Tag Archives: Khan Academy

Apps to Help Students (and Parents) Manage the School Day

By Tracey Dowdy

I love the TV commercials that show a smiling family sitting around the breakfast table, laughing together as they drink freshly squeezed orange juice and politely eat their healthy breakfast in a sundrenched kitchen nook. All that’s missing is the unicorn the children will soon ride to school because for many parents and kids, that tableau is just as imaginary.

Getting everyone out the door in the morning may never be as blissful as the TV commercials but it doesn’t need to be an epic battle or mad dash for the bus. Getting organized the night before and having strategies in place that meet your family’s unique schedule and needs is simply a matter of planning. These apps can help start the day off right and wrap it up in a positive way at the end of the day.

The Night Before

I’ve written about family organizers before and Cozi (Free – iOS, Android, Amazon) is always at the top of my list. It’s invaluable for parents and caregivers juggling the family schedule and will help you keep track of everything from your appointments to your grocery list, so you never find yourself out of bread when it’s time to pack lunches or forget when that science project is due.

Choiceworks (iOS – $4.99) is a visually based calendar that enables younger kids or those with learning disabilities to grasp the concept of time. It’s designed to be used by caregivers and kids alike and, along with preloaded pictures and audio cues, users have the options to customize their calendar by uploading their own images and audio. It’s user friendly, easy to navigate and offers a countdown feature to help children learn planning strategies, e.g. “Three days until my book report is due,” so they can lean to manage their time.

In the Morning

Here Comes the Bus (Free – iOS, Android) has been implemented by many school districts to connect students, parents, and administrators with their GPS-equipped vehicles. Whether you’re live in a rural or suburban area, you can appreciate the value of not standing outside when the weather is less than ideal or knowing you have time to run back to the house to grab forgotten homework. Users can also get push notifications if there’s a schedule changes or when the ride is five minutes away from the bus stop. Plus, caregivers can simultaneously track multiple children on different busses.

Swiftime (Free – iOS) spares you the frustration of yelling the morning countdown – “Fifteen minutes til we’re out the door!” “Ten more minutes!” “Five minutes ‘til we leave!” – by counting down for you from 60 minutes. The app offers 12 different alarm sounds, updated weather information, tips on what to wear and users can receive push notifications even if the app isn’t running.


Once the kids are home from school, it’s time to tackle homework. myHomework help (Free – iOS, Android) uses a color coding system to organize classes, assignments, projects, and tests by tracking what’s due and when. The app syncs across all platforms and supports time, block and period-based schedules. It also sends homework reminders and allows users to connect to your teacher’s Teachers.io class and automatically download class information, assignments, files and announcements.

If like me you had to tap out after 8th grade math, Kahn Academy (Free – iOS) offers free online classes for almost any subject you can think off. Take advantage of lectures, quizzes and exercises with step-by step hints that will not only help you remember 10th grade algebra formulas so you can help with homework but can also help your student if there’s any area he’s struggling with and may need additional instruction. It’s like having your very own tutor on-demand.

Simple things like checking backpacks when they walk in the door after school, laying out clothes and packing lunches the night before, or setting your alarm so you have adequate time to accomplish the myriad of tasks to get your family out the door in the morning won’t mean there will be days you’re tempted to give up and dive back under the covers, but it can mean there’s fewer of them.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Parent-Approved Resources for Online Homework Help

By Stacey Ross 

The surge of technology offered to today’s students extends far beyond the school day and classroom setting. It has evolved into virtual learning, independent study programs, and platforms for peer-to-peer collaboration that offer a wide range of resources and educational benefits.

Online research empowers students

More and more, educators and parents are encouraging learning styles that require  discipline and focus due to the plethora of choices and opportunities that new technology offers. In a 2012 Pew survey conducted in conjunction with the College Board and the National Writing Project, 77 percent of teachers said that the Internet and search engines had a “mostly positive” impact on student research skills. And while they are concerned that students might be distracted by all the choices at their fingertips, they ultimately agree that such tools had made students more self-sufficient researchers.

Resources for homework help

Online assistance via websites and apps has become a valuable extension of the classroom. School counselor and blogger Lysabeth Luansing-Garcia shared, “Our school encourages students to use Khan Academy. Many of my students also use Google Drive to save all their papers and projects for easy access. We also have teachers who do their own tutorial videos that are accessible from YouTube.”

Resources like KhanAcademy.org help students find thousands of how-to videos for K-12 topics, including chemistry, mathematics, physics, finance, history, and more. Students who want to learn how to find the slope of a line, for example, can go to YouTube and search for “How to Find Slope Khan Academy” and a step-by-step video will begin to play. Try it and you will be blown away!

My girl’s favorite tool, Google+ Hangouts, provides her with a study aid from the comfort of her own bedroom. I can hear through the walls that she is staying on task, as she “talks shop” online with her colleagues via her own personal study group. Along with studying together, they quiz one other, work their way through difficult assignments (taking advantage of screen share options), and even collaborate on their presentations. I still find this futuristic, but I am particularly pleased with how it allows for social interaction as well as building time management skills!

E-mail and instant messaging tools to contact teachers or classmates about schoolwork are also very handy. SchoolLoop, a widely popular communication tool between home and school, has built strong ties between parents, students and educators, even allowing the exchange of assignments and PowerPoint presentations.

Homeschooling moms’ favorite sites

Mom and blogger TerriAnn van Gosliga has been homeschooling for nine years and suggests that younger students use EnchantedLearning.com, which she considers “brilliant.” Enchanted Learning has 35,000 pages on its website covering a wide range of topics. Its focus is to provide materials that build curiosity and exploration experiences for K-12 graders. Membership is $20 annually, but some things are free. TerriAnn also shares the value of online research: “We use a lot of Google images and download free e-books from our local library.” She also recommends MotionMath for its great math apps and BBCTypingTutor for keyboarding skills.

Diana, a homeschooling mom of two, shared that her favorite two websites are Math.com and BrainPop.com. The former is quite impressive: it provides free math lessons and math homework help from basic math to algebra, geometry and beyond. BrainPop is a group of educational websites with over 1,000 short animated movies for students in grades K-12, together with quizzes and related materials covering the subjects of science, social studies, English, mathematics, engineering and technology, health, and arts and music.

Technology as a Social Learning Tool

Educators are embracing methods of learning that are more socially interactive, problem-solving oriented, and explorative by nature. The idea that my own daughter integrates her social and academic worlds thrills me, as I can listen in and monitor her live homework groups as well as help direct her to online assistance. The convenience of being able to access so many tools via a home computer, smartphone or tablet opens huge windows of opportunity. So far, I love what I see.

Happy learning via web searching, video conferencing and apps!

Stacey_Ross_50Stacey Ross is an online consultant, social media enthusiast, freelancer and owner of SanDiegoBargainMama.com. A former teacher and middle school counselor, she is now a mom of two who researches and freelances about lifestyle topics involving family and well-being.