When you pen a story about school children and technology, this is typically the spot where the writer goes on about how kids used to walk uphill in the snow, lugging a bag overflowing with heavy tomes, so on and so forth. But the reality is that older people need to get with the times just as much.
These six apps can help students of all ages make the best of the opportunities that today’s mobile devices provide. From homework trackers to ways to chat with classmates, you can do it all with your Android or iOS device. Well, everything except for taking tests — so be sure to study.
Flashcards are a staple of studying. This app takes the pain out of making them by serving them up on a touchscreen. But more than a mere paper replacement, Brainscape tailors its timing to users' learning needs. Though the app is free, you can purchase pre-made sets of flashcards to help learn things like foreign language vocabulary or world geography.
Sharing capabilities help the app work for study groups or teams, and cross-device syncing means you can pick up on a tablet where you left off on your phone. Even if you’re not a student, Brainscape can be a smart way to continue your education while on a commute, or during dull moments of the day.
Brainscape is available for free on iOS.
Learning a second (or third, or…) language can be a challenge, especially if you take the summer off and forget all your new words. DuoLingo is an addictive way to keep learning because it turns lessons into games packed full of listening, speaking, and translating. With hot streaks being tallied up and hearts measuring how close you’re getting to "game over,” it can be as thrilling as a racer or as confounding as a role playing game. Either way, DuoLingo is as fun as any mobile game going, with bonus points for teaching people everything from Esperanto to Ukranian.
As a former English major with a Master’s degree (and therefore, a thesis paper under my belt), I can say with some degree of authority that bibliographies are a massive waste of time. Don’t get me wrong — the proper sourcing of material is vital to research, but the rigamarole of punctuation and order is exasperating. In automating the tedious task of note-taking, EasyBib is a major innovation in paper writing. Just fire up the app, point the camera at the book’s bar code, and you’re on your way to marking it up in more than 7,000 citation styles like ASA, AMA and more.
Whether you’re a high schooler with eight periods of classes or a college student tackling dozens of credits, there’s one thing you’ve got for sure: a mess of assignments. iHomework can help you keep track of all your work, slicing and dicing it in a variety of ways. Sorting it by due date, week, month, or by course, the app is more organized than a Trapper Keeper. And in integrating data from Questia, you can link your reading material to your assignments so you don’t have to dig through a pile of papers to find the right information.
A scheduling feature can help you keep track of those random bi-weekly Thursday labs, and you can even mark the location of your courses on a map so you don’t end up on the wrong side of campus. And finally, with iCloud syncing, you can access all this information on whatever Apple-compatible device you’re using at the moment — no need to dig for your iPad.
iHomework is available for $1.99 on iOS.
“Summer Reading” might be the season's keywords for our educational system, but why not summer math or science while we’re at it? Khan Academy, a non-profit online portal committed to feeding people’s insatiable hunger for knowledge, offers courses in almost any subject you can imagine, helping people pass tests, improve their comprehension, or even just become better rounded.
Available on Apple devices (there are unofficial Khan Academy apps on Android), the app offers more than 150,000 interactive exercises with step-by-step hints and instant feedback. But it’s not all about quizzes — lectures and videos are part of the curriculum too, making this a solid competitor to distance learning programs, even if you don’t get any credits.
Khan Academy is available for free on iOS.
Here Comes the Bus
If you think “back to school” is all about children, you probably don’t know enough parents being run ragged by a household full of kids. As fun and full of memories as these months can be, stay-at-home parents are also anxiously awaiting the school bell to ring. Here Comes The Bus is a free app that many school districts are using to connect students, parents, and administrators with their GPS-equipped transport.
With arrival and departure information for various stops and schools, it’s great for checking if the bus is running late or if you’ve missed it. You can also get push notifications for schedule changes or when the ride is five minutes away from arriving. And if you have multiple children on different busses, you can track them all simultaneously — which is more than you might say about watching them in the summer.