At long last, the schools my kids attend have launched a trial “Bring Your Own Device*” program. And few households are more stoked about this than the four certified nerds in ours are.
But tech in the classroom presents some interesting new challenges for student, parents and teachers. Batteries never go dead on textbooks. Paper pages don’t shatter if the book gets dropped. And if you leave a textbook at home, you still have your notebook (the paper kind) with you.
So to avoid the heartbreak of “the laptop ate my homework,” here are some tips that will help your tech be as ready for back to school as you (or your parents) are.
1) Establish a “launchpad” with a power outlet. Identify a space near the front door (or which ever portal gets the most use) where books, backpacks, lunches, etc. get staged at the end of the day. Make sure that a dedicated power adapter lives near the Launchpad and make plugging in and topping off the batteries part of the end-of-the-day routine. Using an iPad? Our PowerDock Dual might be just the ticket. PowerDock Dual – $59.99
2) Back up your tech. Between Google Drive, iCloud and the numerous cloud-based back-up services available, there’s no excuse for not mirroring your tablet or laptop’s school-related data. We’re big fans of DropBox because of its flexibility. Son’s assignment folders are accessible to him on his laptop and the old iPad. BUt if either runs out of battery midway through the day, he need only log into a public computer to access his files, and forward that biology assignment on to his teacher before the last bell rings. Dropbox.com – 2GB FREE.
3) Protect it with a case and screen protector. Your tablet needs school clothes too. Surprise! An accessory manufacturer advises using a case to protect your tech. In reality, some cases are better suited to the classroom that others. Look for a case that folds into a stand so typing is easier. We make some. You might even consider keeping your iPad in the same binder that everything else lives in. Screen protectors make it easier to keep the screen cleaner and can help cut down the screen glare from the soul-sucking overhead fluorescent light that is a hallmark of school classrooms everywhere. Binder Insert for iPad – $24.99
4) Leave your books at school. If your school is launching a BYOD program that includes textbook access, find out if you’ve got the option of using both a physical textbook AND its online counterpart. Doing so means that you can use the dead-tree version in school, but don’t have to lug it home everyday in order to do even-numbered problems 1 through 22, showing your work. eTextbooks – Availability varies by school system.
5) Avoid temptation by creating a school page on your iPad or tablet. Keeping the apps you need in school on the device’s home screen and moving all the fun, distracting stuff to its own page may help you avoid the lure of Minecraft in the middle of 5th period and the inevitable note to your parents that it could incur. Staying out of trouble – Priceless.
6) Keep your power close. And a sync cable closer. Keep a spare power adapter in your locker or, for that matter, in your bag. The size and weight of the “wall wart” has decreased pretty dramatically. At the very least, keep a sync cord with you. Most are USB-powered and can plug into any available USB port in a pinch.
7) It’s never too early to calendar. Using Google as a Calendar server, use any one of a skillion apps, or the one built into your device, as an assignment book that’s accessible anywhere there’s an internet connection. While iPad and Android devices both have perfectly adequate calendar apps that come standard, I’ve been super pleased with iPlan. It’s clean, has lots of space for taking down the details of the Silas Marner project due next week and it can link with a Google calendar. iPlan – normally $9.99, but on sale now through Aug. 12 for .99.
What are your plans for the new school year? Is BYOD old hat where you go to school?