Going digital…back to school season (the college/university edition)

01Sep12

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Back to school is a wonderful time for most students – seeing friends, filling up social calendars, and a lot of hard work. It also means stocking up on the latest and greatest in tech to keep you academically and socially efficient.

Here’s my breakdown of a couple of cool apps/tech buys that will help you get your game face on this fall. And no you won’t see any suggestions on what smartphone, tablet or computer to get. We’re talking apps, web services and a few tech buys to help you stay on your game.

Academic efficiency

Let’s break my thoughts on being academically successful into its basic parts: preparation, organization, and working smarter (not harder). Bearing that in mind, here are some cool back to school finds that can help with that:

  • Evernote- Evernote is a free cloud-based note app that let’s you store notes online – whether they’re text, photos or voice recordings. Organized by notebooks and search tags, Evernote easily lets you search for whatever you’ve stored whether it’s ideas for an essay, pictures of roommate wanted listings, or reminders on what groceries to buy while you’re out! This bad boy is available both on the web and as an app for many different types of smartphones.
    Need more space? There’s an upgrade that will not only give you 1 GB of clipping space but also enable offline notes for your iPhone/Android device and allow others to access and edit your notebooks.

    • If you’re an old school writer, check out this great post from Geeksugar.com that talks about how Evernote and Moleskine are creating a partnership so you can easily add and organize your traditional notes within Evernote. Lusting over this bad boy…hard.
  • Dropbox - Available on the web, on your computer and on your phone, Dropbox lets you take your files on the go so you’re no longer worried about carrying around those pesky USB sticks that are so easy to lose. This free service let’s you store your files securely in the cloud so you can access them anywhere.Because you can choose who has access to what files, this service is great to use for group projects where a number of people need to access the same file or just to share files like photos with family and friends.
    The free account starts at 2 GB and goes up to 18 GB or you can upgrade your account to get anywhere from 100 GB – 1 TB of space.
  • Whichdateworks.com – This free online tool helps when you’re trying to plan around various schedules. You just name your plan, select a date range, add your friends, they choose which dates are available/maybe available/not available and whichdateworks.com chooses the best date based on availability. When all is said and done you can then email everyone with the final plan details. No more “Reply All” emails you need to sift through and keep track of (at least not for dates) – this really simplifies group meetings, social gatherings and anything else you can think of!
  • Daily Routine - This little iOS app is great for helping you set up routines and sticking to them so it’s great for those moving away to school for the first time. Daily Routine allows you to setup multiple routines, print your routines, sync your routine with Dropbox (if you’re more digitally comfortable) and add your routines to your calendar.
    I’ll be adding this app to my iPhone shortly to test it out so I will add a full review soon.
  • Livescribe Echo Pen – Ranging from 2 GB to 8 GB of storage, this bad boy records everything you hear, say and write. Not sure what the professor said while you were jotting that note down? Tap on your notes and it’ll replay the audio. Since Livescribe works with your computer, you can search, save and share your notes easily. Where was this when I was in university I ask you?!
    And the great news? The 2GB pen starts at $129.99 at FutureShop!

Honourable mentions:

  • The Griffin binder insert case. I know that a lot of students are using their eReaders, tablets or iPads to store text books which eliminates the need to carry these heavy items in backpacks. For those that are doing so, you can find some great school solutions that allows you to safely bring your tablet with you. The one I saw today is from Griffin – it’s a binder that also has a handy insert for your iPad (2nd or 3rd generation). Now you’ll be able to keep all your books with you while you take notes and the best part is the case has openings for all your jacks so you can use your headphones or charge your iPad while on the go.
    Just $24.99 on the Griffin online store.
  • Flashcards+ – This iOS app is great for studying as it was designed in association with the Harvard University faculty and students.  The app allows you to create your own flashcards to help you study. Study hard, peeps. Study hard!
  • Student T.A. – Student T.A. is an iOS app that lets your organize both your personal and academic life. It allows you to keep track of your classes, assignments and projects so that you’ll never fall behind again.

Social efficiency

Please tell me I’m not the only one who sometimes needs to plan their social schedule. When I was in school it was often hard to balance school deliverables/projects, work schedules, volunteer positions and the *ahem* occasional recreational social activity so I used to plan my social schedule to ensure nothing would drop. As always, my recos:

  • Skype – I’ve been using Skype since it was voice chat only. Since it’s added video chat it’s a great way to stay in touch with friends and family members who aren’t in the same city/country/continent as you. A free video chat service, Skype is available on your computer (Apple and Windows) and as an app (Android, iPhone, iPad, Windows Phone) so you can take your conversations with you. Did I also mention it has an IM feature so if you’re not ready to share your face with the world, you can still chat. :)
  • Dropbox - Although I’ve demonstrated the academic use case above, Dropbox is also an effective place to share other files like photos, videos and music with friends and family members. Boom!
  • Evernote – Again academic use case aside, I’ve talked many times in previous blog posts about the wonders of Evernote. I use it to store ideas like birthday/Christmas present ideas, blog ideas, and photo reminders.
  • Whichdateworks.com – Now remembering how Whichdateworks.com works in the academic scenario I’m sure you’ve already figured out how it can work socially. Planning a trip and don’t want to have fifty “Reply All’s” from people filling in your inbox about which date people prefer? Whichdateworks.com can help you cut down on those nasty emails (at least about dates anyway).

Although I could go on, I’m trying to limit myself to the apps that I feel could make the most impact. Got a great idea you think should be on this list? Feel free to add it in the comments – I love hearing about ideas that make life easier!

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