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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 September 28, 2020

    The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

    The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

    At the start of the year, if you had asked anyone if they could do their work from home, many would have said no. They would have cited the need for team meetings, a place to be able to sit down and get on with their work, the camaraderie of the office, and being able to meet customers and clients face to face.

    Almost ten months later, most of us have learned that we can do our work from home and in many ways, we have discovered working from home is a lot better than doing our work in a busy, bustling office environment where we are inundated with distractions and noise.

    One of the things the 2020 pandemic has reminded us is we humans are incredibly adaptable. It is one of the strengths of our kind. Yet we have been unknowingly practicing this for years. When we move house we go through enormous upheaval.

    When we change jobs, we not only change our work environment but we also change the surrounding people. Humans are adaptable and this adaptability gives us strength.

    So, what are the pros and cons of working from home? Below I will share some things I have discovered since I made the change to being predominantly a person who works from home.

    Pro #1: A More Relaxed Start to the Day

    This one I love. When I had to be at a place of work in the past, I would always set my alarm to give me just enough time to make coffee, take a shower, and change. Mornings always felt like a rush.

    Now, I can wake up a little later, make coffee and instead of rushing to get out of the door at a specific time, I can spend ten minutes writing in my journal, reviewing my plan for the day, and start the day in a more relaxed frame of mind.

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    When you start the day in a relaxed state, you begin more positively. You find you have more clarity and more focus and you are not wasting energy worrying about whether you will be late.

    Pro #2: More Quiet, Focused Time = Increased Productivity

    One of the biggest difficulties of working in an office is the noise and distractions. If a colleague or boss can see you sat at your desk, you are more approachable. It is easier for them to ask you questions or engage you in meaningless conversations.

    Working from home allows you to shut the door and get on with an hour or two of quiet focused work. If you close down your Slack and Email, you avoid the risk of being disturbed and it is amazing how much work you can get done.

    An experiment conducted in 2012 found that working from home increased a person’s productivity by 13%, and more recent studies also find significant increases in productivity.[1]

    When our productivity increases, the amount of time we need to perform our work decreases, and this means we can spend more time on activities that can bring us closer to our family and friends as well as improve our mental health.

    Pro #3: More Control Over Your Day

    Without bosses and colleagues watching over us all day, we have a lot more control over what we do. While some work will inevitably be more urgent than others, we still get a lot more choice about what we work on.

    We also get more control over where we work. I remember when working in an office, we were given a fixed workstation. Some of these workstations were pleasant with a lot of natural sunlight, but other areas were less pleasant. It was often the luck of the draw whether we find ourselves in a good place to work or not.

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    By working from home we can choose what work to work on and whether we want to face a window or not. We can get up and move to another place, and we can move from room to room. And if you have a garden, on nice days you could spend a few hours working outside.

    Pro #4: You Get to Choose Your Office Environment

    While many companies will provide you with a laptop or other equipment to do your work, others will give you an allowance to purchase your equipment. But with furniture such as your chair and desk, you have a lot of freedom.

    I have seen a lot of amazing home working spaces with wonderful sets up—better chairs, laptop stands that make working from a laptop much more ergonomic and therefore, better for your neck.

    You can also choose your wall art and the little nick-nacks on your desk or table. With all this freedom, you can create a very personal and excellent working environment that is a pleasure to work in. When you are happy doing your work, you will inevitably do better work.

    Con #1: We Move a Lot Less

    When we commute to a place of work, there is movement involved. Many people commute using public transport, which means walking to the bus stop or train station. Then, there is the movement at lunchtime when we go out to buy our lunch. Working in a place of work requires us to move more.

    Unfortunately, working from home naturally causes us to move less and this means we are not burning as many calories as we need to.

    Moving is essential to our health and if you are working from home you need to become much more aware of your movement. To ensure you are moving enough, make sure you take your lunch breaks. Get up from your desk and move. Go outside, if you can, and take a walk. And, of course, refrain from regular trips to the refrigerator.

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    Con #2: Less Human Interaction

    One of the nicest things about bringing a group of people together to work is the camaraderie and relationships that are built over time. Working from home takes us away from that human interaction and for many, this can cause a feeling of loss.

    Humans are a social species—we need to be with other people. Without that connection, we start to feel lonely and that can lead to mental health issues.

    Zoom and Microsoft Teams meeting cannot replace that interaction. Often, the interactions we get at our workplaces are spontaneous. But with video calls, there is nothing spontaneous—most of these calls are prearranged and that’s not spontaneous.

    This lack of spontaneous interaction can also reduce a team’s ability to develop creative solutions—there’s just something about a group of incredibly creative people coming together in a room to thrash out ideas together that lends itself to creativity.

    While video calls can be useful, they don’t match the connection between a group of people working on a solution together.

    Con #3: The Cost of Buying Home Office Equipment

    Not all companies are going to provide you with a nice allowance to buy expensive home office equipment. 100% remote companies such as Doist (the creators of Todoist and Twist) provide a $2,000 allowance to all their staff every two years to buy office equipment. Others are not so generous.

    This can prove to be expensive for many people to create their ideal work-from-home workspace. Many people must make do with what they already have, and that could mean unsuitable chairs that damage backs and necks.

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    For a future that will likely involve more flexible working arrangements, companies will need to support their staff in ways that will add additional costs to an already reduced bottom line.

    Con #4: Unique Distractions

    Not all people have the benefit of being able to afford childcare for young children, and this means they need to balance working and taking care of their kids.

    For many parents, being able to go to a workplace gives them time away from the noise and demands of a young family, so they could get on with their work. Working from home removes this and can make doing video calls almost impossible.

    To overcome this, where possible, you need to set some boundaries. I know this is not always possible, but it is something you need to try. You should do whatever you can to make sure you have some boundaries between your work life and home life.

    Final Thoughts

    Working from home can be hugely beneficial for many people, but it can also bring serious challenges to others.

    We are moving towards a new way of working. Therefore, companies need to look at both the pros and cons of working from home and be prepared to support their staff in making this transition. It will not be impossible, but a lot of thought will need to go into it.

    More About Working From Home

    Featured photo credit: Standsome Worklifestyle via unsplash.com

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