Back-to-school cool tools

New gadgets continue to revolutionize classroom

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— In 1903, Crayola debuted a box of crayons with eight colors. Throughout the years, Crayola has continued to add colors to its crayon boxes, style to its markers and smiles to children and parents shopping for school supplies all around the world.

With Routt County schools starting classes in the next couple of weeks, parents have more options than ever to ensure a successful and productive school year for their children - and it's not just paper and pencils anymore.

On Thursday, three local business managers provided their thoughts on what's hot and what's not in the evolving world of back-to-school shopping.

Randy Staggs, general manager of Staples in Steamboat Springs, said back-to-school shopping has become "really fun and more interesting."

Crayola has launched a new line of products, Total Tools, which are flying off the racks, he said. The products include a talking ruler, scissors, markers and highlighters, a "staple-free" stapler and more.

"Companies are always trying to fancy things up," he said. "A ruler that measures what you draw and tells you the measurement is a perfect example of that."

Wal-Mart Manger Mark Meade also has had a hard time keeping clever new gadgets in stock.

"I'm selling the fire out of this stuff," he said Thursday.

For older students in high school or college, calculators are what's hot, Staggs said.

Texas Instruments graphing and business calculators have been popular because they are "gutsy" and capable of so many functions, he said.

"I'd be surprised if those calculators didn't wash your car," Meade quipped.

Laptops, printers, scanners, digital organizers, wireless Internet accessories, alarm clocks, flash drives, iPods and voice recorders have been popular sells at RadioShack/Jackson's Office Supply in Central Park Plaza.

Brian Barber, who works at RadioShack, said flashcards have been rising in popularity - especially among students who transfer their school documents from school to home or work.

"They're nice because you can take a flashcard, save all your documents at once and take it with you wherever you go," he said.

College students and some high school students have changed the world of note-taking by using laptops in class, he said.

"We definitely get a lot of Colorado Mountain College kids in here looking for computers to use in class," he said.

Wal-Mart offers Dell desktop computers as well as three brands of laptops. Staples also has a wide variety of computers for all types of users, Staggs said.

While laptops might be a bit advanced for younger students, all three stores offer educational software and some early learning computer products, such as V-Tech's VSmile Learning System.

The $60 system plugs into a TV and allows students to learn language, math, vocabulary, phonics, spelling and problem-solving, among other subject areas. Games featuring Cars, Dora the Explorer, Superman and Blues Clues are popular with the system. All the games cost about $20.

"It tricks kids into learning," Barber said. "It's interactive."

Staples offers a line of learning software that ranges in price from $19.99 to $39.99 for all age levels.

Language-learning programs such as Spanish and French become popular after students learn the demands of their classes, Staggs said.

"It goes in waves," he said. "Once people get in their classes, they determine what they need after that."

Overall, parents shouldn't have a hard time finding what they need and what their students want in Steamboat Springs. In addition to Wal-Mart, RadioShack and Staples, Pilot Office Supply in downtown Steamboat also stocks some back-to-school items.

"There's some pretty cool stuff," Meade said. "Back to school is a season for us, just like Christmas."

- To reach Alexis DeLaCruz, call 871-4234

or e-mail adelacruz@steamboatpilot.com

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