Modern Life

10 back-to-school tech upgrades for the students in your life

After a year of remote learning, this moment represents a big transition for students of all ages and their families, who want to equip them with all of the tools they’ll need to start the year off right.

By Lauren Grayson — August 13, 2021

As Fall approaches, a fever pitch of excitement (and nerves) is growing among parents and students preparing to transition from a year of virtual learning from home to an in-person academic experience. 

While dusting off last year’s backpack and charging up the trusty Chromebook is a good place to start, there’s a lot you can do to help prepare for a smooth re-entry to the classroom.

“After spending an entire year taking classes online, I can’t wait to finally be back on campus,” says Jada Kennedy, a senior at Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia, who was among the many college students whose education was abruptly interrupted by the pandemic, sending her home to continue studying from her bedroom. With a new semester beginning this month, her school has given the green light for students to return (under strict safety precautions).

Kennedy, who is studying business, says a big part of her back-to-school planning is not only making sure she’s got her schedule organized, textbooks in hand, and a comfortable dorm setup, but also that she’s got the right tech tools to start the year off on the right foot. Her surprising go-to item? The TP-Link Smart Plug, which can turn any gadget into a smart device that can be controlled from an app on her phone. 

“I want to give myself the best shot at having a successful senior year, which is why I’m researching and investing in products that I know will give me a leg up in areas, like organization, where I usually need a little extra help,” explains Kennedy. 

Whether you have a kindergartener launching from the safety of learning at home to “big kid school,” a teen heading to high school, or a college student returning to campus life, here are some smart upgrades to traditional school supplies (other than the prerequisite laptops and printers) that you might not have thought of. 

Focus and attention

Noise-cancelling headphones: Does your kid jam to their favorite tunes a bit too loud? Consider the Puro BT2200 when selecting their next set of headphones. These listeners are a great option when it comes to protecting their developing ears. Useful for both free time and study hours, this stylish, adjustable headset meets volume-limiting test standards and is praised by toddlers and big kids alike. 


A big part of back-to-school planning is making sure students have tech tools to start the year off on the right foot.

Smart notebook: It’s no secret that note-taking can be a drag, especially for students who struggle to pay attention during long lectures. Studies show that information is better remembered when it’s written out longhand rather than only typed up, as that form of note-taking helps your cognitive ability to recall, understand, and interpret things more deeply. However, a great smart notebook, like the Moleskine Smart Writing Set, can help make it stick by allowing you to write out notes with a stylus then digitize them to view, search, and archive later via phone or computer. 

On-the-go learning

Lap desk: Treat the students in your life to their best shot at productivity whether they’re lounging on the couch or up late in bed  with a lap desk. This highly rated one has ergonomic features like a built-in mouse pad, wrist pad, and phone/tablet holder that will keep them comfortable even when not working at a desk.

Foldable keyboard: Squinting at a Google doc on your phone and cursing your massive thumbs is no way to do word-processing on the go. Pair a foldable keyboard, like this iClever Bluetooth foldable keyboard, to your smartphone or tablet for a much more pleasant (and wireless) experience.


A service like HP Memories is perfect for digitally storing your young student's artwork, awards, and favorite keepsakes from school.

Pocket-sized power saver: Avoid the inconvenience of a ‘low battery’ notification, or worse, the dreaded mid-message power outage, by considering Pinch Provisions Power to the People kit as your next back-to-school purchase. Wherever you are, keep your favorite tech powered throughout the day with this tiny pouch full of all the necessities—earbuds, wall adapter, USB charger, and more. 

Organization for busy households

Clear the clutter and keep the memories: Anyone with young children knows that the influx of artwork, A+ assignments, and awards brought home after a successful school day can amount to an avalanche of paper. For the photos and paint-smeared items that are too special to toss, there are preserving services like HP Memories. For those with little time to sort, the flat-rate HP Memories Kit efficiently digitizes and ships images off to a concierge team who organizes them for you. 


RELATED: How to keep work, school, and home life organized and secure


HP+ for simplified and secure printing: Have you ever felt like the second you blink you’re suddenly out of ink? Consider subscribing to Instant Ink from HP and have it delivered directly to your door. You can also take your printing experience to the next level with HP+, a new system that allows you to print remotely wherever you are, and with any device. If you pair your printer with the HP Smart App, you can enable a private pick-up feature that prints documents only when you’re near, so multiple family members or nosey roommates can’t sneak a peek or mix up printouts.

Courtesy of HP

HP+ is a system for simplified and secure printing that ensures your family never runs out of ink.

Digital family calendar: Keeping track of your family’s busy schedule has never been easier with an easy-to-view shared digital calendar like Mango Display in a central spot at home. This personalized wall calendar is constantly updating so that parents and students can coordinate schedules, events, extracurriculars, important deadlines and appointments, and stay on the same (digital) page. 

A better start to early mornings 

Wake up easier with a sunlight alarm clock: Help your teens tackle early mornings with the SmartSleep Connected Sleep and Wake-Up Light HF3670. This reimagined alarm clock mimics a soothing sunrise and sunset by adjusting its brightness, allowing your body to wake up naturally rather than being jolted out of sleep by a blaring phone. This lavish light even comes with Bluetooth connectivity, sensors that detect temperature and humidity, noise, and light levels, a built-in nightlight (if you need it), and a USB port. 

Keep tabs on easy-to-lose items: Misplacing your keys, wallet, or phone in the morning is the quickest way to go from on time to running late. Whether you're headed to class or carpool, Tile is the perfect tool for making hurried mornings a little less stressful. This quarter-sized tracking device is linked to an app and even chimes to help locate your lost items, regardless of their distance.