Tech for small scholars

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Ask any parent — today’s kids are getting ever more plugged in and switched on to the world of technology. Laptops and iPhones are certainly the newest and flashiest items in a long list of things distracting kids from homework, but as many parents and schools are discovering, it can pay off to harness that allure for the purposes of learning. These gadgets might give young learners’ brains a charge.

It seems geared for commuters or on-the-go professionals, but a cheaper, smaller Kobo could open up the world of e-reading to the younger set. The newly unveiled Kobo Mini is about the size and weight of a plastic coaster and holds up to 1,000 titles. Its e-ink display and customizable text sizes would certainly appeal to kids that devour chapter books like they’re PB&Js. (It could be a lifesaver for older students as well: When asked at a recent press event if there was any possibility that colleges and universities might make their textbook offerings available for download, the Kobo team would only say "stay tuned.") It will be available for $79.99 in early October.

I was all about my Little Tikes plastic car as a kid; these days, the toy company is navigating the ol’ Cozy Coupe onto the information superhighway. Its line of iTikes toys can either make for a good time on their own, or team up with Mom and Dad’s Apple devices. The line includes a keyboard, a microscope and an art canvas, but the iTikes Map could prove to be an educational heavy hitter — it includes six maps that can be explored using an included smart pen that loads fun facts and trivia. Hold an iPhone or iPod Touch over top, and the device will load interactive content like images, animations and more maps. The suggested price is $59.99; check it out at

Tablets are the wave of the future when it comes to mobile computing — and they seem to be the hot item in educational tech toys, too. Though there are plenty of accessories and apps out there that nod to tablets’ popularity among kids, Archos cut to the chase with the Child Pad. The 7-inch Android tablet was created just for kids; to sweeten the deal, it’s a tie-in with the Alvin and the Chipmunks franchise. In addition to themes and media featuring Alvin, Simon and Theodore, the Child Pad also comes pre-loaded with educational apps and parental control software, as well as that other piece of essential software: Angry Birds. On the tech side, it boasts Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), a gigabyte of RAM and 4GB of memory — just enough to store five movies for those long car rides. The latest version, with an improved display, is set to sell for $140. Visit

The iPad can certainly occupy a place in a classroom or homework routine alongside the paper textbook — and Griffin’s Binder Insert Case will make it that much easier. The case was created as a study aid, letting students check out educational materials on their tablet while taking longhand notes. The three-ring design lets students clip their tablet right into a binder, and both lefties and righties can configure the sleeve so it’s most comfortable for them. Bonus: It can be unclipped and used like a regular case, and when it’s in a binder, it only takes up half an inch of space. The case also comes with a free download of Quizzam, a buzz-in game-show-style app for group quiz sessions. This could be a handy tool for teachers with some classroom tech for fun new activities, but study groups and homeschoolers can also reap the benefits. Take note: It’s US$24.99 at