Back to School: Must-Have Web Tools for Students
You may have already started your back-to-school checklist—reference books, pens, paper, backpack, new clothes—but don’t forget the best in free and low-cost web tools for students. If you haven’t included them in your school supply list, we’ve done it for you with the following collection of websites that can help your child succeed in school. From researching to writing and more, these can be invaluable resources for students as young as ten years old.
Mindmeister combines the popular mind mapping concept with the ability to share ideas and collaborate with others via a word processing tool. For taking notes in class or writing an essay or research paper, mind mapping offers students a creative way to organize their thoughts. Mindmeister has a free, limited basic plan and a reduced cost option for students.
A free online word processing tool, Google Docs has a collaborative feature for sharing work with team members for a group project, and it is especially helpful for writing essays and research papers. With a right click on any word, students can search the web for relevant info that will appear in a column to the right of their paper. This can reduce Internet distractions and keep them on task. And if they choose to quote or reference what they’ve found, it’s quick and easy to create a footnote by clicking “Cite” at the bottom of the searched link.
Facebook’s free CiteMe application offers an easy way for students to access citations for papers and ensure they are properly formatted. Formatted citations are available in APA, Chicago, Harvard, MLA, and Turabian styles. EasyBib and Ottobib provide similar citation searches.
Providing free and premium versions, Evernote is a great way for students to keep their class notes and information organized. By setting up notebooks in Evernote for each class, they can keep all their notes in one place and sync them with their phone, computer, and the web. It is easy to add class e-mails and scanned handouts to the same notebook to keep everything for that class in one place, and it is all searchable within Evernote.
This free note-taking application designed for students also provides an organized way to keep notes in notebooks. Students can organize notes into themes and new lessons, which are automatically numbered. They can also make drawings next to their notes, which may help some students better illustrate a concept they are learning. It includes a file storage option for saving presentations and other files.
These days, much of the research that school students are doing is on the web, but they still might want to highlight the info and take notes in the margin, just as they can with textbooks. That is where Diigo comes in. It provides a way to use a digital highlighter and sticky notes on any web page that will stay there on future visits. Students can share the pages with others and save and organize their research.
The web hasn’t replaced books entirely, so textbooks are still part of the classroom. The BookRenter site offers used textbooks for sale or rent at more reasonable prices than buying them new, and you may find supplementary books to aid your child in a particular subject.
One visit to the Digital Public Library of America site will give students the vast cultural and informational offerings of this country’s libraries, archives, and museums. The site features files, images, virtual exhibits, and unique artifacts that are sure to add that something extra to any research paper or report.
This site is light on graphics but heavy on information. It offers a number of reference resources all on one menu page, including search engines, directories, current news features, weather resources, and even stock info. Plus, students will find an extensive collection of almanacs, biographies, calculators, dictionaries, maps, and encyclopedias.
Finding effective ways to stay organized with technology and complete school assignments is an important part of being a successful student. Take advantage of the free web tools for students to help your children do their best this school year. Please let us know in the comments section below about any resources that you’ve found helpful.
This article was updated August 2015
Elizabeth Street is a writer for Learning Liftoff. For the past 20 years, she has written newsletter and website content for nonprofit and corporate organizations on such topics as the plight of children of prisoners worldwide, the lack of prenatal care for mothers in developing countries, and child mentoring programs. She has a particular interest in the importance of providing all children with a quality education regardless of their family’s financial status or background. A native of Virginia, Elizabeth is a graduate of James Madison University and loves animals, with particular fondness for her two cats, Oscar and Emmy.