Back to school stuff for the discerning techie (or techie-in-training)

Forget the glue stick - this is what you really need for school this year

back to school gadgets 2016

Techify and Geekify those school supplies!

It’s back-to-school time, and that means getting ready by stocking up on new clothes, school supplies (probably the only time you’ll be shopping for colored pencils and glue sticks) and finding the coolest backpack. But these days, it also means picking up new tech, as schooling relies on tech more than ever. 

 A recent study by the Consumer Technology Association says that 59% of Americans who have done or plan to do back-to-school shopping this year expect to buy technology or technology accessories. This is a 12% increase over last year, the CTA says. The group says consumers will spend about $18.5 billion on back-to-school tech products or accessories, a 6.2% increase over 2015. This is great news for consumer tech vendors, as we get to see them sell more stuff by holding sales and creating education-specific offerings.

 Whether you’re entering college, high school, elementary school (or are a parent of one of those kids), here’s our list of favorite items to take along when you re-enter the classroom.

Lenovo Yoga 710 14-inch

Lenovo YOGA 710

Lenovo Yoga 710: $779.99

This 14-inch notebook is a 2-in-1 consumer model (meaning it’s a tablet and a notebook), and with Lenovo’s Yoga branding means you can “bend” the notebook into different positions, depending on what you’re doing. It works as a laptop (for browsing the web and doing other work), a stand (for giving classroom presentations), a “tent” (for showing videos or presentations) and a tablet (for taking notes). The latest version features the 6th-generation Intel Core CPU, an all aluminum body that brings the weight down to 3.5 pounds, a solid-state storage die and backlit 6-row keyboard.

Alcatel IDOL 4S VR bundle
Alcatel US

Alcatel IDOL 4S VR goggle bundle

Alcatel IDOL 4S VR goggle bundle$399

For students about to embark in a career in virtual reality, this is a good system that provides them with a modern smartphone and VR goggle set that lets them experience Google Cardboard-supported apps. The goggles provide a comfortable fit, Velcro straps for support and interactive ‘buttons’ on the bottom of the goggles.

Texas Instruments Graphing Calculator
Texas Instruments

Texas Instruments TI-Nspire CX Graphing Calculator

Texas Instruments TI-Nspire CX Graphing Calculator: $139.99

It’s been a LONG, LONG time since we’ve needed a calculator - the advent of computers and calculator apps on our smartphone have given us alternatives when we’ve wanted to spell “BOOBS” or other goofy stuff. But for more serious students and techies, this graphic calculator with a color screen, every conceivable math functions and rechargeable battery should fit the bill quite nicely.

Meem Mirror cable iOS Lightning

MEEM Mirror cable and app

MEEM Mirror cable and app: $89.99

This dual-purpose product provides you with a Lightning cable recharge your mobile iOS device (iPad, iPhone, etc.), but at the same time you can backup data to the flash storage drive embedded within the Meem cable. For students who need to be reminded to backup their data (or, more importantly, photos, videos and other data), this is a perfect device to send them off to school with.

Seagate BackupPlus Platinum

Seagate Backup Plus Ultra Slim 2TB Portable External Hard Drive, Platinum

Seagate Backup Plus Ultra Slim 2TB Portable External Hard Drive, Platinum: $129.99

Portable memory storage is the top item in this year’s CTA study about back-to-school tech. Getting students to back up their homework, book reports and other critical data (plus photos, videos and music) is made much simpler with an external hard drive and easy-to-use software provided by Seagate. Plus, we’re big fans of the cool design featured in the Platinum version here.

My Little Pony headphones

My Little Pony Over the Ear Headphones

My Little Pony Over the Ear Headphones: $13.64

Yeah, we’re going there. While obviously these headphones are geared for girls who love the cartoon My Little Pony, we know that there are a bunch of “Bronies” out there who also might enjoy these headphones (if they have smaller heads, of course). These are aimed at the younger student in your life, of course. We’ll have other more “mature” headphones to offer in future slides.

Batman kids headphones

Batman Kid Safe Over the Ear Headphone w/Volume Limiter

Batman Kid Safe Over the Ear Headphone w/Volume Limiter:  $12.17

OK, so these ones are still probably not mature enough for the high schooler or college-aged student on your list, but for younger students who need some headphones, we dig these Batman-style ‘phones. The volume limiter option also gives us some peace of mind that our kids won't blast their eardrums out before they graduate college.

UrbanEars headphones wireless

UrbanEars Plattan ADV Wireless On-Ear headphones - Camelia

UrbanEars Plattan ADV Wireless On-Ear headphones - Camelia: $99.95

Oh, so you want some headphones that don’t make you look like a 10-year-old? Try these on for size. UrbanEars makes fantastic headphones, and the wireless option mean you can wear them without worrying about tripping over a cable. We picked the orange-like one to honor our alma mater (Syracuse University), but other color options are available if you want your student to show off school spirit for their school.


ThinkGeek Backpack of Holding

ThinkGeek Backpack of Holding

ThinkGeek Backpack of Holding: $49.99

Most students will see this as a decent backpack with lots of different pocket items. Look closer, though, and anyone who’s a fan of Dungeons & Dragons will see the joke. No extra magic needed to store all your stuff, it should give you enough space to store all the loot you pick up on your school adventures. Also available in Messenger Bag style.

Pac-Man lunch box

Pac-Man Large Tin Tote (aka lunchbox)

Pac-Man Large Tin Tote: $19 

Lunch boxes these days are so generic, featuring things like insulation, soft covers and general blah-ness. We say go old-school! There’s no better way than showing off this Pac-Man lunch box, showing off your love for Inky, Binky, Pinky and Clyde. Eat your cherries and strawberries like a pro.

CanaKit Raspberry Pi Starter Kit

CanaKit Raspberry Pi 3 Complete Starter Kit 32GB Edition

CanaKit Raspberry Pi 3 Complete Starter Kit 32GB Edition: $74.99

Get your students off to techie and geeky immortality by starting them off with this Raspberry Pi 3 starter kit. The kit includes a Model B Quad-Core 1.2 GHz 1GB RAM motherboard, a 32GB microSD card, 2.5A USB power supply, cases, cables, heat sinks and quick-start guide.



Star Trek Borg refrigerator

ThinkGeek Star Trek Borg Cube Fridge

Star Trek ThinkGeek Borg Cube Fridge: $149.99

The tiny refrigerator is a mainstay of college dorm life, so why not geekify it up a bit by getting this Borg Cube version? Resistance to cold beverages is futile.

Math pun coffee mug

Math pun coffee mug

Math pun coffee mug: $8.99

For budding mathematicians (and budding coffee drinkers), this mug will break the ice with others who get the pun. Do we really need to tell you the answer?

World's Okayest Gamer Hoodie

World's Okayest Gamer hoodie

World’s Okayest Gamer hoodie: $21-$35 (depending on size)

There are a lot of funny, tech and geek shirts out there in the world, but most of them seem to be bragging. We say go the other way, and nothing says “I’m average” like this hoodie sweatshirt. When the weather gets colder, this one is sure to make some friends.