Back to cool
Author: Richard Singleton

Where has the summer gone? It’s cliché to ask, but we have to, right? It’s what busy parents do. Somehow, down deep in the subterranean soil of our psyche, it makes us feel like we’re somehow doing more than just grousing over strained thermometers, hustling from one air-conditioned box to another and trying to squeeze some positive family time between almost toxic doses of Facebook, Netflix and 3D Hollywood summer blockbusters.

As the summer winds down, one thing that many of us could do to begin preparing for a new school year is try to transport the lessons of summer into the classroom. No doubt many parents out there have invested important resources in technology-rich summer camps. Rather than just allow these camps to become anecdotes on the memory mantel, why not explore a way to mine important raw materials to fuel the long journey of the 2011-2012 school year? So, as the school buses begin to
re-emerge and as the alarm clocks come out of their long summer hibernation, here are a few suggestions on how to navigate this new school year with some of the lessons learned this summer.

Get a head start
Don’t wait for school to start to prepare your technology-is-cool-for-school speech. In fact, debrief your kids after they have fun, educational technology experiences this summer. Ask what made the learning fun, how they retained the information, when they caught the glimpse of the blending of education and technology and what ideas they have for using what they learned when school begins again. Make some notes for yourself and have them send themselves an email, PowerPoint, blog, pic or video that outlines ways that they think they can take what they’ve learned back into the classroom. If they play their cards right, they might have a head start on some of their homework.

Supplies in demand
And, what about school supplies? It’s a common rite of passage known by every parent: you trudge through the jungle of spiral notebooks, binders, protractors, erasers and Elmer’s glue, worrying that teachers are toying with your emotions and sending you on a cruel scavenger hunt. You’re certain that perched just behind those store security cameras looms a cadre of elementary school wits giggling at your every indecision. They grin as you anxiously finger through reams of seemingly fine, but apparently useless, economy priced paper. The writing is on the wall. You search in vain for the required and authorized semi-gloss, gilded, hyper-stiff, stain-resistant, high-impact-ready, pre-inked and properly weighted version of a paper product that is apparently created once piece at a time by deinking artisans trained in the ancient arts of alchemy and Egyptian papyrus weaving. You can tell I’ve been a keen observer of the forlorn yearly supply hunting expeditions.

At the same time we’re groaning over the pastel map pencils and warehouse-sized tissue assortments, why not take some time to assess the important issue of technology supplies; long gone are the days of a TI-85 as the lone giant of the tech-savvy. Yes, I may have been the proud owner of a sedan-sized calculator.

Technology supplies for school cover a wide range of topics: software, hardware and even “cloud-based” services.

Increasingly, every school-aged child should have access to an up-to-date notebook computer, with super-fast internet access and an awareness of how to access cloud-based resources. Desktops brimming with tons of machine-specific programs are virtually extinct as a modern portal to education. They are still useful and part of the spectrum of tools, but not the mainstay.

More and more, notebooks are used not to house expensive software packages, but simply to connect to the internet and the growing cloud-based resources floating above the vast landscape of the internet.

Google has recently launched notebooks that are cloud-only devices. Just this summer, Microsoft launched Office 365, its cloud-based software suite. Google has long boasted a growing array of online-only productivity options for students to use for research, writing, publishing and presenting. The cloud is growing exponentially; it’s the place where technology “school supplies” will be housed from now on.

Additionally, this year and the next seem to be becoming synonymous with slate and tablet computing. The iPad blazed the trail for slates, but a bevy of new Android- and Windows-based slates and tablets are arriving all the time. Consequently, on the horizon, Windows is building a new version of its ever-evolving operating system, Windows 8, which will be specifically shaped and molded for the growing wave of touch-screen and mobile computing devices.

Budgetary boundaries
The good news for parents trying to beef-up their technology supplies as school draws closer is that the trend is for technology to keep getting more and more affordable. Not everyone, especially in today’s climate of lean budgets, can afford the latest and greatest gadgets, but most will be able to find some level of technology supplies that will help launch their children into the newest wave of advancement. In so many ways, you are not wasting your money on a toy; you are investing in the education of your child who will need to be skilled, creative and adaptable with technology to be successful in school and work for decades to come.

With that let me wish you a safe and happy conclusion to your summer and best wishes on a new school year full of opportunities and successes, many guided by the lessons learned this summer. May it be the best year yet for your family and the way that you use technology in and out of the classroom!

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