After a spotty few years of fits and starts for in-person classes, it’s that time of the year again: back-to-school. The young kids are back in class, while the older ones head off to college. Of course, school technology is becoming ever more central to both students’ social and academic lives, evidenced by the fact that even the SAT will be going completely digital by 2024. A computer is, of course, an essential tool for students these days—a Chromebook or even an iPad will quickly become a student’s best friend. As kids head back into the fray for another year of learning, we’ve picked out some other choice products to make the transition back a little bit easier (and more fun) for both themselves and their parents.
As we’ve known for awhile, sleep matters a lot — particularly for those among us with growing brains and bodies. While there’s no technological solution for getting a kid to bed on time, there are ways to help promote healthier sleep. A sunrise alarm is one of them, and Lumie’s Bodyclock Shine is a great choice: it essentially mimics the light and color of a real sunrise, to wake you up gradually and more effectively. The Shine combines this gradually brightening light with a choice of FM radio or one of various wakeup sounds to get the day going with a bit less stress. Other great wakeup clock options include the Hatch Restore and Philips Wakeup Light.
For kids of any age, a pair of decent headphones has become a pretty essential tool. Whether it’s listening back to recorded lectures, video conferencing with peers, or cocooning up with some music while studying in the library (or the living room), there’s almost always a use case. Master & Dynamic’s MW08 earbuds provide up to 12 hours of continuous use on a full charge, while offering noise-canceling and hear-through functions to block out and hear ambient noise, respectively. For the budding athlete, Jabra’s Elite 7 Active earbuds are made with a special liquid silicone rubber compound called ShakeGrip, designed to hold the buds more securely in ears of any size, while remaining soft to the touch. For those track and field stars that prefer a more open-ear style, Shokz’ OpenRun Pro uses the company’s bone conduction tech, providing open-ear comfort while still producing a rich sound full of bass. With ten hours of active battery life and IP55 water-resistance, they’re designed to finish the race.
Kids finally leaving the nest and heading off to college can be a rough transition for everyone involved. A simple photo frame can help matters, keeping a regular flow of sharing life’s day-to-day moments. Aura offers digital photo frames suited to the task in a range of styles, whether meant to live in a dorm room or back at home, or back home with mom and dad. Using either the Aura app, uploading directly from a computer or sending photos to a dedicated email address, Aura’s ecosystem lets invitees share over 10,000 photos and videos with no storage limit, without having to worry about memory cards or subscription fees.
Speakers for Students
For kids working at home or studying in their dorm room, a good speaker can also be an essential study companion. These days, of course, there are many options to choose from: Tribit’s waterproof StormBox Pro is a strong choice, with spacious sound and solid bass in a tote-able form factor. For those heading off to college, it’s worth considering a speaker that can also double as a video content streaming device, and a soundbar for watching TV and movies. Roku’s Streambar is tough to beat: it’s relatively compact, streams content in 4K, is easy to set up and sounds great—no dongle required.
Keeping a Charge
These days, mobility is key for any student—namely, the option to take projects from classroom to library to after-school events with friends. A capable external charger can help a bunch: GoalZero’s Sherpa 100 PD QI, for instance, provides 95 watt hours of power to charge USB-C laptops, tablets, phones. It’s lightweight and fits easily into backpacks, and two onboard USB-A ports are useful for devices with proprietary charging. For something more geared towards phones and tablets, Mophie’s powerstation wireless XL has a 10,000mAh internal battery, and the superfast 18W USB-C PD and USB-A ports can bring devices back to life in a matter of minutes. For the eco-conscious student, Nimble’s ultra-compact Champ Pro 20,000 mAh charger is made of 72.5 percent post-consumer plastic, and comes in plastic-free packaging.
In terms of wearable tech, a GPS-enabled smartwatch can be a great way to help parents and caretakers keep track of a child’s location in an increasingly challenging world. The Apple Watch is hugely popular, of course, but there are an increasing number of other great choices out there as well. Verizon’s GizmoWatch 2 is an affordable option designed specifically for kids, allowing for voice calls and limited texting, and lets parents track their child’s location throughout the day. The TickTalk 4 is also designed for young kids, adding a camera to the mix for photos and video calls, and is impressively durable. Finally, for high-school kids or those heading off to college, the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra can manage up to 45 days of battery on a single charge, and tracks 24-hour heart rhythm and on-demand fatigue and energy levels for aspiring athletes.