Be inquisitive before back-to-school tech shopping

I love the movie "Groundhog Day" where actor Bill Murray, playing a weatherman named Phil, eventually realizes that he is living the same day over and over again. It feels like just yesterday that my wife and I survived the back-to-school gauntlet of getting our son ready for another school year!

Whether you are a proud parent sending your child off to college or your child is starting as high school freshman this fall, tools entrenched in the digital world are increasingly on our back-to-school shopping list.

This year two of our family friends – Joe with a son starting college this fall and Mary with a son starting his senior year in high school – had questions for me. By the time we met, they already had done their research as they quickly rattled off geeky acronyms gleaned from the abundance of back-to-school articles in print media and on the internet.

When it was finally my turn to talk, to their dismay, I answered their questions with a question: What does each of their respective schools recommend? The ensuing silence was deafening.

To break the silence I suggested we find out. I composed and sent off a quick email inquiry to Mary’s son’s high school. We soon found out that the high school has embraced “1:1” (“one-to-one”) computing, a principle in education that, at the simplest level, equips each student with a computing device to access the infinite knowledge found on the internet to augment traditional curriculum. The email reply we received went on to say that her son was going to get a Macbook Air to use during his senior year!

Although Mary had a noble plan to buy a laptop for her son’s senior year in high school that he can subsequently take to college the following year and use it for another four years, it would have been a challenge for me to recommend a particular model because the needs of a high school student can differ from those of a college student.

Being able to defer the laptop purchase by almost a year until her son has a better idea of what he wants to study in college will not only help her save money this year but also enable us to find a laptop that is more appropriate for use in college next year.

Similarly, it only took another email inquiry to find out that Joe’s son’s college was providing low- or no-cost software, such as Microsoft Office365, to incoming freshmen. Academic institutions often have special licensing agreements that enable them to offer software at deep discounts to students.

The moral of these stories is the same again this back-to-school season: be inquisitive and do your homework before opening your wallet. After getting the answers, if you still need to get your child a new device, there are abundance of back-to-school tips in print media and on the internet to help you!

Tak Sato

Business and technology strategist/consultant with 25 years of experience. Holds Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Science and MBA from Cleveland State University.

As founder of geek with a heart, "Hand-holding You in the Digital World", Tak helps Individuals, Seniors, Families, Small Businesses, Schools, and Non-Profits utilize appropriate technology in their personal and professional lives.

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Volume 7, Issue 16, Posted 9:36 AM, 08.18.2015