BY AMANDA MOSES
It’s time to get ready for back to school! Unlike the usual preparation parents make, hand sanitizer and masks are at the top of their list. But other than these “new normal” essentials, many parents are having a difficult time figuring out what to purchase because they still do not have a supply list from teachers. As of September 1st, Mayor Bill de Blasio has pushed back the opening date for New York City Schools, so if you chose in-person, blended learning, or remote only, all students will begin their lessons virtually on September 16th. Despite the delay, parents can still take preliminary steps to prepare their children for the start of the school year.
The coronavirus pandemic has catapulted us into a new dawn of technology. Since the school year will begin with remote lessons every student will need a device to complete their assignments.
The Department of Education is distributing internet-enabled iPads for students in need, and many schools have received Chromebook donations for their students. If you are experiencing financial difficulty and need a device, you can make a request through the Department of Education at https://coronavirus.schools.nyc/RemoteLearningDevices (Parents must fill out a separate request for each student if they have more than one child who requires a device).
Laptop, Tablet, or Desktop?
It doesn’t matter if you are learning remotely or in person, having a laptop or tablet for your young student is vital.
Chromebooks are a cost-effective option in comparison to purchasing a laptop or touch-screen computer. You can find a decent Samsung Chromebook for as little as $81.99 (however, it’s preowned but guaranteed by Best Buy) or if you are willing to shell out $200, there are several options for you to choose from (Acer, Google, Toshiba and more). Remember that a Chromebook is simply an internet-only device. You can use Microsoft Suite, but the files are saved to your cloud rather than to the device and it does not have a CD-drive.
Depending on the age of your child, you might want to go for the least expensive device option available. Younger children tend to drop things, and if you purchased a $2000 Mac Book Pro, that would be extremely upsetting because getting a Mac repaired is pricey (and Apple Care does not cover screen damage).
Kindle Fire tablets work well for small children and there are a lot of cases that protect them from drops and drink spills. A Kindle Fire tablet can cost as little at $49.99 to $89.99 with built in cameras so you can still use Zoom. It’s also great for college and grad students who just want to listen to a lecture and hand write their notes. (NOTE: You should purchase a screen protector for any touch screen device. This can cost as little as $5.)
If you have a teenager who is interested in multimedia studies or attends an arts school where they must edit their portfolio, then perhaps a PC Desktop will be best. Desktops can help keep you focused because you are forced to work at a specific station, which can motivate you to be organized.
The CyberPower PC is a great gaming computer, but don’t be fooled, you are investing in a good computer that has the capability to run Adobe Photoshop and video editing programs. Gaming computers have a lot of RAM and memory, which is a great option for those doing more in-depth projects. The CyberPower PC is about$500 (but you need to buy a monitor separately or you can connect it to your TV using a HDMI port).
Parents should most certainly invest in headphones with microphones so that teachers can hear their students properly and it prevents outside distractions for remote learning. Wired headphones are problematic because they can get caught or yanked off by shifting movements. Places like Best Buy and Target price match everything, so Skullcandy Bluetooth headphones (which can run around $24.99) can be reduced to as little as $10. Wired headphones are about $8.99-$15.99, depending on the brand.
For those who dislike the feeling of ear bud headphones, Skullcandy has over-ear headphones for $38.99 or $18.89 for wired versions.
Flash USB, Portable Hard Drives, and Cloud Services
In a world of technology, it is important that you understand that nothing is perfect, and devices can crash. Rather than lose all of your child’s hard-earned work, you should make certain that you purchase backup options.
A USB flash drive is a small memory device that can contain as little as 1 GB of memory and well over 128 GB. Please note that these items can be faulty and if you do not properly eject them they will become corrupt, and you will lose your stored information. So rather than purchase an expensive flash drive with a large amount of memory, try getting something along the lines of 8GB to 16GB. A SanDisk 16 GB flash drive only costs $4.99 or for a 64 GB is$10.99.
A portable hard drive is a more reliable source to backup your files. If your child has a lot of projects, which can make a computer run slower because of the memory usage, save these files onto a portable hard drive. Seagate Expansion 1TB External USB 3.0 Portable Hard Drive costs about $49.99, and although this may seem like a lot of money it does hold many files.
The other option is to utilize a cloud drive, whether that is Dropbox (free for 2GB or $11.99 a month for 2TB of memory), iCloud (you can have a family shared plan) or Google Drive ($2.99 for 200 GB).
Desk and Organization
In the traditional sense, we sometimes think that a desk needs to be this large cubicle-like area with built-in drawers and a bookshelf. For the sake of cost and space it’s not the most practical option. Invest in a small desk for your child, designating that area as a school zone. While a kitchen table or living room table may seem like decent alternatives, it leaves the potential for distraction.
Amazon Basics Classic Home Office Computer Desk With Shelves costs $64.99, and it doesn’t take up too much space and there are sections so that your child can keep their books or items necessary for school work.
At Walmart, you can order a folding table for as low as $8.99 (make sure you select items that are for online delivery because the nearest Walmart for pickup is New Jersey or Upstate New York).
Organization is important, for your child’s desk or designated work area, make sure they have a pencil case (with plenty of pens, crayons, pencils, and markers). Post-its, a visible calendar to remind you both of deadlines, and either a cork board or eraser board to write down important reminders are all great tools to keep your student goal oriented. It’s important to keep your schedule visible so that you don’t get confused especially for those participating in blended learning.
Back and Hand Protection
Using a computer for extended periods of time can sometimes cause back and wrist pain. To prevent issues, like carpal tunnel, you should try using a keyboard wrist pad and mouse rest. Amazon has several colorful options to add a little extra flare to your child’s workstation. Try Amazon’s Best Seller: Gimars Upgrade Enlarge Gel Memory Foam keyboard and wrist pad set for $15.99.
Computer chairs are costly, but you can order an Ergonomic Desk Chair for $44.99 from Amazon or try to see what deals your nearest furniture store has. It’s best to purchase a chair that will fit your child’s height to the desk. A regular chair also works, just add cushions and roll a pillow to support their lower back.
These are only a handful of suggestions, but the most important and universally used school supplies are still college ruled loose leaf paper, graph paper, pens, pencils, notebooks, folders, binders, and rulers. Each of these items can cost under $2 each if not less (Target is selling notebooks for 25 cents each).
ATTENTION PARENTS: Please note that the SITEC Lab offers FREE virtual learning and support sessions to help with all your tech needs! Click HERE for the full the SITEC Lab schedule and registration links. If you have any questions or need additional help with registration please contact Jatava Sevorwell: firstname.lastname@example.org or 718-348-7763.
Screenshots of Target, Best Buy, Amazon, Walmart by Amanda Moses