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Comments by YACCS
Thursday, August 17, 2006

Back to school

The Gateway CX210X convertible notebook doubles
as a tablet PC, with a pen-like stylus.

Back to School, With Cellphone and Laptop

Published: August 17, 2006

It used to be that getting ready for another school year meant buying a few new No. 2 pencils, spiral notebooks and a lunchbox. Not anymore. Young children and teenagers, as well as college students, are going to school with more electronic gadgets than ever.

“Tech-based products are so much less expensive that the price point now allows kids to nag their parents to buy a particular product or buy one themselves,” said Peter Grunwald, president of Grunwald Associates, a consulting firm in Bethesda, Md., focusing on school technology.

As a result, the back-to-school season is one of the busiest for electronic retailers like Circuit City or Best Buy, rivaling only Christmas. “Purchases are more necessity-based at this time of year,” said Stephanie Gooch, product process manager for Best Buy. At Christmas, purchases “tend to be more gaming, entertainment-based,” she said.

Another change is that the newest tech devices are not aimed at just older students anymore. While laptops are still most useful for those going off to college, Mr. Grunwald says that as prices drop on a wide variety of products once meant for an older crowd, younger students start using them as well. “Kids are aging up,” he said.

Elementary/Middle School

Preteenagers are increasingly asking for cellphones of their own. While cellphones give parents a sense of security and help them keep track of their children’s busy lives, adults often resist buying them, concerned that younger children will use them as their older siblings do: to talk to friends, send text messages and play games.

The LG Migo VX1000 from Verizon Wireless ($49.99 with a two-year contract) addresses most of those worries. It is a child-friendly, simple phone: no text messaging, no games and no camera. It is also very small and light, well suited for child-size hands. The Migo has only four numbered buttons, which can dial four preprogrammed phone numbers. Those numbers cannot be changed without a password. To place a call, the child simply presses one of the numbered keys and the talk button. In the middle of the phone pad is a large key for emergency calls.

One Migo feature attractive to parents is the Chaperone service offered by Verizon Wireless ($9.99 a month extra). Using the phone’s Global Positioning System receiver, parents can keep track of their children through a Web site or on their own Verizon phones. For an additional $10 charge, the Chaperone service comes with a feature called Child Zone, which notifies parents when a child arrives in or leaves the vicinity of a specified location, like school or a playground.

Catherine Poling, the assistant principal at Kemptown Elementary School, near Frederick, Md., suggests that students also get a flash drive for portable storage of their computer files. “With the volume of files that students work on, including video and images, it would be helpful if they all had a mass storage device to transport files between home and school,” Ms. Poling said. One inexpensive option is the 512-megabyte Lexar JumpDrive FireFly ($29.99).


“You can’t go to college without a computer, and anymore that means a laptop,” said Ms. Gooch, the Best Buy manager.

Among the popular options this year are laptops that flip around to turn into tablet PC’s, like the Gateway CX210X convertible notebook ($1,299). The stylus that comes with the laptop can be used like a pen. For those unfamiliar with tablet PC’s it can take a little time to become comfortable with the smooth display, however, and the screen is sometimes difficult to see under certain lighting conditions. But the laptop could prove to be a big timesaver for students putting together study guides. For example, students could download a professor’s lecture notes to the laptop, write their own notes in the margins using the tablet PC, then print out a set to study.

This comes to mind, because as my 18 year old nephew goes to college, he's had to buy a specific Dell laptop for his campus. Although most schools offer laptop deals.

posted by Steve @ 3:11:00 AM

3:11:00 AM

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