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  • John Bell

Tech Sense August 2023: Back 2 School 2023

Updated: Sep 27, 2023


Back to School 2023

Another August and another school year. Welcome to our annual Back to School Edition of Tech Sense. The last two years we have transitioned from the pandemic years where school was totally dependent on technology to something that more closely resembles what we had before the pandemic. The exception is that now students, parents, and teachers are more familiar with technology, the technology has become a more embedded part of our education system. At least for the learning institutions in our region. So, let’s take a look at back to school for 2023.


Laptops and Desktops

A common question I get is about the computers for school, should they be laptop computers or desktop computers. My answer before the pandemic was desktops for elementary and middle school but consider laptops for high school students who will likely benefit from the portability and definitely laptops for college students. My reasoning is that I prefer to protect younger children by having them working in a common space where what they are doing can be observed. Today it is more likely every child needs a computer to use, and they all need it at same time. They also need cameras, microphones, and sound. Right now, Laptops priced well so I am ready to suggest laptops for everyone.


Create a Study Area

I do not like the idea of children behind a closed door with their computer. I believe that children should use computers but out in the open where they can be seen and heard. As they get older and more experienced the rules can be relaxed. I also suggest using a service like OpenDNS (https://www.opendns.com) a free service that protects your family from things you don’t want to see.


Windows versus Chrome Book

Ok, I didn’t include Apple or Linux computers here because neither are common in the K-12 group. Many schools are using Chrome Books for younger kids because Chrome Books are easier to maintain and give the schools and parents more control over the computer. They are also less costly when your child decides to throw it down the stairs. Make sure your school supports Chrome Books first. As the child approaches High School, Windows becomes more necessary.


Tablets

Tablets are great for kids of all ages. My 3-year-old granddaughter even has a tablet. A tablet can be made nearly indestructible and there is a lot of good educational programming for kids of all ages. You can also let your children watch pre-approved movies and shows and listen to approved music. Most have options to keep the children off the internet and out of the stores, limiting these features to the parents. If allowed the children can even call their grandparents or get an approved list of friends and family.

Tablets are not typically used in schools, but they are a great learning tool for everybody. College students may find them useful for notetaking (I do). Also, I find tablets useful for reading and watching movies when I travel. Currently the Samsung Galaxy series and the Amazon tablets are the best values I see. Amazon tablets are limited to purchases on the Amazon store. Buy a protective case for the tablet, some are specifically designed to protect the tablet from young children.


Printers

Many learning environments have replaced turning in paper with emailing or uploading assignments as a PDF document. There are still times where you simply must print something out. There are services where you can pay to have a document printed but they can be expensive. I still find myself using printers regularly. In general, there are three types of printers: the ink jet, the laser, and the all-in-one.

The ink jet is often the least expensive, but beware: many companies make their money by selling ink at outrageous prices. I find that I can no longer recommend HP printers because they will actually periodically update their code to prevent the printer from printing with less expensive ink essentially breaking the printer, so it is useless. I do not recommend ink jet printers that combine the three-color inks into a single tank or cartridge. When you run out of one color you must buy all three adding to the cost. I prefer an ink jet that has separate tanks for each color, this wat I only need to change the used-up ink. Some printer companies now offer printers that allow easy refilling of the tanks.

Laser printers are the most reliable and least expensive, printing thousands of pages per print cartridge. Most laser printers only print in black and white, but the quality is very high.

All-in-one printers are mostly ink-jet printers with other features like document scanning, copying, and even fax capabilities. Look for these printers with separate tanks just like an ink jet and avoid HP. Brother has been a reliable brand for me for both laser and ink jet printers. I am also a fan of Canon ink jet printers.


Other Stuff you may need

Let’s not forget mice, keyboards, microphones, headsets, and USB memory. I prefer a Bluetooth mouse for laptops. All modern laptops have Bluetooth built in and using a Bluetooth mouse means you don’t have to waste a USB port for the mouse. Even if you are using a laptop, it is nice when at home to be able to use a full-size keyboard. Headsets allow you to listen to sounds from your computer without disturbing anyone else. USB memory is still a good way to backup your computer.

Well, I am running out of space. Please enjoy the rest of your summer while it lasts.

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