.95/month), includes a "navigation" program. While helping to coordinate our first Moodle workshop in Plano, Texas, I found out how absolutely life-changing this feature is. Because I was in an unfamiliar town, I decided to shoot for one month's fee to test it out. From the car rental parking lot, I plugged in the address of the motel: it spoke step by step directions to me during the drive. The next day, I plugged in the address for the Sockwell Center at Plano ISD, and it took me there. Then, using another feature of the phone I love (web browsing), I found the address of a local church to attend, and it took me there. I then decided to do a little sightseeing by car, and picked out a local landmark, and it took me there. Then back to the motel. The next day, I wanted to get food for the workshop before it began. I drove to the Sockwell center, then had it give me the ten closest grocery stores--a Super Walmart was close. Since it was early, and I didn't know if they would be open, I clicked "send" and it called that Walmart. Yes, they were open. Take me there, I instructed my phone. Show me on the map. Incredible.

The whole trip, whenever I would normally have pulled out a phone book to find something (shopping, food, movies), I just opened this incredible little device. I felt like, in just a few days, I had been transported to the future. All of the time normally spent in a new area getting maps, figuring out directions, and preparing in advance, were done away with. I literally saved hours, and accomplished things I might not even have considered without this technology.

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