Top Tips for Fitbit Users

By Tracey Dowdy

Fitbit is so much more than just a step counter. If that’s all you’re looking for, save your money because your smartphone already does that. However, if you’re looking for a device to motivate you, challenge your friends, and better monitor your health, it’s a great option.

Fitbit is compatible with many of the fitness apps you’re already using, like MyFitnessPal, Weight Watchers, and Walkadoo. Syncing allows you to keep all the features you love best and ensures you have a comprehensive health and fitness information in the palm of your hand. Open the app, go to your settings, and follow the prompts to connect. There’s a complete list of compatible apps here.

Since nothing drives us more than a little friendly competition, Fitbit allows you to challenge your friends to “See who takes the most steps today” or “See who can get the most steps in this weekend.” Open the app, scroll to the bottom, select a challenge and ask up to ten people to join you.

If you find your battery is running down too quickly, turn off All Day Sync. Open the Fitbit app, select your device, and toggle off All Day Sync. Voila! Your battery won’t run down before you do. The downside is that you’ll now have to manually sync your device each time you open the app.

Are you right handed or left handed? Fitbit wants to know. You move your dominant hand more than the non-dominant one, so it’s important to let Fitbit know on which wrist you’re wearing your device. Open the Settings menu in the app, select Wrist, then Dominant or Non-Dominant to improve your Fitbit’s accuracy.

MobileTrack allows you to use your phone as a mobile tracker on days you forget to wear your Fitbit. Using your phone’s mobility sensors, you can still track your steps, distance and even the number of calories you’ve burned. To link, open the Fitbit app, go to Account, choose Set Up a Device, and select MobileTrack. Confirm your device is supported by Mobiletrack here.

Its Multi-Tracker Support feature will automatically switch modes when it detects you’re up and moving but your Fitbit is still sitting on your nightstand.

What’s the first thing you check on your Dashboard? The number of steps you took? The amount of water you drank? The fact that for once you said no to Netflix and got enough sleep? You can customize your dashboard so the stats most important to you are at the top of the list every time you open your app. On an Android phone, open the app, select the stat you want to move by touching and holding, then drag it to where you want it to be on your dashboard. If you don’t want to see it at all, drag the button to X to hide. On an iPhone, tap the Edit button and drag up or down the list. To hide a button, simply uncheck.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Apps to Get Your Family Outdoors

By Tracey Dowdy

Using a smartphone or tablet doesn’t have to mean screen time or inactive play. Use these apps and websites to have real world adventures with your kids this summer and become amateur bird watchers, citizen scientists, and amateur astronomers.

Audubon Bird Guide

audubonThe Audubon Bird Guide has a catalog identifying over 800 birds with information on their appearance, habitat, behavior and migration patterns. Take the app outdoors and find Birds with eBird, a “free online program that allows birders to track their sightings, while other birders watch and search in real-time.” Amateur birders track their location, each bird they saw, how many of each species, where and how long they were outdoors, and then jump to the eBird website and click “Submit Observations” to upload their information. There’s even an un-official eBird challenge to submit at least one list a day for one year, even if you only bird watch for a few minutes.

Cost: Free
Availability: iTunes, Google Play, Amazon


Night Sky

night skyNight Sky takes the expanse of the night sky and puts it in your child’s hands. Just point your phone’s camera at the heavens and using geo-tracking, Night Sky will identify the stars and planets above your head. Use Stargazing Conditions to identify the best night to look for constellations and planets or combine Stargazing Conditions with World Traveler to see the conditions in an area you’re traveling to. The app includes music, sound effects, 3D Earth Mode, satellite tracking and you can connect with other star gazers through the Night Sky™ Community.

Cost: Free
Availability: iTunes, Google Play, Amazon


Meet the Insects

meet the insectsDid you know the animal with the most species on earth is insects? Well now you do! Meet the Insects is crammed with facts about every species you can think of, from butterflies to beetles. Choose Forest, Village and Water, or Grass editions to identify bugs in your backyard, on a camping trip or anywhere else you come across creepy-crawlies. Kids can learn more about each species through videos and photos, create a journal to keep track of what they’ve seen, or take a quiz to see how much they’ve learned.

Cost: $4.99 per edition
Availability: iTunes


Nature’s Notebook

natures notebookNature’s Notebook makes kids citizen scientists by having them create an account at usanpn.org and start logging their observations of the natural world around them. Kids choose an environment like a park or their backyard and then become amateur naturalists by recording the plants and animals they see as well as changes in behaviors and seasons. All their observations are logged in the Nature’s Notebook database which then helps scientists track climate change and animal behaviors around the globe.

Cost: Free
Availability:  iTunes, Google Play


Leafsnap

leafsnapThe Smithsonian Institution, University of Maryland and Columbia University have combined forces to create Leafsnap. Users take photos of leaves and through visual recognition software, Leafsnap identifies the tree species. The app has beautiful, high quality images of leaves, flowers, fruits, petioles, seeds, and bark found in the Northeastern United States and Canada.

Cost: Free
Availability: iTunes

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.