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Tech. Tools & Reviews

The ‘Blue Books’ of the Future

An article by the Chronicle for Higher Education looks into a student start-up seeking to create the college blue book of the future.

As a student of the University of Pennsylvania, Alex Rattray struggled to fill his exam blue books with legible responses. It wasn’t long before he realized that he wasn’t the only one suffering, professors and teaching assistants were also struggling with reading illegible answers.

His solution was to create a desktop application that will allow instructors to administer tests and quizzes securely without the need for pencil and paper.

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Distraction-Free Editing

WordFlow is a great word processing app if you are looking for a distraction-free interface, claimed a review in the Chronicle of Higher Education. It is plain and simple and to the point with a live word count and built-in spell check. A big plus is that it works offline and automatically saves your work via Google Chrome. The only down side? It doesn’t automatically save to Google Drive, Dropbox, or SkyDrive. That’s right, you have to manually upload your files to a cloud service.

If you are a fan of the automatic upload, or easy save to a cloud service, other alternatives to WordFlow are Editorially and Draft, though these apps are not necessarily distraction free.

Livescribe Smartpens: Ultimate Writing Utensils?

Students are prone to keeping up with the latest technology, especially when it comes to taking notes in their classes. Traditional notebooks pile up and can oftentimes become out of hand. Students are then dependent on digital organizing, using their laptops, tablets, and sometimes even their smart phones to jot down class notes. But what happens when instructors ban or restrict technology use in the classroom? This is where Livescribe Smartpens come in handy.  The Echo, Sky, and newly released 3 Smartpen are able to capture notes and create a digital copy.

The first of the bunch is the Echo Smartpen. This pen is able to capture notes as well as audio. By simply tapping on notes, the Echo plays back the audio that complemented them. Create digital versions of notes by transferring files via USB to Livescribe’s desktop app.

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Kerika: A Task Board Designed for Distributed Teams

Group projects, when looked at as a whole, are a great idea. They call for collaborative teamwork, idea contribution, and utilizing individuals skill sets and experiences. Most of the time students learn from their group experiences, while with others, something went wrong along the way.

Oftentime the biggest factor in the flop of group work is the lack of communication. With our diverse population at UWB having different life schedules, it is hard to find face to face time to get together with group members. Students then rely on email, texting, Google Drive, Facebook, etc. but conversations become scattered as different layers of group projects reveal itself on different outlets of communication.

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Chromebooks, Yay or Nay in the Education World?

With prices starting at $240, students cannot help but to be attracted to Google’s Chromebooks. Its operating system is simple, to the point, and extremely fast, relying on Chrome and Google Drive. The catch? You cannot install desktop software such as Adobe Photoshop, Microsoft Office, or any PC games.

This may be a letdown for some people, but for others the simplicity is much appreciated. EdTech reports that Chromebooks are beginning to sneak their way into the classroom. Why not? Students are able to access the web so they can pursue research, and with Google Drive students can also write reports and create presentations just like they can with Microsoft Office.

The only case where Chromebooks could be problematic in the education world is with STEM programs who require higher end applications such as Integrated Development Environments (IDEs).