Appy Christmas – Apps for learning

appsIt’s always interesting writing a Blog in the holidays, maybe it’s because you have more time than normal so think you should come up with something different, dare I say original. The reality is that when you have such a large canvas on which to think, you can’t think of anything!
The answer is to narrow it down, give yourself something specific to think about. So whilst staring at my ipad for inspiration, I stopped thinking about “everything”, focused on what was on my ipad and then it happened, an idea… ..Why not write about the apps I use most and how you might use them to improve your studying, so here goes.

It’s not about the technology stupid
First a disclaimer, although technology can be all absorbing, learning is a human quality, technology in many circumstances only makes learning more convenient, you still have to work at it. What it does do is provide you with the ability to study when you want and where you want. Time that would be wasted waiting for or actually on a train/bus etc can be much more effectively used learning. How good would it be if you had finished studying before you got home?

Google CalendarGoogle calendar – Helps plan your studies
I have written before about the importance of timetables and calendars. Sitting down and planning what you will study and when not only helps you become more organised it is essential for setting targets and challenges. And remember target setting is key to motivation.

Evernote Evernote – Organise and store notes
I am finding that I am using Evernote more and more. It is in effect a cloud based folder system. Consider setting up a folder for each subject you are studying. Then within each subject folder you can type notes, attach PDF’s, photos, maybe of places/objects/people relevant to that subject. You can even attach video. And if you want to collaborate with others just share the link. Maybe have a folder for revision with the questions you want to attempt linked via PDF, comment on what you found difficult and share with your friends. Evernote has so many uses.

PenultimatePenultimate – for making hand written notes and drawing mind maps
If you prefer to write rather than type, penultimate is for you, although I don’t think there is an android version at the moment. It is part of the Evernote family and links with Evernote so is easy to use. It is just like a paper based note book with a front cover showing the subject, page numbers and has a nice page turning feel. Unlike a paper based note book however, you can change the paper, plain/lined etc, save your work, add photos, and share with others. It also has a very clever way of making sure your hand when resting on the screen does not interfere with what you are writing.

Put simply it’s the best handwriting software I have come across, and comes close to replacing paper, close but not just yet….

DropboxDropbox – for file storage, back up and file sharing
Many of you will already be familiar with dropbox, it is free simple to use cloud based storage. Dropbox is great for saving/backing up all your files. This means that as long as you can get electronic versions of your text books and question banks you will be able to have them with you anywhere…

And you can share folders with friends.

Adobe ReaderAdobe reader – keep all PDF notes in one place and you can write on them!
This is just for Adobe PDF’s but as most documents can be turned into a PDF format that should not be a problem. Imagine having your notes in a PDF file, opening them up wherever you are and then updating them either by typing or writing on top of the PDF. You can also make margin notes that open up in a speech bubble, little reminders of what you were thinking, or additional work you need to look at.

Explain-EverythingExplain everything – become a teacher and teach yourself
Explain everything is a white board that you can add in pictures, shapes etc, and then the really clever part, record what you are doing in a high quality video. What makes this so good is how easy it is to use.

This would be ideal for working through a question, talking out loud explaining your thoughts (Explain everything will record your voice and your white board actions) and then when you get to the part that is difficult or simply don’t understand, ask your question out loud….? Then send the Mp4 file to your tutor/teacher or study colleagues for an answer. Unfortunately as with Penultimate I don t think there is an android version just yet.

twitterTwitter – limitless knowledge and support
Twitter can get a bad press when it comes to studying, it can be very distracting! But if used properly it can be great. The key is to follow people that have answers to your problems or are like you. If you are studying accountancy for example you will find lots of tweets from experts providing you with up to date news and information often linking to more in depth guidance, websites/PDF’s etc. Twitter is the most up to date text book you can get.

Okay a word of warning; just make sure you are not too far ahead of you teachers and the exam. Also that the people you are following are credible.
The other use is to follow fellow students who are studying the same subjects as you, it can be very reassuring that you are not the only ones who doesn’t understand something.

The big secret to twitter is is very selective who you follow, delete people that are not helping and keep the list down to about 200.

Mobile
Most of these are accessible on all mobile devises and for me that is the real benefit of the technology.

Happy 2013 and more apps
Hope you are all having a good Xmas and here’s to 2013, what will be new this time next year I wonder?

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