We’ve all been there. That time when you need to put down those red cups and pick up your pens and pencils, and actually do some proper studying instead of just procrastinating. It’s tough though, writing out notes by hand can be a long and tedious process and going through them again can seem like finding a needle in a haystack. Here’s a few ways to integrate tech into your studying to improve productivity and help get yourself organised.
I started using MicNote as soon as bought my chromebook, and have been using it for well over a year now. It’s a smart app that combines a notepad and an audio recorder. With this, I could import lecture slides (either from PDF’s or PowerPoint’s) and annotate under each slide, and of course, rely on the recording for anything I missed out on.
The clever bit is that each line of your notes is auto-timestamped, meaning you can listen back to whatever was happening whilst you were typing.
You can choose where to save your notes and recordings, with options including cloud storage such as DropbBox and Drive. I found it worked very well and overall allowed me to be more organised by having my notes and recordings all in one place.
As a Chromebook user, Google Docs is pretty much the only passable option as an all-in-one office suite, but I honestly still use it on my Windows machines as well. Of course there’s integration with Drive, so you’ve got the ability to edit and save on different machines without having to worry about emailing yourself files or carrying around a USB stick. It’s got pretty much all of the same features of Microsoft Office, but with some things done a little more nicely – like adding comments to documents.
Like Word, there’s capacity to install various add ons to gain extra functionality. So there’s no problems using the Chrome Web Store to find apps to help you cite references, insert forumlae or even a table of contents. Neat.
I like Docs so much that I’ll only proofread someone’s work if they send is as a GDoc first. It’s also become a staple here at GadgetBlur, with support for multiple users to suggest edits to articles before they get published.
Evernote is a fantastic service for taking notes, tracking tasks and even clipping interesting tidbits you find online. It’s one central place to store everything you need so you don’t have to go faffing around finding where you saved that article or the pdfs to that £100 book you don’t want to buy.
Another major feature is the search function. Typing up your notes allows you to make the most of Evernote’s search function, which will search through all your notes in all your collections (or “notebooks”). This makes going back through your notes so much easier than trawling through pages of paper.
The free version allows you to clip from the web, share notes and your files across your devices. Upgrading to Premium gets your more advanced features like password-protecting files, annotating PDFs, and seeing the version history of your notes. One of my colleagues used Evernote for all his notes and the way it integrates with other services (like his timetable on his calendar) is so slick and works flawlessly. I’d definitely recommend it if you want to stay organised.
There’s desktop apps available for major platforms but there’s also a web version that sports an elegant and modern UI, and upcoming updates which allow closer integration with Drive.
Evernote – Free, £35/yr for premium – Chrome, Android, IOS, Mac, Windows
Kami, or what was once called Noteable PDF, is a more advanced version of the standard PDF viewer built into Google Chrome. With Kami you gain the ability to annotate, add comments, even digitally sign your PDF’s. It’s perfect for writing down notes on lecture handouts, but it can also be handy for any forms you need to fill in when you don’t want to pay for printing in the library.
Since starting over seven years ago, Grammarly has reached over 3 million subscribers who are all using their proofreading services. The main advantage over the built in checker is that it picks up on mistakes other checkers won’t, and also explains them really well. It’s perfect for those whose Native language isn’t English but can also help you learn the finer points of grammar if it is. It’s a solid choice for anyone who writes a lot of essays and reports, and even has the Karan Seal of Approval.
As well as the detailed grammar reports on your writing style, there’s some other nice features such as uploading a document for Grammarly to check, submitting documents to other people to proofread (for a price), even adjusting the style of the document depending on whether it;s an essay, medical report or business letter.
There’s even an inbuilt plagiarism checker, which compares your work against 8 billion web pages. I highly doubt it’s anywhere as effective as the one an institution would use, but it does give you an idea of whether you need to do a little more rewording.
Grammarly – $12/month is available online, as a Chrome Add-on and also as a Word plugin. There’s also a free version which doesn’t highlight advanced grammar mistakes.
Making flashcards allow you to keep going over shortened notes and allows you to learn via repetition. I find it helps a lot and is very effective for otherwise long and boring subjects. There’s two main options here, Anki and Quizlet, although I’d also recommend Memrise if you’re learning a new language. Added features like adding pictures, voice notes and seeing stats make digitising your flashcards the best method for the modern student.
Anki and Quizlet both have a website, Android and IOS apps, however only Quizlet is free on all platforms. Unfortunately, the IOS version of Anki will set you back close to $20, but the desktop and web versions are all free. You can upgrade to Quizlet Plus too, which gets you an ad-free experience that’s more suited to long term learning, as well as other features like voice recording and images.
Quizlet – free – $15 for Quizlet Plus.
Memrise – free – Android, IOS, Web
One of the disadvantages of having your laptop out to help you study is that you’re only one click away from procrastinating on sites like Facebook, Twitter, maybe even GadgetBlur (although I’d say the latter is worth your time).
To combat this I use apps that help enforce the Pomodoro Technique. Put simply, you work in short 25 minute sessions, followed by a short 5 minute break. After 4 study sessions, yo can treat yourself to a longer 15-30 minute break. All in all, this means you can get through 2 hours of solid revision in 2 and a half hours.
If it’s an essay you’re working on, I’ve often found Coffitivity (read the GadgetBlur review) helped to provide ‘enough noise to work’. The idea being that working in some background noise may help get your creative juices flowing.
Coffivitiy – free – Web, Android, IOS
So that’s my rundown of a few apps and bits of software that should make studying a little bit less of a hassle, and should allow you to be more productive and spend less time procrastinating.