This time last year when we were all getting ready for back to school, we were buying school supplies and dorm room necessities like coffee pots and bed linens.

In the time of the coronavirus, back-to-school gadgets are taking on a whole new meaning. If your kids are going to be going back to school from your dining room table this fall while mom and dad are working from home, you’ll face challenges these tech gadgets can solve.

One thing I’ve heard from a number of parents is the need for more computers. Mom needs one, dad needs one and each kid in the house needs one of their own for school.

Before you run out and buy a MacBook or a powerful PC, you can save money while still providing your kids with a computer for everything they’ll need to do.

Google Chromebooks are laptops but not in the traditional sense. Rather than running Windows or Mac OS, Chromebooks are strictly web-based. They work with the Google Chrome browser which means everything it does has to be done over the internet. You won’t be able to install Windows or Mac software. Some still have USB inputs so you can download documents but most everything will have to be done over the web.

Chromebooks can access email, websites, Google calendar as well as Google Docs which more and more schools are using for school work. Kids can also do Zoom or Google video meetings which are being used by schools for classroom instruction. Chromebooks are also inexpensive. Some are sub-$250 but $300 seems to be the going price for newer Chromebooks.

Consider this, you can purchase 4 Google Chromebooks for the price of most PCs and MacBooks.

Since kids will be doing some of their classroom work over video meetings with teachers there’s some security and privacy concerns with web cameras that are always aimed at the person using the computer.

You can place a piece of tape over the camera to keep snooping eyes from accessing the camera or you can pick up a few web camera covers for about $5. These plastic sliders affix to the computer screen and can be moved over to block the camera when not in use.

If mom and dad are doing work video meetings while the kids are listening to instruction from their teacher on Zoom it can cause a lot of noisy dining rooms with all those people talking at

once.

Headphones and earbuds can eliminate all those voices from interrupting each other.

Kids may prefer a pair of over-the-ear headphones which are easiest to use. Make sure you buy a pair with a built-in microphone. ZVox makes some of my favorite headphones at a reasonable price.

Moms and dads may prefer a pair of noise cancelling earbuds. Apple’s AirPods are top-of-the-line but before you shell out nearly $200 for one pair, you might want to take a look at earbuds from Earfun, Anker, CREATIVE and Jaybird.

These are all small, wireless earbuds that are barely noticeable yet provide good sound while cancelling out any background noise such as kids talking or dogs barking. Make sure the earbuds you choose also have microphones. Most do.

Lastly, if you’ve got a couple of kids working from the same breakfast or dining room table, a power strip may be necessary if there aren’t enough outlets in the room, or if people are always tripping over wires.

Anker’s powerstrip has three electrical outlets and 3 fast-charging USB ports There are definitely challenges ahead. These back-to-school gadgets will help make things a little easier.