15 Free Apps To Give Students on the First Day of ClassRyan Hickey | Managing Editor, Peterson’s
Every educator knows the perils of the pervasive tech devices that stalk their classrooms. The constant distractions, assignment hacking and unofficial assessments on sites like ratemyprofessors.com can be annoyances and even completely disrupt a course. It’s easy enough to take an anti-internet stance, perhaps even requiring students to drop their devices at the door.
But if used properly, technology can greatly enhance a student’s experience. This is especially true of applications that improve study skills, research capabilities and classroom communications. Professors at any institution should consider incorporating apps into their classrooms or suffer the possibility that they will be left in the chalk dust.
Many campuses have already started providing mobile tech for their students. Ohio State University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology have apps that provide students with all kinds of services, from class functions and campus bus schedules to the best places to eat on campus.
New apps are always being developed, but here are a few that can benefit students starting on the first day of class. Keep in mind that educators should always take the time to compare similar options to decide which apps fit their students best.
A Textbook Case of the Apps
Chegg: Textbooks can be prohibitively expensive. I remember borrowing particularly dear texts from the library when I could, but it was a clumsy solution and often required that I sit in a dusty library study room to use the book. Chegg is a free app that brings the sharing economy model to textbook purchasing by allowing students to rent out their own textbooks.
Half: A division of eBay, Half can help students save money by allowing them to buy and sell textbooks online. While there are many other sites that serve this purpose, Half is one of the most straightforward and boasts a number of excellent features.
Flashcards… Now with Flash
InstaGrok: This study resource allows the user to create visual data and customizable mapping structures to help clarify study material. It also features an interactive visual interface that improves retention.
StudyBlue: No matter how much you dislike taking notes and making flashcards, these learning strategies are essential. StudyBlue enables users to make fun flashcards and take notes anywhere, anytime.
Joining the Groupthink
Google Drive: Though it is pretty ubiquitous these days, it’s useful to mention Google Drive because it’s an amazing tool for students and professors. Users can edit documents in real time and create crowd-sourced material. The revision tracking function is very useful as is the fact that it automatically saves as you write—so the possibility of a crash and loss of work is greatly decreased. (In fact, I am writing this article on Google Drive right now, because of this excellent feature and an incident with Microsoft Word that we won’t speak of.)
OpenStudy: This program allows students to go global when creating a study group. The communication possibilities are endless and it helps foster the development of international perspectives on specific topics.
BenchPrep: This app contains a myriad of interactive test prep courses to help students search for materials, and also provides study aids such as flashcards and practice questions.
Something to Note
My Study Life: A perfect way to integrate all of your projects and due dates into one easy app – with non-nagging reminders and clarity for your schedule.
Turn Me Off
Studious: Cut the brrring-brrring. This app is something an institution might want to make mandatory across campus. It allows students to input their courses and then automatically silences their phones during class times (or study times). Imagine having classes where the professor never has to worry about that annoying interrupting jingle!
SelfControl: It is very important to stay away from distractions during study time. This free Mac app will help you avoid Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other distracting websites.
30/30: This very simple productivity app is like a new version of the chore wheel. Program in tasks and 30/30 makes sure students stay on target. Again, this is one that might be a good fit for the ethos of an entire university.
EasyBib: This might be a controversial position, but I think that one of the most unnecessarily time-consuming parts of writing a research paper is the bibliography. Creating a list of citations is crucial work, but it doesn’t add any insights to a solid paper or give students any educational opportunity apart from remembering where commas should go in MLA vs. APA. Here’s where EasyBib comes in. In most cases, you can simply enter a book or article title and get a citation. Obviously a student needs to check to make sure it is accurate, but it saves so much time and effort.
Hooray for Polyglots!
Duolinguo: This app is a useful study tool for students learning a new language. The game aspect of it makes it fun, challenging and effective.
Quizlet: A similar program, Quizlet allows students to study vocabulary, languages and many other subjects. Again, the gamification transforms studying from a chore into something enjoyable.
RealCalc: I still remember shelling out big bucks for my TI-85 back in college, but there’s no need to purchase a scientific calculator anymore. As the saying goes, there’s an app for that, and it acts and feels exactly like a modern calculator with all of the corresponding functionality.
Remember, those who do not learn from the lessons of modernity are doomed to be obsolete. Just because you were forced to learn how to do logarithms on a slide rule doesn’t mean it’s the best way. I implore you to see where these technologies can help your students. These are the tools of today and they are not going away.
Author Perspective: Business