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Gone are the days where a few #2 pencils and a box of wide-rule paper were all you needed for a student to head back to school. Book bags now contain e-readers instead of books, tablets instead of Trapper-Keepers, and battery packs instead of pencil sharpeners.

Before you shop for the gadgets, here are some tips to maximize your investment:

  • Check with your instructors to ensure compatibility.
  • Ask your school about any policies about using gadgets or requirements to connect your device to the campus network.
  • School networks can be especially susceptible to virus attacks. Keep your anti-virus software and operating system updates current.
  • Make note of all serial numbers and don't leave expensive devices unattended or in your locker or vehicle.
  • Consider adding devices to your insurance policy to protect against loss, damage, or theft.
  • Look for special education pricing and bundles. Ask your campus bookstore or favorite retailer if education-only offers are available.

So what gadgets should you consider as students head back to school? Here are some ideas:

  • Microsoft launched a brand-new Surface Pro 3 tablet earlier this year. The third version of the tablet can be used as a laptop replacement, runs Windows 8.1, and fully supports the Microsoft Office software students are already familiar with. The Surface Pro 3 starts at $799. (http://www.microsoftstore.com/)

  • Stop by the Microsoft Store (nearby at either Bellevue Square or University Village) for a new copy of Office 365. Higher Education students, faculty and staff can save money with a 4-year subscription for one user at $80. (http://www.microsoftstore.com/)

  • Texas Instruments has been a leading name in calculators for decades. Their latest, the TI nSpire CX allows you to transfer math and science work between the handheld, rechargeable, calculator and a desktop computer. ($165, education.ti.com)

  • Want to customize your smartphone with a case featuring your own photos? Caseitify will turn your Instagram memories into a durable case for your smartphone. There's even a Casetify app is available on App Store and Google Play Store to help you with your creativity. (http://www.casetify.com)

  • Keep track of which Apple iPhone or iPad power supply is whose by adding a vinyl label from Whooz Creative. At $13 the high quality labels are heat-resistant, removable vinyl and have a durable UV protective laminate. The fun designs range from Designer Sativa Turner also has a fun blog showcasing her work online: http://whooz.tumblr.com/. Get your Whooz at whoozizit.com (get it?!).

  • Intel has powered education computers for decades. New 2-in-1 devices such as the Lenovo Yoga 11S have the processing performance to support both tablet and laptop functions. The Intel Rapid Start technology reduces the sleep-to-start time to around seven seconds! ($800+, http://www.intel.com/2in1) For those opting for a more portable device, check out the Android-powered Acer Iconia tablet with Intel's Atom Z3000 Series processor. ($150+, http://www.intel.com/tablets)

  • Transfering photos, movies, and (oh yeah) homework from your mobile device to your desktop computer used to be complicated. The Leef Bridge 3.0 has two connectors, a Micro USB for connecting to your smartphone and a USB 2.0 port for PC/Mac use. ($18+, https://www.2leef.com/bridge3)

  • Jackery is the most popular battery pack on Amazon.com. With a variety of options, including models that slide directly on to your phone's case, there one for every model of phone. I recommend considering a future-proof USB model that, in conjunction with your charging cable, allows you to use one battery pack with a variety of smartphones. Check out the Jackery Mini ($20), Giant ($40) or the case-version, the Leaf ($60). (http://jackeryusa.com)

  • Heading back to school, you can't have enough chargers and accessories. Tylt offers a variety of fashionable accessories ranging from battery-charging backpacks to stylish dual-chargers. A wide range of options, including the ENERGI Sliding Power Case for Galaxy S5 ($80) is online at (http://tylt.com).

  • Most tech companies and mobile phone providers are offering Back To School incentives. One deal that caught my eye features a tablet available on August 8, the LG G Pad 7.0 for only 99 cents with purchase of an AT&T LG G2, LG G3 or the curved LG G Flex. Learn more at your local AT&T Store or att.com. (They're also offering deals on smartwatches and a discount on accessory packages just in time for back to school.)


Other ideas? Share your back to school gadget must-haves with me on Twitter: @BrianWestbrook

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