Best Educational Apps

If you put away your smartphone and tablet before you start studying and reach for them when you need a break, you're doing it wrong. Schools all over the globe are introducing mobile devices into the classroom, and according to the U.S. Department of Education, technology-based learning can significantly reduce the amount of time it takes you to absorb new information. At this point, the question is not whether you should load some educational apps on your devices, it's "Why haven't you yet?"

Make a Note of It

Note-taking apps are everywhere and your smartphone and tablet most likely come with a stock one. If you're a student though, you will likely benefit from an advanced note-taking app with multimedia and sync capabilities, says Alexander Klimentov, teacher of mathematics at Brighton College, UK. "You can sync your notes across multiple devices or include media files into your notes—from taking a photo of the board to recording an entire lecture." Before showing up to class with just your smartphone or tablet though, you should check whether using these devices is allowed by your school. "Many educational institutions frown on or outright forbid the use of digital equipment during lessons or lectures," says Klimentov, "so you should only do so after obtaining permission from your professor or teacher."

If your device is OK'd by your school, you're good to go. Unless your device has a built-in keyboard, consider buying a Bluetooth keyboard or a keyboard case for it. Handwriting notes, Klimentov says, can still work better than typing them up, since it stimulates your memory and enhances your ability to recall the material in the future. As an alternative, some note-taking apps allow you to handwrite your notes using a stylus, which Klimentov sees as the perfect middle ground.

Even if you take notes by hand, you can always digitize them later, either by snapping pictures of them with your smartphone or tablet's camera or by using a scanner, and add them to the app. That way, you can revise whenever you have a free moment, since you'll have your notes always on hand.

Your Time, Simplified

Assignments, tests, classes, study hours, extracurricular activities—a busy student needs a way to keep track of everything. In the past, you would use a paper diary but when apps can do the same, why bother? Your smartphone and tablet likely have a basic calendar app that will serve you quite well to begin with; depending on your preference, you could also add assignments as calendar events or use a to-do list app instead.

If after a bit of using the default apps you find yourself wishing for more features, research all-in-one apps that combine both calendar and to-do list functionality, especially those designed with students in mind, and make a decision based on your specific needs. "However, don't go overboard when engaging in the app arms race with your classmates," says Klimentov. "The full-featured app that works perfectly for them may be too complex for your liking, with its endless features largely going unused and threatening to drown you in pointless minutiae. You must decide what works for you using your own better judgment."

Take a Load Off Your Back

Regularly carrying heavy textbooks around can result in back injury, especially if you use a messenger bag rather than a backpack or carry your backpack on only one shoulder. Technology provides a simple answer to that issue. Nowadays, many textbooks are available in an e-book version. Loading them on an e-reader app on your tablet or smartphone, drastically reduces the weight you're carrying around.

Furthermore, digital textbooks often include additional material that would be difficult or impossible to include in a paper version, such as videos or interactive pages. If nothing else, e-book reader apps frequently include a summary of your highlighted passages and any notes you may have made for each textbook, making it much easier to track down facts when revising.

E-book versions of textbooks are also frequently cheaper than the paper version and you may even be able to simply rent them for a fraction of the price. A lot of the classic books you would be studying in English class are readily available as free e-books you can load on your tablet or smartphone, since they are in the public domain.

Learn, Expand, Revise

No matter what you're trying to learn and at what level, there's probably an app for it. Educational offerings run the gamut from dictionaries and atlases to specialized apps that explore a single subject in depth; you can also find apps that make it possible for you to create custom flashcards and other revision material. These apps can make revising both easier and more engaging—not to mention having them on hand means you can study whenever you have a free moment, no matter where you are.

"Relying on them exclusively and forgoing all other resources is, however, dangerous" says Klimentov. "You should always ensure the app contains all relevant material for each topic covered in the syllabus. If you have any doubts, consult your professor or teacher to confirm that the app you're considering is suitable for your course." The same goes for specialized apps that replace stand-alone devices, such as calculators or ones that simplify repetitive tasks, such as putting together bibliographies. Always check whether their use is allowed and whether the results they provide are correct.

Photo Credits: Describe the Fauna/Demand Media

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