EduTech is a new 9to5Mac weekly series that will focus on technology’s application in education, lower and higher level, both for productivity and enjoyment. If you have suggestions for topics or specific questions you’d like to see answered, feel free to let me know. Catch up on past installments here.
In this week’s installment of EduTech, we’re going to break down the best apps on iOS stay organized, keep track of assignments, and more. Some of these apps are specifically made with education in mind, while others were developed with a broader focus yet still offer benefits to educators and students alike.
This is arguably one of the best applications of technology in education. Keeping track of things like assignments, due dates, and tests used to be a tedious task that required the use of a physical planner to truly stay on top of things. With iOS, however, there are many apps that make it easy to stay on top of your work. Read on for my full list…
The Homework App
One of the most popular scheduling apps on iOS is simply called “The Homework App.” Available for iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch, this app features a minimalistic design that offers support for your class schedule, homework schedule, and more.
On the main screen of the app, you see a broad overview of what you have going on, including the number of classes you have that day, the assignments you have due, your schedule, and more. From there, you can dive deeper into the specifics of what you have going on with sub details for assignments, color coding, and more.
The Homework App also offers a widget in Notification Center, as well as an Apple Watch app for on-the-go tracking. There’s also notification support to ensure you never forget a due date.
The Homework App is free on the App Store.
myHomework Student Planner
This app, while still simplistic, offers a few more customization options than The Homework App. On the home screen of the app is a basic overview of all of the homework you have due, while you can filter it by class, priority, and type.
One thing that sets myHomework apart is its support for classes that occur every other day, like in a college environment. While The Homework App does support this, you have to set up each day individually as opposed to telling the app the alternation schedule. myHomework, however, allows you to choose which days a class occurs rather than assuming it occurs every week day.
myHomework Student Planner offers iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch support. It’s available for free on the App Store.
Returning to the simplicity over features theme, Class Timetable is an incredibly simple app that allows you to keep track of classes and assignments. The home screen of this app is a simple list of your classes for that day, while a separate Tasks window shows your assignments and when they are do.
Class Timetable is color coded and supports a color coded week view when you rotate your device to landscape view.
While Class Timetable is free, there’s a “Pro” update available via in-app purchase for $0.99. With that upgrade, you get class notifications, timetable export, task reminders, and more.
Class Timetable is available on the App Store and supports iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch.
My Study Life
My personal favorite planning app is My Study Life. In my testing, I’ve found this one to be the most feature-rich apps available, while also offering a simplistic and easy to navigate design.
One of my favorite features is the “Tomorrow” preview at the bottom of the app’s home screen. This preview shows how many classes you have on the next day, the tasks you have due, and if you have any exams. My Study Life is also smart about handling exam and class interferences, alerting you of the conflict and allowing you to add revision tasks.
You can view your upcoming tasks and classes with month and week views, as well as detailed daily views with building numbers, times, and more.
My Study Life is available on the App Store for free, but there’s no iPad or Apple Watch app at this point.
While this app wasn’t developed with education specifically in mind, it’s still one of the best planning apps available. Available on both iOS and macOS, Fantastical is a beautiful calendar app with cross-platform syncing, Apple Watch support, and iMessage integration.
We’ve covered Fantastical extensively in the past and I continue to recommend it. You can import from other calendar services, sync between your various devices, and much more.
As for education-specific purposes, you can enter assignment due dates, exam dates, meetings, and more.
Fantastical 2 is available for $2.99 on iOS and $49.99 on macOS.
Another app that wasn’t developed with education specifically in mind, but yet still is one of the best apps for assignment tracking and remembering test dates. OmniFocus is task management app that allows you to enter in a task, assign a due date, and receive notification reminders to complete that task.
The app centers around being easy to use and allowing you to get things done as efficiently as possible. For each day, you’ll see a number that represents the number of tasks that you have due that day.
The app is also location-aware, meaning you can assign a location to specific task and be reminded of it when you approach that location.
OmniFocus is available for iOS, Apple Watch, and iPad on the App Store, while there’s also a macOS app.
Other to-do apps
To-do apps are a great way to remember tasks you have to complete. While OmniFocus is my personal favorite, there are a variety of other options, some of which are free, available on the App Store.
For education, to-do apps are relatively simple and work best for remembering assignments and exam dates rather than class meeting times. For many students, however, assignment and date tracking is the central need.
Below are some additional recommendations for to-do list applications:
Those are just some of the apps that make it incredibly easy to keep track of assignments, classes, tests, and more. Everyone has their own methodology for tracking such dates and it’s really up to you to find the best app that fits your needs.
If you have any additional recommendations for organizing your school work and schedule, let us know down in the comments.
Check out previous installments of EduTech:
Sylvania HomeKit Light Strip
In the field of educational technology, some apps might be getting too smart.
More and more apps are delivering on-demand homework help to students, who can easily re-purpose the learning tools to obtain not just assistance, but also answers. Whether or not that's cheating—and how to stop it—is one of the concerns surrounding a new app that can solve math equations with the snap of a camera. While the software has inspired teachers to create real-world homework problems that can't be automatically solved, that strategy doesn't hold up to other apps that tap into real-life brains for solutions.
Here's a look at 7 apps that can do your homework for you, and what they have to say about cheating:
Availability: iOS, Android app coming in early 2015
The new, seemingly magic app allows users to take pictures of typed equations, and then outputs a step-by-step solution. As of Wednesday, the app is the number one free app on the App Store. But the biggest issue, one teacher argues, isn't if students will use the app to cheat, because many will. Rather, it's about how teachers will adapt. A PhotoMath spokeswoman said educators have welcomed the app with positive reviews, but the software remains "quite controversial."
"We didn't develop PhotoMath as a cheating tool. We really wanted kids to learn," said Tijana Zganec, a sales and marketing associate at tech company MicroBlink, which created PhotoMath. "If you want to cheat, you will find a way to cheat. But if you want to learn, you can use PhotoMath for that."
Whether you’re a high schooler with eight periods of classes or a college student tackling dozens of credits, there’s one thing you’ve got for sure: a mess of assignments. iHomework can help you keep track of all your work, slicing and dicing it in a variety of ways. Sorting it by due date, week, month, or by course, the app is more organized than a Trapper Keeper. And in integrating data from Questia, you can link your reading material to your assignments so you don’t have to dig through a pile of papers to find the right information.
A scheduling feature can help you keep track of those random bi-weekly Thursday labs, and you can even mark the location of your courses on a map so you don’t end up on the wrong side of campus. And finally, with iCloud syncing, you can access all this information on whatever Apple-compatible device you’re using at the moment — no need to dig for your iPad.
Google Apps for Education
Taking the search giant's suite of free browser-based apps and sandboxing them so they are safe for school use, Google Apps for Education is an excellent alternative to the mainstream installable productivity software, but this one has a perk that almost school board will love—it's free. Packaging together favorites like Gmail, Hangouts, Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Drive with Classroom, a digital hub for organizing assignments and sending feedback, the goal of this collection is to make learning a more collaborative process.
Though Google Apps for Education is cloud-hosted, the programs can be used offline, ideal for when your student needs to escape the internet and work distraction-free. And since it works on any device, it also helps students avoid buying overly expensive hardware. That means more money for extracurricular activities.
Price: Free, but some homework services require payment
Availability: iOS and Android
HwPic is a tutoring service that allows students to take send pictures of their homework to tutors, who will then respond within minutes to your questions with a step-by-step solution. There's even an option to expedite the answers if a student is in a hurry. HwPic Co-Founder Tiklat Issa said that the app was initially rejected by Apple's App Store, which believed it would promote cheating, but he successfully argued that just because someone uses the app in a way that it's not meant to be used doesn't mean the app should be punished.
Issa added that HwPic prohibits cheating in its terms and conditions. Tutors don't solve homework that has words like "Quiz" or "Exam," and they often know if a student is sending a photo during a test if they've paid for expedited answers, and if the photo is dim, blurry and taken under a desk. "We've minimized cheating," said Issa. "We haven't eliminated it. That's kind of unrealistic."
Availability: iOS and Android
Wolfram Alpha is similar to PhotoMath, only that it targets older students studying high levels of math and doesn't support photos. The service also outputs step-by-step solutions to topics as advanced as vector calculus and differential equations, making it a popular tool for college students.
"It's cheating not doing computer-based math, because we're cheating students out of real conceptual understanding and an ability to drive much further forward in the math they can do, to cover much more conceptual ground. And in turn, that's cheating our economies," said Conrad Wolfram, Wolfram Research’s Director of Strategic Development, in a TEDx Talk. "People talk about the knowledge economy. I think we're moving forward to what we're calling the computational knowledge economy."
Availability: iOS and Android
Chinese Internet search company Baidu launched an app called Homework Helper this year with which students can crowdsource help or answers to homework. Users post a picture or type their homework questions onto online forums, and those who answer the questions can win e-coins that can be used to buy electronics like iPhones and laptops.
The app has logged 5 million downloads, much to the dismay of many some parents who argue that the students spend less time thinking about challenging problems. A Homework Helper staffer admitted to Quartz, "I think this is a kind of cheating."
Price: Free, but some homework services require payment
Slader is a crowdsourcing app for high school and college students to post and answer questions in math and science. While students can post original homework for help, many questions in popular textbooks have already been answered on the app, according to Fast Company. An Illinois high school said earlier this year that it suspected students were using the service to cheat on their math homework.
Slader argues that it's "challenging traditional ideas about math and education," and said that the ideas behind its app "aren't a write-off to teachers," according to its blog. Slader told San Francisco media outlet KQED that it shouldn't be dismissed as a cheating tool, but rather considered a way for students to access real-time help.