It’s official: class is in session. Summer vacation is over. Millions of students across Canada are getting back into the groove, determined to do better than ever this year. To help achieve those lofty academic goals, I’ve put together a collection of some of the best back to school tips from Plug-in writers. Elementary, high school, college or university, keep these in mind to use your high tech gear to stay organized and meet your goals for the 2015 school year.

Choose the Device That Meets Your Needs

Technology has become an important part of the educational experience, even for elementary school students. As you enter high school then post-secondary school, you need to embrace it. But which device to choose?

On the Plugin Blog, we posted a series of articles exploring just this question, pointing out the pros and cons of popular devices like laptops, desktop PCs and made the case for All-in-One computers being ideal for dorm rooms.

I also drew upon personal experience to answer one of the most vexing questions for parents who are trying to balance back to school shopping budgets with the demand for technology: is a tablet as good as a laptop for students? And if you opt for a laptop, which one is the best for back to school purposes?

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The takeaway from this series is that the key to ensuring your kids have the technology they need is to understand the demands of their school program (what software they need to run is one example), recognize any limitations in terms of carrying capacity and access to power outlets, decide whether the device is solely for school or intended to do double-duty for entertainment, then bring budget into the equation. Choose a computing device that meets these needs and it’s going to help throughout this school year and the next as well.

A Printer is a Virtual Must-Have

Some schools have moved to online submission of assignments, but for most students, a printer is indispensable.

All through my own kids’ time at elementary school, my printer has never stopped. More often than not, essays and “written” assignments are typed on a laptop and printed out to be handed in. Various projects mean the printer is constantly spitting out photos of endangered animals, maps and exotic locations. Making sure that printer is in good working order and that features (such as toner saver) are utilized ensures I’m always ready when the next rush print job arrives.

College and university students have more printing options than ever, but having your own printer in your dorm room has numerous advantages including print-on-demand capability, no lining up for shared printers, the ability to print specialty items including iron-ons for t-shirts and with an all-in-one printer you have a photocopier sitting right in your room as well. In other words, you save valuable time, you can save money and you have far more flexibility.

Here are five of the best printers for post-secondary students.

PC Accessories cut clutter for organized workspace.jpgDon’t Forget Accessories

Buying a computer, laptop or tablet for school is the big ticket investment that can pay off big time for students.

However, to make the most of that investment, don’t forget the little things. I’ve already touched on the importance of having a printer, but there are add-ons and accessories that will make any device or back to school experience even better.

In the case of students heading off to an apartment or dorm room, consider high tech gear that will help to keep them focused on the task at hand, despite the many distractions of a shared living space. Dorm room essentials include gear like noise cancelling headphones to block out the racket while focusing on school work, or even a security system so there’s less worry about valuable gear being swiped or damaged while they’re in class.

Laptop accessories like a Kensington Lock mean being able to leave a laptop at a table for the time needed to refresh a coffee or take a bathroom break. Adding an external monitor for when a student is back at their desk makes it practical to open multiple windows simultaneously, something that can greatly boost productivity.

Even desktop PCs will provide a better experience for students with a help of a few accessories. For example, we all know that being organized and able to focus on a school assignment is more difficult in a cluttered environment. So if your PC came with a wired keyboard and mouse, replace them with Bluetooth versions. Not only are they more comfortable to use (without that wired tether they can be positioned anywhere), they reduce the distracting cable clutter.

Leverage the Technology to Get Organized and Stay Organized

Having the right hardware is the big part of the back to school battle. But once your student is suitably equipped, that hardware needs to be leveraged in order to get the most from it. One of the most high impact ways for a student to get organized and stay organized is to take advantage of the many apps that have been designed specifically for this purpose. That can take the form of a to-do list, a calendar, a schedule manager or a combination of all these. Throw in cloud serves that let many of these apps share data across platforms and students can use their smartphone, tablet and/or PC to always be on track. Here are a few examples of popular organization apps and how they can help your student.

Speaking of smartphones and tablets, these devices can also go a long way toward keeping students organized—and not just through use of their calendars.

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Many people don’t realize that the built-in camera makes these devices a mobile scanner. Students can use them to snap photos of blackboards or whiteboards to help later in making notes or studying and they can scan text directly from books or printed pages. Making this ability an even more powerful tool, apps like Evernote and OneNote organize all these snippets of information and store them in the cloud so they can be easily accessed when needed.

Technology has become a must-have for most students, but by taking advantage of everything their gear has to offer—even the features that aren’t necessarily obvious—students can get organized, stay organized and turn 2015 into their best school year ever.

Brad Moon
Editor Computing solutions
I’m a long-time electronics and gadget geek who’s been fortunate enough to enjoy a career that lets me indulge this interest. I have been writing about technology for several decades for a wide range of outlets including Wired, Gizmodo, Lifehacker, MSN,, Kiplinger, and GeekDad. I’m in my 10th year as a senior contributor for Forbes with a focus on reviewing music-related tech, Apple gear, battery power stations and other consumer electronics. My day job is with the Malware Research Center at AI-native cybersecurity pioneer CrowdStrike.