Digital School Supplies

The bell has rung, school has begun, and so has the 21st century. The ubiquitous pencil and paper will have to move over and share some glory as the most useful school tools with newer digital supplies. What’s invading your school supply book and student wish lists? Here are 10 digital supplies, five for the student and five for the school, helping to push our education system into a higher tech learning institution.

For the digital minded 21st century geared student, here are some wonderful items you may want to get your hands on.

Number one on the list is computers and the Internet. For almost any age student, the combination of a computer and the Internet is a powerful tool. With proper guidance and instruction, the computer and Internet may be the most important supply of the 21st century. Computers are so important that the non-profit group O.L.P.C. has made it their mission to provide one laptop per child living in poor countries.

How about an Internet notebook computer for 50 dollars? Many Internet providers are now offering service similar to cell phone companies. Sign up for Internet service and get an Internet notebook for less than an I-phone! If you haven’t seen these offers at your local electronics store yet, you will soon!

Number two on the list is digital textbooks. For college students or private school students, this handy supply can be a boon! They are infinitely lighter than textbooks to carry around via a pocket computer, palm device or perhaps even your I-phone, but with the money saved on purchase, it is also lighter on the wallet. For K through 12 grades, digital textbooks may take a while in coming as most schools supply the students with the textbooks they need.

You can purchase digital textbooks online from well-known sellers such as Barnes & Noble or Amazon.com or from specialty sites like Digitaltextbooks.com. Once downloaded, you can transfer them to your favorite digital book-capable hand held device (Internet notebook comes to mind.)

Number three is the digital recorder. Gone are the days of clumsy tape recorders and sifting through cassettes to find that lecture, interview or memo you need. New digital recorders can record hours to hundreds of hours of audio in easy to manage digital files such as MP3 or OGG. Audio quality is many times higher than those old tapes and the devices can be as small as a lighter.

Digital recorders come in many shapes, sizes and capabilities. Ask at your local electronics store or search for them online.

Number four is word processing software. If you have a windows operating system computer and Microsoft office, you may know the power of a good word processor. Word processors do more than just let you write. They can check spelling and grammar, format tables, introduce pictures to your manuscripts or even provide a thesaurus of suggestions for vocabulary. When it comes to writing, what can’t a word processor do besides write for you? If you invest in a computer for education, a word processor is all but a must have thing.

Word processors can be expensive. Consider Microsoft Word, which sells for more than your Internet notebook computer at $75 to $150 used, and that doesn’t include the office suite software. But there is hope for those who need to save and need the best word processing features. Open Office is a word processing office suite of programs similar to Microsoft Office and can even save and open files in Office/word format. The best part about Open Office is the price tag. Free! Learn more at www.openoffice.org

Last on the list at 5 is image editing software. For the artistic in need of creating a great image, poster, flyer, avatar, or anything else to do with images, including science reports, English reports, and more, an image editing software is crucial. For students to really shine in their work, adding the flare of imagery can really bring a lot to a presentation or school assignment. This may be an overlooked digital supply as the cost of the software can enter the stratosphere, but even a low cost or free product can be a worthwhile tool.

There are many image programs out there to choose from, but spending money on something you might not use professionally could turn into an artistic waste of money. Try looking for free programs such as paint.com that offer most of the features any non-art student may wish to use.

For schools and teachers, there are some fantastic digital supplies to be on the lookout for. Here are five notable items you as a teacher or educational institution may want to consider.

Number one on the list is the computer network. The schools of the 21st century aren’t complete without the addition of computers but computer networks provide a whole lot more than Internet and word processing. With computer networking, schools can integrate the learning environment with a multitude of other digital devices and services. If all students have a school e-mail, and website – where they can explore and publish their ideas in 21st century fashion learning can become a globally integrated thing.

There may be no end to the possibilities of computer networks in schools. From assigning homework so that no student can again say they didn’t get it, even when they are sick, to providing an interface for digital devices such as pocket PCs that students can be assigned and use for all their school needs digital textbooks, educational software, or let your imagination lead the way.

Number two on the list is digital, network and computer safety software. Having your school wired-in may provide a wealth of potentially useful options for your students to learn, but may also provide a potentially hazardous opportunity for exploitation. Virus protection, Internet safety screens, firewalls, and logging software will be a must to keep your students on the right end of the 21st century education and your network in full working order.

What software is right for your school? Perhaps there is no one answer to this question. You are best to ask your school’s network engineer or any company specializing in network security. A useful start may be netday.org and Project Tomorrow’s NetDay Cyber Security Kit for Schools, downloadable in PDF format at http://www.netday.org/downloads/Administrator_Guide.pdf

Number three on the list is Digital Whiteboards. The messy, chalky, black board was nearly completely replaced in American schools by the much cleaner and easier to use dry erase white board. Now there is a new digital version that offers a final solution to the mess and clumsiness of conventional boarding. Digital whiteboards are often projectors or touch activated flat screens that can link with computers, digital pens, and other peripherals to provide more dynamic, multimedia-driven interaction in a classroom setting. There is a great range of features, not to mention price, of these fantastic 21st century whiteboards, and just think about the money you can save on things like markers, erasers and cleaning.

There are many manufacturers of digital whiteboards and any one of them could fit the requirements of even the most industrious educational institutions. One type to keep a look out for is no-touch whiteboards. These use technology similar to Nintendo’s Wii-mote to provide an inexpensive digital adaptation of the contemporary whiteboard.

Number four on the list is digital cataloging for libraries. How much time might a student save by typing book queries into a computer versus sifting through drawers of card catalogs? Digital cataloging not only speeds up the process for students but also for the library staff. A stack of books that need to go back on the shelf just needs a quick scan from a mobile catalogue reader and a low-tech pushcart.

No more printing new cards or replacing old ones, no more worries that a catalogue card will be pulled out of its place – or placed under the wrong header, and no more rows of catalogue card shelves. In fact, why not use that space those catalogue shelves are taking up for computers that the students can use to do their homework or research on the Internet? Digital cataloging is a must for the 21st century school library.

Number 5 and last on the list is hand-held computers. Put those networks to work with hand held computers for your students! These versatile digital companions can be the replacement for everything from bulky printed textbooks, to the common pencil and paper. Though the cost from hundreds to thousands of dollars per unit may sound daunting, think of the money saved on books, paper, ink, folders, paper-clips and so on. The hand held computer may not completely eliminate these things, but will indefinitely cut down on their use.

Though high tech devices like hand-held computers are prone to breaking and are often targets of theft, consider how many kids loose their books or other school supplies on a daily basis. The student or their parents still have to pay for those books and supplies. Adding hand-held computers into the school supplies might force parents to be more conscientious of their child’s habits and safety. Ask any student and you may be surprised how open they are to the idea.

Overall, the best and “coolest” digital supplies present both usefulness and new sets of concerns for safety and maintenance. The 21st century has presented the education system with new technology to make learning more fun, interactive and effective. With the new technology come new hazards in safety. Technologize responsibly.