We have looked at some the hardware tools that students can use to become better students, now we will look at the software tools that are available to students, many of which are free. While students have a better understanding of the hardware tools that are available to them, due to the fact that they are physical tangible objects. They are often less aware of the software tools that they can utilize to be more organized and keep track of due dates and goals. An example would be using digital note-taking software to begin building a library of their class notes. In the analog model of paper and pencil they spend time searching through notes to find information, whereas using a digital note-taking system, they simply have to perform a search to find the information that they need. This digital model can be applied to both class work and homework, since most of the tools we will be looking at are available for web based and are available for both smartphones and computers/tablets.
Digital Note-Taking Software – A variety of programs are available for one of the most popular free tools is Evernote, an excellent tool that students can use to create text based notes and then add pictures or other multimedia into. Since this is a cloud-based program, notes are synchronized (synced) between all of the devices they use Evernote. Google Notebook is another online and free note-taking option, while it is not as robust as Evernote, its simplistic features and design can make transitioning to a digital method much easier for some students.
Email – All students now are texting in and out of the classroom, while text messaging is an effective method of communicating, it is limited typically to 160 per page and some plans up to six pages. This limitation can make text messaging a less than ideal way to communicate complex messages or send multimedia (pictures, videos, etc.). Email is simply a better communication method for longer and complex communication, as it gives the student/teacher a great degree of flexibility. While most cellular providers have cheap unlimited texting plans that students can afford.
Digital Calendar – When signing up for an email address, most email providers (Google, Hotmail, Yahoo, etc.) provide you with a digital calendar that often can be synchronized to your smartphone or tablet. This typically means that you can also use your smartphone or tablet to put in calendar events like assignment due dates, class/group meetings, field trips or other information that is driven by the date it is occurring. As a teacher, I use my Outlook.com calendar to keep track of lesson plans and meetings, these same ideas could be applied to students. In one example, those students that had an email address and used their calendar, could have the teacher email them assignment due dates with automatic reminders setup, this could dramatically help students to keep track of due dates and assignments.
Digital To-Do List – As with the digital calendar, a digital To-Do or task list is often created when registering an email account and can be synchronized to most tablets, smartphones and computers. These can be an extremely valuable tool to increase productivity for students and teachers. Most people find lists to keep them on task and serves as a reminder of important items to accomplish. Additionally, it allows us to break a task we normally do not enjoy into smaller more manageable items that give us
Cloud Storage Drive – As hard drives and storage have become extremely cheap over the past decade, online storage services like Dropbox and ICloud have become free or low cost. These online storage services are great, because they offer students a place to store their files without having to carry around a USB drive. Many of these services will also give students and teachers additional space free. The downside to these services is that some will block the services from running under student profiles.
While most of these tools have been available in pencil and paper form for many years, students have shown little interest in using them to stay organized.