5 Great Mobile Apps For Heading Back to School

A lot has changed since my last day of class over a decade ago. Way “back then” anyone with their own computer was still pretty progressive, and if you had a laptop you were something between silly, and a geek god.

I, once, actually possessed a mobile phone during college (1998 I think).

I was laughed at.

I got rid of it.

My next mobile phone came more than two years later. The big upgrade from the previous one? It could successfully make calls… usually.

Now, not only can I conduct my entire real estate business, contracts and all, from my iPhone, but app makers have been busy creating tools for all walks of life, including education. As the 2011 – 2012 school year is now upon families throughout the area, and mobile tools are being embraced in the classroom like never before (especially iOS devices), I felt it appropriate to dedicate my next post in the mobile apps series to the parents of the students among us.

Here is my list of 5 great mobile apps for heading back to school:

Evernote iPad App

Evernote (All Platforms – Free)

There are apps for voice recording, and there are apps for managing tasks. There are apps for taking photo’s, and apps for storing documents. Then there is Evernote, that allows you to do all of those things either independently, or all related to one topic or note. Your student can store all their research related to a topic in one “Note”, or under one “tag”. Read something relevant? Write a note. Need to gather some photo’s of the subject? Take some photos right in the app. Have a thought about the project or paper while driving to school or walking to class? Add a voice recording. All attached to the same overall note, or tag.

The Downside: mmm, ummm. Hmmm. Well, with enough time I’m sure I would think of one.

Stanza AppStanza (iPhone, iPod, iPad, Desktop – Free)

This up speaks to me on a very personal level. When I was in school I was never a big fan of reading. As a result I still have some catching up to do on some of the classics. The Stanza app creates a great way for students to keep up with classroom reading assignment using today’s technology. What Stanza does, among other things, is aggregate the thousands of books whose copywriter have expired and offers them to users for free. These books include many of the classics a typical student will be asked to read as a part of class. I am hoping that those students out there who are a bit like I was will be more motivated to keep up if they are offered this technical alternative to the paper version.

The Downside: If you want to read anything beyond the Classics you’ll have to go shopping. But that is no different than any other eReader.

Dictionary.appDictionary.com (All Platforms – Free, or $2.99 Without Ads)

The dictionary apps come down to two players: Dictionary.com and Merriam-Webster. Their benefit and usefulness is fairly self explanatory, so why did I choose the Dictionary.com app? In some ways it is less about what the Dictionary.com app does, and more about what Merriam-Webster doesn’t. One of the primary reasons I make use of a dictionary app is to check my spelling, while the Dictionary.com app will start to offer suggestions based on what you are typing, the Merriam-Webster app will not give you anything until you type a word and hit search. Which means if you don’t know how to spell it, they aren’t interested in help you. This alone is enough, by a long shot, to choose Dictionary.com. However, there is that added perk that Dictionary.com allows you to do a voice search. The context where you would use this feature is a bit uncertain, but I trust some of you will find a useful means to avail yourselves of that tool.

The Downside: Well, a second app that I can’t really find too much wrong with, if anything. Ah, on the iPhone the keyboard covers half of the suggested words as you type, which means you have to type enough of the word to bring high enough on the list to select it.

Penultimate iPad AppPenultimate (iPad)

In spite of all the technology and resources we can have at the palm of our hands, sometimes it just more efficient to write. Penultimate allows users to do just that. With multiple color selections available, students can drop the typing, or the notepad and take notes with their finger-tips on their iPad. When done with a series of notes you can send the images over your Evernote app for storage with any other related notes or items.

The Downside: Your finger is not always the best writing utensil. (however, see the next “app’)

More-Real CapsMore/Real Caps (Limited Availability)

More/Real is a pen cap implanted with a stylus that is usable on iPad, iPhone, and most likely Android based tablets as well. The company is in a sort of beta phase, but keep an eye out for these caps that would make the use of apps like Penultimate a near no-brainer. No, this is not an app. And, yes, there is limited and possibly even questionable availability for these multifunctional pen caps. However, the reintroduction of a stylus type utensil is a natural progression as we adopt a more tablet based consumption style.

The Downside: Besides limited availability, some tablet makers are bound to start producing something similar before too long. Also, I think there is an inherent risk that you might accidentally Sharpie your iPad screen.

I hope you enjoyed this list of Back to School apps, and I hope your family will be able to make use of them. Here are a few other app lists from some far more credible sources:

Time: Top 10 Back To School iPhone Applications

Mashable: Back to School: 15 Essential iOS Apps for Students

Gizmodo: Top 10 Back to School iPhone Apps

If you have some of your own suggestions for school related apps, we would love to hear about them in the comments below!

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