Back to school: The best apps for students

Summer is coming to an end, which means students will (hopefully) be in air-conditioned classrooms and away from this unrelenting heat wave. It also means that they’re probably on the hunt for mobile apps that can help prepare them for the long school year.

From math problem solvers and note-taking tools to book trackers and summary apps, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite educational and organizational apps for students to try this year.

StoryShots

If you’re the type of student to wait until the last minute to read a book (we’ve all been there), then we recommend StoryShots, a free learning app that provides book summaries in text, audio and video formats.

StoryShots breaks down a book into bite-size moments, giving the reader a few paragraphs that sum up the most important points. The app may be useful for students who want to learn about a certain topic in a timely manner, particularly for upcoming exams or a looming deadline. Plus, it’s handy for visual learners as the app provides infographics, mind maps, presentations and short videos.

StoryShots offers over 400 books, in various genres like psychology, productivity, health & fitness, history, politics, marketing, spirituality & religion and more. Examples of best-selling books on the app include “A Promised Land” by Barack Obama, “A Brief History of Time” by Stephen Hawking and “Long Walk to Freedom” by Nelson Mandela, among others. StoryShots adds two to four books to its library every month.

(Note that this isn’t a summarizing tool for textbooks — although it would be nice if it were.)

Image Credits: StoryShots

The app is free with ads; however, there’s also a paid version for $3.99 per month that gives users a number of premium features, including offline reading, full e-books and audiobooks and the ability to highlight and take notes, along with books in multiple languages.

It’s available to download on iOS and Android devices.

Essayist

Image Credits: Essayist

As the name suggests, Essayist helps students compose essays. The iOS app can automatically apply citation styles, including APA, MLA, Chicago/Turabian and Harvard. Essayist also assists with formatting in-text citations, references, page headers/footers and title pages, as well as page setup like font, font size, line spacing, alignment, page numbering and more.

Essayist has a reference manager feature that allows students to include chapters from books, journals, magazines, websites and even movies. There are more than 25 reference types in total. Also, users can use Google Scholar to add references or copy and paste a URL.

Essayist requires a subscription, which costs $4.99 per month or $29.99 per year. New users get a free trial.

Photomath

Image Credits: Photomath

Photomath is a math-solving app that scans problems and displays a step-by-step solution to teach students how to solve difficult equations. Users point their camera at a math problem (either handwritten on paper or typed out) and the app sends the image to cloud servers to analyze and determine the answer. There’s also an in-app calculator if users want to enter the question manually.

We found that Photomath was simple to use and produced results quickly. One drawback is that the free version only shows the first two or three steps. Users can unlock the rest of the answer with a subscription, Photomath Plus, which costs $9.99 per month or $69.99 annually. There’s a seven-day free trial.

Additionally, Photomath Plus includes solutions from hundreds of textbooks so users can search for a question instead of scanning. There’s also a feature that helps students visualize each step with animated tutorials and provides voice-overs.

We can see this being a helpful resource for students to check their homework and practice problems before submitting the material. However, it should be said that some students may use the app to “cheat” or use it as a shortcut instead of trying to solve the problem themselves.

Users can download the app on the App Store and Google Play Store.

Bookly

Bookly is a tracking and management app that helps users stay on top of their reading goals. Users can set up how many books they want to read in a month/year and how much time they want to read per day. They can also establish an end date goal for each book, so students can more effectively keep up with deadlines and assignments.

Readers add books to their library by either scanning the ISBN, searching online or adding the book manually (number of pages, title, author). There’s an in-app timer for users to tap when they’ve started reading for the day and a countdown based on their goals. For instance, if a user wants to read 20 minutes per day, Bookly will notify the user when the time is up. Users can also manually log a reading session if they forget to use the timer.

Additionally, Bookly generates reading stats, such as total read time, number of pages read, reading speed, how many days a user reads in a row, reading streak and more. Bookly provides a PDF summary of all the data added for each book, so students can download reading reports and infographics to submit to their teachers.

We can see this being a helpful app for educators to keep students accountable for weekly reading requirements. It can also be a great way to spark healthy competition among classmates. For example, whoever reads the most per class or school year gets a prize (or maybe just bragging rights).

Image Credits: Bookly

Other notable features include the ability to play ambient sounds while reading and a notes section to write down thoughts or record important quotes. Bookly also acts as a personal assistant by sending daily reminders to motivate the user to get their reading done for the day.

While the app is free to download on iOS and Android devices, it also offers a paid version — Bookly Pro. The plan allows readers to add an unlimited number of books and provides access to more ambient sound options, among other features. The free version only lets users have up to 10 titles in their collection, but there’s also an option to delete books if they run out of space. Bookly Pro costs $4.99 for one month, $19.99 for six months and $39.99 for 12 months.

Peech

Image Credits: Peech

Peech is a text-to-speech reader that turns any text file, PDF, book or web article into audio. The concept of a text-to-speech generator alone is enough to make a multitasker happy. We can also see this being used by students who want to get some assigned reading done while commuting to school or walking to class. Peech could also be useful for people with dyslexia, low-vision or other conditions that make it difficult to read.

There are multiple ways to listen to content, whether it be copying and pasting text directly into the app, uploading files, inserting a URL or even scanning a textbook with a phone camera. Notably, it’s available in 50 languages, so students can read material from their foreign language classes.

In addition to the free version, Peech users can pay $4.99 a week to upload as many documents, PDFs or links to articles as they want. The app is only available on iOS devices.

Evernote

Image Credits: Evernote

Evernote is a note-taking and task-management app that could be useful for students looking to stay organized all year long.

Our favorite part about Evernote is that it provides various templates for different needs, such as class notes, essay outlines, to-do lists, reading lists, weekly planners and more. Users can organize their notes in virtual “notebooks,” which lets students easily categorize their documents based on the specific class or semester. Evernote also has a feature that allows users to embed photos, tables, audio, web content and more.

Other features include being able to store emails on the dashboard, scanning documents, sketching on a scratch pad and setting up a calendar. Also, the app has integrations such as Google Drive, Slack, Outlook, MS Teams and Gmail, which is helpful for collaborating on group projects.

Evernote is currently testing an AI feature, “AI Note Cleanup,” that can quickly sift through “scattered notes” and organize them into a more refined version that is easy to read.

Evernote offers a free plan with basic features, as well as two premium tiers — Personal and Professional. The Personal plan is $7.99 a month and gives users more storage, a more customized home dashboard and more. The Professional plan costs $9.99 per month and offers up to 20GB monthly uploads.

It’s available on the App Store and Google Play Store.

Saturn

Image Credits: Saturn

Saturn is a calendar-based, social networking app for high schoolers. At this time, it’s only available on iOS devices.

The free app is for students 13 years or older (9th through 12th grade) to share class schedules with classmates, organize club meetings/sports practice/parties, discover local events, chat with others and manage their calendars.

Saturn says it’s working on launching experiences for non-high school users, as well.

If a user enables notifications, they’ll get a reminder of what their schedule looks like for the next day. They also receive alerts throughout the day, reminding them of lunchtime, breaks and upcoming classes. Students can also get a personal countdown for each class period.

To sign up for Saturn, students must input their high school to join the rest of their peers. Only students who go to that one school can view the profiles of others who also attend. However, the exclusivity may be frustrating to some if a specific school isn’t available on the app. There are currently 16,000 schools on Saturn.

Overall, Saturn seems like it’s helpful for many students who want to manage their time better as well as stay connected with their friends and community.

More educational apps for students to try:

  • Libby: library reading app where students can borrow free e-books and digital audiobooks
  • Grammarly: grammar check tool
  • Kahoot!: game-based learning platform
  • Quizlet: learning app that allows users to create flashcards and access expert-written solutions
  • ClassDojo: communication app for students, teachers and parents
  • Newsela: source for articles about current events at an age-appropriate reading level
  • Brainly: peer-to-peer homework app

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