Brainstorming Apps

Before students can write an essay or study for that mid-semester exam, they should prepare using two timeless methods: brainstorming and taking notes. Below are five of the best apps, plucked from the Education and Productivity categories in iTunes, that can instill effective note-taking practices and help your child form ideas at the middle and high school levels.

CourseNotes ($3.99)

The overall design of CourseNotes is very intuitive. It relies on the age old “assignment notebook” format that so many students (and former students) are accustomed to seeing. Students can create different notebooks for each class and then add all of the their course notes in an organized way. The developer includes many handy features like assignment tracking, a dictionary and note sharing, all from inside the app. The developer even offers additional “premium content” that can be purchased that will add handy references like the Periodic Table of Elements or the Declaration of Independence to your notes.

(Curated by Keith George)

iBrainstorm (Free)

We love iBrainstorm because it does one thing well, and does it in such an intuitive way that it needs no words to clutter its design. Its simplicity almost mimics the simplicity of a packet of sticky notes and a marker carefully placed next to a piece of posterboard. When we heard of the potential that iBrainstorm has for multi-device collaboration, we immediately saw it as a tool that could keep each student involved and engaged in the process of brainstorming. However, like most fun features of a learning tool, you will need to build in time to play and giggle as virtual sticky notes fly across the room. Be sure to have some backup stickies or a backup plan the first time you test the multi-device with a collaborative brainstorming session.

(Curated by Lucie deLaBruere)

Ilaro: Research Note & Citation Database ($9.99)

Ilaro is the ultimate in research project organization. Anyone involved in a large research project, such as a research paper, science project or thesis, will quickly see the power of this app. This research database uses the familiar note card format to allow you to create resource notes and organize them in a variety of ways. The app also connects cards to existing data. For instance, create an author card, and that author is automatically available as a choice when you create a source card. Once the source card is available, note cards can be connected to the source card. Multiple projects can be created to keep yourself organized, and sources and authors can be used across projects.

(Curated by Keith George)

Idea Sketch (Free)

As relationships between ideas become more complex during the middle school years, a mind mapping app can be the perfect brainstorming tool. Middle school students are often encouraged to use mind mapping to brainstorm ideas for narrative writing or research projects. Idea Sketch’s free version offers several features that many other mind mapping apps reserve for their Pro upgrades. For example, this app allows you to not only share the diagram image, but also exports all ideas into a text based outline. Best of all, the free version exports in a proprietary Idea Sketch format so that students can easily share their individual brainstorming mind map from one device to the next. This could be helpful when students are using a shared iPad, or perhaps working in groups where others might add details and expand the original idea sketch.

(Curated by Lucie deLaBruere)

Audiotorium Class & Meeting Notes ($5.99)

We have all been there when the teacher says something really important, but we just didn’t catch it. Focus too much on what you missed and you’ll miss the next point. You could interrupt the teacher and ask them to repeat it, or you could use Audiotorium Class & Meeting Notes, the note-taking app that includes the ability to record the audio of the lecture while you take notes. As a recording starts, you’ll see a recording level meter as well as a timer that indicates how long you have been recording. There is a “bookmark” button that allows you to mark the spot of important content. This makes it incredibly easy to return to those topics in the recording later.

(Curated by Keith George)

(This content was originally posted at

About Stephen Danos

Stephen Danos is the Associate Editor for and Appolicious. He has contributed to articles published on TechCrunchThe Chicago Sun TimesThe Chicago Tribune, and elsewhere. He received his BA in English from the University of Iowa and MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia College Chicago. He is the author of two poetry chapbooks, Playhouse State (H_NGM_N Books, 2012) and Gravitational (The New Megaphone, forthcoming).

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"5 Apps to Help Students Brainstorm and Take Notes" by @ShellyPalmer

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