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10 Practical Gadgets for Students

10 Practical Gadgets for Students

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    Imagine a darker age when students had to use the archaic pen and the notebook — a tool some may remember as the descendant of the scroll before it was made obsolete — and had to use “cassettes” in a “tape player” to listen to music they actually paid for. While these times have passed, it was a difficult era in which to be a student.

    While things haven’t really changed to the point where pen and paper are considered obsolete tools (heck, I have an entire cardboard box devoted to notepads), things definitely have changed. If you look around a lecture hall now, you’re likely to see at least half the students tapping away on laptops (whether they’re taking notes or hanging out on Facebook is another story) or fiddling with a phone or PDA. Technology has become an integral part of getting the most out of education. To that end, here are ten gadgets we here at Lifehack thought were pretty cool and practical for students.

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    1. Acer Aspire One

    The Acer Aspire One is the functional netbook that recently demantled the EeePC as the top seller in its market. This laptop has a 1.6Ghz processor and can fit a maximum of 1.5Gb RAM. It’s certainly no video editor or gaming machine, but it is small and has a lasting battery. Since the thing has to sit on those tiny, all-too-knockable lecture hall desks and last for several classes at a time, this machine — and many like it — are excellent choices for students.

    2. Macbook Pro

    It would be silly to mention a netbook and leave out a more powerful laptop, especially when many students are working areas that require some considerable grunt — multimedia and graphics, video, and audio might demand something like the Macbook Pro. This is a variable depending on your university or college, but from what I’ve seen most institutions dealing with these areas are running OS X and that makes the Macbook Pro a great choice. It’s got the grunt, it’s portable enough without making big sacrifices, and most importantly, it will be compatible with anything a Mac-based department throws at you. Also, solid aluminum enclosures look awesome.

    3. Fujifilm FinePix S1000

    Cameras are inherently useful. Take images of whiteboards and anything else you might want to remember later. For instance, in an audio engineering class, I took 30 or 40 pictures of various recommended microphone setups as they were demonstrated, and still have them for reference should I ever forget how an upright piano or trombone is done. The Fujifilm FinePix S1000 is a good choice because it’s a fairly affordable device, and can still capture the quality you’ll want for solid reference later on at 10 megapixels and 12x optical zoom.

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    4. iPhone

    I had to grapple with this one a little. It might seem like trend-following, and I didn’t want to be too biased to Apple — but after almost ten years using Windows Mobile, I couldn’t recommend it to anyone and still feel good in the morning. The iPhone is an excellent phone and PDA and comes in handy when you’d least expect it, especially once it’s fitted with the right apps. I’ve got task lists, notes from conversations, a library’s worth of good sci-fi books, even a piano, WordPress and a guitar tuner on the thing. Excellent for capturing the many bits of information you’ll need to capture throughout each day without lugging out a laptop. Oh, and it has Facebook too, if you’re so inclined.

    5. Alarm Clock

    You will sleep through an exam one day, or at least sleep through the bus that takes you there. It won’t be a fun day. Make sure you’ve got an alarm clock before you learn your lesson the hard way. Since bacon is so great, I recommend this alarm clock, but as it’s not on the market you might just want to go shopping and see which one at Kmart is the loudest.

    6. C-Pen

    The C-Pen book scanner is a great investment, both of money and time. It’s a great investment of your time because, since you’ll be reading your course books anyway, it takes no extra effort to use the pen scanner at the same time. Then when you need to get a quote from the book twenty minutes before the paper is due, you can search the text on your computer instead of wasting time looking manually, and simply copy and paste the quote. You’ll also have digital copies of your texts for years to come.

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    7. MP3 Player with Voice Recorder

    If you get a bad cramp trying to take notes as fast as your instructors speak, stop grimacing and get one of these devices. An MP3 player with a built-in voice recorder will allow you to sit back, record the lecture and focus on listening instead of keeping up, with the added bonus of providing musical entertainment when you’re not in a lecture. The Creative Zen Mosaic is an affordable option.

    8. Flash Drive

    Flash drives don’t provide a whole lot of space, but they are useful in a pinch. You never know when you’ll need to whip one out and grab something from a friend’s laptop. You can also load a flash drive up with portable apps so you have access to Firefox, OpenOffice and other handy tools no matter where you are. And while you’re at it, there’s no harm in going for one of the smallest flash drives available just for fun — but don’t lose it!

    9. Multifunction Printer

    Despite the rapid changes in the way technology is used on-campus, sometimes you still need to hand in an assignment on paper. Chances are, that’ll be the day when the library printer is broken. Don’t risk anything and make sure you have a multifunction printer at home. Since the price of multifunctions has dropped so low, you may as well grab one instead of a somewhat cheaper single-purpose printer, since a scanner and (decreasingly) fax machine can often come in handy as well. HP makes some good devices that don’t cost much.

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    10. LaCie Rugged Hard Disk

    Flash drives are useful, but as I said, they don’t offer much in the way of space. I always like to take a good external hard drive with me; just as much as you might need to grab a large file while you’re out, one of your own might come in just as handy for someone else. Furthermore, if you don’t have some sort of drive to back up your assignments on to, you’re asking for serious trouble. The LaCie Rugged Hard Disk isn’t very expensive and allows you considerable space and maximum safety. Try dropping this thing and see what happens.

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    Joel Falconer

    Editor, content marketer, product manager and writer with 12+ years of experience in the startup, design and tech digital media industries.

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    Last Updated on July 17, 2019

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    What happens in our heads when we set goals?

    Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

    Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

    According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

    Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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    Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

    Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

    The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

    Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

    So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

    Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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    One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

    Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

    Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

    The Neurology of Ownership

    Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

    In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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    But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

    This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

    Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

    The Upshot for Goal-Setters

    So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

    On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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    It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

    On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

    But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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    Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

    Reference

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