What Back-To-School Software do You Need?

School bells will once again be ringing in the very near future. These days, kids of all ages need to have the best tools, gadgets and software to help them be a success. Over on Lockergnome, PixelPirate asked what types of school software is recommended for Linux. That, of course, made me think of students using all types of operating systems, and the types of software they may soon need.

One service (or software, depending on which version works best for you) that I keep hearing recommended is DropBox. I actually use this myself to get videos and documents to my assistant when she needs them. It’s a great way to help you sync data between computers at little to no cost. Beyond this, everyone seems to have a different opinion.

What software (or service) do you feel students today MUST have in order to help them do their very best in their classes?

You can always grab the hottest software titles available – at the hottest prices – from our download center.

Let CampusBooks Find the Best Prices on College Texts

Attending college is insanely expensive. Add the cost of books to your tuition and you’re likely having panic attacks on a regular basis. Lawmakers sympathize with you and have created a new law (effective July, 2010) that will help you save money when buying all of the texts you need. The law requires colleges to list the course materials (including retail pricing and ISBN numbers) for every class in their online schedule. In order to give you more options, many schools are offering textbook rentals and eBooks instead of traditional hard-cover tomes you have to purchase. However, not all colleges have made this leap as of yet. This is why CampusBooks is going to be a lifesaver for you this semester – and beyond.

You can choose to use the web interface, iPhone app or the Android application to help locate all of your books at the best prices possible. Using CampusBooks, you can compare prices on inventory at local bookstores, college campus bookstores and libraries. Using any iPhone or Android powered device, a student can scan the barcode of a textbook, then use the phone’s geo-location features to find the book’s price and availability at bookstores and libraries in their immediate area.

“Our students want choice, it is that simple,” says Jeff Cohen, CEO of CampusBooks. “By partnering with local bookstores, students are no longer confined to only considering online options. Those who prefer the convenience, easy return policies or need to get their books immediately can now find the best prices at local bookstores and even find out if their textbook can be borrowed from the library for free.”

When you type in a book’s ISBN number, CampusBooks will give you a summary of the lowest prices in each category – including international editions, eBooks, used, new and even rentals. You’ll find the seller information, price and shipping cost. The application will then redirect you to the vendor’s site when you are ready to purchase (or rent). The application (and web interface) is exceedingly easy to navigate – you won’t end up lost in never-never land while looking for that obscure book some English instructor is requiring.

Hey… we all need to save money these days. College students likely need to cut corners more than any other group I can think of. This service (and the apps) is completely free, so why the heck haven’t you tried it out yet?

Social Media in Education

This is a guest blog post written by my assistant and Community Manager, Kat Armstrong.

After spending the past few days writing about the new iPhone, my brain was absolutely shot. Approximately 90% of what I write every day deals with technology news, gadgets and companies. About an hour ago, I hit a brick wall. I had zero ideas floating around in my noggin. I couldn’t bring myself to write about the iPhone yet again. I sat here staring at the screen as I frantically casted about for a subject – any subject – to talk about next.

I decided to fire up my handy-dandy TweetDeck application. Reaching out to my followers, I asked for ideas. One good friend suggested I talk about the uses of social media in education. That sounded interesting, and my mind began to churn. I fired off another tweet, asking “STUDENTS: How has/does the use of social media help your education (NOT your social life!)?” I also repeated the question in Chris’ live chat room.

The replies poured in, and I was dismayed. I heard from nearly one hundred students of all ages and education levels. I haven’t done the math, but I’d feel safe in guessing that approximately 5% of those answering claim that they make use of social media in their educational lives. The rest of them said they only use it to catch up with friends, chat about their day and play games.

In the age of Web 2.0, why aren’t students using social media in the classroom? We already know that Twitter is the fastest way to find information on breaking news stories. Blogs can be used to encourage creative writing and proper grammar skills. Cramster is a Q&A board much like our new Lockergnome site. However, its sole purpose lies in bringing together pupils of all ages to help each other with homework and research. Sites such as Box and Dropbox allow learners and educators to share files together quickly and easily.

At the very least, sites such as Twitter, Facebook and even (*shudder*) MySpace can be used to create discussion in the classroom. Teachers can pull news stories from any of those sources. Students can ask questions and facilitate deeper discussion after reading something on one of the thousands of SM sites. Professors can institute peer reviews on writing projects. Kids can locate an expert in a field they are interested in, and “shadow” them on the Web. Geotagging can be used to target and find information about places that are being studied.

The possibilities are, quite honestly, endless. I certainly hope that my quick Twitter poll is not indicative of the use (or rather – the lack) of social media in an educational setting. Will someone prove me wrong? I’d love to hear your stories of how your school or college has been incorporating the use of social media into the curriculum.

Kat can be found in any number of places around the Web. You can catch her on Twitter, Facebook, and of course on every site in our community. If you’re lucky, you may even find her occasionally rambling about something on her personal blog.

College Advice

If I had a nickel for every time I was asked this question, I’d have paid off my student loans 10x over:

My Name is Daniel, but go I by the name Nico. Everyone asks me how i got that nickname but i honestly do not know why my percents started calling me that. I am Filipino, currently living in the Philippines, and a senior in high school. I’ve been watching your videos for a long time now, and what you do really interests me. I, like you, love technology.

I am going to the US for college to take up industrial design. I’m emailing you because I was hoping you would be able to give me some advice. My parents are spending almost double for my college tuition than what they spent for my older siblings for their college education – and I really want to figure out a way to help pay for it, or find a way to pay them back eventually. There will be added costs as a need to purchase a laptop, hopefully a Mac, for the major I’m planning to take, and I think I’m going to constantly buy materials for my classes. I really, really want to pay for as much of all of this as I can.

One thing that I think I have some talent with is photography, and this may be a way I can generate some money. I am very passionate about photography. I post some of my photographs on my flickr. I take photos of almost everything. I’m heavily involved with my school yearbook, both as a photographer and a layout editor, and the school magazine. I’m hoping to eventually make some money with my photos, but don’t know how to start. It would be great if you could give me some tips on maybe starting my own website and how to generate some money out of it. Any other advice on selling photographs online would be great. I’m not expecting to make tons of money, and I don’t expect it to happen overnight, but I am willing to work hard and be patient for it.

Let me first say that I’m impressed with your ability to communicate in a fairly coherent fashion; 90% of the emails I receive from U.S. students are sloppy (not to mention, beyond illegible). I’m not sure if English is your primary or secondary language, but your literary skills will be what spells success in your initial and continued endeavors.

Hell, most American adults can’t even grasp the concept that Apple’s “Mac” computer isn’t written as “MAC” (which is a store brand for cosmetics).

That, and your personal responsibility for finances should also be a lesson to the lazy.

You likely have a certain set skills which are valuable to others. It’s now your responsibility to find the intersection between what you can do and who can pay you to do what you do. You’ll figure out the “how” after seeing what works (and, more importantly, what doesn’t work).

There are near-infinite ways for you to make a Web site and countless opportunities to sell your photo work. Remember, however, that tools are merely the means to an end – and you’re not the only person using them to achieve your goals.

The information is out there on how to do anything – but nothing will ever teach you as much about a task as figuring it out for yourself. If I have a single tip for you, it’s simply: DO IT.

You’ll figure “it” out.

Of course, I’m sure people will have specific recommendations for you – but good advice is relative, and (still) only valuable if you apply it to your set of circumstances.

Do Computer Majors Mean Anything Anymore?


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The job market is always changing. Computer program majors often find themselves having a tough time after graduation. It may sound insane due to the number of computer-related fields that are are there. Much of it depends on where you live, and what your exact area of focus is.

You cannot possibly try to get a “general” computer degree anymore. Pick a specific area that you are good at or interested and focus on that. If you’re a developer, go develop! If you’re more of a networking whiz, you know what you need to do. There are SO MANY hundreds of possibilities. Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face by choosing too broad of a major.

A consulting route isn’t a bad idea, but you honestly have to be REALLY good at what you’re trying to do. However, becoming a developer is where it’s at right now in MY mind. The other areas won’t disappear any time soon, no. But look at all of the dev opportunities out there right now. That’s the hottest and most in-demand area.

Network like crazy every chance you get. I say that about pretty much any type of career, but it holds even more true of us Geeks. Social connections enable you to find the path before the path is eliminated.

Most importantly, love what you do. Don’t choose an area of study just because you think you’ll make good money. Sure, that’s an important consideration. You have to support yourself. But if you hate what you do, you’re not going to do it for long. Know where your passions lie, and choose your path based off of them.

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