6 Must-Have Back to School Apps

5 minute read

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.

DuoLingo is available for free on Android and iOS.


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.

EasyBib is available for free on Android and iOS.


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.

Khan Academy

“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.

Here Comes the Bus is available for free on Android and iOS.

Here's What the Newest Apple Watch Apps Look Like and Can Do

Request a ride on Uber with Apple Watch. Without reaching for your phone.
Request a ride on Uber.Apple
When you receive a notification, the Taptic Engine alerts you with a gentle tap.
Be alerted when you receive a notification with a gentle tap by the Taptic Engine.Apple
You can scroll through and like images on Instagram right from your wrist.
Scroll through and like images on Instagram.Apple
Of course, check the timeApple
The SPG app on Apple Watch lets you check into your hotel and unlock your room.
Check into your hotel and unlock your room using the SPG app.Apple
Apple Watch will pull your boarding pass from Passbook when you’re near the airport.
Pull your boarding pass from Passbook when you’re near the airport.Apple
You can buy lunch at places like Whole Foods using Apple Pay on Apple Watch.
Purchase items using Apple Pay.Apple
See who’s calling without having to reach for your phone.
Accept or decline phone calls.Apple
Get timely activity reminders and progress updates throughout the day.
Get timely activity reminders and progress updates throughout the day.Apple
Raise your wrist and say “Hey Siri” to do all kinds of things with Apple Watch.Apple
Receive your iPhone notifications.
Receive your iPhone notifications.Apple
The Workout app provides more detailed measurement during specific activities.
Track your fitness using the Workout app.Apple
Apple Watch encourages you to sit less. Move more. And get some exercise.
Track your activity using the Workout app.Apple
Swipe up from the watch face for Glances, quick summaries of the information you use most.
Get quick summaries of the information you use most using Glances, by swiping up.Apple
In the Now Playing Glance, you can control your music right from your wrist.
Control your music using Now Playing.Apple
In addition to timekeeping, communications, and health and fitness, Apple Watch lets you do so much more.
In addition to timekeeping, communications, and health and fitness, Apple Watch lets you do so much more.Apple

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