Essential Apps

John Bunyi Blog

Essential Apps

by John Bunyi


Got an iPad for the Holidays? Trying to figure out if the iPad is right for your student? Thinking about getting Apple’s latest and greatest to help make your lesson plans?

Using your iPad appropriately is important and it all boils down to having the right apps. Here’s our Holiday App Guide to help you make the decision and start getting work done. There’s a lot, so we’d suggest getting at least a 32GB iPad to meet all of your needs. Stay tuned for our complete review of the iPad mini, and why it’s our choice of tablet for students.

Music and ambient noise are an important part of getting things done . That’s why these apps are a part of our must-have apps. We love SoundCloud because there are a lot of things you can do with it. You can upload your own songs, favorite others, and make your own playlist from those. Sometimes you can even download the songs you like. Check out our own specially curated playlists. If you’re looking for more mainstream songs, and what should be a familiar experience, try using Pandora or Spotify . Songza and 8Tracks have playlists curated by others which might complement the mood that you’re in.


Of all the note-taking apps, Evernote is the most complete. It has support for pretty much every mainstream operating system available. So if you have products other than Apple, such as Windows or Android, then you don’t have to worry because your notes will sync. On iOS, the interface is clean and accessible and fast. This means you don’t have to wait forever for the app to load and lose your great idea. Google Keep and Microsoft’s OneNote may integrate better with their respective operating systems, but Evernote overall is well rounded. With the Evernote Moleskine Notebook you can upload your written notes to the Evernote app. Skitch is an app by Evernote that allows you to take a picture, and mark it up with “notes”. This feature is important for teachers who want to make a quick note on a slide in their presentation or for students who want to add a reminder to send out for a group project.

Amazon Kindle/Kno
If you’re tired of lugging around huge textbooks, Amazon’s Kindle app provides a very reasonable solution. Yes, you can’t mark-up the pages, but many students choose not to mark up their textbooks anyway so they can sell it at a higher price once they’re done with it. If you really need to mark up the page, take a screenshot and write your notes using Skitch. The Kno app seems to have a larger supported selection of textbooks and study guides. If you’re worried about hurting your eyes while reading for extended periods of time, I’ve found that turning down the iPad’s screen to the minimum brightness helps and lets me read for at least an hour at a time.

MyScript Calculator/MathPad
The iPad doesn’t come with a calculator pre-installed. Probably because Apple decided people don’t really need a giant 7 to 10 inch calculator. But it’s useful nonetheless, and if you’re looking for a change from traditional calculators, check out the MyScript Calculator and MathPad ; both are by Vision Objects . These calculator apps allow you to literally write the equation and it solves it for you. The apps are novel and definitely take getting used to, but they’re simple yet powerful once you get the hang of it.

StudyBlue/Magoosh FlashCards
Flashcards are the staple of studiers. StudyBlue and Magoosh provide free flashcard apps that function like traditional flashcards and flip over to reveal the answer. They allow you to either create your own or even select from a group of pre-made cards. StudyBlue has sets made by other users and Magoosh has made their own sets specially curated for your needs.

Paper is basically a sketchbook. The beauty of a digital sketchbook though, is that things are kept clean and easy. We love it because it keeps all your tools in one spot, and easily accessible. There are lots of sketchbook apps out there, but few offer the overall experience that Paper does . You really have to try it out to see how much better it is. You can also save things and upload it digitally to the cloud, or to your social media of choice. If having a hard copy of your work is your thing, Paper has also partnered with Moleskine to allow users to purchase printed copies of their work.

sketches screen

Pocket is great for saving articles and webpages that you want to read later, offline. This is great since I’ve found the iPad is at its greatest when it’s connected to the internet. Having Pocket gives you something to do when you can’t find that free W-Fi. Flipboard and Feedly both provide news articles based on topics you subscribe to, but require an internet connection to function fully.

Dropbox and SkyDrive are basic cloud storage apps that let you upload your work to about 3 to 7GB of free online storage. They’re great because it means you don’t have to worry about carrying around a USB drive, as long as you have some sort of internet access. Papers, dissertations, homework, and lesson plans can all easily be stored and synced across all of your devices.

Google Hangouts
Google Hangouts is a great service for collaboration. It provides not only a messaging app, but it also allows a voice and video portion. What it does better Skype and other video apps however, is that it allows for group video chats. In fact, President Obama has used it in the past to address questions from the general public. Also, if you’re far away from home, this is a great way to keep in touch with friends and family. With other tools such as Screenshare, this is a powerful app for students and educators alike who need to collaborate and work closely on projects.

google hangouts

The last thing isn’t quite an app. The iPad doesn’t register taps and touches from just any object. It requires a special stylus, usually one with a rubber tip. There are plenty of them out there, and each differs depending on the specific function. The best all-around stylus currently available is offered by the company that designed Paper, FiftyThree. It’s fittingly called Pencil and costs about $50 but is well worth the investment. If you just need the simple experience of writing with a pen, then Amazon or BestBuy offer basic styli that run about $10 each.

I know, games are an important part of having an iPad and they can be very important if you need a break from studying. But a lot of times, I’ve found having a game in my list of apps only distracts me, in a bad way. I’ll leave this up to you, but I would recommend finding a game that you can easily leave. Or maybe not even installing a game at all.


If you want any more information, would like a specific app or product reviewed, or want me to go into more detail on anything I’ve mentioned here, feel free to email me at Or add me on Google+ and use the Hangout feature 😉
All apps and names are property of their respective companies. iTunes and iPad are copyright of the Apple brand. Sources include The Verge, by VOX Media

About John Bunyi

John Bunyi
John has worked as a Behavior Specialist at the UC Irvine Child Development Center, and in marketing at Inspired Instruments. He currently works as a Behavior Interventionist at Easter Seals Bay Area. He loves hands-on learning, sports, movies, technology, books, and music. He also loves chicken wings.