02 September 2014

College + Technology

Week one of Sophomore year is done and out of the way.
And, believe me, this semester is going to be insane. It's exciting to think that about how different my life is going to be in a matter of months: PUDM 2.0, going Greek, the most challenging semester of my life, the PCAT, and Pharmacy school admissions... This semester is equivalent to junior year of high school. Actually it's not at all like junior year of high school but that's the best comparison I could make. Hah!

Anyways, being the nerd that I am (and knowing what to expect for this semester) I took some time this summer to organize my thoughts and prepare myself. This included trying out multiple apps for success in school. And- okay, disclaimer- I know there are a billion and one posts about what apps to get for school. Trust me, because I looked at many of them to figure out how I could use technology to my benefit this semester. Now trust me when I say that 9/10 of the apps recommended were obviously not recommended by college students because I couldn't think of any reason to use many of them other than to take up space on my iPad. Not kidding. So, after days of searching I was able to add two, yes only two, actually useful apps to my "school" file. But those two apps are going to make all the difference, which is why I want to share them.

 I already had the Blackboard app, which is Purdue's program for every class. It's nothing too special, but it allows me to access all assignments, powerpoints, notifications, etc for my classes while I'm on the go. This app does cost, but it's worth the money to not have to take my laptop with me to class. Just my ipad, a notebook, and some pens do the trick- talk about lightening your load! I had this app last year but didn't have the supplemental apps necessary to make it fully functional. Now that I do, everything works together seamlessly and has made learning much simpler.

One thing that I did buy as an accessory to all of this was a nice stylus- the Adonit Jot Pro. It's a more substantial stylus but still pretty inexpensive, and it makes taking notes (keep reading) on my iPad much more enjoyable.

So, now for the apps that I use daily:

I don't remember who recommended this app to me (I truly apologize because I'd like to give credit where credit is due) but it has been life-changing. It's like carrying 5 notebooks and their corresponding powerpoint slides, all in my iPad mini. The app integrates with Blackboard so that I can download my notes directly to the app and write on the slides. It's easy to insert images or blank pages for extra pages and references.

It's really the best because I don't have to carry multiple notebooks or worry about grabbing the wrong pages. No matter the class, I have the notes. And, if I forget to download the notes I can just hop on Blackboard once I get to class and send them to the app.

The way I work this is that I take the notes in class, then come back to my room and make flow charts of my personal reading notes, to vocabulary, and the class notes in a notebook. So, I'm not completely paperless. But last year I occasionally took notes on my laptop and it was so easy to open pages on the sides or even have a side-by-side view which wasn't a good use of my time in class... at all. The smaller iPad screen makes it less tempting to have other pages pulled up.

It's also been proven that typing isn't as beneficial to learning and memory as the writing motion. So being able to physically write the notes and pictures down, then repeat it again from memory and the notes once I'm back to my room, makes sure that I'm learning in different forms- audibly and tactually.

So far, I have 0 complaints about the way this app works. I'm sure there are other, more complex apps but this one does the job and it's cheap- $2.99 has made this year so much easier already.
The free app for any vocabulary-intensive course. This thing is going to be great, I can already tell. I can say goodbye to stacks and stacks... and stacks of index cards. So environmentally friendly! This app is really nice because it has games that help to learn the words, and it will read the words and definitions to you- that auditory learning thing again!

This is a pretty self-explanatory app, so I'll leave it at that.

I can't stress enough how important it is to find what works for you. These apps work for me, but maybe not for someone else. It takes some trial runs to figure it all out, but Iv'e found that less is more when it comes to technology and school. Unless you're a computer science major and know how to work with different platforms, finding something that does what you need it to- nothing more and nothing less- is really the most beneficial. It makes learning more fun and less stressful, which we could all use!