The days are getting shorter and the kids are getting restless - yes it's that time year again, time to get to the shopping malls, fire up those Internet connections across the land and your back to school shopping done!
In this week’s Tech Tip, we’ll show you some practical techie things that’s will help your student get on the right “techie” footing when they hit the classroom!
While it's always a good idea to check the syllabus for the school or class with their recommendations for the students’ needs, every student undoubtedly needs a good computer! The good news is that you can pick up a very cheap laptop for the price of what you would pay for a decent desktop just a few years ago. Really, for about $350 to $500 dollars you can find a decent machine that will last the whole school year. Even if a school is MAC centric rather than PC centric, for most home assignments a good, inexpensive Windows-based PC will do for most students needs. If you do decide to go the Mac route, Apple does run student specials as well. Don’t forget a decent word processing suite for your computer. An excellent choice for the PC would be Microsoft’s Office 2010 Home and Student Edition. Other PC choices include the free Open Office stand alone program as well as the online (and also free) Google Docs. For Apple, the iWork '09 suite would be a perfect complement for the shiny new MacBook (or perhaps slightly less shiny, but still just as functional, refurbished MacBook). Of course, one other advantage with laptops being so inexpensive is that you can probably forego a desktop or a netbook as they'd just be redundant.
Cheap tablets are certainly all the rage these days, and they seem to be the sexy and cool gadget to have, but is it really needed by a student? Part of the answer to that question may be up to the school (with more schools migrating to electronic format for their textbooks) as well as part of the answer being up to you (or more precisely your student). While a laptop may stay at home, the tablet is more than likely be what the student takes to school. While this may be fine with college age students, for a younger student it is quite easy to foresee a tablet not quite “making it” the entire year without being lost, stolen or damaged.
As far as brand or type of tablet for the student, I'd recommend Apple's iPad over any of the other ones available. If you do go the tablet route, you can probably forego getting a dedicated ebook reader (unless the e-textbook is in a format the reader app on the tablet can't handle).
An inexpensive, all-in-one, color inkjet printer will probably be the best bet for your student (especially one who is going to live away from home). Something to consider is the cost and availability of the ink (for example, it is available at the local Walmart or can it cheaply and quickly be ordered online) as well as how well the printer integrates with the other tech gadgets (for example, an iPad would need a printer that is AirSoft compatible). If you get a wireless printer, keep in mind that you’ll need a cheap wi-fi router as well (again, for students living away from home).
Other “Techie” Gadgets to Consider
Other gadgets to consider would be items such as an inexpensive USB flash drive. Perhaps a backpack, with a built-in pocket for laptops or tablets, would be a great item for taking along your gadgets. Also, consider an Internet Cloud Backup and Storage system as well (usually something upgraded from the basic" free plan). A basic cell phone is also a consideration (though, again, you'd need to consider the age and maturity level of the student as this would be more for personal use rather than classroom use). Of course, also consider any specialized items that may be needed for specific classes if not provided by the school (cameras, special programs; etc.)
We hope you found some useful information in this Tech Tip and that we helped you in some way with your back to school shopping expedition this August! Feel free to chime in on other cool, techie gadgets that you may have found helpful for the returning student!