Educational computing always seems to be the last thing big companies bother to do. Apple’s eMac suffered years of a CRT monitor until scrapping the line of computers altogether in favor of iMacs for Education (an simple adjustment in software). Microsoft dreamed up its Student software just last year and all it includes is Encarta plus a few nicities. Students have a very specific set of needs when it comes to computing. Most of the time, they don’t need half of the professional items but then again they appreciate powerful features adaptable to a lot of situations in and out of the classroom. Below are some of the latest applications for students:
Campus Productivity Kit, by FileMaker, is the latest and greatest of applications that actually try to customize to what students’ needs. The desktop app (no this is not one of the fancy pants Web 2.0 gadgets) has five major functions which prove to be quite powerful in a small, sleek package. First, a manage contacts module plays to FileMaker’s strength as a large contact management application. Facebook, of course, is king in this area but if someday a FileMaker plug-in to Facebook is created, FileMaker will make looking up info much easier. Second, a research and lecture notes area allows one to organize notes by class, topic, date, and type while keeping track of academic citations, images, and relavent webpages. It’s intuitive and easily organized for notetaking in class. Third, a group project task manager could be quite useful in tracking all those students club projects from bringing speakers to campus to planning a spring break trip to Cabo. Fourth, in cojunction with the previous module, an event module is great if only for the powerful “registrant” feature which allows tracking of RSVPs or ticketing for events galore. Last is a standard to-do module complete with categories. Overall, this is a fantastic free application that brings the power and simplicity of FileMaker databases. I don’t think I’ll use it full time but it will come in handy for event planning and group projects.
MyNoteIt is a online note taking tool more than anything else but it also keeps your classes and assignments in order. I am apathetic about the note taking feature as a watered-down Writely, online word processor but fault it for not being able to easily add photos and web pages (as well as web page citations). The unique feature of this application is that it calculates your grades as you get graded work back. There also is a mild social networking feature with “friends” in your classes who you can message, as if Facebook didn’t already take care of that. Overall, this isn’t a horrible choice for an online site with ads but surely there are better, more powerful options.
Stu.dicio.us is a crazy AJAX web application that is simple and easy to use. The layout and design is clean and uncluttered, without advertising (as far as I can tell). It allows you to add classes to which you can assign notes and to-do items. Note taking is a bit odd: notes are strictly in bullet point form. If you take notes any other way, you are out of luck. Bullets can be really nice to keep up with a fast lecture but it may not be for everyone. You can save notes in a document or HTML file. The features are a little light with only notes, to-dos, and class list, but this is a very fast and clean application for basic use.
Writely is Google’s online word processor but it can act as a note-taking tool. The real power is its use as a real-time collaboration tool. Plus all online storage makes everything accessible anywhere with internet access. That means no going to a library computer and forgetting to bring your document that is on your laptop back in your dorm. It’s also good for backup purposes so when your Dell catches fire, you still have your documents backed up online. Writely misses all the other more customized applications for students but has one powerful online word processor.