Many students have trouble keeping up with everything they are supposed to do each day. This is especially true when students are expected to be more independent, often when they transition from middle school to high school. At that point, students are expected to be able to take their own notes in class, which can be very difficult for some.
The good news is, there are technological solutions to help these students. They can be helpful for all students, but especially for those who struggle with time management or taking good notes.
myHomework Student Planner by Instin
myHomework Student Planner is a free app for iPhone, iPad, and Android. It allows users to set up their schedule of classes, enter assignments, assignment types (test, project, paper, etc.), due dates, reminders, and priority levels. (It can also be used by setting up a myHomework account online and entering data from a computer rather than entering everything on a smartphone or tablet.) The account will sync to a phone (or tablet) with a simple command. You can view upcoming as well as late assignments.
This app can take time to set up, but then is pretty easy to maintain. If a child is really disorganized, he might need help in setting it up and entering homework assignments. He might also need to be reminded daily to keep it up to date until it becomes a habit. Many students need help breaking a long-term project up into manageable tasks, too. Each task needs to be entered separately into the app with reminders set far enough in advance to give time to complete it by its due date.
Some students have trouble learning from watching videos. Videonot.es is an open source app and a good tool that can help when students are asked to watch videos (from YouTube, Vimeo, or Khan Academy, for example) for homework.
To use VideoNot.es, it first has to be set up with Google Drive. This is easy to do by selecting the “Connect with Google Drive” button on the VideoNot.es homepage. How it works: While watching a video on the left half of the screen, a student types notes on the right side. The notes he takes are time-stamped so that when he clicks on what he wrote, the video will jump to that exact place he was watching when he wrote the note. Later, when he is studying for a test or doing his homework, he can easily find the place in the video by using the notes he took. If he needs to, he can watch that portion of the video again. This saves time, because he no longer has to search through a video trying to find the spot where a particular piece of information was given.
Bonus: VideoNot.es has a tutorial that automatically runs to help learn how to use it.
AudioNote by Luminant Software
AudioNote is similar to Videonot.es except it is for use in the classroom or at a meeting instead of when watching a video. AudioNote is available for iOS, Windows, and Android operating systems. As AudioNote records the sounds in the room, the student types her notes. It does not matter if she misses writing something, because she can later click or touch her screen where she has missing notes, and the software plays whatever the teacher was saying at that time. During playback, the app highlights the portion of the notes she wrote and if necessary, she can add more information as she listens.
Table of Contents Tool for Taking Notes
Students who type their notes on a tablet or computer often save each day’s notes in a separate file. When they need to use the notes to study or do homework, they often can’t remember where they saved them. Using the table of contents feature in a word processing program can solve this problem very easily.
All of your child’s notes for one class can be typed in the same document. The table of contents will make it easy for him to find what he needs. This way, there is only one file for each class, and that is much easier for him to organize and find. Help your child learn how by searching for one of the many YouTube videos that show how to do it with the software he uses for word processing.
For students who cannot keep up when taking notes yet need to write with a pen in order to learn, the Livescribe Smartpen is a good solution. Like AudioNote, the Livescribe records the sounds in the room while the student writes notes. The difference is that the pen requires a special type of paper to work. (Livescribe Dot Paper is available in many office stores or online and is relatively inexpensive.) In playback mode, your child taps the page where he wrote notes, and the pen plays back what was going on in class at the time. The notes can be saved and shared with others who do not own the pen. Students can write as little or as much as they want while in class because it is easy to go back later to add more information.
Swype Keyboard by Nuance
Swype Keyboard is a useful app for students who use an iPad or tablet in class. Typing on a tablet can be slower than using a laptop’s keyboard, and most students need to be able to type faster. The Swype Keyboard allows your child to slide her finger across the digital keyboard from letter to letter until she spells a word. It is great at predicting words and it learns words that she frequently types. As soon as the word appears on the list it shows, she can simply touch the word and it is inserted in her typing. Once she gets used to using it, she can type much more quickly on her tablet. It is great to use on a smart phone, as well.
5 Keys for Choosing an App
- Parents may wonder what they should look for when helping their student choose an app or tool to help with learning. If the purpose of the app or tool is to help kids with organization or note-taking, there are several important key elements. Evaluate each of the following:
- Does your child like to use the app? It should be easy to figure out how to use. If not, look for another.
- It should be easy to store and find the files created with the application. Students need to be able to find quickly where they were last working, so that when class starts they are ready to go.
- Time management apps should be easy to maintain. If it takes a great deal of effort to update information, add classes, update assignments—students will not want to use it.
- It should protect the student’s privacy. The app does not need access to a student’s social networking page or telephone contact list to work. Check the permissions the app requests before installing it.
- If the app will be recording classes, make sure it is OK with the teacher. Most teachers are fine with it, but it is a courtesy to let them know.
It takes a little effort to find apps and tools that promote true learning, but the time is well spent when you find a helpful learning tool for your child.