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Back-to-School Must-Have Tech

By Michael Connolly

These days, back-to-school isn’t just about loading up on recommended reading, plastic folders, and the inevitable boxes of pens and pencils. It’s also about getting the latest cool tech gadgets to impress friends and, more importantly, make those endless hours of note-taking and study a little more bearable.

Whether it’s the final years of high-school or the first years of college, there are some must-have tech gadgets that every self-respecting student just can’t be seen without. If it’s a laptop, an MP3 player, or just a decent set of headphones, make sure your kid heads back to school with a contented smile, confident that they have everything they will need!

Here are The Online Mom’s recommendations for those must-have tech categories:


OK, we know that they would really like that $2,500 17-inch MacBook Pro but, let’s face it, it’s probably going to get dropped in the first week of school or have coffee spilled on the keyboard. What they really need is something portable but robust that keeps them connected, allows them to make and store notes, and lets them play games and movies when they have some downtime - all without breaking the bank or causing World War 3 if it gets damaged.

We recommend the Acer Aspire One 751h netbook. A 12-inch display and an almost full-size keyboard make for a comfortable computing experience whether you’re checking e-mail, surfing the web, or streaming video. Ultra-portable at just 3 pounds and all for a starting price of just $379.

Honorable mention: Toshiba Mini NB205

MP3 Players

Here, the iPod Touch remains in a class of its own, thanks to its stylish look, the ease-of-use of the iTunes software, and access to thousands of apps. With millions of songs, thousands of games, and hundreds of movies to choose from, the Touch is more of an entertainment center than just a mere music player. The only thing missing is a camera but, hey, that might not be such a bad thing! Starts at $229.

Honorable mention: Zune HD (coming soon!)


Every good laptop or MP3 player deserves a decent set of headphones and, unfortunately, the ubiquitous white ear buds just don’t cut it anymore. For those parents that don’t baulk at spending more on headphones than they spend on the portable music player itself, you can’t do any better than the QuietComfort® 15 noise cancelling headphones from Bose. Their soft-cushioned, around-the-ear fit will block out even the wildest party going on next door and provide an unparalleled listening experience. Priced at $299.95.

If your budget is slightly tighter, we recommend the Shure SRH440 Professional Studio Headphones, which were designed for musicians but are great for all music lovers. Priced at $99.99.

Honorable mention: Ultimate Ears MetroFi 170

Pocket Video Camera

Of course, the video camera is often regarded as the scourge of the student population, capturing unwelcome and best-forgotten scenes in easily-uploadable high-definition quality. But, let’s face it, nearly every student is already carrying a video-enabled cell phone and if they want to take embarrassing footage then they will go ahead and do it anyway! Better to get them a pocket video cam, so they can take pride in their work and occasionally produce a movie that even Mom would be happy to see!

Despite the competition clamoring to catch-up, the Flip remains best-in-class. Easy-to-use and even easier to share the results, the Flip produces remarkable quality for such a simple, no-frills approach. Choose from the Ultra or the Mino, both of which also come in high definition. Can also be customized for a highly personal look. Starts at $149.99.

Honorable mention: Sony 8GB Handycam Camcorder

Flash Drive

An important but often overlooked accessory, the flash drive is rapidly becoming an essential piece of any student’s digital toolkit. Although it’s hard to believe, flash drives can store pretty much anything a student needs to carry around, whether it’s lecture notes, photo albums or movies. As students are likely to have access to many computers in libraries and study rooms, a reliable hard-wearing flash drive is a must. The SanDisk Ultra Backup USB Flash Drive range is a popular option. Starts at $49.99 for the 8GB model.

Honorable mention: Kingston DataTraveler 150


Of course with all that tech swag, your kid is going to need a very cool backpack to carry it around. Here, you might want to closely consult with your child and make sure they are comfortable with the choice. Nothing upsets a style-conscious teen more than walking around with the wrong accessory! These days, the first decision to make is to choose between a more traditional backpack and a messenger bag. Once that has been decided, there are any number of brands, designs and colors to choose from.

If you want to make it a surprise and are confident your child will like your choice, then try the JanSport Adrenaline Series with a built-in laptop pouch. It’s hard-wearing, stain resistant, machine-washable, and big enough to hold everything from books to sports gear. Starts at $60.

Honorable mention: Belkin Messenger Bags

All the above items are available at Amazon.com, Buy.com, Wal-Mart and other major online retailers.   

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