Back to School Tech, Part 2

Tech Talker has the scoop on how to use all the tech supplies you got for the new school year to help you succeed in your studies!

Eric Escobar
4-minute read
Episode #042

Back to School Tech, Part 2

In Part 1 of this series, we went over some back-to-school gear that you’re likely to need for the fall. In this week’s episode, we’ll look at the best ways to put this technology to use to save you time and brain space!

So you read Back to School Tech, Part 1 and picked out your computer, portable devices, and smartphones. And while all of these are great for entertainment, they can also serve the more important purpose of helping you in the classroom.

In the Classroom

Depending on the type of class you’re taking, your technology may need to suit completely different needs. For example, in a hands-on lab science class, it might be difficult to type up notes if you’re constantly moving around and pouring stuff into beakers. Whereas typing notes during a large lecture is the easiest and fastest way to keep everything organized and in one place.

The most important thing you must do is judge the atmosphere of the classroom. In high school and junior high, most teachers won’t be too keen on allowing students to have phones and tablets out during class. And, actually there are even some college classes where professors won’t allow even laptops, let alone smartphones.

The best thing to do is to ask your instructor on the first day which devices they are and aren’t okay with, and while you’re at it, ask if you can record audio of the lecture to review at a later date. Surprisingly, many instructors welcome audio recorders in class, and if you have a laptop or a cell phone, this voice recording feature is often times built-in!

I can’t stress enough how important it is to ask permission beforehand. You don’t want to start off on the wrong foot with your new teacher by assuming they’re cool with a device, only to find out that they absolutely forbid it in their class!

Organize, Organize, Organize

So once you’ve checked with your professor and armed yourself with the approved devices, the next thing you need to do is to set up your organizational structure for all of your notes and assignments. Now I know everyone has a different system that is customized to themselves, but I wanted to outline the technique I used successfully in my years of undergraduate and graduate engineering work.

I used a Microsoft laptop with Microsoft OneNote, an iPhone 4S with Evernote, and Dropbox. What’s great is that you can get OneNote for almost any Mac operating system, including iOS, which means it’s extremely compatible with many devices.

I would organize my OneNote with a tab or “notebook” for each class. Then  I set up OneNote to sync with Microsoft’s SkyDrive and Dropbox. So if something happened to my laptop, I never had to worry because all of my files were automatically backed up word for word as I typed.

What’s more, since everything was backed up to Dropbox and SkyDrive, I could share my notes with anyone of my classmates in a matter of clicks! If you’re using a device that has a microphone, OneNote will also allow you to record audio directly into your notes and convert it to text (albeit pretty rough text).

Next, I would use Evernote on my iPhone to keep due dates and projects organized and to jot notes down on the go.

The best part about my system is that it is extremely simple—just two programs, one on my smartphone and one on my laptop. Both backed up to the cloud and accessible anywhere that had an internet connection. I’ve found over the years that having everything easily accessible in one place is the most efficient way to keep all of your projects organized.

What About Paper?

Of course, we don’t live in a perfect world. Not all of our assignments are paperless (yet)!

So how do you deal with this evil? Simple, you get a good feeding scanner. This may seem like overkill, but at the end of each day I would simply send all of my notes through my feeding scanner and it would send them all to OneNote!

This requires an initial setup, but after that, it’s smooth sailing and your notes will be 100% digitalized and backed up. I’ll talk more about this in next week’s episode when I discuss printers and scanners.

This is my very specific system for how to use technology for school. I’m always interested to see how other people use tech to stay organized and to record important information. So if you have suggestions, apps, or tools that work for you, I’d love to hear about them.

So please stop on by the Tech Talker Facebook page and let me know!

Here are you Quick and Dirty tips for taking your tech back to school:

  1. Try out multiple apps and software until you find the perfect balance of organization and ease of use.

  2. Keep your notes backed up to the cloud where you can easily access them.

  3. Keep your notes in one place so that you don’t have to look long to find what you need.

  4. Take notes on a digital device or record audio, if possible.

  5. If you encounter non-digital information, find a smart way to digitalize it!

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!

Student with Computer image from Shutterstock

About the Author

Eric Escobar

Tech Talker demystifies technology and cutting edge devices so that even the most tech illiterate can understand what's going on with their computer or gadget — and what to do when something goes wrong.

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