In the field of educational technology, some apps might be getting too smart.
More and more apps are delivering on-demand homework help to students, who can easily re-purpose the learning tools to obtain not just assistance, but also answers. Whether or not that's cheating—and how to stop it—is one of the concerns surrounding a new app that can solve math equations with the snap of a camera. While the software has inspired teachers to create real-world homework problems that can't be automatically solved, that strategy doesn't hold up to other apps that tap into real-life brains for solutions.
Here's a look at 7 apps that can do your homework for you, and what they have to say about cheating:
Availability: iOS, Android app coming in early 2015
The new, seemingly magic app allows users to take pictures of typed equations, and then outputs a step-by-step solution. As of Wednesday, the app is the number one free app on the App Store. But the biggest issue, one teacher argues, isn't if students will use the app to cheat, because many will. Rather, it's about how teachers will adapt. A PhotoMath spokeswoman said educators have welcomed the app with positive reviews, but the software remains "quite controversial."
"We didn't develop PhotoMath as a cheating tool. We really wanted kids to learn," said Tijana Zganec, a sales and marketing associate at tech company MicroBlink, which created PhotoMath. "If you want to cheat, you will find a way to cheat. But if you want to learn, you can use PhotoMath for that."
Whether you’re a high schooler with eight periods of classes or a college student tackling dozens of credits, there’s one thing you’ve got for sure: a mess of assignments. iHomework can help you keep track of all your work, slicing and dicing it in a variety of ways. Sorting it by due date, week, month, or by course, the app is more organized than a Trapper Keeper. And in integrating data from Questia, you can link your reading material to your assignments so you don’t have to dig through a pile of papers to find the right information.
A scheduling feature can help you keep track of those random bi-weekly Thursday labs, and you can even mark the location of your courses on a map so you don’t end up on the wrong side of campus. And finally, with iCloud syncing, you can access all this information on whatever Apple-compatible device you’re using at the moment — no need to dig for your iPad.
Google Apps for Education
Taking the search giant's suite of free browser-based apps and sandboxing them so they are safe for school use, Google Apps for Education is an excellent alternative to the mainstream installable productivity software, but this one has a perk that almost school board will love—it's free. Packaging together favorites like Gmail, Hangouts, Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Drive with Classroom, a digital hub for organizing assignments and sending feedback, the goal of this collection is to make learning a more collaborative process.
Though Google Apps for Education is cloud-hosted, the programs can be used offline, ideal for when your student needs to escape the internet and work distraction-free. And since it works on any device, it also helps students avoid buying overly expensive hardware. That means more money for extracurricular activities.
Price: Free, but some homework services require payment
Availability: iOS and Android
HwPic is a tutoring service that allows students to take send pictures of their homework to tutors, who will then respond within minutes to your questions with a step-by-step solution. There's even an option to expedite the answers if a student is in a hurry. HwPic Co-Founder Tiklat Issa said that the app was initially rejected by Apple's App Store, which believed it would promote cheating, but he successfully argued that just because someone uses the app in a way that it's not meant to be used doesn't mean the app should be punished.
Issa added that HwPic prohibits cheating in its terms and conditions. Tutors don't solve homework that has words like "Quiz" or "Exam," and they often know if a student is sending a photo during a test if they've paid for expedited answers, and if the photo is dim, blurry and taken under a desk. "We've minimized cheating," said Issa. "We haven't eliminated it. That's kind of unrealistic."
Availability: iOS and Android
Wolfram Alpha is similar to PhotoMath, only that it targets older students studying high levels of math and doesn't support photos. The service also outputs step-by-step solutions to topics as advanced as vector calculus and differential equations, making it a popular tool for college students.
"It's cheating not doing computer-based math, because we're cheating students out of real conceptual understanding and an ability to drive much further forward in the math they can do, to cover much more conceptual ground. And in turn, that's cheating our economies," said Conrad Wolfram, Wolfram Research’s Director of Strategic Development, in a TEDx Talk. "People talk about the knowledge economy. I think we're moving forward to what we're calling the computational knowledge economy."
Availability: iOS and Android
Chinese Internet search company Baidu launched an app called Homework Helper this year with which students can crowdsource help or answers to homework. Users post a picture or type their homework questions onto online forums, and those who answer the questions can win e-coins that can be used to buy electronics like iPhones and laptops.
The app has logged 5 million downloads, much to the dismay of many some parents who argue that the students spend less time thinking about challenging problems. A Homework Helper staffer admitted to Quartz, "I think this is a kind of cheating."
Price: Free, but some homework services require payment
Slader is a crowdsourcing app for high school and college students to post and answer questions in math and science. While students can post original homework for help, many questions in popular textbooks have already been answered on the app, according to Fast Company. An Illinois high school said earlier this year that it suspected students were using the service to cheat on their math homework.
Slader argues that it's "challenging traditional ideas about math and education," and said that the ideas behind its app "aren't a write-off to teachers," according to its blog. Slader told San Francisco media outlet KQED that it shouldn't be dismissed as a cheating tool, but rather considered a way for students to access real-time help.
By Hannah Watson
Whether you are trying to boost your grades before applying for college or are struggling to bring up a low GPA, you’ll likely want some help that will get you back on track without straining your wallet. The following list is full of sites that will make it easier for you to find free help with your homework. Get general homework help, join a social network with other students, look for help on a specific subject, and learn how to research and study better with these awesome websites.
General Homework Help
These sites all provide free homework help.
- MSN Encarta Homework Help. Find articles, tools, links to information on specific topics, and even a homework message board here.
- HippoCampus. This site provides multimedia lessons and course material to help high school and college students.
- Infoplease Homework Center. Get help with specific subjects or skills, such as writing and studying.
- HomeworkSpot. With the reference materials and links located here, you’ll find answers for your homework problems.
- Discovery Education Homework Help. Select from help with math, science, English, social studies, and other subjects here.
- About.com Homework/Study Tips. Find information on writing, research, study tips, and more.
- Refdesk.com Homework Helper. Organized by grade levels (first through college), find plenty of helpful resources here.
- King County Library System Research and Homework. Get links to sites with little marketing, access to helpful databases, and even online tutoring during specific hours.
- ClassBrain.com. Geared toward K-12, this site offers help with projects and reports, worksheets and puzzles, and useful articles.
- Edheads. This site offers games and activities to teach difficult concepts and designed to meet state and national standards.
- Math and Reading Help. Despite the name, this site offers articles to help with many subjects beyond math and reading, including science and writing research papers.
- NCES Kids’ Zone. Get help math help, find interesting facts, learn about choosing a college, and more on this site.
- Schoolwork.org. Find links to information organized by subject as well as information about online college, student health insurance, and student credit cards.
- High School Ace. This site offers college guidance information along with information by subject, news of the day, and quizzes and games.
- homeworkNYC.org. Sponsored by the New York public libraries, this site provides links to tons of information, tools, study notes, and text books.
Join an online community to get help from and learn from other students.
- Cramster. This online study community is available to high school and college students, parents, educators, and experts on subjects and offers everything from practice problems to study tips.
- Campusbug. Get access to tools and resources for studying, homework, and projects here.
- learnhub. This social networking site helps students find assistance with their assignments.
- Loomagoo. Students can share notes and study guides, purchase and sell text books, and more at this site.
- The Quad. Students can collaborate on school projects or organize face-to-face social events with this social network.
- Bored of Studies. From Australia, this group helps students with their last two years of studies before college.
- Student.com. Join this social network to connect with other students. Visit the forums and message boards for homework help as well as subject-specific discussions.
- The Exchange. High school students and teachers can join online to discuss political and constitutional ideas here.
- WordChamp. Sign up for free to access this incredible global network for learning a second language. Homework, drills, website reader, and conversation with native speakers are available.
Tutors and Tutorials
Get free online help with these tutors and tutorials.
- Jiskha Homework Help. Post your homework questions here and experts on the subject will answer your questions.
- Live Homework Help. This service from the state of Alabama offers free help from online tutors Sunday through Thursday from 3:00 to 10:00.
- StudentQuestions.com. Post a question through this service and receive an answer from tutors of varying levels of expertise. Note that some tutors are free while others charge a fee, but you get to choose.
- MathNerds. Get free math tutoring to help better understand math concepts.
- Free Tutoring – Your Child May be Eligible for Free Tutoring. Find out if you or someone you know in K-12 may be eligible for free tutoring help.
- MyTutorials Education. This section offers online tutorials in a variety of topics.
- CYS Services Free Online Tutoring. If you are affiliated with the US Army, then check out this site to find out how you can get free tutoring.
- Homework Hotline. If you live in Indiana, use this hotline to get free science and math help.
These math sites will help you learn everything from algebra to trig.
- AplusMath. Geared more to simple math skills through basic algebra, this site offers worksheets, flash cards, interactive math games, and much more.
- The Math Forum at Drexel. Get tons of tips, problems, and puzzles to help boost your math skills.
- curiousmath. Learn lots of great time-saving math tricks with the information here.
- Math.com. Find help with algebra and geometry at this site.
- Algebra Homework Help. Browse through a list of algebra and geometry topics, find a free tutor, and more.
- Mathematics Articles. These articles will help you better understand math with topics ranging from algebra through statistics.
- The Most Common Errors in Undergraduate Mathematics. This professor shares common errors such as bad handwriting and lack of parentheses.
- Free Math Help. Get help with algebra, calculus, trig, geometry, and statistics here.
- dansmath. Find lessons for algebra, calculus, and other math topics at this site that is continually adding new lessons.
- Virtual Math Lab. West Texas A&M provides this math help in three different levels of algebra, GRE math, and other standardized math tests.
If your reading could use a boost, try these sites.
- Reading Rockets. For both beginning readers and older readers who struggle, this site offers reading strategies, guides, and more.
- Teaching Reading to Older Kids Who Have Learning Disabilities. While this article is aimed at educators, it gives tips that older readers can incorporate for themselves to improve their reading.
- FREE Reading Help. This reading tutor has links to reading help online as well as a waiting list for free tutoring (up to two students at a time).
- All Info About Reading. Offering lessons, free worksheets, ideas, and more, this site provides tons of reading help.
- The Reading Genie. This professor provides a listing of lessons, research, and materials to help strengthen reading skills.
- Maryland Adult Literacy Resource Center. While some of the services offered here are for Maryland residents, they also offer GED and online reading resources.
- Thinkfinity Online Courses. These free online courses are designed to help students, teachers, and tutors learn more about literacy.
Research and Writing
These sites will help you learn how to do quality research and how to write about what you’ve found.
- A+ Research and Writing. For high school and college students, this site steps you through the process of creating a well-researched and written paper.
- Research and Documentation Online. This site offers help on evaluating the quality of information, knowing how to cite online material, and places to find reliable information on the Internet.
- University of California Berkeley Library General Guides. Find out about the different citation styles as well as other helpful research information.
- Info Zone Research Skills. This site walks you through six steps of research and provides helpful links for each one.
- Purdue Online Writing Lab. This online lab provides an enormous amount of writing and research information for students in grades 7-12, college students, and professional writers.
- Research, Reports and Presentation Support. Find everything from the mechanics of writing a paper to how to research controversial topics on this site.
- EasyBib. Use this tool to easily create a bibliography in MLA style for books, journal articles, and more.
- Ottobib. Enter the ISBN from any book and automatically get a bibliography in one of many standard styles.
- A Research Guide for Students. Learn how to do research, how to correctly write your research paper, and get links to reference materials useful in research.
- Teaching Organization in Writing. This article offers a simple overview of how to write a well-organized paper.
Science and History
Get plenty of help on your science and history homework with these sites.
- The Image. Find tons of information about and images of minerals and gemstones here.
- Dynamic Periodic Table. This incredible periodic table is easy to use and offers information by hovering your mouse or clicking on specific elements for detailed information.
- The Science Page. Get links to tons of science-specific resources here.
- Exploratorium. This awesome website offers a ton of useful science information.
- MadSci Network. Browse through the thousands of science questions and answers here or ask a scientist yourself if you still didn’t find the answer you needed.
- The Biography Maker. This tool will step you through creating an informative biography on the person of your choosing.
- History Timelines on the Web. Find history timelines from all around the world on a wide variety of topics.
- Online Conversion. Visit this site for an amazing number of conversions including global times, acceleration, and distances.
- History Help. This forum is a great place to post your questions or browse through past questions and answers.
- The History Place Homework Help. Get tips on how to write a history paper as well as links to other helpful history resources.
Study Skills and Tools
These sites will help you sharpen your study and test-taking skills.
- Study Guides and Strategies. This site offers tons of help ranging from time management to classroom participation to preparing for tests.
- Handouts, Worksheets and other Self Study Materials. From the University of Texas, get Word and PDF files covering a wide variety of study topics such as motivation, stress management, note taking, speed reading, and more.
- ASAP: A Student Assignment Planner. Enter the date you want to start your project and its due date, then receive a detailed checklist full of links to ensure you stay on track to complete your assignment on time.
- Howtostudy.org. See a study model, get study resources, and get help on topics such as college writing and GPA calculator.
- How-To-Study.com. Read articles on a variety of study topics ranging from general study tips to subject-specific topics.
- EducationAtlas Study Skill Guide for Students. These guides offer advice on test-taking, general study tips, and tips by a selection of topics ranging from psychology to chemistry.
- InfoPlease Study Skills. These tips will help prepare you for test-taking and even offers a section on mastering essay tests.
- Test Taking Tips. This site focuses on several aspects to help you study for and successfully take exams.
- Study Skills Online. Get study tips from a college professor at this site.
- Study Guide Zone. The resources here include study skills, test taking, different learning types, and much more.
- The Study Skills Help Page. Dr. Carolyn Hopper at Middle Tennessee State University has compiled several excellent resources for studying. Scroll to the bottom for the lists.
- Free-Ed.Net. Take free online classes here that focus on how to study, how to strengthen reasoning skills, and how to learn better communication.
Use these reference materials to find answers to almost any question you may have.
- Multnomah County Library Homework Center. This site offers links to information on many topics as well as links to several high-quality reference sites.
- BJ Pinchbeck’s Homework Helper. This site has an awesome collection of reference materials sorted by subject.
- Awesome Stories. Find original sources from national archives, libraries, universities, museums, and government databases. Sign up for a free membership to have full access.
- Bartleby.com. This amazing site offers access to a huge list of reference books as well as fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.
- Internet Public Library. Get reference material on a wide range of topics such as arts and humanities, law and government, business, education, and science.
- Fact Monster. Find facts on a variety of topics as well as several reference resources here.
- Federal Resources for Educational Excellence. This government database provides information on everything from math to music.
- Searching for Stuff. Find words, information by topic, and websites for education with this simple search site.
- Biography.com. Get biographical material on famous people that range from Abraham Lincoln to Michael Jackson.
- HowStuffWorks. Learn how something works at this site that covers everything from celiac disease to materials used in constructing patios.
- refdesk.com. This site offers facts, quotes, news, and searches for a variety of information.
Staying organized is a great way to improve your academic achievement so that you never lose an assignment or forget a test day again. Give these student organizers a try.
- GradeMate. Manage grades, assignments, notes, discussions, and more with this free student organizer.
- MyNoteit.This note-taking and organizing tool for students will help you keep notes, assignments, and tasks organized and is also shareable with classmates.
- Gradefix. Fix your grades or just learn to manage your time better at this site that organizes your homework schedule for you.
- Notely. This student organizer has a to-do list, calendar, schedule, and homework planner to help you get better grades.
- StudyMinder Lite. This free organizes assignments, prioritizes tasks, and records study times to help you stay on track.
- HiTask. This free task management tool provides you with easy scheduling, organizing, and sharing of tasks.
- CollegeRuled. Students can create schedules, create lists and manage notes for specific classes, and create message boards to facilitate communication between classmates. You will need an email with .edu to sign up.
- Tasks Jr.. This web-based task manager allows you to organize and prioritize your projects for class.