'"No more pencils, no more books, no more teachers' dirty looks." Though we can't guarantee the last part of this childhood rhyme, digital technology has begun to make the first two parts come true, at least in the traditional sense. Pencils, pens and even books are giving way to styli, smart pens and tablets. Before school is back in session, bone up on the newest tech tools and accessories that will enhance the lives of the students in your lives. Listed are manufacturers' suggested retail prices, but many items can be found for less.
By Ronnie Gill
HMDX JAM PLUS
WHY Equally at home in a bedroom or dorm room, these sleek, bright and compact Bluetooth wireless speakers can be easily paired to provide stereo sound. They connect wirelessly from up to 30 feet away and work with most Bluetooth-enabled smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktops. Jam Plus' lithium-ion battery provides up to four hours of wireless play and recharges through the included USB cord.
BUY $59.99; P.C. Richard stores and pcrichard.com, Best Buy stores and bestbuy.com, hmdxaudio.com, amazon.com
HOUSE OF MARLEY POSITIVE VIBRATION ON-EAR HEADPHONES
WHY These earth-friendly headphones use recyclable materials including aluminum, steel and canvas, and sales support 1Love.org. The ear pieces are cushioned for comfort and to block out external noise. Other features include a stereo 3.5-mm gold-plated static-free connector; a lightweight, padded, canvas-covered headband; and a 52-inch cable wrapped in fabric to reduce noise and avoid tangles. (An upgraded model includes a microphone with volume remote control on the cable.) Available in three patterns, includes a cloth carry pouch.
BUY $59.99, $79.99 with remote control; pcrichard.com, thehouseofmarley.com, radioshack.com, amazon.com
THE IPAD PEN
WHY Use this wireless stylus and compatible downloadable apps to write notes directly onto your iPad or to make notations on existing digital documents. Just plug the receiver into iPad's 30-pin charging port, calibrate the app and begin to write. The iPad Pen has the size and feel of a real pen and allows you to write or draw with your hand in its natural writing position, even while resting it on the screen. Your work is saved as jpg images on the iPad, which can be edited, shared via email or social media sites, or transferred to a computer via USB. Includes batteries and two extra replacement tips. Compatible with iPad 1 or 2 or iPod touch.
BUY $169.95; hammacher.com
TOSHIBA CANVIO SLIM II
WHY When a flash drive just isn't big enough to accommodate all your data or a larger backup is needed, the Toshiba Canvio Slim II portable external hard drive is ideal for taking your storage on the go. Its sleek brushed aluminum body is USB 3.0- and USB 2.0-compatible and it comes with preloaded NTI Backup Now EZ software. . Canvio Slim II also comes with a feature to access your files anywhere at any time via the internet and its password lock prevents unauthorized access. Available in 500 gigabyte and one-terabyte sizes.
BUY $79.99 (500 GB) $97.49 (1 TB); toshiba.com, amazon.com
KLINGG EARPHONE MAGNET
WHY Tired of your earbuds pulling out while you're wearing them or their cord getting tangled up when you take them out? The neodymium magnets in Klingg attach to your clothing and hold the cord securely in place when your earbuds are on and the earbuds attach to the unit when you take them out. Compatible with nearly all cords on the market, Klingg is available in eight color combinations to match any outfit.
BUY $19.95; klingg.com, amazon.com
PLUGABLE 7-PORT USB 3.0 HUB
WHY Running out of USB ports to connect and charge your gear? Expand your possibilities by connecting this seven port USB hub to your computer. Supports USB 3.0 transfer rates of 5 gigabits per second, but is backwards compatible with USB 2.0 and 1.1 devices. Includes AC power adapter
BUY $34.95 amazon.com
PLAY-DOH ABCs APP
WHY Kids learn how to write uppercase and lowercase letters of the alphabet using the proper stroke order by tracing a dotted outline using virtual Play-Doh. They’ll learn to associate letters with their sounds, new vocabulary words with the same letter and matching letters with Play-Doh creations. In a creativity zone, they can design custom Play-Doh scenes which can be saved to your device’s camera. The multiplayer profile allows more than one child to play and save his or her progress, with parental reporting showing the progress of each child. Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch and iPad.
BUY $2.99; iTunes store
KIDZ GEAR WIRED HEADPHONES
WHY Whether listening to music in the school library or at home, kids now have their own headphones with the same high-quality components used in standard adult headphones. But they also have one thing adult headphones don't --- they are volume limited for safety. Compatible with most audio devices, Kidz Gear are light, comfortable and designed to fit children 2 and older. The adjustable headband features padded earphones . Available is six kicky colors kids should love, the headphones have a limited lifetime warranty.
BUY $19.99; gearforkidz.com, amazon.com
WHY Who says a portable charger can't be fashionable? Open Moonstone's felt pouch and out comes a charger that is all glossy and soft curves. Available in 3000 and 6000 milli-ampere-hours capacities, Moonstone fits in the palm of your hand but is powerful enough to charge smartphones, tablets, cameras and other gadgets. It connects via its USB or Micro USB ports and adjusts the charge according to the needs of the device, shifting to a dormant state after the device is completely charged in order to protect the longevity of the battery. Moonstone can be recharged more than 500 times.
BUY $50 (3000mAh), $70 (6000mAh); amazon.com
WHY This lightweight and portable holder displays your iPad in landscape or portrait position. It’s perfect on a home or classroom desk. Constructed of nonporous material that's easy to clean, it features a built-in handle and accessibility to all of iPad’s ports, cameras, speakers and controls. Available in blue or citron, SeeSaw is compatible with iPad generations 2,3 and 4.
BUY $34.99; griffintechnology.com, walmart.com, amazon.com
GRIFFIN POWERDOCK 5
WHY Tired of waiting for all your Apple devices to charge because you don’t have enough USB ports? PowerDock 5 can charge up to five gadgets -- including iPads, iPhones and iPods -- simultaneously. Its space-saving design, which resembles a vertical desk organizer -- obviates the need for your equipment to lay flat while charging. The five charging bays each have 10 watts of power and are large enough to accommodate an iPad without removing its case. Does not include charging cables -- use your devices’ original cables.
BUY $99.99; griffintechnology.com, macmall.com, amazon.com
SATECHI SMART LED DESK LAMP
WHY When is a lamp not just a light? When it's the Satechi LED Desk Lamp. It features touch screen controls and a variety of light-intensity modes and brightness levels. The mid-range color temperature of reading mode stimulates concentration and reduces eye strain; study mode's high-range color temperature increases attention and concentration; the low-range color of relaxation mode promotes an improved mood; and the comfortable soft light of bedtime mode encourages deep sleep. The energy efficient LED lighting has a lifespan of 40,000 hours and uses far less power than incandescent or even fluorescent lighting. The lamp also has a timer and a USB port to charge your phone or MP3 player. Available in black or white.
BUY $99.99; satechi.net, amazon.com
WHY It might just seem like a large piece of hard plastic, but when you slip DefenderPad beneath a notebook sitting on your lap, it not only serves as a nice rigid desktop, it shields you by virtually eliminating all electromagnetic radiation as well as greatly reducing the heat emitted by your laptop. Made in the United States, DefenderPad is designed for PC and Mac laptops up to 17 inches, as well as tablets and other mobile electronic devices. Available in black, pink and blue.
BUY $79.99; defenderpad.com, amazon.com
SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS PLANKTON CHARACTER SPEAKER
WHY For the lover of all things SpongeBob comes iHome's Plankton mini speaker. Compatible with MP3 Players, smartphones and tablets, it also looks just so darn cute sitting on your desk. The speaker has a built-in rechargeable battery and comes with a dual USB and line-in jack cable, which can be used to daisy chain multiple speakers together. Also available in SpongeBob SquarePants and Patrick versions.
BUY $24.99; Barnes & Noble stores and barnesandnoble.com
WHY Teaching children to read and write just became easier with the LeapReader system, aimed at ages 4 to 8. Touch the pen-like LeapReader to LeapFrog Learning Paper writing pages and get interactive stroke guidance with letters, words and numbers. Or, bring stories to life while building phonics and vocabulary skills using it with LeapReader books. LeapReader holds audio for up to 40 books or 175 songs and is backwards compatible with most of LeapFrog's Tag library. Available in green and pink (or blue at leapfrog.com exclusively), LeapReader is packaged with an activity sampler, Learning Paper writing sheet plus one downloadable audiobook bundle, one music album and one trivia challenge pack.
BUY $49.99; Target stores and target.com, select Toys R Us stores and toysrus.com, Walmart stores and walmart.com, leapfrog.com, amazon.com
GOOGLE NEXUS 7
WHY A is not only for Apple, it's also for Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, the operating system in the new full high definition version of the Google Nexus tablet. Manufactured by Asus, it is thinner, lighter and faster than its predecessor and comes with either 16 or 32 gigabytes of storage. You won't find as many tablet-optimized apps as you will for iPad, but you can't argue with Nexus 7's features, which include a sharp and very portable 7-inch screen, front and back cameras, micro USB 2.0 port and, perhaps most importantly, its killer price.
BUY $229 (16GB), $269 (32GB); P.C. Richard stores and pcrichard.com, bestbuy.com, amazon.com
PLUGABLE KID’S KEYBOARD
WHY With its oversized keys, easy-to-read characters, rugged construction and color coding, this is a perfect first computer keyboard for youngsters. Children will learn that the red keys are numbers, the purple ones are vowels, the orange keys are punctuation and the green keys are consonants. The rest of the keys, which are blue, are function keys. Setup is a snap; just lower the feet on the underside of the keyboard and plug it into a USB 2.0 port. Compatible with Windows and Apple operating systems. Recommended for ages 3 and older.
BUY $19.99; amazon.com
PLUGABLE DIGITAL MICROSCOPE
WHY Operating through your Windows or Macintosh USB 2.0 port, this fun and educational mini microscope provides up to 50 times optical zoom and 200 times digital magnification. LED lights placed around the lens allow you to fine tune the illumination on your subject. The included adjustable alloy stand holds the microscope steady. MicroCapture software for Windows is included for file management and measurement of objects, and can capture still images or video of what you see on your computer monitor.
BUY $39.95; amazon.com
WHY Easy to snap on or off, Powercase delivers both power and protection for your iPhone 5. It comes charged and ready to use and, depending on the model you select, gives you up to an additional six or eight hours of talk time. The case's design allows for uninhibited access to your phone's 3.5-mm jack, all device buttons and the camera, and its soft-touch finish feels great in your hand. Includes cable for the mini USB recharging port.
BUY $79.99 (model 1500), $99.99 (model 2000); amazon.com, ventev.com