August is here and with it, last hurrahs of summer as we head back to school later this month. With photos of friends arriving at college campuses to get their beloveds settled and first day of school pictures appearing on my Facebook wall along with an endless stream of emails and newspaper circulars announcing deals on school supplies, I know I’m not the only one with school in the back on my mind. This year I’ve rounded up some fantastic devices, accessories, and apps in an age appropriate guide for families since not all tech needs are the same for college, high school, middle school, and elementary ages. Since back to school is also about us getting and staying organized, there’s also a section for parents too! Best of luck with the start of the new school year!
Back to school for first year college students and parents often means outfitting a new dorm room with practical technology that will allow for studying anywhere at any time plus the necessary safeguards like virus protection, cloud backup, and even a laptop lock to ensure they don’t lose any precious work. Since space is often an issue in dorm rooms, consider size but invest in quality devices that will last at least through their college years but hopefully beyond.
Microsoft Surface Pro 3 (starts at $799)— Microsoft’s newest Surface provides the portability of a tablet but the functionality of a laptop that allows your student to work anywhere- dorm room, library, outside, friend’s room, etc. In the event that they want to work elsewhere on a different device, they can always access their files by logging into their OneDrive account that provides plenty of storage in the cloud for all of their papers and photos. One great way to test out the Surface 3 is to visit a local Microsoft store to try the latest devices to determine what’s best for your college student. Microsoft is offering $150.00 off Surface Pro 3 for college students between August 3 and September 6 to help them get the tablet that can replace a laptop for a great price. This offer is available at Microsoft Stores, Best Buy, Staples and Tiger Direct in the U.S., and Microsoft Stores and Best Buy in Canada. To be eligible for the promotion, students must be enrolled in college or university and have a valid .edu email address.
Asurion Digital Device Protection— Recently I wrote about protecting your devices while on vacation and the importance of technology protection through Asurion but it’s also important have peace of mind that laptops, tablets, and smartphones are protected throughout the school year. Digital devices are highly targeted items for theft on college campuses and Asurion can ensure your student gets a replacement quickly (usually overnight!), easily, and without all the worry about having to purchase a brand new one.
Staples EasyTech Total Support($160/year)— Before your student sets foot on campus, give them the gift of Staples EasyTech Total Support that will allow them to visit any local Staples store for help protecting, detecting, maintaining, and upgrading your machine. Staples EasyTech technicians can assist in removing viruses, backing up your data, recovering information from your hard drive, and regularly tuning up your computer. A great service for non-tech savvy students!
Master Lock Set-Your-Own Combination SafeSpace™ Laptop Computer Lock($28.90)—70% of college students head to college with laptops and mobile devices that are the most stolen items on college campuses. They’re are easy targets because they’re small, portable, easy to disguise because almost everyone has one and they can be easily resold for a high dollar amount. The Master Lock Set-Your-Own Combination SafeSpace™ Laptop Computer Lock secures your student’s laptop easily and quickly whether studying in your dorm room, using it in the library, or using it to catch up with social networks while dining in the campus cafe. The SafeSpace Laptop Computer allows students to walk away from their laptops without their laptops “walking away” from them thanks to a strong, self-coiling cable, trusted dial locking mechanism and durable metal construction helps protect valuable electronics and ultimate personalization with more than 10,000 numeric or alpha combination possibilities adds extra security.
V-Moda Custom Crossfade Headphones ($199.99)— Studying is the key to success but it can be hard to concentrate in the dorms. Help your student focus with the V-Moda custom crossfade headphones that feature customized headphone plates that help them distinguish their headphones from their friends and ultimately makes it harder to lose and reduces the chance of them being stolen. Memory foam makes them comfortable for studying at long stretches of time but also helps block out external noise so they can really focus.
Peyton Satchel ($199)— Every woman needs a great multitasking bag and that works as a stylish bag to tote your laptop or tablet, chic weekend tote, and is suitable for a night out. The Peyton Satchel from Robert Matthew Bags is a great investment that can become her signature piece that will transition well into the work world post-graduation. Wide double handles make this bag comfortable to carry and the studs provide some great day into night detail. Lots of compartment inside help her keep her items organized instead of having them fall into an abyss at the bottom. If she’s more of a small bag person who can’t be without a purse, check out the Sofia Leather Shoulder Clutch ($168) that can be used as a wristlet or a shoulder bag but is the perfect size for a everyday essentials.
Tech savvy driving teens who love their devices and are always on the go need products that can help them stay safe behind the wheel, keep up with their busy social lives, and assist with organizational skills. Here are three favorite products that I’ve tried recently that are great for the teen set.
(GIVEAWAY) Philips ActionFit Sport Earhook Headphones($29.99 or $39.99 with microphone)—High school students on a budget will appreciate the ActionFit Sport Earhook Headphones that are affordably priced at $29.99 and $39.99 and deliver great sound that won’t break the bank.The earhook design with cushioned caps provide a comfortable and secure fit plus they’re also antimicrobial, sweat resistant, and washable because um- high school gyms! Need I say more? They also feature a Kevlar reinforced cable and clip to keep the cord out of the way and come in bright colors beyond the basic black. Win a set of the Philips ActionFit Sports In-Ear Style style headphones by entering below!
Kinivo BTC455 Bluetooth Hands Free Car Kit ($45)— We’re dependent on our cell phones and as important it is to teach driving teens about not texting while driving or taking calls when behind the wheel, we need to give them tools that can help them like the BTC455 Bluetooth hands free car kit. This handy device upgrades any vehicle’s stereo system with Bluetooth functionality so they can answer and receive calls hands-free and also stream their music from their smartphone through the car’s speakers.
Hamptons Women’s Tote ($70)— OGIO makes some of the best backpacks around but for high school girls who prefer something pretty and functional that can hold a laptop, binders, and notebooks for class might like the Hamptons Women’s Tote. With a fully padded fleece lined laptop compartment with elastic closure fits most 15″ laptops, padded tablet pocket, functional side pockets, fully padded base to protect electronics, zippered compartments and plenty of pockets, padded handles, and feminine details like buttons and a removable belt, this is a bag that is comfortable to carry and will protect her electronics when going to and from class.
While middle school may make us recall less than savory years while growing up (hormones, lockers, friend drama- oh my!), we can give our kids what they need to have a successful academic and social life. Make sure they know they can talk to you about anything since having open lines of communication now can only help in the high school years when lots more issues (sex, underage drinking, etc.) come up.
Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Folio ($99.99- Tablet-toting students will appreciate a spacious keyboard that allows them to be productive when writing papers, researching and more – from anywhere, especially with the recent launch of Microsoft Office for iPad this year. The Logitech Ultrathin offers a flexible multi-angle stand that attaches to the iPad with a magnetic clip to ensure the perfect typing angle. Finicky middle schoolers who love to express their personalities through their device accessories will appreciate that the Ultrathin Keyboard Folio comes in a number of fun colors while parents will appreciate that their investment is protected thanks to a wrap-around cover that provides full front and back protection. Available for iPad Air, iPad mini and iPad mini with Retina display.
Master Lock Set-Your-Own Combination Locks— It’s the age of lockers and now is the time that tweens who transition from elementary to middle school start to feel anxiety about their lockers. It may sound silly but for a soon-to-be middle schooler, it is a serious matter! Troublesome locks on and the short amount of time between classes can make some kids dread having to store their belongings in lockers. This summer take some time to help your soon-to-be middle school student select a lock so they can practice over the summer. Our family is a big fan ofMaster Lock Set Your Own Combination Locks. Check out theMaster Lock 1535 D Combination Padlock ($11.50) that features letters to create a customized work as your combination. They also like the directional movements of the 1500iD Speed Dial Combination Lock ($6.97) because it’s fast to unlock a locker using up/down/left/right directional movements than twisting the dial of a traditional combination lock.
Lenovo IdeaCentre A520 Touchscreen Desktop ($1199)— With so many families using tablets and laptops, you may be wondering the purpose of an all in one (AIO) machine but despite the number of devices we have in our house, we absolutely love our centrally located Lenovo A520. The A520 features a smaller footprint than our previous AIO machine but boasts a large 23” touchscreen with incredible clarity that runs Windows. Situated near our kitchen table that serves as a hub for family activities the large screen makes it easy for me to help our kids with web-based homework assignments or find information online whether I’m right next to them, sitting at the kitchen table, or at the sink across the room. I also like that the hinge allows it to be used upright or flat, like an oversized tablet. Dolby sounds means this machine has incredible sound output too.
K’Nex 70 Model Building Set ($34.99)— Inspire a love of STEM with the 70 Model Building Set from K’NEX that provides instructions and ideas for cars, planes, sea creatures, and whatever one’s imagination can come up with! This kit contains 700 rods and connectors for endless open-ended building fun for your budding engineer!
Let’s be honest- back to school is about moms and dads too as we gear up for a busy school year. Here are some of my favorite apps and products that save time, protect my devices while I’m shuttling kids around, and keep me organized.
TotSpot for buying and selling kids clothes (free for iOS)— If you’re like me, you’re endlessly cleaning out closets. A few of the items of the items the kids have worn are kept but most are donated. Sometimes I think about consigning or selling a lot on eBay but it just seems like so much effort that into the donation pile they go! At least until I heard about TotSpot! TotSpot is a free app that allows busy parents to show and sell clothes. This parent to parent marketplace features individual articles of clothing or collections sold by fellow moms and dads. Users create profiles for each child to quickly filter through all the offerings to find the sizes that fit their child. Scroll through them with a swipe of your finger on your phone and simply tap to purchase and the item you want will be shipped directly by the seller. Your credit card is charged and your purchase arrives at your door. Easy, right? And no catches! A full review of the app is coming soon!
(Giveaway) Agility System for iPad— If your iPad is part of your daily life, you need the new Agility System from OtterBox that provides hands-free convenience for using your tablet anywhere you want in your home. Start by protecting your iPad in an Agility Shell and add a Portfolio, Deluxe Folio, or Folio to take it to work. The Agility Folio is a slim tablet case that converts into a stand and converts into a 2-position stand for typing and viewing, Portfolio is a full-coverage tablet case that converts into a stand and folds around your entire tablet protecting it and the touchscreen while converting into a multi-position stand for landscape and portrait typing and viewing angles, while the Deluxe Folio serves as a expansive tablet case that converts into a stand and carries all of the extras you need thanks to exterior and interior pockets. But that’s not all! For home use, get the Wall Mount that attaches your iPad to most vertical surfaces with 3M Command Strips, Agility Dock to hold your tablet in landscape and portrait views for your desk, nightstand, or counter, and Power Dock to keep it charged. The Power Dock sits on any flat surface and plugs into a standard wall outlet to charge your tablet plus two other devices that can be a mix of Apple and Android products. Not sure what you need? OtterBox makes it easy with Starter, Classic, and Premium packages for $79.95, $119.90, and $169.85 respectively. And the best part of the Agility System is that it still provides classic OtterBox protection against the bumps and bruises that come from regular use.
(Giveaway) Resurgence Power Case for iPhone ($99.95)— Finally. A case that provides charging power and protection from a name that I trust! My OtterBox Resurgence Power Case is my new favorite charging case because the streamlined design delivers tough protection from drops and shock and two extra charges for my phone when I’m on the go. Not only does it ensure that I’m never in the red for long, but it fully protects my phone with military-rated drop protection but it’s green, meaning that it automatically sops charging my phone once it’s fully charged, preserving more power for later.
Henge Docks Vertical Docking Station for MacBook Pro ($119)— I have to admit that when I first spotted Henge Docks’ booth at CE Week in New York City earlier this summer, their Vertical Docking Station had me at hello. When working in my at-home office, my MacBook sits on top of a speaker, plugged into an extra large monitor for easy viewing. The cord situation behind my monitor is a mess and reaching over the screen to plug in my computer each time it comes with me is kind of a first-world pain. The Vertical Docking Station not only eliminates cord clutter but is a beautiful way to connect my MacBook to my monitor to save space. A built-in cable organizer keeps all of the cables that once lived on my desk in place and not only is Thunderbolt ready, but also has pre-installed USB, audio, and Mini DisplayPort cables so all you have to do is set your MBP in the dock to connect it to your external monitor. The streamlined look and sleek metal finish make for an absolutely stunning product that will have any Apple fan at hello. While you’re ordering a Vertical Docking Station for your MBP, also get a Gravitas– a weighty dock that serves as the perfect place to park your iPhone or iPad while at your desk. One Gravitas works for both for the sweet price of $69. Yay for versatility and gorgeous design that helps eliminate clutter from the workspace!
TripIt (free or pro $49/year)— Whether you’re a parent who travels for work or likes to have everything organized in one place for family vacations, TripIt can help create a master itinerary out of all of your various documents so you can access all of your travel plans, anytime, and on any device. The free version of TripIt allows you to forward all flight, hotel, car rental, and restaurant confirmation emails to a TripIt email where they will be compiled into a detailed itinerary that can be viewed at any time and on any deice. Itineraries can also be synced with online or mobile calendars, shared with family, friends, or colleagues, and easily edited. For $49/year, TripIt Pro organizes, monitors, alerts, and notifies you so you’re always in the know when on the go. Get real-time alerts for delays, cancellations, and gate changes, Find alternate flights with open seats quickly, receive a notification when the seat you want becomes available, keep track of reward-program points and miles in one spot, receive a notification when you’re eligible for a fare refund, and selectively share your itineraries with those in your trusted circle automatically. Available for iOS, Android, Blackberry, and Windows Phones.
Bella Rocket Blender ($12)— Healthy food on the go doesn’t have to be expensive or hard to prepare especially thanks to the Bella Rocket Blender. This compact and affordable blender features a 20 ounce BPA free plastic tumbler that screws on to the base for blending right in the tumbler when you press the colorful button. I had the opportunity to try the Bella Rocket at Walmart Blogger Day last month and found that it only takes seconds to blend your fruit or vegetable smoothie creation thanks to a 240 watt motor. Once everything is blended to your liking, unscrew it and twist on the travel lid for sipping on the go. It’s so easy to use that kids can help make healthy snacks. The Bella Rocket Blender is available in red, orange, purple and teal.
Enter to win a Resurgence Power Case or products from the Agility Tablet System from OtterBox to protect your devices this school year! Philips is also giving away a set of their ActionFit Sports In-Ear Style Headphones!
Please note that the winner will receive a Resurgence Power Case in the color of their choice for iPhone. The Agility winner can choose to obtain products to fit an iPad Air, iPad mini with Retina display, iPad 2/3/4, Galaxy Note 8, Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 model), or Galaxy Tab 3 10.1. Devices are not included with these accessory giveaways.
Samples received for review purposes. Some products were exhibited at CE Week in New York City where I was a guest of Techlicious. Amazon Affiliate links included in this post. All images courtesy of the aforementioned companies. I am a member of the MasterLock #LSSS, serve as a TotSpot ambassador, am a #LenoverInsider, and work with Microsoft as a #WindowsChampion and #OfficeChamp, and receive product and/or compensation for my involvement but was not required to include their products as part of this post. I was invited by WalMart to be at guest at #WMTBloggerDay where they covered my travel to attend the day’s events. Additionally, I have worked with Asurion and Staples recently but was not required to mention their products in this post. All opinions are my own.