Thursday 28 August 2014

#BacktoSchool #Tech Tips from @Marc_Saltzman #Tools4School

I have two teens boys that are very different in personality and interests. Both have and use multiple tech devices, but what they look for, use and see as important features and functions are very different. One thing they agree on is size matters:
  • the budget is small, but the wish list and cost is big.
  • they are big on style so it needs to look good and have great build quality.
  • tablets and laptops for school need to be small thin and lightweight, with maximum screen size.
  • cell phones need to be neither too big nor too small, like Goldilocks they like them just right.
  • memory and speed need to be big
  • battery life needs to be big, but battery needs to be small.
  • functionality needs to be big, and frustration using those functions needs to be small.
WOW as long as they are not demanding. So the challenge for me as a parent is how do I maximize what I get from my limited budget to meet as many of both my and my teens' "needs", while ensuring the substantial investment I make in tech tools for school will not be obsolete next week. It doesn't stop at devices. With those devices also comes a variety of plans, software, and apps, with associated costs and functionality.

My kids are heading into their final year of high school and I could use some help with the parental learning curve associated with tech tools for school. I am happy Tech-xpert Marc Saltzman  has put together his Top Tech Tips for students. 

  • Back It Up: The life of a student is busy at the best of times, and chaotic and crazy most of the time. No one has time for lost files or work, and it can definitely mean the difference between a stellar mark and an average mark. Marc's first tip is to is to back up your work. Loss of work or files "because of a hard drive crash, nasty virus, or power surge ... it is critical for students to back up their important files." Marc suggests you take "advantage of free cloud services, such as OneDrive " You can backup your files on OneDrive's 7 gigabytes of storage, while having access to your files and work by uploading, editing, and sharing them from your mobile devices, or PC.

  • The Right Stuff: Having the right tools for the job not only makes the work faster and easier, in general the end product is better. We tell our kids that their "job" is school, and our job is to make sure they have the tools to do the job. With assignments, essays, and slide presentations they need a way to easily access their information both at school, at home, and on the road. I can't tell you the number calls I have gotten from my kids in full on crisis mode because they have forgotten their USB keys, or their USB key is full. Marc's tip is to make use of productivity suites such as "Microsoft's Office 365 Home  ($99/year or $10/month) which gives students tried and true programs like Word, Excel and PowerPoint, plus OneNote for note-taking and research, Outlook to manage email and calendars, OneDrive for storage and sharing, and Skype for Skype-to-Skype and Skype-to-phone calling." Personally I like the time savings from being able to manage it all in a single account subscription, and sync family schedules and calendars. Plus the automatic updates gives you the most up to date features and applications. I like the dollars saved by the whole family being able to share the subscription and by using Skype.

  • Protect Your Mobile Device: With all the functions and information we store on our smart-phones and tablets these days it is important to be smart-phone-owners as well. Marc's advice is to "put safeguards in place to keep your data safe. There are a number of free apps that can help you remotely lock, wipe clean or better yet, locate a missing smart phone or tablet." A quick search for such apps appropriate for your device will show there is no shortage of options, including "Blackberry Protect for Blackberry Phones, Find My Phone for Windows Phones, Find My iPhone for iPhones, and Android Device Manager for Android Phones". So be smart about protecting your data!

  • Staying Safe: All Wi-Fi hotspots are not created equal and to some extent you get what you pay for. Free or public Wi-Fi can pose a security risk, and you need to be aware of that and take some steps to minimize your risk. For starters you can take advantage software to protect your mobile device from malware such as Avast Antivirus or Norton Mobile Security. Marc suggests "Whether it's the school's free wireless network or a local coffee shop, students should be careful when using public Wi-Fi , or "hotspots" - they're not as secure as you might think. These ... are fine for research, checking Facebook or reading emails, but resist the urge to do things like online banking  or shopping. Some Wi-Fi networks can appear legitimate -- when in fact they're fake. Nearby criminals create "rogue" networks that look legitimate but they're out to defraud users." So when in doubt check it out or do without Wi-Fi until you have secure and safe access. 

  • Double Duty: For a number of reasons it is important for students to have tech that multi-tasks. For starters buying a tablet and a laptop separately can be more expensive than something that does double duty. If you are not using Office 365 Home or a similar productivity suite of products the time investment of switching information from one device to another is high, and time is money. The key is to have tech that has both the convenience of a tablet and the functionality of a laptop. One such device is the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 tablet that can be customized to your needs with the addition of a keyboard. As Marc says "It's truly the best of both worlds." The Surface Pro 3 starts at $849 which is not the lowest price point, but I found often a good investment at the beginning saves you time and money in the long run. By buying the right tools productivity is increased and the need to invest in upgrades, replacements and add-ons can often be eliminated. Note to my loving husband I WANT A SURFACE PRO 3! xo   

  • Another option in multi-tasking devices is the 2-in-1 or convertible device that "resemble a laptop at first glance - equiped with a QWERTY keyboard and trackpad, attached to a screen - but when your school work is done, the screen twists back, folds down or detaches from the keyboard" and converts into a tablet. I love the idea of all the work being on a single device that has all the function of a laptop and the convenience of a tablet. It just makes sense. You will find 2-in-1 options in a variety of sizes, configurations, and price points. 

Keeping these tips in mind I hope your search for the best tech tools for school is a successful one, and you find tech that is the right fit for you. For more great tips and the latest tech updates and information you can find Marc Saltzman on twitter, on CJAD News Talk Radio - Tech Talk Blog with Marc Saltzman and at The Toronto Star as a contributing author. 

Be sure to check out Microsoft Office 365 Home  to see all the applications and features included in the subscription or follow Microsoft Canada on Facebook  Microsoft Canada on Twitter  Office365 on Twitter for all the latest news.

Yep, just me Cathy thinking out loud about Tech Teens and Tools for School.

Note: I was not compensated for this post. I do however appreciate the opportunity to share these tech tips with my readers and offer them a chance to win a Office 365 Home One Year Subscription. All opinions are my own and reflect my own experience with products and brands. 


  1. I love Excel the most. Spreadsheets keep me organized, calm and collected :) from christmas lists to chore lists :)

  2. Outlook is probably my favourite. Keeps my life in order and feeds me email

  3. Word is my fave I keep all my important info there & know just where to find everything

  4. My favourite application would be Word as it is easy to use and transfers files to others.

  5. Love Microsoft Word since I think it was the first Microsoft Office program I used.

  6. I love Word most as it is the program I use most!

  7. Word is my favourite because it's the one I would use most often.

  8. I like outlook to check my email.

  9. I love Word, it's the best for document formating

  10. My fave is Word, I use it all the time at work, I'm so familiar with Word and it's so useful to me, especially for recipes.

  11. Word is my favourite application -- I've used it forever for writing.

  12. Word is my favourite application. I also use PowerPoint often.

  13. I (Brandee H) left a comment on this post:

  14. I like that all your devices can be linked together.

  15. I commented as Bons on your recent Wonderland post (