According to the Retail Council of Canada, back to school is a peak shopping period for Canadians, with more than 40 per cent of consumers flocking to shopping malls, big box stores and online retailers to stock up for the return to the classroom.

The times are changing, however — as learning becomes increasingly technology-based, traditional items like notebooks and pencils are being replaced with gadgets and services that combine fun and function to bring kids to the top of the class.

To keep current, consider the following unconventional ideas for your 2007 back to school shopping list:


“Edutainment” Electronics: Many of the latest gadgets and devices can help students stay organized, in touch and, in some cases, entertained. Multifunctional cellphones allow students to do everything from download their favourite music to surf the Net and call their friends to set up a study session. New kid-friendly PDAs help students stay organized with features like daily agendas and address books. Portable DVD players are the easy and affordable option for on-campus study breaks.

Cost-Effective Computers: It goes without saying that computers — from the sleek laptops to the fully-loaded desktop models — are essential for today’s students. Many local computer retailers offer gently-used and refurbished models for budget-conscious shoppers.

“Wired” Fashion Gear: Even fashion is being impacted by the tech wave. The plethora of wireless networks at schools and libraries mean that more and more students are opting to take their laptop computers on the go. Backpacks capable of carrying both laptops and schoolbooks are a great option, and some models even come with added features like iPod controls.