Gadget of the Week - Back to School Tech Roundup


It seems like the “back to school” shopping season starts earlier and earlier every summer. This year, we saw ads encouraging families to get ready for school as early as July.

And while that rush to get started might seem like a bit much, it starts to make sense around this time of the season, when those of us who didn’t get a jump scramble to get our kids and ourselves properly equipped for a new school year.  

One element not to overlook in the mad dash toward the first day of the semester? The high tech! We all know that students at all grade levels need paper, pencils, protractors, and calculators, but the true Geek is also using this time to scope out some things that are a bit more next level.

With our thanks to Time magazine for pointing us in the right direction, here are three of the coolest – and most practical – back to school gadgets of 2017:

Livescribe Smartpen and Paper

For high school and college students, nothing is more important than jotting down notes during lectures.

Of course, this is often easier said than done. Handwriting notes in ink may be faster, but it can also lead to smudged or illegible text; typing out your notes, on the other hand, can be cumbersome, causing students to miss huge chunks of the professor’s talk as they try to capture the last thing they heard.

The Livescribe Smartpen is the perfect meeting point between the two methods; using the stylus and the compatible “paper,” students can take notes by hand that can then be instantly uploaded to a computer or mobile device. Even better, built-in audio recording functionality means that you never have to miss a word of the teacher’s speech, even as you hurry to jot down your notes.

There are numerous Livescribe models and accessories available, at a variety of price points. You can peruse the entire stock – including the remarkably powerful Livescribe 3 – at the company’s official store, here.

Kensington ComboSaver Notebook Lock

While thumbprint recognition, voice controls, and GPS locators are all well and good for keeping your laptop secure, none of those fancy features actually help prevent your computer from being stolen out of the library or computer lab in the first place.

For that all-too necessary security measure, you may want to invest a few dollars in a ComboSaver notebook lock. This sturdy cable and combination lock system plugs seamlessly into your laptop’s security slot and helps you keep your computer – and your notes, and your papers, and your very life – safe from being lifted by thieves and overzealous project partners alike.

You can purchase one of these handy security measures through a few different retailers; at the time of this writing, notebook looks are selling for less than $10 on Amazon.

TYLT Powerbag

Any good Geek knows that they’ll have to be able to take their gadgets on the go at a moment’s notice.

For that, you could do a lot worse than the TYLT Powerbag backpack, which boasts the capability to charge up to three devices at once using a powerful, built-in rechargeable 10,400 mAh battery.

Even better, the TYLT Powerbag will take good care of your portable electronics when you’re in motion, thanks to its padded computer compartment, alongside a multitude of deep, zippered pockets, complete with cord routing anchors. The bag also comes TSA-approved for air travel, and its sleek exterior means that it’s no slouch in the fashion department, either.

As of the time of this writing, you can get all of your gear into a TYLT Powerbag for roughly $99 via Amazon.

Have any other high tech goodies on your back to school shopping list? Think there’s something practical or wild that we should feature on our blog? We’d love to hear from you on Facebook or Twitter!


Jason Finn

Founder & Chief Geek

Jason has nearly 20 years of consulting experience, predominantly in the technology space. Most recently he was the COO and Director of Technology for Rich Casto & Company, a national training and consulting organization in the real estate industry.
As a consultant for IBM, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, and Envision Consulting Group (now IMS Health), Jason has served clients of all sizes, including Big Pharma, Fortune 500, and Global 1000 companies:

  • Allstate Insurance Company
  • AOL (America Online)
  • Astellas Pharmaceuticals
  • Eli Lilly and Company
  • Ford Motor Credit
  • Wockhardt USA (formerly Morton Grove Pharmaceuticals)
  • Norwich Union
  • PNC Bank
  • Reynolds and Reynolds

Sarunas Budrikas

Creative Director

Sarunas is a web design and development expert with hundreds of successful projects in his portfolio. He is passionate about delivering extraordinary user experiences for every client and consistently goes above and beyond everyone’s expectations. As an SEO expert and strategist, he can optimize your website, or app, to get the most out of it, day in and day out. Sarunas holds a degree in Electrical Engineering from Kaunas Technology University, in Lithuania. Sarunas now lives in Chicago, and calls it home.

Alexandra Olsavsky

Client Experience Specialist

Alex specializes in content generation and social media promotion for Geek | Chicago clients, helping to solidify their presence in the online community. This includes blog writing, graphic design, co-ordination and design of weekly newsletters, and active engagement on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn. Outside of Geek, Alex is a classically-trained soprano who professionally performs around the city of Chicago (most recently with the Chicago Baroque Band, and with the Rolling Stones for their "50 and Counting" tour).