In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt:“The Satisfaction of a List”
I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of seeing paper invading our school storage.
Honestly, as our family’s devices get upgraded our need for physical paper is decreasing. For school related reports and file sharing we have moved on to using web based tools that also have good Android apps or primarily using the Android app. Not all apps are created equal so we’ve tried multiple apps multiple times. The apps I name here are all available in the Google Play Store for free or very cheap. Welcome to apps for homeschool productivity.
- Dolphin Browser– Dolphin web browser has been around for years and just keeps getting better with age. It is one of the most stable web browsers Mikky and I have used that is not a resourse hog. Your computer and/or Android device will not be lagging and running hot after a few hours of research using this browser. There are a slew of plugins available that make Dolphin Browser a powerful, secure and still easy to use internet browser. Take a look at the sync feature, it allows you to sync bookmarks and other settings just like Google Chrome and Internet Explorer. Sometimes the need to display the desktop version of a website arises. You can easily adjust Dophin Browser’s user agent to display desktop websites by clicking the advanced tab in the Settings menu. We like to keep ours on Desktop and we haven’t noticed any isssues. Firefox for Android is also flash friendly, but you do have to install Adobe Flash Player for Android.
- Google Drive/Google Plus/Google Hangouts/Google Calendar/YouTube – Google gives all of its users 15GB of space to work with for free. This includes online file storage via Drive, videos uploaded to YouTube and emails in your Gmail email account. At first this may seem like a small amount of space, but honestly for storing files and short videos it doesn’t add up quickly. I’ve only used 2.5GB of space in the last 4 years and I love storing things digitally. Photos stored using the Google photos backup feature available via the Google Plus app do not count towards your storage limit. Your photos are backed up to a maximum resolution of 2048px, but you can opt to backup the original size (albiet probably larger than you really need anyway). Creation and organization via Google Drive is simple. At the beginning of the year I create a folder for the new grade level. That folder has sub-folders for each subject and unit/or novel study. Sharing the folder is easy too and an invaluable tool that increases the productivity and fun of digital homeschooling. Inside Google Hangouts you can share anything you have saved via Google Drive, YouTube videos, your screen, and loads of other things. I love doing this on sick days when we’re feeling yucky but functional. Google Calendar has a feature that lets you attach files stored inside of your Drive account to an event on your calendar. I use Google Calendar for all of our school planning so this feature is awesome. Mikky clicks on the event, reads the notes in the description, scrolls down a little and she can click on the file. As long as it’s shared with her it will open for her automatically. If you’re on the web via a pc you may have to enable this feature via the Labs link. YouTube videos have become the center of our homeschool unit studies. There are always at least 2 important (need to take notes, answer a worksheet or summarize) videos. Creating playists and copying the link to them inside of a Google Calendar event has become a staple around here.
- Moon+ Reader Pro– This app has an excellent free version, but you can support the developer by buying a premium version for $4.99 and unlock pdf features like annotating, markups, and cloud storage support. The pdf features in Moon+ Reader Pro are available in other pdf reader/editor apps for free but from our experience the cloud syncing is very slow, or doesn’t allow for switching or multiple accounts. For our homeschool marking up pdfs is important for converting to a paperless school environment. Mikky can download a pdf of a worksheet that I have shared with her from her Google Drive account, markup her answers and upload it as a new file or just sync the changes to the file. Moon+ Reader is also a feature packed ebook reader. It supports all the popular formats from epub to mobi, which gives you plenty of places to seach for the digital versions of books you need for school. Do note that if you many get your books from Amazon they are DRM copyright protected and downloading them to put on another device is considered illegal, even though the book has been purchased. With that being said, there is a way to download your Kindle ebooks for sharing on other devices anyway.
- WPS Office – Sure Google has their own web based office suite, but the app versions are not as good as this one. Formerly known as Kingsoft Office, WPS Office is a solid app that has everything you want in an office suite plus extra features for free. One important feature is that unlike Google’s suite of office programs WPS does not need to convert the file in order to read it. The pen feature works extremely well for handwriting in documents that are not pdfs. You can only few pdfs. WPS Office supports cloud sync so you can connect them and view all of your folders, open files etc. Like Google and a few other apps available in the Play Store, WPS Ofice allows for collaborating on documents. This feature can be great for editing and revising exercises.
These four plus apps will give your digital homeschool a kickstart. Remember not everyone enjoys using the same apps, these are just the ones Mikky and I have found work well for our homeschool needs. If you feel these apps don’t work well for you just remember the basics of what you need to get started:
- an internet browser (one that is flash compatible is preferred)
- cloud storage
- calendar or planner
- PDF reader/eBook reader
- office suite