Back to School Apps

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While I’ve consistently proclaimed that no student needs a tablet or Smartphone to succeed, handheld internet-enabled gadgets can serve a purpose. From downloading textbooks to syncing notes and reference materials, there are some amazing tools for studying, research and organization. I wish that I’d had them when schlepping back and forth to class oh-so-many years ago. If your back-to-schooler has been lucky enough to get their hands on a tablet or WiFi-capable mobile device, these apps can help them make the most of it.

Save yourself from the backache resulting from lugging around that huge Chemistry tome with Kno Textbooks (, free for iPhone, iPad, Android or Windows), an online text book resource boasting over 200,000 titles. Purchase textbooks through the app and you’ll have digital content available on your computer and all your mobile devices. Engage with interactive graphics, click to view more information on intriguing topics, add notes and use advanced search features to make studying easier. There are even integrated flashcards for when exam time comes around. Textbooks are available for grades K-12, college and advanced degree courses.

Our nerds can help your kids with the best tech for back to school

Going from one class and one teacher to six or seven can be a leap, one that can lead to missed deadlines and forgotten assignments. While there are many homework tracking tools available, I like the cross-platform syncing capabilities of myHomework Student Planner (, free for iPhone, iPad, Android, Kindle or Windows, $1.99/year for ad-free experience). Quickly view your course load, see assignments and sort by date due, type (for example, reading, paper, or study), or by course. Due dates are integrated with your calendar and you’ll receive alerts of impending deadlines.

If your teacher uses, myHomework allows you to “join” their class and have course information and whatever the teacher has provided (like the syllabus or assignments) automatically updated to your device. Parents can login to an account that they create for their child to keep abreast of progress on homework and projects, or view notes added by their teacher through Information is automatically synced across all devices with the myHomework app, or login online to view or update your account.

If your student is getting buried under a sea of paper and losing important notes or reference materials, Evernote (, free, for iPhone, iPad, Android or Windows) lets you digitally store and organize notes, photos and weblinks related to your course of study across all your devices. Take a picture of a page in a book or the printout of an assignment, and Evernote’s text recognition will convert it into a searchable, easily retrievable digital document. Save, organize and sync everything related to a project, paper or study topic and sync it across all your devices so it’s always at hand. See the video guide here:

Mobile devices can give you access to a wealth of information:

Never be at a loss for words again with at your fingertips. Download the app (, free, all platforms) so that the next time your professor pontificates about preterition, you’ll know just what he means.

WolframAlpha (, $2.99, all platforms) has a silly name, but can answer just about any query from “how far is the Earth from the sun?” to “compare the air speed of a peregrine falcon to the land speed of a cheetah.” There are also apps for data related to specific courses of study, such as Tides, Genomics, Algebra, Corporate Finance, etc.

If you’re tackling a second language, Google Translate (, free, iOS and Android) lets you type or speak what you want to say and instantly view the translation in over 50 languages. The text-to-speech feature lets you hear the spoken translation for more than 30 languages, or take a photo of non-Latin writing to see the translation in standard American characters.

For anyone who remembers leafing through the pages of the Encyclopedia Britannica for well-written and concise information about famous people, places and events in history, consider that wealth of information being constantly updated and always at hand. Britannica offers a subscription-based app (, $1.99/month for iPhone or iPad, $4.99/year for Windows) with detailed descriptions, full color images, and all the meticulously fact-checked information lacking from Wikipedia.

Image from Apple

About The Author: Andrea Andrea Eldridge is CEO and co-founder of Nerds On Call, a computer repair company that specializes in on-site and online service for homes and businesses. Andrea is the writer of a weekly column, Nerd Chick Adventures in The Record Searchlight. She prepares TV segments for and appears regularly on CBS, CW and FOX on shows such as Good Day Sacramento, More Good Day Portland, and CBS 13 News, offering viewers technology and lifestyle tips. See Andrea in action at