Monthly Archives: August 2012

A Rocket in Your Pocket – Apps for Students

One of the ways to make any student’s life easier is to give her the tools she needs. With smartphone and tablet use rising, apps for students can be those tools. Here’s a quick roundup of some of the better apps for students of all ages.

Note: I’ve tried to find free or low-cost apps. There are higher-costs apps with more bells and whistles, but there might also be a free version that gives you the basics you need. Shop around.

Familiar Names, In An App

  • SparkNotes has a free app for both iPhone/iPad and Android devices. Access study guides online or offline, and check in to SparkNotes to find other students in your area studying the same thing.
  • Cliffs Notes has apps for iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch that will help you review texts in English. The app is free, and each study guide is $1.99 (much cheaper than the print versions). They also have a free CramCasts, three-minute overviews of literary works in a podcast that you can subscribe to.
  • Encyclopedia Britannica’s apps are geared at kids, but anyone can use them to learn more about snakes, knights & castles, US Presidents, and the solar system.
  • Dictionary.com is a great web-based dictionary/thesaurus, now available as an app for iPhone and Android.
  • There are several graphing calculator apps out there, but here’s a few for iPhone (one for free and one that costs $1.99) and Android (free and also free)

New Tools to Try

  • Evernote is a note-taking and list-making app for iPhone, iPad, and any Apple computer. What makes it awesome is that it will sync up those notes and list from one device to the next, so you always have the same updated information in front of you. No more copying things over or emailing to yourself.
  • Quizlet is a flash card website and app that lets you create your own flashcards or study using existing ones.
  • Flash card creation apps like StudyDroid (Android) and gFlash (iPhone/iPad)
  • Outliner for iPhone and iPad easily helps you break any project or paper down into an outline and task list.
  • Adding to last week’s post on time management, here’s iProcrastinate, a Mac/iPhone app that helps organize and break down large projects.

Not an App, but a Neat Site

WebElements.com is a site for high school and college students of all levels that has an amazing amount of information about the elements in a useful format. You can also buy all sorts of posters and displays to help remember more about the elements.

Many, many many more

There are hundreds of apps out there that are great for students of all sorts. Use your favorite search engine to find one on a subject you need, for the device you have. Just type in the subject you want, then “app for” and the device you have. You should get a few great lists to start with. You can also search the iTunes App Store or Android Market/Google Play for more.

Resources

From “To Do” to “It’s Done” – Online task management

One obvious way to use online tools for school and study is to help keep things organized.

What Is It?

There are different tools that will keep track of your to do lists for you, but they all have the same basic features. You can create specific tasks, organize them into lists or projects, set due dates for each task, and view these tasks in a single agenda or project-by-project. Some tools can do more, like send you notifications of tasks as they are due, or give you a mobile app for your smartphone to use wherever you go.

To see a variety of to do list tools, take a look at these:

How Is It Useful?

When you write out your to do lists on pieces of paper or on a calendar on the wall at home, it’s easy to lose track of updating the list or remembering what was due when. Using an online task organizer, you can keep that list in one place and get to it wherever you can connect to the web. If you have a smartphone or tablet, it’s even easier. Just like all of the online account or online collaboration tools we’ve looked at, it’s about keeping things in one easily-accessible place and not having lots of information in different spots.

Try It Out

If you have an online account with Google, Yahoo! or Hotmail/WindowsLive, use the help below to create a basic to do list and try organizing just one project to start with. It might be a class you’re taking, a report you’re writing, or even a project at home. Don’t try to organize everything all at once – start with something simple and add projects as you get the hang of it.

For a little more organization, or if you don’t have an online account, give one of other tools a try. Remember the Milk and Todoist are the simplest to use, but all of them are good for different kinds of projects. Look at the lists of features and see what works for you.

Help & Resources

Classrooms Without Walls

As folks head back to school, let’s spend the rest of August finding ways to study and learn from wherever you are: still on vacation, away in a dorm room, or hanging out at recess. Watching TED talks is fun, but sometimes you need a little more structure.

What Is It?

After more than ten years of colleges and universities offering some kind of online access to courses for their students, today anyone can find lectures, courses, and more available online – some for free, some for a reasonable fee. Here’s a few to give you an idea of what’s out there.

Free Resources, Open to Everyone

  • Wikiversity was created by the same people who started Wikpiedia. Educators and experts worldwide offer free educational resources and courses on hundreds of topics.
  • Several universities are offering online courses that you can explore at your own pace, or take with a registered class of other students. Check out what’s available from MIT’s OpenCourseware project, Stanford’s Free Online Courses, Open Yale Courses, and Harvard’s Open Learning Courses.
  • Imagine searching for lectures as easily as you look for the latest pop hits? That’s the premise behind iTunesU. If you have iTunes on your computer, open it up and click on the iTunes Store, then iTunes U up at the top. Search for a subject you’re interested in and then subscribe to listen or watch it.
  • For online courses from around the globe, read through this list of 200 Free Online Classes to Learn Anything from the Online Education Database

Something brand new and very different is the edX project, a partnership between Harvard University, MIT, and University of California at Berkeley to offer free courses online. Unlike the resources above, edX does require registration and will offer a certificate after you complete a subject of study. Read more about edX and ‘the future of online education.’

Paid Courses

  • Looking to learn more about computer programs you need for work or school? Try Lynda.com, a resource for online training tutorials. For a monthly or annual subscription, you have access to nearly 1500 tutorials on everything from Microsoft Word to Adobe Photoshop and more.
  • Many colleges and universities offer formal distance-learning programs, but the University of Phoenix has one of the most well-known online degree programs.
  • The Museum of Modern Art in New York offers art courses online, both self-study and instructor-led. Discover art from MoMA from wherever you are!

How Is It Useful?

World-class education, for free, from whatever computer or mobile device you have that can get to the internet. Learn at your own pace, on whatever subject you like, whenever you have time, wherever you are. How isn’t this useful?

Try It Out!

Take a look at a class from any of the resources above and listen to a recorded lecture, read through the notes, or watch a video. Expand your mind and get back in gear for learning.

Help & Resources

TED Talks – Inspiring, Educational, Wonderful

Since the first week of August is apparently one of the busiest travel weeks of the year in the United States, let’s take a look at a perfect travel companion: TED Talks

What Is It?

TED logoStraight from the About page: TED is a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader.

TED helps find and spread ideas worldwide in many ways:

Anyone can watch the hundreds of TED Talks available at the TED website. They range from just three to 20 minutes long, and are on every topic imaginable. Use the search facets on the left to find talks that appeal to you, or just keep browsing and clicking on whatever catches your eye.

There have also been at least two Boston-area TEDx events: TEDx Somerville and TEDx Boston. These self-organized events bring people together to share a TED-like experience, focused on locally-important topics. Take a look at the talks from TEDxSomerville and all four years of TEDxBoston.

Why Is It Useful?

Once you’re out of school, it’s harder to find lessons in life that will challenge you or get you to imagine new possibilities and consider alternatives to ‘the way things have always been.’ Watching TED talks online bring some of the most amazing thinkers from around the world to your screen, and can fill you with hope and wonder. It’s as useful as anything else that makes you think, dream, and play.

Try It Out

Unless you happen to have a TEDx event coming up nearby, the best way to get to know TED is by watching TED Talks. Try these on for size…

For the rest of August, Learning for Life Online will focus on getting ready for the school year and showcase ways to help study, learn, and discover online. Whether you’re heading back to school or just looking for something to do over the winter, LLO will have something for you.