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Embracing Today's Tech

Today's best technology tools are helpful when they protect students from their own most vulnerable areas, such as forgetfulness and distraction. 

Set up a backup system that saves for you

The spinning wheel of death and the frustrating frozen screen. These are signs of a gut-wrenching systems crash, and they can strike when least expected. If you use a backup system that makes copies of your files on your behalf, it will eliminates the chance that you'll forget to do it yourself. 

You can back up your files to a free cloud-based service, like Google Drive, Microsoft OneNote or Evernote, and then access or edit them from any computer with internet access. Both Google Drive and Evernote autosaves files as you create them within their apps. Google Drive is well-known for its shared document features, which are also useful for group projects. 

External hard drives connect directly to your computer and do not rely on the internet. A good one allows you to set a backup schedule once and then forget about it while it automatically saves copies of all your files on a regular basis. There are portable external hard drives that tend to be smaller, and larger desktop external hard drives meant for staying put at a home computer. 

Treat your smartphone as your personal assistant

It's easy to feel like your smartphone is always tempting you with distractions while you're trying to study. Or, you may think a smartphone has no more value than a talk-and-text-only phone. But as a busy student, staying on top of emails and your calendar are top tasks that your smartphone can perform flawlessly, if set up properly. 

A quick and easy strategy is to place your time-sucking apps out of sight, out of mind by burying them all in one folder. This way they're a little harder to get to and don't immediately pop out at you every time you check your screen. Then put the apps you need to stay productive in the most obvious places, making it easier for you to take advantage of small moments of free time throughout the day. 

The built-in calendar on your smartphone can be invaluable. You can input all deadlines at once, with custom reminders, so nothing slips past your memory. Are you known for last-minute papers? You can set a reminder every day for weeks ahead of a deadline to get started on your paper.

Sharing assignment deadlines on your calendar with your support team can also encourage them to help you overcome procrastination. To-do list apps, like Wunderlist and Evernote, are great at helping you break down a big assignment into smaller pieces and track your progress. 

Helpful hardware

While technically not required for most online classes, having access to a printer is convenient. Sometimes taking a highlighter to paper is the easiest way to understand a reading, so stock up on those too. 

If you're going to be working on group projects, you might want a device (phone or computer) with a internet-connected camera. You'll be able to video chat in free apps like FaceTime, Google Hangouts, Skype and WhatsApp

Make it fun

Lastly, don't forget to add a little bit of fun to your studies! If you're going to be listening to lectures of find music helpful while studying, it be useful to pick up a pair of headphones or earbuds. Create stations or playlists in advance to help you power through a paper. Remember that technology can help you work and play. 

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photo of Maria Haynie