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School supplies for new normal: Affordable tech

How did at-home learning go for your family this past school year? Not so great? Well, it’s about to start all over again for lots of people.

Families are gearing up for an uncertain school year, one that could push back-to-school spending to record levels, but not necessarily for clothes and backpacks.

Consumer Reports reveals the affordable technology that could get your child to the head of the online class without breaking the bank.

The top item parents will be buying is probably a laptop. But before you buy, check with your school because technology recommendations might be different this year.

For most students, any Chromebook is fine because they’re going to be using web apps, and you don’t need anything special to run them. Consumer Reports recommends the Google Pixelbook Go for $649 or the Lenovo Chromebook C340-15 for $399.

College is a different story because the type of laptop needed may depend on what your child is studying. Colleges will often provide a list of computers or recommend specs or programs. In addition, if you buy through your college, you might be able to receive a discount.

CR says it's hard to go wrong with a MacBook Air for $899. If you prefer a Windows computer, the Lenovo Flex 15 is a good choice at $896.

Be sure to add a pair of headphones with a built-in microphone to your school-supply list. This is one of those situations where you don’t need to spend extra money for audiophile sound quality.

CR recommends the Monoprice BT300 headphones for $39. If you prefer in-ear headphones, try the affordable Panasonics RP-TCM125 for $15.

But if it isn’t the right time to drop a lot of cash on a new computer, look into free software that can turn an outdated laptop into a Chromebook.