How Technology Has Changed Back to School Season Forever

by Henry Truong

It’s only been six years since I was in University but things certainly have changed in that short period of time.

The experience for students today is drastically different than I remember but different in this case is synonymous with better. Anytime I’m on a campus or helping my cousins choose technology for their college or university education, I can’t help but feel a bit jealous at the tech advantages they now have.

Things like smartphones, e-readers, tablets, and ultrabooks have become common place in the few short years since I graduated and the technology never ceases to amaze me. It’s amazing the comparison between what I had back then and the type of advanced technology I’m now recommending to my family for the various tasks and challenges they will face throughout their education.


My university years were strictly a pen and paper affair. I hand wrote all my lecture notes in little binders.

This was actually fine for me and there are still lots of students who continue to do this. Getting writer’s cramp is only a minor inconvenience for me; my problem was trying to study my notes. Not only were my notes nearly impossible to decipher even to myself, they were often missing information as I couldn’t write fast enough to keep up with the lectures. It definitely affected my studying as it’s pretty difficult when you can’t find or read the information you need to review.

I’m pretty sure my problem would have been solved if I’d had access to an ultrabook or even a tablet to help me keep everything digital so I could do a search for it later—or possibly if I’d learned to take better notes. It’s amazing how much we take search for granted these days.

It’s hard to even remember the days before I could Google anything and everything. I did own a laptop but my laptop was one of those 17” monsters and I was lucky to get 1.5 hours out of the battery. I remember bringing it to class, once... and it was not a good day. Not only was I exhausted from lugging that beast around, but I couldn’t find a seat with a power outlet within reach so it spent its one and only field trip out of the house in my backpack.

Anyway, enough of my reminiscing and back to note taking and ultrabooks (I really wish I’d had one back then). They’re designed to be compact, light weight, thin, with exceptional battery life—up to 10 hours in some models—and they come in different screen sizes. If I’d had an ultrabook, I could have actually taken notes, but I guess I can live vicariously through my cousins for now.

Besides the ultrabooks I would have also settled on a tablet such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab or Apple’s iPad, provided I had a few key accessories such as a Bluetooth keyboard and the right apps to take care of the actual notes. On the plus side I could have used a tablet to store all my books if eTextbooks were actually available back then.


With almost everything going digital these days, it comes as no surprise that eTextbooks have really taken off in the last few years with many major publishers such as Pearson Learning Solutions offering eTextbooks versions of their popular course books. Universities have also jumped on board and typically offer a substantial discount on eTextbooks versus their new hardcopy counterpart—sometimes as much as a 50% discount.

Most of these are available as a secured PDF and can be used on almost any device that can read Adobe’s ubiquitous format. A laptop would work but a tablet or e-reader would be the way I would go for the convenience of a dedicated device and as reference when writing papers and such. I know if I had these available, I might even be a little taller, as I’m sure the 35 pounds' worth of books I carried everyday didn’t do my spine any favours.

Although a lot of this tech is showing up in universities I know that for my family it’s starting in high school—and even elementary school for some—as students are getting tech savvy at younger ages. I’d love to hear about what tech you wish you had back when you were in university or high school so feel free to reach out in the comments below or on Twitter @AgentTruong.

If you’d like to check out some of the latest in back to school technology, check out to see the latest products that will give you or your loved ones that edge I didn’t have on their return to school.

This content is sponsored by Best Buy.

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Henry Truong

Henry Truong

Henry started tinkering with toys and electronics long before his career as a Geek began in 2008. Always having a knack for repairing found and defective electronics and repurposing them for the greater good, Henry’s calling for a Geek was made clear from a young age. Henry started as a Computer Supervisor and Business Sales Supervisor with Best Buy in 2007 but quickly learned that the Geek... more

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