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20 Mar, Monday
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Montreal Families

Apps that can help students

When my kids started elementary school, my organizational tools were basic — a family calendar I filled in faithfully and several paper to-do lists. Yet we still somehow managed to have scheduling conflicts or miss homework.

That was more than a decade ago. Now, with my children in high school, I’ve added some powerful new tools to my school-readiness arsenal — a tablet computer, smartphone and a collection of apps that help my family stay organized, fact-check reports or even graph a math problem.

Keep in mind, though, few schools welcome smartphones in the classroom, so apps that allow students to take notes in class or jot down assignments may not be much help. Most elementary and high school students must still use pencils and pens, notebooks and a paper agenda to record their assignments.

But there are plenty of apps you can use at home, many are low-cost (under $6) or even free, a welcome break for the budget after you’ve purchased all the school supplies.

Reference materials

Trust me, the day will come when your child announces that the report on Namibia is due TOMORROW and the atlas has been left behind in the locker. Or maybe it’s the math problem requiring a calculator that is, you guessed it, at the now-closed school. On these occasions, and others, you’ll appreciate having a collection of electronic references.

You might want to include:

Dictionary.com (free, iPhone/iPad/ Android, the ad-free versions are $2.99 for iPhone and Android, $4.99 for iPad).

Larousse French/ English Dictionary ($5.99, iPhone/ iPad/Android): Armed with this app, you can look up French terms, (or translate English words) any time and place; no Internet connection is needed to access the data once the app has been downloaded.

National Geographic World Atlas ($.99, iPhone/iPad/ Windows Phone7): National Geographic is renowned for its beautiful images, and this app brings the world’s countries and cities to life with gorgeous graphics and useful socio-economic information.

Graphing Calculator ($1.99, iPhone/ iPad/WindowsPhone7): Offered by a company called Appcylon, this app will come in handy for high school students taking advanced math classes as it turns a mobile device into a scientific calculator.

Flash cards go high-tech

FlashCardlet (free, iPhone/iPad)

Flashcards+ (free, iPhone/iPad)

StudyDroid (free, Android)

No need to buy fancy flash cards or make them yourself for things like vocabulary words. Now a wide variety of apps allow you to create your own cards and upload those made by others. Apps also make it easy to sync or transfer cards between various devices, like a phone and a tablet computer, so they can always be at hand.

Organizational tools

Dropbox (free, iPhone/iPad/Android): This is a simple organizational tool that works exactly as its title suggests. “Drop” a file into your box and then you, or others you invite, can have access to it. My daughter used it to share files for a movie she was filming with a friend. You could invite members of a school committee to join and then share agendas, notes, etc. Best of all, you can set up separate folders for different groups or friends, so no-one has access to all of your Dropbox folders, only those you authorize.

Educational apps

Educational apps, specifically those that promise to help kids master skills like good handwriting or adding fractions, are growing in popularity. A quick visit to the Apple App Store and you may be overwhelmed with the choices.

Although apps tend to be inexpensive, it is important to do a bit of research before buying them. Talk to your child’s teacher if you are interested in extra help on a specific subject; there’s a good chance he or she has already done the research and has recommendations.

Visit Common Sense Media, a non-profit organization that provides balanced, thoughtful reviews of apps and other media (video games, movies, etc.). You can search for reviews by age, subject area or even the skills taught.

Apps in Education (appsineducation.blogspot.ca ) is a blog offering reviews as well as collections you can browse through for ideas on apps to help with English, math, science, music and more.

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