iEducation

by Lorien E. Menhennett

I’m not normally one to endorse particular products or brands. Because as a rule, I hate advertising. So I avoid inflicting it on others.

But when it comes to Apple, I bend my own rules. I write this (and every other) blog post from my trusty MacBook Pro, which I absolutely adore. I own not one, not two, but three iPod devices (a regular iPod, an iPod touch, and an iPhone). And when the iPad 2 release is announced — rumored to happen this quarter — I will be first in line to pre-order my own, as I mentioned in a previous post.

Why? Of course there are games, music, movies, all that jazz. But really, and I mean this sincerely, I want to use it as an educational and practical tool. I call it my “iEducation.” Let me explain, by way of introducing some of the apps (that’s short for “applications,” for those of you less familiar with the smart phone and iPad frenzy) I plan to get.

Flashcards++ (Jason Lustig, $3.99)
I already own the iPhone version of this app, and it’s fantastic. For anyone who uses flashcards, I highly recommend it. (FYI – there are a bunch of flashcard apps out there, and I combed through them all and decided this was the best for my purposes.) You can make flashcards directly on your iPhone (or iPad). Or you can make them on the Internet (which I find easier) and import them to your Apple device. Then once you’ve imported the cards, all you do is tap the screen to flip them over. There are study modes and test modes, and the program keeps track of your score (you punch in whether you got the card “right”) so you can monitor your study progress. Flashcards++ supports the use of two different flashcard Web sites, www.Quizlet.com and www.Flashcardexchange.com. I’ve been mostly using Quizlet; I prefer its interface. With Quizlet, for $10 more a year, you can use images on your flashcards — a feature I’ve found to be worth its weight in 3x5s. But not only can you make your own flashcards, you can search through literally thousands of other people’s flashcards and import them as your own. Everything from art history to biology to French. I personally find that making the flashcards helps me retain the information, but everyone learns differently.

MCAT Review (Watermelon Express, $19.99)
I won’t be taking the dreaded MCAT for more than a year. But there’s no time like the present to start studying. And while there are better-known MCAT review programs out there — including one by Kaplan — this is the highest-rated one, and the one that seems to have the best content. Watermelon Express sells its physics, chemistry, and biology MCAT study apps separately, but if you buy them together in this package, you save $10. Sounds good to me.

Instapaper (Marco Arment, $4.99)
This app allows you to save Web pages — i.e., newspaper, magazine, or journal articles — for later (offline) reading. The really cool thing is that it saves them as text pages, which “optimizes for the iPhone and iPad screens,” according to the iTunes store site. With all the scientific journal articles I’ve been reading lately, this would be quite handy.

iAnnotate PDF (Aji, LLC, $9.99)
Speaking of scientific journal articles … one of the main reasons I want to get an iPad is to that I have a convenient, portable way of reading all those long articles without having to print them out. But I need to be able to highlight them, write notes in the margins, circle important figures, etc. This app allows you to do just that. And it’s gotten rave reviews.

Penultimate
(Cocoa Box Design LLC, $0.99)
Handwriting notes on the iPad. How cool is that? Draw pictures, sketches, chemical compounds, whatever. You organize your various pages in “notebooks” of your choosing (infinite notebooks are available). You can also send your pages to anyone in PDF form. Pretty nifty.

Quickoffice Connect Mobile Suite
(Quickoffice, Inc., $14.99)
While I much prefer the Mac OS, let’s face it: most documents we use these days are in Microsoft format (Word, Excel, etc.). This app allows you to open, edit, and create those types of documents on the iPad.

dPad HTML Editor (drikin.com, $6.99)
Clearly, I enjoy blogging. But if I could do more with HTML, I could do more with my blog. I’m hoping this app will allow me to do that.

And this is only the beginning …

P.S. My username on Quizlet.com is “menhenne” if anyone wants to check out my own flashcards. Mitosis, genetics, molecular bonding … good stuff.

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