Are you a middle or high school student? Do you want to use your iPad at school instead of carrying a heavy laptop? If you answered YES to either of these questions, read on to discover 11 must-have apps for 2011 – it’ll be worth it, guaranteed!
11 essential back-to-school apps for students
I don’t have any affiliations to the developers of these apps, so I can give an objective point of view. I have however, played around with each app listed and have tried to view them from a student’s perspective in particular. Each app listed here is intended for students ranging in ages from about 10 to 18. Many can in fact be used by other ages as well, but that’s the age range I deal with, so it’s natural to start there. All the apps can be considered worthy for general education support. It doesn’t matter whether you’re into the sciences, humanities, languages or technology – I’ve chosen to present these apps in particular because I think they would really help ALL students rather than a specific subject area.
Well, that’s enough preamble…let’s get to it. I’ve grouped the apps into 5 categories based on how students might use them:
- File management
iStudiez Pro ($4.19)
This app is great for organising your timetable, homework and when assignments are due.
You won’t need one of those A5, clunky diaries any more and you’ll never be late for class!
Of all the dictionary apps available, this has to be one of the best – it combines more features than other apps, and it uses a clean and intuitive interface.
You’re given word family, different meanings clearly defined, and etymology (word origins) of the words you look up. The thesaurus combines both synonyms AND antonyms, many of which are also hyperlinked to additional pages.
This app would be particularly useful if English is not your first language. In fact, it allows you to choose which language you want to translate from and which language you would like to translate to, so it’s a worthy app for all students.
It’s another example of an app that utilises a clean user interface and is therefore straightforward to use. As the adage suggests, sometimes less is more…
Word Study & Grammar ($2.59)
So you’ve got your English essay back and the teacher’s comment mentions that you use split infinitives, double negatives and keep ending sentences with prepositions. Think of this app as a grammar reference book that will help you fix problems with your written syntax. Even if you’re unsure of the basics such as the purpose of nouns, verbs and adjectives, this guide will help you to become informed of all things ‘grammar’.
3. Note taking
This app is the perfect tool for taking notes in class AND organising your schedule.
Better still, you can organise your notes into separate notebooks (say, a notebook for each subject) and even add sub topics within each notebook. It’s also possible to record your homework, prioritise tasks and list your teacher’s contact details/office hours. It’s a delight to use and isn’t bogged down with gimicky features that are found in many productivity apps,
I have to say that this is one of my favourite apps. You have to try it out for yourself!
Use this app when you’re taking notes from online sources.
When your iPad is in landscape, half the screen is a notepad and the other half is a browser window. It’s the app you’d use when you’re taking notes while researching a topic, yet you don’t have to have a separate pen and paper, or keep switching back and forth between two apps. You can read online material AND take notes at the same time in the one app!
You’ve probably heard of Apple’s word processing app even if you haven’t downloaded it yet. The reason it’s in this list is because at the end of the day, all students (regardless of subjects taken) have to write essays, book reports and so on.
Pages is a word processing tool that is incredibly simple to use and is not ‘fiddly’ like other apps of a similar nature. Use Pages when you’re writing your final English essay or History report and then email it to your teacher, all from the app.
4. File management
Downloads HD ($4.19)
A lot of apps allow you to view documents online, but few allow you to quickly and easily download files AND organise them in folders. If your school uses an online system such as Blackboard or Moodle to post resources, Downloads HD is a fail-safe app to use.
I found that many other apps either took far too long to download even fairly small documents and/or stopped working when I tried it in Blackboard. I’ve had no problems with this app at all though. You can also transfer downloaded files to your computer at home if you want as well.
The free version of Downloads HD has all the features of the paid version, but you can only store up to 7 files at a time. This could become annoying, especially if you’re used to teachers posting PDF and PPT files etc online, so the paid version is well worth it.
FlashCards Plus Pro ($6.49)
This app’s user interface has a high visual appeal and it’s very intuitive. The Pro version allows you to create your own flash cards within the app, including images on the cards, so it’s worth the small investment. You can also download card sets from Quizlet.com.
It’s what I’d call one of the more advanced flash cards apps available because it uses the Leitner system of spaced repetition – huh? What this means is that the app keeps track of the cards you get right and the ones you get wrong. The cards you get incorrect will be shown to you on a more regular basis than the cards you already know. The advantage here is that the app really helps you to commit key terms and concepts to memory rather than repeatedly showing you things you already know.
Most people have trouble studying for long periods of time and iStudyAlarm is designed to help you. Using research that suggests that the optimum study time is 20 minutes, you can set the alarm for intervals of this length. When the alarm sounds you’ll know it’s time to have a 5 minute break before hitting the books again.
The app also includes some really useful information about how to get the most out of your study time and also lots of tips for sitting exams.
Popplet Lite (FREE)
This is one of the easiest mind mapping tools I’ve come across.
It fits well with using the iPad’s touch screen to enter data and it’s user interface is very intuitive. Other mind mapping apps I’ve tried are just too fiddly in comparison. When you’ve created your mind map you have the option to send it in an email as a JPG. This can then be saved to the iPad’s camera roll. If you want to keep the mind map yourself rather than share it with others, the easiest way would be to take an image of it by pressing the on/off button and the Home button at the same time. This way the mind map goes straight into the Photos app (i.e. camera roll) and bypasses the email step.
The Lite version is fairly basic and only appears to let you work on one mind map at a time, but I figured that you can get an image of your map to use elsewhere anyway. Upgrade to the paid version ($12.99) if you regularly use mind maps as part of your revision process though.
Finally, one more tip to enhance your research, note taking and learning…
Diigo is an online tool for highlighting text and creating sticky notes, among other things. You can download a plugin for iPad’s Safari browser which allows you to highlight text from documents and web pages that you’re viewing online rather than downloading. It syncs to your free Diigo.com account, which records the article/web page on which you’ve highlighted text (and the text you’ve highlighted, of course!)
Imagine critiquing an author’s work, researching the origins of WW1, or commentaries on the latest economic crisis. Using your iPad, you can collect important quotes, identify recurring themes and write your own thoughts on the fly using Safari and Diigo’s web highlighter tool.
Now you (and your iPad) are armed with a software kit ready for the start of a new academic year – and all for less than $35!