Another semester of school has started. If you’re not happy with how last semester’s grades turned out, this is your chance to turn it around. In college and law school, I learned that academic success comes to the students who study smarter, not harder. I also learned that successful students utilized technology to achieve their academic goals.
Below, I’ve rounded up seven tech tools to help you study smarter this semester. And best of all for the college student on a ramen-noodle budget, many of them are free.
Smart students take notes. Smarter students take their lecture notes using Evernote. Evernote is a robust note-taking application that allows you to remember and organize everything your professor throws at you.
Evernote is crammed with features that will help you upgrade your note-taking experience. Notes you take on the Evernote desktop app automatically sync with your Evernote account online. If your laptop crashes or gets lost, you’ll still have your notes sitting safely in the cloud. If you like to handwrite your notes, but would like to store them digitally, Evernote makes it possible. Just scan your handwritten notes into Evernote, and Evernote will use the magic of image recognition technology to allow you to search for your handwritten notes within the app.
Evernote works across operating systems and also has smartphone apps that allow you to take notes while you’re rushing from one class to the next. Best of all, Evernote is free. Free
Simply Noise White Noise Generator
If you don’t have the scratch for a pair of noise canceling headphones, but would still like some distraction-free studying, try listening to some white noise. White noise combines all the sounds of the different frequencies a human can hear into a single noise. You’re left with something that sounds like hissing radio static.
White noise is surprisingly soothing and studies indicate it can help improve mental performance by blocking out distractions.
There are hundreds of white noise generators out on the web. Some paid, many free. The one I used on a consistent basis while in school was SimplyNoise. Just open it up in a tab in your browser and enjoy hours of free, distraction-smothering white noise.
Livescribe Digital Smart Pen
Upgrade your handwritten notes with a Livescribe Digital Smart Pen. Livescribe pens, when used in conjunction with special Livescribe notebook paper, allow you to digitally record everything you write during a lecture. When class is over, just upload your notes from your Livescribe pen to your laptop. Not only does the Livescribe pen record what you write, it also records whatever your professor says with its digital microphone. Instead of trying to frantically write down everything that comes out of your professor’s mouth, you can now focus on actually listening and understanding what she says. Livescribe works seamlessly with Evernote. $99Focus Booster
Focus Booster is a cross platform application that helps you stay focused and get some learning done by utilizing the Pomodoro Technique. In a nutshell, the Pomodoro Technique is a time management method that involves breaking large periods of work into several shorter intervals with breaks in-between (for example, working for 45 minutes straight, followed by a 15 minute break). Some studies indicate working in shorter bursts with frequent breaks can improve mental performance.
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Focus Booster allows you to set up how long your working and break periods will be. After that, just hit start. As soon as your work time is up, an alarm sounds telling you to take a break. Surf the web, take a walk, do whatever. When the break is up, the alarm sounds, telling you to get back to the books. Lather, rinse, and repeat. Free
Wouldn’t be cool if you could just download information into your brain like Neo in The Matrix? Until technology develops something that will allow us to hook our brains up to computers, Headmagnet is probably the closest you can get to mimicking Neo’s speedy learning.
Headmagnet is a free online app that not only helps you learn information quickly, but more importantly, store it in your long-term memory so you can hold onto the knowledge and access it come test time. Simply create sets of flashcards within the app and review them. Using algorithms based on research by cognitive scientists, Headmagnet predicts what bits of information in your flashcard set you’ll likely forget and brings those up automatically for review. Instead of wasting your time reviewing information you already know, Headmagnet helps you focus on what you’re struggling with.
The internet provides limitless distractions for the would-be scholar: YouTube, Reddit, Facebook, etc. One of the biggest challenges in studying is avoiding these timewasting websites. Leechblock, a plug-in for the Firefox web browser, makes blocking timewasting sites a breeze. Simply tell Leechblock which sites you want to block and when you want them blocked and Leechblock does the rest. Now when you try to surf over to your favorite timewasting site, instead of the page, you’ll see a message from Leechblock telling you to get back to work. This is a fantastic plugin. It helped me stay focused while I was in law school. Free
What tech tools do you use to study smarter? Share them with us in the comments!