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Back-to-School Technology

While pencils and pens are back-to-school essentials, some high tech purchases like a new computer or the latest homework helper software can make getting a great grade a little easier. Up to the Minute Computer Consultant John Quain highlights some of this fall's greatest tech toys.

One key back-to-school item to have handy is a good reference source, like a thesaurus or an encyclopedia. But gone are the days of those heavy, bound volumes. Quain recommends using Microsoft Student Encarta Premium. "It has a dictionary, a thesaurus, some math tutoring on it as well," says Quain. The software even contains a graphing calculator. For more information on Microsoft Student, click here.

To go with that new software, you may want to invest in a new laptop. Quain says that to get a decent model, you'll need to spend around a thousand dollars. He prefers the HP dv2500t. "It's about the right size, and it's not too expensive," says Quain. Outfitted with some of the latest gadgets like a finger print sensitive security scanner and a web cam, it'll run you about $1,300. For more specifics about the HP df2500t, click here.

The latest cell phones are hot tech items right now, but to go with that new cell, you'll need to invest in a good wireless device to use while driving. "A lot of states now have tickets up to $250.00 for not using a hands-free unit [while driving]," says Quain. Motorola makes a hands-free speakerphone device called the Motorola T305 Portable Bluetooth Hands-free Speakerphone. It clips onto your visor and has voice recognition capabilities to dial hands-free. For more information on Motorola's speakerphone, you can visit Motorola's website by clicking here.

To avoid using up your cell phone minutes or racking up a huge long-distance bill, worried parents can keep in touch with students who are away at school by using a Skype phone. Skype is an internet-based phone service that can allow users to call other skype customers for free or nearly free. If you have a student who's studying abroad, the service works internationally as well. Quain recommends getting a Philips Skype VOIP phone because it works both as a traditional landline phone as well as a Skype phone. "You don't need your computer on or anything," says Quain. "Usually you need your computer to work with Skype, but does it all on its own with its own transmitter." To learn more about the Philips Skype VOIP phone, visit by clicking here.

Finally, if traditional note-taking is not for you or your kids, Quain suggests getting a Fly Fusion. The Fly Fusion is a pen-like device that digitally records everything you write. Once you're done taking notes or writing that "to do" list, simply connect the pen to your computer and download what you've just written. "This is really aimed at kids from about 10 to 16," says Quain. "It recognizes equations, so if you start writing an equation down, when you come back to your computer... it will even help you work out some math problems." The pen can translate different languages too. For more information on this high-tech pen, click here.

If you are looking for more advice on these devices or more technology tips, visit Quain's website at or click here.

By Erin Petrun

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