Your apps can make you smarter, but you also want to be smart about your apps. Michelle Wild teaches a course at Coastline Community College for veterans with mild traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder and other cognitive injuries on how to use iPads and mobile devices they receive from the Veterans Affairs Department as "cognitive prosthetics," but her advice goes for anyone using a mobile device to stretch his brain a little further:
* Don’t download every app that looks neat. Putting a dozen organization apps on your phone is just going to make it harder to find the apps you actually use. Pick a few apps you’ve tested and know you’ll use, and take any you don’t use off your device.
* If you’re using your device in class, show the app to your professor. Many professors get understandably irritated by students texting during class. You don’t want them to think you’re a slacker, so go up to them before or after the first lectures and tell them you’re taking notes, not reading your email. If you have PTSD or TBI, you can probably get the disabilities office at your school to intervene on your behalf if the professor still doesn’t understand.
* Sync early and sync often. You never know when someone’s going to knock your iPad off your desk and wipe out a semester’s worth of chemistry notes. If your device syncs with a website, such as StudyDroid, upload your stuff every chance you get so you know your notes will be there no matter what happens to your phone. If you’re using an app that doesn’t automatically sync to "the cloud" so it’s ever-present somewhere on the Internet, use something such as Dropbox, a free app that lets you save documents on the Web so you can access them from your phone or any computer.
Almost everyone has a tiny computer in their pocket these days. You can either let the Angry Birds on your smartphone fly off with your study time, or you can use your mobile device to turn you into a leaner, meaner academic machine. Whether it's an iPhone, Android device or iPad, here are some apps that will help you translate computing power to brain power:
System: Apple iOS
Appigo ToDo is designed to keep track of all your tasks for every class or activity you're juggling. If you have a major project due, instead of just writing down one deadline for the whole enchilada, Appigo ToDo will let you break down all the little tasks you have to do to get there. For example, if you're working on a giant problem set for your economics class due Friday, you can ask Appigo ToDo to remind you that you wanted to do the first few questions Monday night. If you have a new problem set due every week, set up a repeating reminder.
Operating system: Android
Want to work on memorizing presidents without looking like a nerd? StudyDroid lets you create flashcards using Microsoft Word, then sync them to your phone so you can cram while pretending to play Tetris. Or, if you don't have time to make your own flashcards, you might be able to swipe them from someone else taking the same class. StudyDroid is linked to an online community where everyone else syncs their notecards, too, so you can share cards with people studying everything from Spanish 101 to medical terminology.
This clever note-taking app lets you record a lecture while writing notes, either by typing on your iPad's keypad or with a stylus. If you use the stylus, you can use whatever diagrams and doodles help you remember things. Ever looked at a word in your notes and thought, "What on earth does that mean?" Here's the really cool feature: If you click on the note in question, Notability will take you back to the time in the lecture recording when you wrote it down, so you can hear your professor explain it again. Also handy: Finding that last incoherent note you scribbled before you drifted off to sleep in your 8 a.m. lecture.
Systems: Android, Apple iOS, BlackBerry, Windows or WebOS
Evernote lets you create a notebook for each subject you're studying to store notes you write yourself or information you copy and paste from the Web. Want to label everything you'll have to know for the midterm? With Evernote, you can slap a tag on it so you can bring it up later without shuffling through your whole notebook. Evernote also syncs with a free website so you can find your notes even if you left your mobile device at home when you went to the computer lab.