It’s a new school year and that means new uniforms, new backpacks, new folders decorated with sleepy kittens or web-slinging superheroes and yes, you guessed it — new apps. Just because they didn’t appear on school supply checklists this September doesn’t mean these digital learning tools are any less important than their traditional counterparts. In fact, some of this season’s most popular apps can make a big difference, not just for for students’ productivity, but for their safety as well. Here are five of our favorites:
1. Trello. Group projects are a great way to teach 21st century learners about collaboration and team work. Unfortunately, getting everyone to stay on task and do their fair share can be tough. That’s where Trello comes in. This app helps students communicate with their group, deligate tasks, and manage their workload using easy tools. The best part? Since students can access it from their tablet or smartphone, they can stay updated on the go without having to constantly call group members to check in.
2. Circle of Six. Elementary school children go on field trips. High school kids walk to school. College students explore their campus and neighborhood. When they do, Circle of Six is one of the new apps that can keep them safe. It has more than one feature, but our favorite? With the simple click of a button this app can alert up to six friends with a message that says “Come and get me. I need help getting home safely.” It will even send along a map using GPS to pinpoint the location. That’s a lot of peace of mind in a little package.
3. Super Why. Based on the popular PBS show, the Super Why app is a great choice for kids between kindergarten and third grade. With four separate interactive games, Super Why’s learning tools let kids trace letters, match rhyming words, and complete words and sentences. One reviewer recommends this new app for parents of autistic children, saying, “My 4 year old son is non-verbal autistic so I don’t always know what he has learned. He loves the cartoon Super Why, and picked up this app right away. As soon as he saw what it did he loved it. He can now pick the correct letter by name and sound. He is also getting better on the full words and rhyming words.”
4. Chegg. Chegg is easily one of our favorite new apps for higher ed students. Anyone who’s taken a college course knows how expensive textbooks can be — and how little you can receive when trying to resell them. Chegg can help. The app allows students to read textbooks from its digital database, to resell their own books for better prices, or even to rent hard copies of textbooks and return them when they’ve completed a course.
5. Course Notes. Illegible scribbles, crumpled paper, the irresistible urge to doodle cubes when you should be learning the finer points of minimalism in Art History class — taking notes isn’t easy. Thankfully, new apps like Course Notes can help make it easier. This app helps you create, organize, share and print notes from classes and lectures. To-do lists sync with your phone or tablet’s calendar, helping you stay on-task on the go. You can even use the app to define new terms and create your own glossary for each subject. But bad news for the easily distracted — you can also doodle.
In school, as in life, it never hurts to have an edge. So whether you’re the parent of a third grader or an adult who’s returning to class after ten years to finish your degree, do yourself a favor and give one or more of these learning tools a try. Then tell us: How did your new apps suit you? Did that plucky third grader advance an entire reading level in only a few months? Did you give, hands down, the best English presentation of your life? Share your story in a comment below.