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Grade A Back to School Technology

As children, teenagers and students of all ages head back to school, college and university this week, there’s no doubt that packing the best technology into their bags is as important today as a pen, pencil and ruler was 20 years ago.

From mobile apps and smartphones to tablets and computers, there are plenty of gadgets and pieces of software available to help educate, manage coursework and timetables and make the ‘school’ day a lot easier and even more fun.

Below I’ve picked out a selection of the best. The only thing they can’t do is do your homework for you – but then, that would be cheating anyway!

Apple iPad 2

The entry-level Wi-Fi-only model of Apple’s tablet computer is perfect for any classroom setup. With 16GB of storage, there’s enough room for thousands of apps, plenty of music to make your breaks go with a swing and space too for any videos that could help achieve the best grades. With a 10-hour battery life, it’ll last the day out and it’s thin enough to slip into a satchel alongside any more traditional books. Surfing the web using the built-in Safari browser is fast and easy, allowing you to look up any facts you might need for essays and exams. Just not in the exams!

Amazon Kindle App

Whether you own an iPhone, Windows PC, Apple Mac, BlackBerry, iPad, Android smartphone or Windows Phone 7 device, this free app is a must-download. Turning your gadget into an e-reader, it allows you to choose from nearly a million books, some free and others paid-for. There are samples available to try before you buy and you’ll be able to adjust the text size, which is handy when you’ve spent a whole day pouring over the books and you’ve still a long night ahead with matchsticks holding open your eyes. There are also newspapers, magazines and blog subscriptions available.

Teux Deux

To Do list apps are plentiful but you won’t find any simpler to use and as satisfying to help get things done than Teux Deux. Designed like a calendar, you can list your To Dos under a
series of dates and have them on your iPhone for easy reference. A web-based version connects up to the app and if you don’t have an iPhone, the free internet browser-based software can be used independently. It is so easy to list, edit and view what’s important and Teux Deux even rolls over anything not completed to the next day automatically.

Brittanica Kids Apps

For decades, this encyclopedia has become a staple for reference. But who wants to wade through pages of text in a book when you can instantly get an answer from a search engine. However, it’s still top of its game when it comes to bringing history and information to life, not least with apps for children that work on the iPhone, iPod and iPad. From Snakes to Ancient Rome and Rainforests to the Solar System, kids aged 8-12 can learn in virtual form through pictures, video and facts designed to match the curriculum.

Microsoft Office Home And Student 2010

The latest version of Microsoft’s Word processing software also includes Excel for spreadsheets and PowerPoint for presentations. All three will be indispensable during the term for creating coursework that should attract the top grades. It won’t write the words you need but it’ll check your spelling and grammar. Just ensure you have it set to the UK dictionary and settings, otherwise you could end up with plenty of red pen when your A4 printed sheets of paper are handed back to you.


Used by many business people for collating notes, documents, web links and audio files, this software and its associated apps for many platforms helps you to “remember everything”. Grab text from web pages, record voice notes to yourself, save down images and internet URLs, it’s a one-stop shop to keep anything you’ll need research-wise in a single place. Everything is searchable too, and fast, even handwritten text inside images and it can all be personally tagged with keywords of your own.


Designed for the iPhone and iPod touch, this will convert a massive range of figures from one to the other. It has 20 categories and more than 500 units to ensure you’re not confused by
feet, inches, pounds, ounces, kilos, and plenty of others that are even more complicated to remember.


Pens and paper are all very well but if you own an iPad then why not input notes and hand-drawings using this app. It costs just 69p right now and allows you to save sketches, thoughts and any other doodles by using a stylus on the iPad’s touchscreen. It’s one of the handiest apps out there and if you need a stylus, then check out the Pogo Sketch by Ten One Design.

inClass / iHomework

These two apps to organise your lessons and notes are very American-based but both can still be useful if you tweak them to fit your own UK school or college timetables. Remember deadlines, set alarms, decide and plan tasks and keep track of your grades, it’s all in here and should stop you from forgetting to hand in that important essay to teacher.