Saturday, August 23, 2014

Back to School 101: Stay in the Know, on the Go

     Back to school can be exciting, but also an overwhelming time for students, family members and teachers. Getting back into the swing of things always takes some adjustment, whether you have kids or not. Technology can help transition you to getting back into the groove of your fall and winter routines with you and your younger family members going back to school organized as the back to school season kicks off, as well as enabling better moments through simplifying and enhancing your lives. 

      Whether students forget to check for homework assignments or miss class due to illness, students don’t want to fall behind.  Access to information and connecting with teachers and other students is just a click away with the help of smartphones and tablets.

     According to a recent survey by U.S. Cellular, 74 percent of households with children under the age of 18 have at least one tablet. Tablets and smartphones are becoming a simple tool to ensure students keep making the grade.

     According to a recent Student Mobile Device Survey conducted by Harris Interactive, 87 percent of students would like to use digital textbooks so they don’t have to carry so much in their backpacks.  And half of those students surveyed use their pocket-friendly smartphones instead of tablets.  With the size of high school textbooks, I think my son's fellow students might agree.

     Tablets are also being used in the classroom; learning apps, eBooks, online educational videos and internet access can all enhance the learning experience. My son's school district has a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy in place that both students and parents sign off on to ensure available technology is safely used and monitored, while utilizing the district wireless internet access network so students can use their personal devices for educational purposes with parent and teacher permission.

     Our local school district also debuted a school district mobile app that I promptly downloaded on my iPhone 5s.  It's their website full of information now at the touch of an app on my phone.
     Students, teachers and parents can optimize their connected learning experience with the help of the following apps recommended by U.S. Cellular:

Skype (Android) / Facetime (iOS): These free Internet video calling services allow teachers and students to collaborate wherever they are.  Teachers can bring guest speakers into class to discuss their expertise, thereby demonstrating how school subjects are relevant to real life.  Students can take virtual field trips anywhere in the world.  No permission slip required.

Teacher’s Assistant Pro: Featured in USA Today as one of the best teacher apps, Teacher’s Assistant Pro ($3.99 download) allows teachers to keep track of student actions, behaviors and achievements in the classroom. Using an iPhone or iPad, teachers can record student infractions and accolades, create a detailed written description of the event, and communicate with parents, reducing time consuming paperwork.

Notability: This powerful note-taker app is free and allows iOS and Android users to complete worksheets, sketch ideas, keep a journal, integrate photos and record a lecture, and keep it all in one place.  Use the search feature to quickly locate notes by title or content.  Share with others using iCloud or Google Drive.  My son's last school utilized Google Drive to share files several students collaborated on.

DropBox: This cloud-based file sharing and storage free app lets users circulate files from different locations over different networks.  Turn in and return assignments, provide up-to-date syllabi from different locations quickly, and post grades securely and easily.

      U.S. Cellular is donating $1 million to fund teacher classroom projects through its Calling All Teachers program. Last year, the company contributed $500,000 towards educational materials for improved classroom experiences. U.S. Cellular is working with for a fourth time and encourages teachers to post their projects on the site for potential funding. is a charity website that helps teachers identify funds from corporate and individual donations for classroom projects.

     Through U.S. Cellular's ongoing commitment to the community and education, the company has contributed more than $7 million through this and other philanthropic programming. Starting today K-12 public school teachers can register online at and affiliate as a U.S. Cellular teacher. Then beginning August 11, they can post their classroom projects for funding consideration. Through U.S. Cellular has funded more than 4,500 classroom projects to date, which included technology tools, art equipment and science experiments. All projects must be submitted by September 21 to be eligible for this year’s funding.  Selected projects will be in announced in October.

     And we enjoy better moments as well through after school activities.  My son plays football and using his iPhone 5s, he can let me know if it's practice as usual, or a change in time for me to pick him up after school.

     Don't forget about the Device Workshops in your area.  Check out these upcoming events in the WI area.

     And another helpful back-to-school idea is using a Parent-Child Agreement to ensure both you and your child are on the same page for phone usage.

Disclosure:  I have been compensated by U.S. Cellular for my post.  All opinions expressed are my own.

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