Dear Smartphone: Is Map Skill Overkill?

DEAR MS. SMARTPHONE: MY SISTER AND I DISAGREE ON THIS ISSUE. WE WERE BOTH TAUGHT TO READ MAPS WHEN WE TOOK A FAMILY CAR  TRIP. MY SISTER SAYS TIMES HAVE CHANGED AND WE CAN RELY ON THE MAPS ON OUR PHONES.  I THINK THAT MAP READING SKILLS ARE VALUABLE AND SCHOOLS SHOULD CONTINUE TO TEACH THEM.  WHAT DO YOU THINK? Chrissy, Sebastapol

Dear Chrissy: Good Question! There’s no doubt that a lot of things we used to do by hand have migrated to the phone- for example, long division and address books. That said, map reading is something that I would not want to entirely depend on electronically, although Digital Natives might disagree. Maps are, by definition, representations of the outside world, and we should always consider their distortions or biases (remember the flat map?). Second, the maps on our phone are so small so we literally don’t see “the big picture.” You asked whether that skill should be taught in schools- only if they still teach geography!!

Dear Smartphone: Should Voice Command?

DEAR MS. SMARTPHONE: WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ABOUT USING THE VOICE COMMANDS ON THE SMARTPHONE(LIKE SIRI)INSTEAD OF THE KEYBOARD? I HAVE A FRIEND WHO USES THE VOICE COMMANDS ALL THE TIME AND I FIND THIS UNUSUAL. Fran, Albany

Dear Fran: This is one of those questions that deserves an up or down vote from fellow readers. There are situations where hands-free helps:  for example,  if you are in the car alone or helping older people navigate a  rideshare app.

Siri talks back
photo: Jefferson Graham, USA Today, 2017

There are other times when voice-overs are annoying: say you are in a crowd of people and your friend  returns a text. Unless your friend is ‘all thumbs’  or vision impaired, Continue reading “Dear Smartphone: Should Voice Command?”

Dear Smartphone: A European Holiday with or without iPhone?

DEAR MS. SMARTPHONE: I’M ABOUT TO EMBARK ON MY FIRST EUROPEAN VACATION AND I’M STRUGGLING WITH THE DECISION WHETHER OR NOT TO BRING MY iPHONE. WHILE I DO WANT TO ENJOY MY VACATION I’M NERVOUS ABOUT FOLKS NOT BEING ABLE TO REACH ME. WHAT SHOULD I DO? AZ, Sausalito

Dear AZ: I would not let a phone dictate the plans for my dream vacation! But, since it’s a long dull ride back and forth, you might want to get wifi service for the duration of the plane (or boat) trip. That way you won’t come back from your holiday and feel swamped with catch-up. I am sure that before you leave you will post an out-of-office message on all of your communications, and ask a colleague to serve as a back-up too.

smartphones and time-off
Should I bring smartphone on a special holiday vacation?

If you can’t pull yourself entirely away from work or home matters, then set a time each day to catch up on texts and email. Are you worried that  phone time might cut into holiday time? Here is an earlier posting about that!