*This article was contributed by Linda Lavender, computer network administration instructor at the VBCPS Advanced Technology Center.
There may not have been required technology items on your child’s supplies list, but having access to technology may make a marked difference in your child’s education. Here is a digital back-to-school checklist you might want to consider as the new school year gets started.
One of the biggest technology trends grabbing our attention is tablets. And why not? They are ultra-light, portable, can access the Internet and using them is relatively easy and mostly fun. So if a tablet is on your checklist – the next step is deciding which is the right one for your child.
First rule of thumb, don’t overspend. Today’s technology changes so rapidly, what is current and ideal this year, may not be that useful in two years. Seven inch tablets are a good choice. They are cheaper than their 10 inch models, can fit easily in book bags and purses and they all have built-in-wifi access.They are great to use with the VBCPS Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy and support hundreds of Apps. There are many choices and they range in price considerably so compare models. Don’t forget a case to protect the tablet and screen protectors for preventing accidental scratches. If you are a fan of e-readers, most e-reading platforms can be used on any tablet.
Laptops are usually a good choice for middle and high school students. At this age, they are using more advanced software.Laptops are a good choice for students because they are portable, which is great since learning and studying can occur everywhere. There are many choices for laptops and some relatively inexpensive models which have the Android platform installed. Most Windows based laptops are currently shipping with Windows 8 – there will be a learning curve here – brand new interface, but it is based on the concept of using Apps. You may want to consider a touch screen if you are getting a Windows 8 laptop – makes using the operating system a lot easier. But don’t spend retail prices for Microsoft Office – you can buy it through Virginia Beach City Public Schools and Journey Ed for around $10.00. One final piece of advice – get a warranty. Laptop screens can break easily, and they can be costly to repair.
A much less expensive item on your list to consider is portable storage. A 16gb portable storage device is more than sufficient for classroom assignments and storing student work. There are so many to choose from – consider one with a key chain so it’s less likely to be misplaced. Portable mini-drives are a consideration – 500gb or 1tb of storage is now pretty standard. Students can store their music library, school work and more. Students watch a lot of videos online and through their school resources, so consider some comfortable headphones. Don’t forget simple things like surge protectors when using the laptops, and even a spare tablet charger is a good investment.
Above all else, don’t rush your purchases – take your time, compare prices at local retailers and online. Talk to your child’s teachers and find out what technology they are using in the classroom, especially the software. Software availability and compatibility are essential in picking the right device. If you are still lost, attend the Parent Connection’s free Technology Expo at the Advanced Technology Center on November 13th. Our student experts will answer your questions and all the above devices will be there for you to experience in a hands-on setting!