A great deal of debate among EdTech enthusiasts centres around pinning down a date for when paperless classrooms become the norm, where digital devices triumph as the medium of choice for delivering education. Indeed, across the pond the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) has recommended that digital instructional materials should completely replace traditional printed materials by 2018. Ambitious.


The USA, China, South Korea and India are leading the way in stitching online learning and technology into the very fabric of their education systems, with good ol’ Blighty not too far behind. (Check out this blog on the UK school where iPads are at the forefront of learning)

The advantages of such technological advances are many, yet not a great deal of research exists on the negative ways technology is used surreptitiously in our classrooms. A 2009 study by Common Sense Media found that 35% of teenagers admitted to using their mobile phones to cheat at least once. In point of fact mobile phones are becoming something of a scourge – ask any dedicated pub quizzer…

I wonder what that figure would be today, with the increasing capabilities of smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices?

Cheating aside, I’ve been looking at some fantastic (and legitimate) educational tools that any Uni–bound student should take a look at – from 10 to 1 here’s my countdown of the most useful.

10) Evernote: There are plenty of note-taking tools out there, and judging by its popularity Evernote is up there with the best. Lets you join up notes, clippings and images in such a way that puts crumpled notepads to shame.

9) EasyBib: Available on the iPhone, EasyBib is an automated bibliography composer for students that instantly cites books, websites, journals and more in APA, MLA and Chicago format. How many students lose marks for a misplaced comma here, an incorrect initial there in a hastily contrived bibliography? God knows I did. You can either scan the barcode on the book or enter title by hand and it will create the reference for you. Textbook.

8) NotesPlus: Excellent handwriting and text note taker with PDF import and audio notes for the iPad, ideal for classrooms and lecture halls. Converts handwriting to text and has the best handwriting ‘smoothing’ system going. Handwrite with your finger and the text will show up just like pen and paper. Also allows you to draw basic shapes and the auto-detect software will fine tune it for you, and then let you edit it.

7) WhiteSmoke: Laptop/Pc ‘writing enhancement’ software for those not completely confident with writing skills, or for those who just want to improve their writing. WhiteSmoke ensures that your writing has the proper spellings and analyses the content and meaning to enforce consistent grammar. Remember, cutting out those silly errors in essays will save you marks.

6) Wunderlist: Keep track of your daily to-dos, appointments and due dates with Wunderlist. Great for staying up to date with deadlines in the modules you’re studying. If you’ve planned it in, Wunderlist will badger you to get it done.

5) Textgrabber: Seen a great quote or salient piece of research and don’t have your rucksack? Simply take a picture of the text on your iPhone and immediately edit, save and share. The translation feature can also translate text from more than 40 languages. Muy bueno.

4) Moneybook: Ah, the student loan; burning holes in the pockets of hirsute students since 1998. Keep check of, categorise and budget your spending with this tidy little app and get monthly breakdowns of outgoings. If you dare.

3) Mendeley: A useful tool for managing that mountain of research, Mendeley organises, indexes, and stores your documents, lets you connect and collaborate with colleagues and share your papers, notes and annotations for best learning. Also helps generate citations and bibliographies in Microsoft Word, OpenOffice, and LaTeX, opens PDFs and captures your thoughts through digital sticky notes and highlights.

2) FlashCards++: The very popular ‘flashcard’ method for learning and revision just went digital. Create your own or import from a vast database for swipe-based learning. This app even collects data about your study habits and helps you monitor your progress. Flashy.

…and number one, is of course…

1) Online Tutoring services: No, oh cynical one, not a shameless plug for Superprof but a genuinely useful tool that is becoming more popular, and rightly so. Student life is a hectic fug of booze, late nights and daytime TV interspersed with the occasional lecture, but at somepoint you’re going to have to knuckle down and get those essays done if you want the fun to continue. Online tutoring websites like Superprof have fully qualified tutors on tap covering a wide range of topics to get you through those all-nighters. You don’t even have to peel your roommate off the floor or the pizza boxes off the wall – log on, learn. Peasy.

Anyone know of any other top tools for students? Feel free to chuck them my way using the comment box below. Ciao!

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