By Reid Lappin, founder & CEO of Vokal

It’s no secret that today’s generation of students are more familiar with touchscreens and social media than they are with spiral notebooks and the #2 pencil. Districts across the country are investing heavily in technology for their students to make learning, and teaching, easier.

The iPad has turned the traditional classroom into a space where kids can innovate, brainstorm and create together. Classroom styles like the “flipped classroom” (a style where all the learning is done at home via screencasts) become more realistic and feasible. Best of all, most teachers will agree that classroom productivity skyrockets. However, the iPad itself is not the driving force behind this newfound productivity. It’s the apps that power the iPad that make this tablet the real educational winner.

While the mass adoption of technology in academia continues to enhance the educational experience, it is also the single biggest distraction students face heading into the 2015/2016 school year. Gaming, social media and messaging platforms are all ‘fun and games,’ until students can’t get enough and the apps pull them away from their studies.

Vokal, a Chicago-based mobile Innovation agency, asked their team of apprentices (student developers and coders), along with their talented iOS and Android mobile developers, to come up the Top 5 List of this school year’s biggest Brain Boosters and Brain Busters. Brain Boosters will help make students more productive and empower them to excel. The Brain Buster Apps will do the opposite – waste time, distract and become full-on tech addictions. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

BRAIN BOOSTERS

1. Notability
Notability is a simple note-taking app that allows you to create notes, import media, and edit multiple file types. The app allows you to use a unique drawing and highlighting tool that makes file annotation super easy and intuitive. It’s pretty much impossible to go through a day of high school or college without using this app.

2. Nearpod
Presentations suck. Nearpod makes them suck less. The presentation tool turns the iPad into an individual slide deck, which allows teachers to send surveys, ask questions and present slides.

3. Schoology
Schoology is a content management system that allows teachers and students to interact, share assignments, distribute assessments and receive tests scores. Schoology makes it simple to share content quickly and easily between the educator and the student.

4. Google Drive
Google Drive is a personal cloud storage service from Google that lets users store and synchronize digital content across computers, laptops and mobile devices, including tablet and smartphone devices. Whether it’s a group project or edits from a teaching, Google Drive is a must-have this year.

5. Reminders
While many people may dismiss Apple’s default to-do list, in the educational world it provides a wealth of tools to keep track of homework, projects and upcoming tests. The Vokal team would take this app over any “homework app” any day.

BRAIN BUSTERS

1. Trivia Crack
The biggest fad of December 2014: Quizzing your friends (and random strangers) on trivia questions. As fun (and addicting) as this app is, it only provides numerous opportunities for distractions inside and outside of the classroom.

2. Messages
Students can sit across the room and message each other funny pictures, things about the teacher/other students, or in worst case scenarios, test answers. The messaging app is a substitute teacher’s nightmare and one massive distraction tool for students.

3. The Homework App
The Homework app is recommended by many teachers as a way of managing homework assignments. However, the app is hard to get used to, requires a lot of time to enter data, and is just plain cumbersome. The Vokal team favored a pen and paper over this app.

4. Candy Crush
We’ve all heard of this app, and chances are, you’ve played it. Candy Crush is a pretty simple game in which your goal is to eliminate rows of candy by swiping. If you’ve played it before, you know that this app is ridiculously addicting. Playing Candy Crush in the classroom will not get you any brownie points with your teacher.

5. 8-Ball Pool
The other fad that swept across the students at school was a game called 8-Ball Pool, which was essentially just a video game simulation of a real pool game. However, students could connect their iPads and play against each other, making it a game that teachers despise.

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