Things Teachers and Students can do with a Smartphone Part 2

WASHINGTON - JUNE 06:  Local resident Josh Wei...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
Earlier this month, we looked at some of the core functionality that can be achieved with the Smartphone. As these advanced phones become more common, we want to make sure that we are getting the most out of these high tech devices. What happens once you've gotten familiar with your basic email, calendar, and document setup? Here are three more ways to help you maximize your smartphone's capabilities and keep you in touch with the world wherever and whenever.

Reader Apps
If you subscribe to any RSS feeds and use an aggregator such as Google Reader, you'll want a way to access these news items on your phone. Although Google Reader and other web apps can do the trick, I've found it nice to have a more polished application on my phone. For my Droid X, I've found Feedr to be a great app that includes a cool widget. This displays the headlines of any of my feeds, and I can quickly access the full stories with the click of a link. For the iPhone, I used Byline, which I liked, but there may be newer and more improved releases. For Google Reader users, the key is to find apps that sync with Reader and do it well. This was where the wide array of apps began to self select.

For those who don't RSS (an intro post to RSS and why you might find it useful coming soon), there are plenty of native apps that can also keep you up to date. I am a fan of the USA Today app on both the iPhone and Android platforms. Although I don't care for the hard copy newspaper as much, I find the app to be well designed, fully functional, and easy to navigate. I can't say the same for the NYTimes apps that I've experienced, and the websites of some of larger papers can be quite a challenge to view on the mobile screen.

Dropbox
If you haven't played around with online storage as a possible alternative and/or backup to your USB drive, you want to consider Dropbox (see more here). What's especially nice about Dropbox is that the company has released apps on multiple platforms, and I've had next to zero difficulties with regards to accessing my documents. The ability to access and in some cases edit a document on my computer at home, work, on my iPad, and on my phone is quite amazing, and I feel that new smartphone users may want to explore trying this out. Dropbox is available as a free app in both iTunes (App Store) and on the Market (Android). For those new to Dropbox, sign up here to get 250MB extra for both you and me.

Google Calendars 
Although I mentioned calendar setup in the original post about smartphones, I just have to bring it up again here, especially if you are using Google Apps and have an Android phone. At ETHS, teachers are using Google Apps on a increasingly frequent basis. Curriculum websites, class calendars, and student group emails are all features being taken advantage of, and the ability to access these resources anytime, anywhere is proving to be quite beneficial.

Well, add your smartphone to the anytime, anywhere motto, since Google accounts (including our own domain at eths202.org) are so easily added and then integrated into an Android phone.With the ability to access all of my calendars, I can selectively view and sync any and all of my Google Apps calendars. For the teacher with multiple class calendars (see more on homework calendars here), this makes it easy to add, edit, or delete events when you're away from your computer. Access to the Apps email account lets you stay in touch with students whether it's replying to a message or viewing a thread on the Google Group. Now, to be fair, much of the same functionality can be achieved with an iPhone as well (for calendars - use calDav for example), but I was particularly impressed (though not surprised considering who's responsible for Android) with the ease of use of my phone and Google Apps.
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