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It's that time of year again -- time for the various and sundry blog posts listing out the best back-to-school tips, tracks, apps, hardware, and so on. I've written one already for MindShift: "The Most Anticipated Tech Tools of Back-to-School 2011," based on a survey -- as the title suggests -- about the tools educators are most looking forward to bringing with them back into the classroom this fall.

These sorts of back-to-school posts should be timely, good advice. They're also good SEO, and I'm sure that motivates a lot of publications to make sure to create the content. So in lieu of mimicking what other blogs do -- find one recently released book-buying app, go through the other things students might need in addition to textbooks -- a dictionary, a calculator, a way to record lectures, a map, for example -- and then find an iOS app to suit -- I thought I'd try something a little different with my SEO-juice.

Echoing like my wishlist for e-books, I thought I'd write a wishlist for back-to-school apps. Some of the features I have on this wishlist do exist in certain apps (I've listed those where applicable), and so this list feels like far less of a pipe-dream than does the e-book version.

1. An e-reader that contains all the textbooks you need. This e-reader needs to let you easily bookmark important pages, highlight passages, take notes in the margins. It needs to work across devices -- your smartphone, a tablet, your laptop, a shared computer at the library.

2. An app that lets you take notes in a variety of formats -- audio, video, writing. It should let you snap photos of handwritten notes and, using OCR, make them searchable. (Example: Evernote)

3. An app that lets you find the cheapest possible textbooks -- whether they're found online or in brick-and-mortar stores, whether they're e-books or printed ones.

4. A To Do app that easily and automatically syncs with your classes' assignments. Bonus points if it sends you a push notification/reminder 1 week, 3 days, and 6 hours before class.

5. An app that proofreads your term papers. (Example: Kibin)

6. A Gmail Labs feature (or something along those lines) that admonishes you when you go to email a professor a term paper and you haven't followed her or his naming conventions for the assignment. Trust me, your professors will thank you.

7. Any free app that saves you potentially hundreds of dollars off of hardware or software purchases. (Example: the Desmos graphing calculator; Google Docs)

8. A better course and professor recommendation system other than the often shallow and mean-spirited RateMyProfessors.com.

9. A map of the library (and/or local coffee shop) that highlights the best places to work -- free WiFi and convenient power plugs. Bonus points if the app can indicate whether or not someone is already sitting there.

10. All apps must work across multiple devices, as well as on- and offline.

Your turn! Let's hear what would be on your wish-list for back-to-school apps, students.

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Audrey Watters


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