Smart ConnectionsSmart Connections

Smart Connections

We all know at least one gadget guru. Maybe you even fit the description—the girls and guys who can't wait to get their hands on the latest, greatest technology. A person like this can be pretty useful nowadays as clever contraptions continually light up store shelves, each with more bells and whistles than the last. Our website,, in need of such an expert to help sort through the best technology for teens, went searching at one of the most wired places we know: the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark. Eventually we tracked down Kenneth Ronkowitz and tore him away from his computer keyboard. Ken, a graduate of Irvington High School and Rutgers University, spent seven years as manager of instructional technology at NJIT before becoming director of the writing initiative at Passaic County Community College. He and colleague Tim Kellers, who still works at NJIT, write a regular blog on educational technology (Serendipipity35 at Here is Ken's list of five must-have technologies to keep you connected:

1. The smart phone. Think cell phone that does everything but clean your room for you. Smart phones can run complete operating system software, they may have full keyboards and allow you to send emails and browse the Internet. "Many students are using smart phones like computers," says Ken. Of course, the Apple iPhone is one of the most popular, but that is just one of many.

2. A laptop. Even with that smart phone you still need a computer and larger screen, and laptops-small, mobile computers-have certainly replaced desktop models for young people. Computing power is a must have to navigate your life after high school, from college, to career, to handling the household finances. A laptop will give you the flexibility to have your files at your fingertips anywhere, anytime so you can always stay connected.

3. A printer/scanner combo. While it may be headed in that direction, the world has not gone paperless yet. Teachers still want pieces of paper for assignments, so a printer is necessary. All-in-one printers with scanners allow you to be more creative and can also serve as copiers.

4. External memory. No, this won't help you remember to write your term paper, but it could save you from losing your data to viruses, spyware and other creepy Internet threats. An external hard drive for backing up files is a necessity, says Ken, as is a nice big flashdrive, which is a storage device that uses flash memory to store data and can even be a replacement for your computer's hard drive. You can get 8 gigabytes of portable storage for under $50.

5. Cloud computing and open-source tools. Freebies! You can use online services to create, store and save files, from Flickr for your photos to Google Documents for your writing and presentations. Some great Web applications for students are Evernote, a note taking application that includes things like being able to take a picture of the whiteboard in a lecture with your phone, uploading it to their server, and it becomes instantly searchable. Another Web application is Remember the Milk, which can help you stay on track with tasks, assignments and life. For more info on these and more, visit Ken and Tim's blog (serendipity35) at