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North Hills Monthly

Academic hAPPiness 101: Best Apps for School Success

Jul 31, 2017 08:25PM ● By Jennifer Monahan

As August turns to September, kids and parents start to feel that back-to-school energy. Parents can capitalize on the excitement of a new school year to help their children think about academic goals for the semester. Whatever an individual’s academic ambition might be, these apps provide handy tools to help students find success in the classroom.

DuoLingo offers support in Spanish, German, Vietnamese and a host of other languages. Often employed by educators to enhance students’ language-learning experience, DuoLingo is a helpful resource outside the classroom for students who might need extra practice. Users take a five-minute placement test to determine the appropriate instruction level, set goals for how much daily practice they desire and can even request email reminders to log in for lessons. DuoLingo provides individualized modules, focusing on areas where a particular user needs extra practice. Correct pronunciation and learning tips relevant to each lesson are key features that make the app a fantastic supplement to classroom assignments. Easy to use and visually engaging—it has a cute little owl for its mascot—DuoLingo offers frequent opportunities to level up. The app is free and available on both iOS and Android. For students stuck on a homework question who just need help translating from one language to another, Google Translate is an excellent (free) resource, also available for both iOS and Android.

Khan Academy is the best invention ever for parents who dread the day a child comes home asking for help with long division. With a curriculum ranging from kindergarten math to AP Physics 2 and beyond, students truly can find assistance in almost any subject imaginable from expert educators. Whether users are seeking homework help on a single concept, pursuing an academic passion or preparing for the SAT or GMAT test, Khan Academy provides high-quality instruction—for free—in manageable doses. For younger users, the chance to earn energy points and badges for completing tasks and mastering skills can be a helpful motivator. Parents will appreciate the opportunity to receive regular updates on student progress. The app is intuitive and user-friendly even for elementary-age students. For parents to set up the initial account and manage notification settings, Khan Academy’s website is the best platform. After that, students can utilize the app with ease via iOS or Android devices.

The Quizlet app essentially allows users to generate flashcards—for anything. Teachers can create flashcards for their classes, or students may produce their own set of cards on any subject or topic. Quizlet also offers a stockpile of pre-made cards for things likes U.S. presidents, states and capitals, facts about Pennsylvania and multiplication tables. Once the cards exist, users can customize how they wish to study: flipping through flashcards, playing a matching game, answering multiple choice questions, etc. The app is ideal for students who need to study on the go—they can spend a 10-minute bus ride reviewing Latin vocabulary or learning the periodic table of elements. Free on iOS and Android.

The Shakespeare app is a boon for students encountering “the Bard” for the first time. Featuring Shakespeare’s complete works, the app has helpful menus for navigating through each play. A one-touch translation feature helps convert 16th century English phrases to modern-day language. The app also provides detailed summaries for each scene. Free on iOS and Android.

Voice Dream Reader is a “text to speech” app, meaning that it reads documents, books and articles out loud. Voice Dream Reader receives rave reviews from users who say it is the best app of its kind. The ability to read and hear the text at the same time is an invaluable tool for anyone with learning differences such as dyslexia, as well as for students with any kind of visual impairment that makes reading a challenge. Clever features include highlighting the spoken word to improve retention and comprehension, finger reading (beginning readers can run a finger under each word), bookmarking capability and a built-in-dictionary. Reviewers say the Android version has a few glitches when compared to the iOS version, but overall the app is a hit. Free on iOS and Android.

Wunderlist is an excellent tool to keep track of grocery lists or “To Do Today” items, but also comes in handy for keeping homework organized. Students can create lists for each class or activity, so that they have a record of homework and tasks due for each subject. Users check off each item and hear a satisfying “ding” as they complete the task. Because Wunderlist syncs across devices and allows for sharing, parents who want oversight can easily monitor students’ progress from their own devices. Free on iOS and Android.

In addition to buying new pencils and notebooks this fall, download an app or two to help students tap their way to a successful year!