09.03.2015Personal Tech

Back to School Tech Recommendations For Parents

It’s no secret that technology is becoming a key component in the classroom. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 74% of pre-K through 12th grade teachers agree technology enables them to reinforce and expand on content. In addition, 74% feel technology motivates students to learn. And, a remarkable 73% report that technology enables them to respond to a variety of learning styles.

With school just getting back in session, we sat down with the general manager of our Grand Rapids, MI Smart Store, Ken Humphrey, to discuss how mobile technology can help teachers, parents and students stay organized and prepare for a successful school year. Here are Ken’s top insights and tips:

Q: What are some of the top devices and accessories that can boost kids’ learning and productivity?

A: Tablets are the most beneficial devices for kids right now because they’re super portable and user friendly. Kids can take them on the bus and finish up homework, take notes during classes, collaborate on assignments and access resources when they’re researching for projects and papers. Being able to do all of this on their tablet makes it more fun, engaging and interesting.

Q: Looking for the right tablet can be overwhelming because there are so many choices out there. What kind of qualities should parents look for when scouting for the right tablet for their child?

A. The first thing I would say is you want to contact the school your child is attending and ask them which operating system is going to be most compatible and integrate well with what the school district uses. Buying a tablet can be quite an investment. As such, you also want to make sure the tablet you’re purchasing is user-friendly and fits your child’s needs, but is also something they can grow with. You’ll want to consider whether it has a USB port so they can easily save and upload files, as well as how much memory the device has.

Q: What else should parents be thinking about when looking for the right tablet?

A: Another key consideration is which data plan you’re going with. When you have several kids doing homework on tablets each night, you’re using your phone and your spouse is using his/her laptop, you’ll want to ensure you have enough data for everyone. And if you’re buying a new tablet, or upgrading an existing one, it’s crucial to know what’s out there. The Verizon plan is as simple as it gets. You can share the data with your family and switch data sizes at any time without having to worry about activation fees, upgrade fees, etc. It's simple and it offers amazing flexibility for you and your family.

Q: Aside from tablets, what other devices and accessories do parents need to know about?

A: If you want to set your children up for a successful school year and equip them with all the technology they’ll need to complete their homework easily and efficiently, you may want to consider providing them with the following accessories:

  • Portable chargers: These allow your kids to charge their devices whenever, and from wherever they are without having to be tethered to an electrical outlet.
  • Bluetooth keyboards: These are a must when you’re working on assignment, especially something like an essay, on your tablet. It connects to your tablet and allows you to easily type.
  • Jetpacks: When your child is meeting up for a study group or working on a project where WiFi isn’t free or easily accessible, the Jetpack turns into his/her very own personal WiFi hotspot.

Q: Apps are another key component. What are some of the best learning-oriented apps out there right now?

A: There are a variety of apps available today that can help students stay organized and learn based on their specific needs, including:

  • MyHomework is a free mobile, digital planner that helps high school and even college students keep up with assignments, tests and classes. The Calendar tab breaks down by month, week, day and today so you can input all your class info, and the Notes section tells you what homework is due when.
  • StudyBlue lets you make flashcards with audio, text and sound on your phone or tablet to learn just about anything. Your children can study the cards wherever they go, and even share with friends and classmates.
  • Prezi is a presentation application that’s built to impress. It can sync among multiple devices to allow for excellent presentations.
  • Edmodo is an educational social network that allows teachers to easily communicate with students and parents. While parents can easily stay on top of their child’s homework, read and review teacher announcements and view lesson plans, students can access assignments, collaborate on projects, review grades and more.
  • Standardized Test Prep Apps can help students in high school prepare for standardized tests, such as the SAT, GRE and ACT, which can have a significant impact on their higher education endeavors.