With the economy in tough shape, the Today Show asked me to come up with four back to school tips that won't break the bank. I decided this was an opportunity to include free, top-notch, open-source software, a topic that has rarely gotten major play in the mainstream media. You can see the video here.
What's better than cheap software? How about FREE software? I've written often about special deals on software that are available for students. In addition to online stores that sell software at a discount for students, college bookstores and/or IT centers sometimes have even better bargains. US students with a ".edu" email address can get Microsoft's Ultimate Office 2007 for $59.95 (less than ten percent of the price Best Buy lists it at).
However, if you really want to cut costs - all the way to zero! - you only have to look to the internet for astoundingly good free software.
For Gradeschool Kids: ProfessorGarfiled.org This free website, run by a not-for-profit started by Garfield Creator, Jim Davis, has all of the activities that we used to buy in expensive software. Phonics, math, music and science activities are creatively animated with Garfield as the host.
For Tweens and Teens: OpenOffice Suite Instead of buying a wordprocessor and spreadsheet, save hundreds of dollars buy downloading the FREE OpenOffice suite. It does everything high school students need including writing, graphing and presentation graphics. It is just as easy to setup as commercial packages and is community supported.
Pick the right bookbag: Four things to look for in a bookback:
- Size: Like Goldilocks said â€“ not too large, not too smallâ€¦just right or your child could develop back problems at a tender age.
- Padding for your computer: If youâ€™re carrying a laptop make sure there is an isolated, padded section to keep your investment safe. The Targus Grove Sling has an internal computer pouch that is not just padded, it is isolated from the bottom of the bag so the computer doesn't "hit" the ground directly when the bag is not being worn. One of the other cool features of this case is that you get to the computer section via a side zipper, so you don't even have to take it off to get to the computer. The only drawback of this case is that it may be too small for kids who have to carry multiple textbooks.
- A separate section for sports gear: If your child is into sports look for a model that has a outer area to keep the baseball glove separate from school assignments. The Targus League backpack has an open expandable packet perfect for holding a baseball glove or other gear.
- Accessable compartments: Some bookbags bury the holders for pens and accessories way down and under all the other stuff that will be shoved into the bag. Look for pockets that have easy access to often used gear so your kids don't have to pull everything out just to find a pen. The Convertable Messenger/Backpack bag offer stylish, "green-conscious" design with excellent accessibililty, using a combination of inner and outer sections and pockets.
Turn your child's Nintendo DS into a learning machine; itâ€™s not just for gaming anymore! This fall inexpensive programs (most in the under $30 range) will be teaching kids everything from math and reading to Chinese; they will even help with SAT preparation! They are perfect for drill and review, more fun than workbooks, and lighter, too.
- Brainquest (www.ea.com) started as a decks of trivia cards that kids loved to master. Now, Brainquestâ€™s quizzes are available for every gradeschool level on the DS â€“ plus you get more trivia for the dollar! Kaplan and Princeton Review have each created SAT review programs for the Nintendo DS. Kaplanâ€™s Future U and My SAT Coach with the Princeton Review are both for the Nintendo DS. Now, without carrying around a giant SAT book, kids can get double duty from their Nintendo DS and pick up skills anytime.
Become a better note taker with the Livescribe Pulse pen. As you take notes on the paper it is also recording everything that is said in class. If you miss, for example, one of the five reasons for the Civil War, just click on your notebook page and youâ€™ll hear your professor give you the answer, even if you didnâ€™t get it written down! Notes and pages can be uploaded from the pen to your computer, or even the web.Read my full review here.