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Back to School Tech, Part 1

Tech Talker catches you up on all the tech supplies you’ll need for the new school year.

By
Eric Escobar,
Episode #041

It’s that time of year when summer vacation is almost over and students are headed back to school. A lot has changed in recent years with how technology is used in education. I know firsthand how great (and how distracting) technology can be for learning. So in this episode, I’m going to round up the most useful tech gear for students.

 

Which Computer is Right for You?

First, let’s talk about computers. Whether you’re in elementary school or in a PhD program, these days having access to a computer is almost always a prerequisite. Depending on your computing needs, there are some general guidelines for what you’ll want. For example, if you’re going off to college to study math, science, or engineering, you’ll probably want a PC because of the types of software you’ll be using such as CAD and math programs. On the flipside, if you’re going into graphic design, English, or something else in the humanities, you’ll probably want an Apple computer due to its video, photo, and audio capabilities.

Of course, these are huge generalizations, but the point is to get you thinking about the main purpose of your computer and then to base your buying decision with that goal in mind. Check out my episode on How to Buy a New Computer where I go into much more detail about this process. And, if you are interested in a tablet but don’t know which is right for you, I’ve done an episode on that, too!

If you need more help deciding which computer is right for you, head on over to the Tech Talker Facebook page where you can post questions, chat with other fans, and much more.

Now that you’ve got your device picked out, it’s time to figure out how you’re going to use technology to help you achieve your academic goals.

Get Organized

First things first—get organized. I’ve mentioned apps such as Evernote (for iOS devices) and Astrid (for Android) in previous episodes. These organizational tools are critical to remembering due dates and keeping all of your classes and projects organized. What’s awesome about these apps is that they work on almost any device, meaning you can update them on the go with your phone or with your computer while you’re in class. I couldn’t have completed my master’s degree without them!

Keep it Safe

Now that you’re organized, let’s make sure everything is safe from both intruders and accidents. First, back up your computer and files as frequently as possible. As a general rule of thumb, you always want two copies of your data in two different locations. That doesn’t mean having a flash drive with all your files backed up in your laptop bag…because I’ve seen situations where an entire bag is stolen, which means the original and the backup are both gone! For more detail on backup options, check out my episode on How to Back Up Your Computer Data.

If you’re writing a paper, I recommend saving the file with a program such as Google Drive, Windows Live Mesh, or Dropbox. This way, if you lose power or your device, or if you simply can’t print it from your computer and need to access it from the library, it’s easily accessible from anywhere. For more on these free programs check out my episode on File Syncing Services.

So this will keep your data safe, now let’s protect your device from theft. If you’re going to be using a laptop, I highly recommend having a physical laptop lock. This is essentially a bike lock made especially for your laptop. This way, when you’re in the library late at night and have to go to the bathroom, you don’t need to unplug and bring your computer with you because you’re worried it will walk off.

And even if your device does get stolen, if you take the right steps outlined in my episode How to Recover a Stolen Laptop, you can set up a secure tracking system for your device that will be able to locate it (and the thief). This software is free, easy to install, and extremely user-friendly. Even if you’re not one to lose things, this will be a small insurance policy in case that day ever comes.

What About the Printer?

Last, but definitely not least, is a printer. This is one of those devices that many people overlook and get the cheapest model on the market. But trust me, you’ll rethink that investment when you’re desperately trying to print out a final paper 5 minutes before class.

Now, aside from the fact you wouldn’t even have this problem if you were listening to Get-it-Done Guy's tips to work less and do more, it’s always a good idea to have a dependable printer. So make sure to at least read the reviews from well-regarded technology web sites before buying one. Check out what “reviews.CNET.com” has to say about your options, and then choose the right one for your printing needs. Some features to keep in mind are ink usage, double sided printing, top feed scanning, and print speed. Check out my episode on how to choose a printer for guidelines on finding the right one for you.

I know I’ve thrown a lot at you and made a ton of references to my past episodes. But I can’t stress enough how beneficial it would be to review those earlier podcasts for more detailed information.

And next week, in Part 2 of this back to school tech series, I’ll be coving just how to use this technology in class to save you time and brain space!

So for now, here are your Quick and Dirty Tips for back to school tech:

  1. Make sure to buy the right device for your needs, not just the coolest one on the market.

  2. Get organized by using a program such as Evernote or Astrid.

  3. Make backups of everything and keep them separate from your device.

  4. Set up theft recovery software before it’s too late.

  5. Do your homework before choosing a printer to avoid last minute headaches.

 

Want to test your tech smarts? Click here to take my new quiz!

Well, that’s it for today. Be sure to check out all my posts at http://techtalker.quickanddirtytips.com/. And if you have further questions about this podcast or want to make a suggestion for a future episode, post your comments on the Tech Talker Facebook page.

Until next time, I’m the Tech Talker, keeping technology simple!

Students with laptops and printer images from Shutterstock

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