By: Lenore Holditch
A Pew Research study conducted in 2010 revealed that 75% of teens aged between 12 and 17 own a cellular phone. And you don't have to do much of a double-take to notice that smart phones have dominated the cellphone scene for several years now. Cellphones and other portable devices have become more or less an extension of the person carrying them. Information can be accessed from integrated web browsers and apps instantaneously, taking the booting up time of household computers out of the equation.
For a curious mind, the smartphone and tablet are invaluable tools. Not only is the information you seek readily available, but there are apps that can help you learn more effectively, retaining the information, apps that can help you organize the information once you've accessed it, and apps that provide you with ongoing sources for more information. As a result, smartphones and tablets with their endless supply of apps can be cleverly utilized by teachers, students, and other academic types looking to make the most of technology's gift.
Apps for Teachers
Many teachers become frustrated and intolerant with in-class cellphone use. As they see it, a texting student may as well not sit in on a lecture, and nothing is more infuriating than being interrupted by a mobile device's ringtone. However, it might be more effective to utilize mobile devices as a learning resource rather than a subject of disdain in the learning environment. If teachers and professors want to keep up with their students, they should understand that students are readily turning to technology for almost any need. This includes education. Teachers may scoff at the idle student that updates their Twitter in class, but a wise teacher will note that mobile devices and tablets are merely another means in which they can engage with their students intellectually. If your students embrace apps as a means to learn a subject, give them the proverbial food they need to satiate their hunger instead of ignoring a viable and progressive tool for teaching virtually any subject. Mobile apps can also make organization and communication between teachers and students seamless and efficient.
- The Blackboard mobile app:Blackboard is a great bridge of communication between teachers and their students, especially in the college realm. The web portal lists every class you're enrolled for and is broken up by various categories, depending on how active the teacher is with Blackboard. A great professor will store notes, PowerPoint presentations, and syllabi on Blackboard. It can also store students' grades. Students can communicate with one another on integrated message boards within Blackboard. The mobile app is merely a version of the full website conducive to easy transportation and reference. You can even take quizzes straight from the app. Blackboard provides valuable Webinars for teachers looking to expand their knowledge of the platform and how they can utilize it most effectively for their students. As an organizational tool, it is unparalleled.
- Edmodo mobile app: Edmodo is another app helping to close the gap between students and their teachers that takes on more of the formatting of Twitter or other social media platforms. With the tagline, "Make your classroom a community," Edmodo encourages open discussion between students and teachers, with the tagging, status updating, and event capabilities of Facebook. Upon signing up, you specify whether you're a student or teacher, friend your peers and professors with profiles, and join groups per your various classes. If you have a specific question regarding your homework, Edmodo is your outlet to phrase the question, garnering instant responses from other classmates and teachers. Teachers can post assignment reminders, to which students may respond by uploading their homework. They can post educational videos, blogs, and other resources pertinent to the subject being taught in class. There is an integrated calendar that spurs on event notifications, such as upcoming tests. Teachers can even use it to upload grades. The one quip is that while Edmodo has the potential to be an invaluable resource for students and their teachers, it is only effective if everyone participates readily. Edmodo may be more intuitive to students because of its recognizable formatting.
- GoClass: GoClass is the premier app for constructing effortless lesson plans for your lectures, which can be shared with students directly from their side of the app. After registering students with GoClass, they merely input a designated password to access your lecture material in the classroom. The material is assembled directly on the app using a tablet through what the makers of the app refer to as the "Show-Explain-Ask" method. You show by collecting extraneous material, such as photos, pdfs, videos, and links. You then explain by adding detailed annotations and bullet points. At this point, your lecture should take structure, so you can ask your students multiple choice questions at the end of the lecture to deduce whether or not they understood the concept. You can also add in interactive polls for participating students. Inside the classroom, the GoClass app is activated using Wifi and your lectures can be broadcasted to students. When they log in, the app acts as an attendance roster, eliminating the need to take laborious classroom attendance by calling out names. The app can be paired with a projector such that material can be shown large in the classroom. Finally, logs and reports of the students' performance help the teacher evaluate how future lectures can be adapted to meet the students' needs.
- iAnnotate: There's really no reason for students to submit hard copies of their essays to teachers anymore, as it wastes paper and can be difficult to keep organized. With iAnnotate, you can ask your students to submit their papers as a PDF, enabling you to add annotations to the paper directly from your tablet. Unlike the cursed red pen, the annotations can be added in as footnotes, highlighted passages, or even drawn directly onto the document. The app features a bookmarking functionality so you can quickly navigate to a specific area in the document. The navigation panel on the left of the app shows the specified notes in thumbnail view. An expansive toolbar provides you with various correction tools, such as a highlighter and pen. You can also add photo annotations by taking a photo with your iPad or choosing a pre-existing photograph from your library.
- Socrative mobile app: College professors often use clickers in their classroom, a device that allows a student to anonymously answer a poll or other query by broadcasting their response to the teacher's laptop or onto a projected screen. However, buying a hundred or more clickers for a lecture hall is an unnecessary expense, as Socrative is a mobile app that accomplishes the same task. With Socractive, the teacher can make an assessment with instantaneous feedback from her students, who need simply to select their answers on their cellphone. While a regular clicker may have limitations as to the types of questions asked, the Socrative app allows for polls, multiple choices, true or false, and even open-ended questions which can be answered by typing a response into a dedicated field. The student can fill out an exit ticket, which allows them to comment on the material presented during the lecture. You can also quiz students over the material from the device.
Apps for Students
Students have a knack for technology, as most have been using it for their entire lives. While mobile devices were once exclusively used for phone conversations and storing contacts with perhaps a very limited access to the internet, cellular phones and tablets are now merely jumping points from which the user can access limitless possibilities. Facebook has the means to catalogue a user's entire lifespan, starting at birth, with intimate documentation of where the user has been each day flanked by photographic evidence, should they use Facebook at its entire potential. Thus, it should come as no surprise that a student may be inclined to take advantage of technology in the classroom as well.
Students may not realize the multitude of options available to them in terms of apps geared towards classroom organization, education, and communication. Apps provide the student with convenient tools for engaging more closely with their teachers and peers, allowing for them to have a more profound grasp on the material in class. Just as teachers begin to utilize apps, a student may find that more and more of their peers are working from an iPad in the classroom rather than a spiral-bound notebook or even a laptop.
- Cramster: Cramster is a mobile app that contains upwards of 1,000,000 solutions to various textbook problems. The student can start by looking up the specific edition used in class and browse through the various problems, showing the solutions with step-by-step visuals. If the specific edition or answer isn't available, the student can pose a question for his classmates in hopes of a helping hand. The generous classmate can then post the answer by solving the problem directly on their mobile device or taking a picture of the solution elsewhere and posting it for reference. Likewise, a student can take a photo of a tricky problem and wait to see if anyone will help solve it. The app is especially useful to check your work. Students can compare solutions for better studying habits; teamwork can help every individual perform better and understand the material. Students can also make comments and rate solutions.
- InClass: The InClass app is by far the most intuitive integration of a mobile device and the classroom, with a simple interface and a myriad of functions to help you organize your chaotic schoolwork and schedule. Any college student will tell you that taking notes during lectures is key to doing well in a class, as it promotes comprehension of the materials without having to scour the lengthy passages within a textbook. Taking notes into a spiral where they can't be easily shared, saved, or combined with other notes is the analog way of studying. Integrating technology into your study habits can help you to communicate material with other students who may have valuable insight on the topics. It also allows you to back your work up to a computer or USB port in case it is lost. While in class, you can activate InClass' audio notes to record the lecture for easy reference. Users with tablets can take written notes through the app, as can iPhone users, although it may be tough to use the phone's miniature keyboard. After taking notes, you can share them with other InClass users. The app functions alongside Facebook, where you can post your picture notes from class. Notes can also be exported though iTunes onto your computer. Should you encounter a picture that is relevant to your notes, you can print it from the app.
- Amazon Student: The Amazon Student app appeals to the poor college student that will inevitably cringe at the absurdly steep prices of textbooks. The app helps the student to locate the cheapest prices on books possible — simply scan the barcode and Amazon will compare prices around your area as well as competing internet vendors. When you're ready to sell back the book at the end of the term, you can use the app to scan your items again and Amazon will alert you as to whether or not your items are eligible for trade-in. Amazon offers free shipping for books that are traded back into its system and rewards you with a gift card to the website of equal value to the books submitted. As an added bonus, students receive free two-day shipping for six months when they sign up for the Amazon Student program, which could be a lifesaver if you're rushing to get your textbooks for an upcoming class.
- iStudiez Pro: iStudiez Pro may be configured for all Apple products, including your laptop, iPhone, and iPad, so you can sync all of your devices using iCloud for easy access no matter where you are. In short, it is a comprehensive mobile planner for students trying to keep track of all of their classes' demands. The interactive calendar, which can be synced with iCal, allows you to look at all of your assignments for the month or week, enabling color coding for easy visual tracking. The schedule planner allows you to input all relevant course details, including title, the instructor's name, which building it's held in, and any holidays on the horizon. The Grades and GPA function allows you to tabulate your grades in points, percentages, or letters so you can estimate how you GPA will be affected. The assignment review section keeps track of all of your homework, its due date, and any grades received. You can also sort your course load by priority.
Apps for the General Academic
There are also hundreds of apps that would raise the brows of academic types looking for useful information. Without taking a structured course in school, there are many apps that aim to expand personal knowledge, presenting the user with the proper tools for educational growth outside of the classroom setting. These are just a handful of the abundance of apps that information gurus will love.
- TED: Watch the latest TEDTalk conferences with the TED app, which shows seminars based on the initiative of spreading ideas.
- Babbel: The Babbel iPhone apps teach you the basics in foreign languages, with separate apps for learning German, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Swedish, and English.
- Goodreads: With Goodreads, not only can you document books you want to read, access over 2,000 public domain books, and review books for other readers, but you can also connect with other avid readers in your area through literary events and book clubs.
- Free Graphing Calculator: Rather than paying hundreds of dollars for a Texas Instruments graphing calculator, access the free Graphing Calculator app from your phone with the same functionality of its expensive predecessor.
- Verbatim: The Verbatim app helps you to memorize pieces of text, such as an important speech or content for an exam.
- The New York Times: With the New York Times app, you can stay up to date on current events from one of the nation's leading news sources.
- Evernote: Jot down notes, speak snippets of audio, tag photos or websites from your browser, or take photos using your iPhone for instant retrieval later on. With Evernote, you keep track of your ideas and things you like.