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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Going Back To School Digital

Most of us grew up with grand parents and parents telling us all the stuff they didn't have when they were in school and how it was.

Remember the famous Bill Cosby quote?
" I walked to school uphill both ways and in the snow!"  

I've hit that age where I get to say, "When I went to school, I didn't have the internet."

Sounds silly, but many students today would find that a horrifying idea.  We didn't have Wikipedia.  We actually had to go to the library and look up sources in the card catalog.

Write a paper?  We actually hand wrote it.  If you were lucky, you had a typewriter available to you.  Those horrid machines made your paper look nice, but try actually getting through the noise of them without a massive headache or the frustrating task of correcting a mistake.  By the way, we only had aspirin too for the headache.

Today's students have great digital tools available to them.  The hard part is that the technology has advanced so much that many find it difficult to keep up with to properly equip students with the right digital tools and the most effective way to use them.  So let's take a look at how students can use these great new digital tools.

Organizing Your Classes
Nook Study by Barnes & Noble
Barnes & Noble just announced it's free software application called Nook Study.  This application takes the concept of individual folders and allows you to organize all of your classes and course materials in one spot.

The interface is simple to use and allows the student some great features:
  • Create individual class buttons
  • Upload course materials like a syllabus and add it to the class
  • Each class is tabulated with corresponding course materials
  • Links with your existing account and automatically imports your existing eBook library 
  • Assign existing ebooks to each class
  • Shop for eTextbooks and print textbooks right in the software
  • Mark up ebooks and eTextbooks right in the software with highlights and notes
Depending upon your school or University, you may also have use of a free software application called   This service provides similar organization of courses like Nook Study and adds in things like message board from Instructors and the ability for students in a class to chat online.  

Keeping Track of To-Do's and Schedules
Paper planners are great, but an online or digital calendar and contact system have become great tools for students.  The Google Gmail system has a great calendar system and contact manager that can easily be set up with mobile devices such as a smartphone (i.e. iPhone, Droid phone, etc.) or iPod Touch that syncs the information automatically.  This provides students with enter-once-use-everywhere capability.

Save Money With Online Applications
The Google Gmail account also gives students access to Google Docs.  This free online suite of software provides them with access to word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation software.  You don't have to worry about updating software that can be costly.  You can also work with these applications offline by downloading the free Google Desktop application.   Microsoft also just launched free Web Apps versions of their popular Office Suite for Word, Excel, OneNote, and Powerpoint.  OneNote is a great software application for students as well and allows them to create a virtual notebook-like binder for taking notes and staying organized. 

Improved Communication
Email provides great means of effective and efficient communication for students.  It's not only a means to receive updates and information from the school or teacher/instructor, email is also being used to deliver class assignments without the need to print.  Obviously a huge cost saver.

Students also have chat style applications available to them today such as Google Talk, Facebook, Twitter, etc. That allows them to great connections when they might need additional help.  Remember the telephone?  I remember getting calls from classmates asking for help and it could be really difficult to try explain things over the phone.  Google Talk for one is great because it allows the users to not only type a conversation; but they can use voice, video, link to websites for support, share files easily, etc. 

eBooks for students is a huge advancement.  Today's eBook stores like the one offered by Barnes and Noble, give students access to a wide range of books on multiple devices.  The great thing about this also is that you simply sign in to your account on any supported device and the book is available for use.  No out-of-stock issues, markup the books with notes and highlights, etc.

Students today have a great deal of tools available to them to support them and enhance their education.  All of which are much simpler to use today then they have been in the past.  In addition, by students using these tools on a daily basis they are better preparing themselves for their futures.

What do you think?..

by Brad West
Originally from Southern NJ and Central PA, Brad moved to Palm Coast in 2004 with his family. He has over 15 years of retail management and is currently a manager with Barnes & Noble in St. Augustine. He also assists his wife Kathleen (Realtor with Trademark Realty Group of PC) with her Real Estate business performing a variety of duties such as website design and maintenance for, as well as marketing and advertising, and operations.   You can find Brad on twitter:  @bwest2
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