Aug 20, 2013 (05:08 AM EDT)
10 Cool Back-To-School Tech Tools
Read the Original Article at InformationWeek
Students everywhere are getting ready to head back to school. For most college students, there's plenty to consider when it comes to what to bring along: How long are the dormitory mattresses? How many outlets are in each room? How much stuff will fit under the bed? Will my roommate bring a coffee maker or should I?
But some of the most important decisions concern the technology they'll use in their day-to-day studies. Mac or PC? Laptop or tablet? iPhone or Android? Flash drive or cloud-based storage?
According to IT professionals at higher-ed institutions who spoke with InformationWeek Education, students are bringing multiple devices -- and high expectations -- with them to campus. Most are accustomed to having easy, fast access to the Internet and having Wi-Fi available anywhere they can get a latte.
In this slideshow, we recommend some extra hardware, software and services that students can use to complement the arsenal of technology they plan to pack for school. In today's education environment, learning is dynamic and often collaborative. Therefore, tools such as Podio for Students, which lets users collaborate on projects using familiar Facebook metaphors, and Join.me, which lets users share their desktop with up to 10 other people, are key.
Student life can be turbulent, especially for young people away from home for the first time. When "Mom! Have you seen my iPhone?" doesn't work anymore, tools like the StickNFind -- a tag you stick to valuables so you can find them via Bluetooth and a mobile app -- will be most welcome. (You might have seen an ad on Facebook for another device like this, called Tile.)
Of course, portable devices are no good when their batteries are dead. Enter portable power sources such as the Justin Power Case. Other options include rechargeable backpacks and teeny-tiny chargers from Halo available in colors from stainless gray to pink animal print.
In the following slides, we cover these and other tech products that will help make the lives of college students -- and by extension the lives of their parents and professors -- easier.
But the tech choices for students, parents and faculty are endless. What has helped you and your kids? Share your back-to-school tech experiences in our comments section.
Follow Deb Donston-Miller on Twitter at @debdonston.
Podio for Students enables users to team up on projects using familiar social metaphors, such as status updates, likes, chat and comments. Podio has launched several major updates this year, adding instant messaging and one-to-one video chat; a redesigned iPhone app; and a faster, more comprehensive Android app. Other student-friendly features include the ability to set up separate workspaces for different study groups, projects, classes and so on; a task manager; and a survey feature. Get more information and sign up for free.
As students move around campus -- from crowded dorm rooms to classes to the gym to the dining hall to the pub and back again – there's a pretty good chance that expensive devices storing critical information eventually will get misplaced or stolen. The StickNFind location sticker, which is about the size of a quarter, does just what its name says: It sticks to devices, enabling them to be tracked and found if they are lost or stolen. Using Bluetooth SMART, the sticker can be tracked via a free downloadable smartphone application. The StickNFind is available in packs of two, starting at about $50.
Ralph Ambrose, programmer analyst for Academic Information Systems at UC Riverside, is checking out dual-boot tablet/laptop hybrids, including upcoming systems from Samsung (the Ativ Q) and Asus (the Transformer Book Trio). These systems run both Windows 8 and Android, enabling users to switch back and forth between OSes and opening up a slew of apps options. Ambrose noted that the Microsoft Surface Pro (don't get RT, he warned), which has an attachable keyboard for writing papers, is also worth checking out. "I think the laptop/tablet hybrid is going to replace the traditional laptop," he predicted.
LinkedIn's just-launched University Pages gives institutions dedicated pages where prospective and current college students and staff can interact with alumni and others. University Pages will both extend and focus many of the features that are so compelling about LinkedIn, enabling users to get news updates, research different schools, link with notable alumni and generally build their network. UC Riverside was a University Pages beta tester. "It is a great place for a student to see where UCR alumni are living and working post-graduation, and what industries they are working in," said UC Riverside's Ambrose. "LinkedIn has done a lot to identify and better standardize how people enter the school they attended so that the data provided on the University Page is more complete."
A number of new portable power options are now available. The Justin Power Case by Innovative Technology, for example, provides portable power to tablets, smartphones and other devices. The Justin case for the iPad features a built-in 11,600-mAh rechargeable battery that can charge an iPad twice or an iPhone up to seven times via a universal USB charging port. The Justin Case costs about $70.
Join.me is a one-click screen-sharing service from LogMeIn designed for group collaboration from any computer or mobile device -- iPhone, iPad or Android. Join.me lets users share their screen with as many as 10 people. Join.me will be useful for students working on group projects, as well as for faculty who want to incorporate distance learning into their curriculum. Join.me is free and includes Internet calling, share control and chat. Join.me Pro adds features such as recording.
E-portfolios can help students showcase their best work and give teachers an assessment tool that moves beyond multiple-choice or even open-response tests. E-portfolios can also move with a student as he or she enters the workplace. Among a number of compelling options, Desire2Learn ePorfolio lets students organize documents, graphics, audio files, presentations and other representations of their personal learning journey in a form that's easy to share with instructors, advisers, and employers.
Desire2Learn also offers Binder, an iPad app students can use to organize course materials provided in PDF and Microsoft Office files, HTML, and other formats for use in their studies.
The Touchfire Screen-Top Keyboard for the iPad is a clear silicone keyboard that snaps into place magnetically over the iPad's on-screen keyboard, providing a more tactile and accurate typing experience. Touchfire is compatible with all generations of the iPad, including (as of next month) the Mini. The $50 Touchfire keyboard weighs less than an ounce, is as thin as two credit cards and can be cleaned with tap water.
The Livescribe Sky Smartpen records everything students write, hear and draw during class, allowing them to simply tap the ink on their notebooks to play back everything recorded at that exact moment. The Wi-Fi-enabled Sky Smartpen then transfers all the notes and audio recordings to a computer, smartphone or tablet. The Smartpen is available in 2-, 4- and 8-gigabyte versions and starts at $150.
Although technology can help students, it can also be a huge distraction. Sometimes students need to take a break from tech in order to get work done. Enter Freedom, one of a growing number of products available for shutting out the Internet. The $10 Freedom works by disabling Internet connections for a user-defined time period, enabling students to buckle down and write that paper, for example, without getting waylaid by online shopping or downloading music. If social networks are the main culprit, try Anti-Social, a $15 application that blocks sites such as Facebook and Twitter for a certain period of time.