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The Best Apps for Making School a Breeze

Technology is a wonderful thing. While our parents wasted hours in the stacks digging for relevant research information, we can get the same (often better) results with a few searches on Google.scholar or Lexus Nexus. In the smartphone age, educational technology has never been more accessible or helpful.

To make the most out of your phone these apps are a must:

Word Lens

Simply put, this app is amazing. It’s an augmented reality and translation app that says this is the future. By using your phone’s camera, all you do is point your phone at a sign to magically translate foreign text to English, or vice versa. While the app doesn’t translate as accurately as Google Translate, it will give you the basic idea of the Spanish, French, Italian, or German text.


(iOS/Android) Cost: Free, BUT language packs cost $9.99 as in-app purchases. Or you could, you know, jailbreak/root your phone and get it for free.

MyScript Calculator

The stock calculator for the iPhone stinks, even when you turn it sideways and discover all of the fancy extra buttons. This is the future, and your Texas Instrument calculator is basically the exact same technology as it was twenty years ago for the exact same price. I call shenanigans. Like Word Lens, this app updates your calculator for the future (oooh, ahhh). Rather than hitting buttons like a traditional calculator, you literally write the equation onto your screen. It handles roots, percentages, exponents, and negative numbers, but falls short of plotting graphs (see WolframAlpha). The only major downside is that you won’t be able to use this on an exam.


(iOS/Android) Cost: Free.

Grades 2

Every semester it seems like I end up with at least one professor that doesn’t use Angel. This can be particularly annoying when you are trying to figure out when assignments are due or your overall grade for the semester. Grades 2 will keep track of due dates, course grades, and even a semester GPA calculator. If you have a big exam coming up it will even tell you what grade you will need to pass.


(iOS/Android) Cost: Free, or $1 for an ad-free version.

Air Display

Air Display is a great way to pair your tablet (iOS/Android) with a Mac or a PC, taking advantage of your unused extra screen space. Having a second display is a great way to boost productivity and saves you the hassle of flipping between windows. It requires a WiFi connection to pair your devices, but is incredibly easy to setup and works perfectly over the PSU wireless network. If your connection is terribly slow, your mouse will feel a little laggy on your second screen, but it makes up for that by giving your second display touch sensitivity.


(iOS/Android) Cost: $9.99, but is definitely worth jailbreaking/rooting for.


This is a great compliment to the Grades 2 app mentioned earlier. It holds onto your schedule, tracks homework and projects, and reminds you when things are due. The best part is the multi-device functionality. It works and syncs on almost any device you might have: Android, iOS, Windows 8, and for the Mac and Windows 7 users out there, it is always web accessible.


(iOS/Android/Win8/Win7/Mac) Cost: Free.

Dragon Dictation

Dragon Dictation is the best of a whole slew of speech-to-text converters that the App Store has to offer. All you do is speak into your phone and the little elves that work inside of it will do the typing for you. If you’re in a small/quiet classroom the app can even be your private secretary and transcribe the professor’s lecture for you.


(iOS/Android) Cost: Free.


This can only be found in Cydia, so you’ll have to jailbreak your iPhone to enjoy it. Cell phone carriers rip you off at every chance they get, and the ability to create your own WiFi hotspot is no exception. Rather than paying the networks for the hotspot capabilities, PDAnet allows your phone to create a WiFi hotspot for free. Any WiFi-enabled device can pair with it, and the convenience of having a portable wireless router is well worth the jailbreak.


(iOS) Cost: Free, on Cydia.


WolframAlpha is already used by Siri to help answer questions, but as can be expected from the worst personal assistant money can buy, Siri messes it up. The full app gives much more functionality, from fuller answers to the ability to graph equations. Sure, you can always search through Google results to find the answer, but why bother when WolframAlpha will do it for you?


(iOS/Android) Cost: $2.99

Google Drive/Docs

Microsoft Office is good for a lot of things, but convenience is not one of them. Google Drive and Google Docs give you everything you need in a word processor, slide show creator, and spreadsheet maker, PLUS it gives you some great Cloud storage and pairs perfectly with your Gmail account.


(iOS/Android) Cost: Free.

There are plenty of other apps that make your smartphone the ultimate tool for school. Evernote and Notability are two cross-device applications that take note-taking to a new level, and GroupMe is great for coordinating your next big group project.

Is there an app that you couldn’t do without at school? Let me know in the comments.

About the Author

Mitchell Wilston

I apologize in advance.



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