Portable Power: A look at how smartphones are changing the way students do their homework


With his English essay due the next day, senior Taylor Kalsey plunked his backpack at the foot of his bed, took out his English binder, and turned on his…smartphone?

With the enhanced functionality of today’s smartphones, students are doing more with their devices – including homework.

           “I like the ability to pull out my phone and work on homework whenever and wherever I want,” said Kalsey. “For example, when I’m at school I can translate some French stuff on it.”

           The presence of smartphones in high school students is growing. According to the survey taken this summer by Grenwald Associates, over half of all students will own a smartphone by the time they reach high school, and an informal survey places the school high above the national average.

Smartphones today can access a plethora of information from just about anywhere, and apps such as the Google Drive app (iOS, Android, WP8) even allow users to  type up text documents on the fly.

 It’s hard to ignore the impact smartphones have on students. Instead of resisting or ignoring the revolution, some teachers have decided to embrace the change.

“We asked the kids to do research things about 1963 for Rio’s 50th Anniversary,” said history teacher William Taylor.

Instead of having to go over to the library or computer lab to research 1960’s movie stars and TV shows, using up precious class time, students could instead quickly Google the terms from their desk. However, this convenience is a double-edged sword.

Taylor will still have his students keep their phones out of sight during regular instruction. He even adopted a policy, developed by French teacher Alec Hodgins, where students must leave their phones in class while they go to the bathroom. This is done to prevent texting while students have the bathroom pass.

“I find that the students come back a lot quicker when they don’t have their phones with them,” said Taylor.

Still, your smartphone can come in handy when it comes to schoolwork. Here are a few apps that can come in handy:

  1. Google Drive (free, iOS, Android, WP8) – Google’s Drive app features text editing for editing essays on the go and cloud saving so you can access your Google Drive documents anywhere.

2. Quizlet (free, iOS, Android) – Need to study for tomorrow’s vocab quiz? Quizlet’s app lets you download flash cards sets and study them on the go.

3. Camscanner (free, iOS, Android, WP8) – This nifty little app crops and converts photos of documents for easier reading and use later. Perfect for preserving documents that you cannot lose when a scanner is not available.

4. Evernote (free, iOS, Android, WP8) – Keeping track of your notes is tough. Evernote saves your notes on the web for access on any device.

5. Kindle (free, iOS, Android, WP8) – Amazon’s Kindle app is perfect for downloading books (many of the classics are free) and reading or referencing them quickly when you need to find that one quote.

6. Dictionary (free, iOS, Android) – Come across a word you don’t know? Look it up faster than you can flip through a real dictionary! The built-in thesaurus is also great for writing essays.

7. Remember the Milk (free, iOS, Android) – This app allows you to set tasks for yourself to do later, and will send you notifications or emails when you set it to. It’s great for keeping your homework assignments on track.