Writer: Mr. Robert Nathan Gregory, MSU Extension Service
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- After some people open Christmas presents, they might find themselves the recipients of new devices they would have avoided but now feel compelled to use.
Learning how to navigate such a device -- whether it is a smartphone, tablet, digital media player or e-reader -- can seem a daunting task to those who are not technologically savvy. Resolving to implement a new gift into routine activities in 2015 can be an easy first step toward getting the most out of that new gadget.
Lara Bowman, instructor with the Mississippi State University Extension Center for Technology Outreach, said in the early stages, people who have received a smartphone or tablet can simply ask family members and neighbors who already have them what apps and functions they use the most.
“Discovering apps and how they can make your life easier is what’s important,” Bowman said. “It’s going to take time to learn the device, its functions and how it works best for you.”
Each smartphone or tablet has notepads, calendars and other basic utilities already built in that can be used for daily tasks, such as scheduling events, writing grocery lists and checking the weather. They also contain app stores where people can download free or purchased apps and personalize their new devices.
“You’re only going to become more familiar with a smartphone or tablet by exploring what is already built into the device and then asking friends and family what their favorite apps are,” Bowman said. “An app store works a lot like a search engine. You can find apps that are geared toward your interests by typing in key terms and seeing what results come up. Everybody can apply the technology to their personal interests, whether they want to download digital coupons or stay in touch with loved ones on social media.”
Adopting new devices can also be incorporated with common New Year’s resolutions, Bowman said. People can use their new e-readers to buy digital editions of books and meet their goal of reading more. Those who resolve to exercise or start a diet can find many useful health apps.
“There are apps for everything, from monitoring every bite of food you eat to mapping out your running route and showing you how many calories you burned to measuring your sleep patterns,” Bowman said.
The MSU Extension Service offers a variety of basic how-to classes for people who are trying to adopt new devices on the market. Bowman said the best way for people to find out when courses are offered is to contact their county Extension office. Basic online tutorials are available at http://techoutreach.msucares.com.
“Technology is an integral part of all Mississippians’ lives,” she said. “We are constantly working to address those needs. Even if you don’t have a device and you’re thinking about getting one, we can provide the hardware for you to use during a workshop.”
Ellen Graves, social media strategist for the MSU Office of Agricultural Communications, said Extension also has apps of its own -- developed for interests ranging from deer hunting to gardening -- available at http://webapps.msucares.com.
“Extension is at the forefront of using apps to connect with clients who want trustworthy, research-based information,” Graves said. “Most of our audience might look at us and say, ‘I see their newspaper articles,’ but you can also connect to us through apps. Extension is not only appreciating the past and continuing to do things that worked for us in the past, but also looking toward the future.”
Graves said adopting devices that are quickly becoming popular tools in society opens up a flood of opportunities for people to improve their quality of life.
“Some people think of a smartphone primarily as a telephone,” Graves said. “You can use this device to have so many different apps on a broad spectrum of topics and fully use the incredible technology you have in your hand.”