Brushing up on computer skills for the new school year

Seafair has come and gone. The Summer Olympics have concluded. And the presidential candidates have been decided. So, what’s the next big event?

Back to school, of course! And the media is making sure we don’t forget.

In particular, there is a very clever television commercial portraying a teenage brother and sister patiently instructing their parents on the use of their cell phone features prior to their parents’ departure for their first day of school. The parents have that deer-in-the-headlights look on their faces as they attempt to mentally digest the confusing instructions being issued to them.

Obviously, this is a bit of well-placed irony and humor designed to sell a product. And given that, I can patiently nod and endure the not-so-subtle patronizing, knowing that my generational brethren and I are prepared for the technological challenge of a new school year.

However, for those who need to brush up on their skills after an especially relaxing summer, here is a Technology To-Do List to ensure that you are on the right track:

Practice your text-messaging skills — this is arguably the single most effective way to communicate with your son, daughter, grandson, granddaughter, niece, nephew, business associate, etc. Much is accomplished via text-messaging these days, so whatever you do, do not discount the power of SMS (Short Messaging Service — official acronym — this will impress your friends).

For parents and grandparents of school-age children, Colleen Dixon, director of educational technology in the Issaquah School District, informs me of a registration-based online program called Family Access. The program provides an up-to-date and ongoing record of student attendance, grades, lesson plans, assignments and projects (complete and incomplete), and associated dates. Family Access can be logged into with any Internet-connected computer.

At some point during the school year, your son or daughter may need a software program to complete an assignment — Intuit QuickBooks or Adobe Photoshop, for example. These are very expensive programs, and unless you are planning on using them regularly, they are probably not worth purchasing for one assignment. However, most programs are available for a downloadable, full-featured 30-day free trial from their company’s Web site. Additionally, there are reduced-price and subsequently reduced-featured Academic versions of these programs for sale, which are designed specifically for educational purposes. The largest supplier is the Academic Superstore at

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, become well-versed in accessing and interpreting the online DOT (Department of Transportation) traffic flow maps and viewing the traffic camera images. The Web site is With extra vehicles on the road, including school buses, give yourself more time and PLEASE pay attention to those school-zone vehicle speed limits.

So, with a cheer (parents) and a groan (kids), we embark on another school year.

Stay safe and stay connected.

Wayne Nelson and Jeremy Self own and operate Wired Northwest, LLC, in Redmond. Submit your questions to:; Wired Northwest, LLC,

Phone: (206) 788-7975, (206) 788-7898.

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