Look alive! It’s back-to-school season and you’ve got Lisa Frank pencil cases to buy, pronto!
On second thought, maybe skip the Lisa Frank this year and put that money to better use by investing in a laptop, tablet, or smartphone. A recent survey by Harris Interactive found that out of 2,300 American students aged 8-18, only 1% didn’t use any kind of smart device to enhance their studies. Fully half of all respondents reported using smartphones in their studies, while 41% said they use tablets.
The Lakeville District in Minnesota invested heavily in tech last year when it issued iPads to its classrooms. Now, one year later, the classrooms that received iPads are reporting big gains in student learning. Of the 31 classrooms that received iPads, 23 reported increases in student engagement, 24 reported gains in student motivation, and 20 said they saw an increase in general student learning.
We’ve compiled a list of some of the best apps for elementary and high school students as they start the new school year this week.
For high school and college students, we’ve narrowed it down to:
I typically don’t trust app descriptions that feature a lot of exclamation points, and this description is rife with them, but it’s still a very useful app. (The description also does the ‘Then X is for you!’ thing that always sets off alarm bells in my head.) iStudiez Pro is the next-generation student planner, allowing users to set up their class schedules complete with course details and instructor contact information. There’s also a separate section for homework and assignments. All of it is summed up in a “Today” view that shows you exactly what’s ahead of you for the day. There’s even a section that allows you to track your GPA by inputting your assignments, grades, and their weight for your overall grade.
This one is obvious, especially for the college freshman in your life. I spent my first semester in college pretending to know what words like “modernity,” “interstitial,” and “anthropocentric” meant. It didn’t do me any favors.
The app was created in 2005 by then-15-year-old Andrew Sutherland who wanted a tool to help with his French vocabulary. The app features more than 21 million sets of quizzes on subjects ranging from languages and vocab to the humanities, math and science, professional fields, and more. Or you can create your own study set. The app also works offline.
While most classes won’t let you take a smartphone or tablet into the testing room, the Desmos Graphing Calculator is still a great learning tool. Features include graphing (plot polar, Cartesian, or parametric graphs), sliders, zooming, points of interest (touch a curve to show maximums, minimums, and points of intersection), inequalities, and pre-loaded example graphs of lines, parabolas, trigonometric functions, and more.
Remember the days when collecting data and sources for an essay meant writing it down on an index card and putting that index card in a shoe box with all your other index cards? And don’t forget all the Post-Its in your books. (GOD I’M SO OLD.) Evernote makes it possible for students to keep all of their notes, Web clips, typed notes, and photos in one spot, organized and searchable by keyword or tag. And you can sync your notes across all of your devices so that you’re not stranded if you leave your notebook on the bus.
I love this. For students who are visual learners or those who learn best through narrative formats, this app is fantastic. Based on the best-selling hardcover edition of The Elements by Theodore Gray, the app takes students through a detailed explanation of each element, complete with a rotating sample and images representing the element in daily life. For example, “Iodine” features an old timey bottle of iodine, while gold features a gold nugget, and magnesium features a magnesium film reel. At $13.99, it’s a pricey app, but definitely worth the investment.
Younger students have different needs, so here are a few for the kiddies:
Getting your kid into an organizational state of mind is a challenge in itself. I had one sister who was chronically late for school because she simply couldn’t stay on target. You’d tell her to go brush her teeth and she’d run off in the direction of the bathroom but get distracted and end up digging in the garage for her old Barbies. iRewardChart gives parents a mobile tool for helping kids stay on top of tasks and rewarding good behavior. Kids can earn stars for things like doing their homework without needing to be reminded five days in a row, or remembering to practice their musical instrument. Parents can set up a list of rewards that kids can earn after accruing so many stars. It’s a great app for establishing organizational behavior.
For kids learning addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, Math Heroes 1 offers speed and accuracy drills for the basic operations. The game, in which players use martial arts moves to fight through complex tasks, includes 100 levels and adapts to performance. If you’re looking to establish fluency with the basic math concepts, this app does just that.
One of the best ways to build your child’s vocabulary is through creative writing. Write About This features hundreds of writing prompts, including 125 images with three levels of prompts. Kids can type their writing exercises or record them orally, and the app also allows for collaboration between students. Parents and teachers can also create their own writing prompts or modify existing prompts.
Best suited for ages 11 and up, this is a great app for your middle schooler. The app is a straight-forward, non-gamified supplemental tool to your kid’s algebra textbook. The app will help students master algebraic techniques like calculating percentages of a number, multiplying polynomials and trinomials, and more. Each lesson comes with animated examples and the app features various proficiency levels with an endless array of randomly generated problems.
Designed for grades 1-5, this matching game is ideal for building fluency. There are three levels, each containing several categories, including rhyming words, homophones, synonyms, prefixes, suffixes, adjectives, and more. The app comes with three modes of play: individual, team, or competitive.