Put away the summer toys, like portable stereos and waterproof camcorders. It’s time to round up the best back-to-school gadgets and apps, the ones that will help students keep every task organized and every due date tracked.
“When it comes to back-to-school, it’s about the necessity,” Paolo Pontini, computer department manager for London Drugs, told the Georgia Straight by phone. “It’s what you need to continue your education—less about want.”
INQ Chat 3G (Free to $149, depending on carrier and plan; Best Buy)
From a U.K.–based manufacturer, this smartphone is designed for people who are keener on keeping up-to-date with Facebook and Twitter than on making calls. Danielle Jang, spokesperson for Best Buy Canada, told the Straight the INQ Chat 3G—available through Telus and its subsidiary Koodo Mobile—is for students who don’t need all the bells and whistles of a BlackBerry or an iPhone. “This is great for students of all ages, even the younger ones,” Jang said by phone.
Logitech Loud Enough earphones ($19.99; Future Shop)
Kids have smaller ears, and these in-ear headphones are designed to fit them comfortably. A set of earbuds comes with six kid-sized ear cushions, so there’s a pair that fits now and a couple of pairs a child can grow into. The noise-isolating earphones reduce the maximum volume by up to 30 percent. These provide up to 16 decibels of noise isolation, so kids can hear their tunes and games, as well as, Logitech says, their parents.
Sony Vaio M Series netbook ($399.98; London Drugs; or on Sony's Web site)
The M Series marks Sony’s entry into the netbook market. This portable computer comes loaded with one gigabyte of random-access memory and a 250-gigabyte hard drive. With a 10.1-inch display, the M Series netbook has the amazing resolution of 1,024 by 600 pixels you’d expect from Sony. It’s light enough, but somehow it feels like this netbook has come just a little too late to the party. Pontini says a compact laptop still makes sense, especially for carting from class to class. Over and over again, Pontini sees the same debate happening between students and their parents. Each thinks about laptops differently. “When a kid is purchasing something, they think of school as a peripheral thing,” Pontini said. “They’re thinking on-line access and gaming and graphics. Parents are thinking, ”˜Is it affordable and durable?’ ”
Toshiba Satellite 3D laptop ($1,999; Future Shop)
Yes, we’re fickle. Last year, it was all about how much smaller we could get our netbooks. My question this year is, how can you expect me to look at a flat screen when I can get 3-D? The Toshiba Satellite 15.6-inch 3-D Intel Core i7-740M laptop even comes with 3-D glasses. “This laptop brings it up a notch,” Elliott Chun, spokesperson for Future Shop, told the Straight by phone. “It’s one of the first on the market, and we think 3-D is the way it’s going to go in the future. You can’t always be studying. This is what you’ll want to watch movies and play games on.” After the homework is done, that is.
A simple program that’s not too expensive, CourseNotes helps high-school and postsecondary students manage their class schedules, keep to-do lists, and track their assignments.
IQ Gym (free)
This math game is great for elementary and junior-high students. Players must solve math problems within a limited time to get to the next level.
School Notes ($1.99)
Combining note-taking and studying, School Notes organizes what you write in class—even your doodles—and creates flash cards.
With this app, it’s easy to put text, images, and even audio onto flash cards, which can then be ordered sequentially or randomly.
iStudiez Pro ($2.99)
Another good scheduling app that keeps track of tasks and deadlines, iStudiez Pro isn’t just for students but teachers and parents as well. This app allows you to back up your data by sending it to your e-mail.
gWhiz pro bundle (US$9.99)
This product combines the popular gCalcPro, gFlashPro, and gRefPro apps into one downloadable package. GCalcPro is an advanced calculator that can handle graphing and unit conversions, gFlashPro is a flash-card app, and gRefPro is a personalized library of reference guides.
A simple-to-use organizer, StudentDocket keeps track of big projects and assignments. Nothing flashy here, but it has everything you need to stay on top of exams, schedules, and assignments.