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Five Awesome Back-to-School Apps and Gadgets

By Guest Blogger(view all posts by Rick.Broida)
at 6:20AM Thursday August 16, 2012
under Money Saving Tips

Getting ready to pack the kids off to school? Better make sure they're packing the latest in student-friendly apps and tech gear.

Below I've rounded up five items no student should be without. They're good for everything from recording class lectures to recovering lost laptops to saving money on textbooks.

It's one thing to take notes during a class. It's quite another to record audio at the same time, adding bookmarks along the way to easily revisit different topics and discussions.

That's the idea behind Audiolio ($2.99), a simple but incredibly useful audio-recording app for iPad.

You can record anything with Audiolio, but it's best suited for things like presentations, interviews, and lectures. As you listen, you add bookmarks that identify the various topics being discussed, ultimately generating a "bookmark set"--a timeline--for the entire recording.

That makes it infinitely easier for a student to revisit important sections, without having to manually scan through the audio file.

Take that, legal pad!

Another must-have app for iPad users, Kno Textbooks provides access to some 200,000 college textbooks, all in tablet-friendly form, all priced lower than the paper equivalents.

Take, for example, "Fundamentals of Organic Chemistry." The print edition sells for a jaw-dropping $247, but you can rent the Kno version for six months for $86.47.

The app also lets you search, take notes, create a journal, sync with a Dropbox account, and much more. Oh, and one other thing: textbooks stored in an iPad weigh considerably less than their print counterparts.

Smartphone, meet smartpen. The Livescribe lets you scribble notes on paper, but with a twist: it records everything you hear and write.

In other words, once your class or lecture is over, you've got a complete audio recording that's synced to the notes you took. When you tap the pen on a particular note, the audio playback jumps to that exact moment of the recording.

If there's a downside to the Echo, it's that you have to use it with special paper. Plus, the pen itself is a bit pricey, starting at $119.95 for the 2GB version. (Note, however, that the 4GB model is currently on sale for $129.95, a $20 savings.)

Still, for any student who needs or wants to take notes with a pen instead of a laptop, the Echo could be the greatest thing since graph paper.

A lost or stolen laptop could mean a semester's worth of work down the drain, to say nothing of the cost of the hardware itself.

Laptop theft is particularly prevalent on college campuses, which is why I recommend installing a recovery tool like LoJack for Laptops.

This software allows for remote monitoring and tracking of the machine. If it ever goes missing, the company's recovery team will coordinate with local police to help get it back. No need for vigilante justice!

Absolute Software is currently offering a back-to-school deal on LoJack subscriptions: buy a Standard or Premium subscription and get another one free. (That means you can protect two laptops for the price of one.)

Every student needs a backpack, right? The Powerbag not only carries your gear, but also recharges it.

Specifically, this backpack comes with a rechargeable battery that can supply power to one or more mobile devices: tablet, smartphone, smart pen, and so on.

Tucked neatly away in its side pocket you'll find mini-USB, micro-USB, and Apple connectors. Just plug in your gadget, turn on the Powerbag battery, and presto: extra juice wherever and whenever you need it.

The backpacks and sling bags start at $139.99, though I've often seen them for less on Amazon.