iPad Student Diaries #10: iPad 2, exams, end of the semester

It’s been a while since my last iPad Student Diaries article, simply because I wanted to save it up for a big one. Now that the semester is over, it’s finally time.

The biggest addition- or replacement- to the setup since the last article is the iPad 2. As far as school use goes, you’ll notice some differences from the old one but not that many. It’s lighter, which is very nice when you’re reading, which is definitely a plus. It’s also flatter, making it easier to put down flat like a piece of paper when taking notes. The extra RAM also helps a bit in that it makes it possible to have more apps running without the OS closing them automatically (e.g you can have Safari full of open tabs without them reloading whenever you switch back from another app). Aside from those things though, it’s basically the same as the old iPad. Perhaps the biggest disappointment was the iPad 2’s inability to scan documents using the camera, because the camera is way too crappy.

On the software front, I haven’t added or removed any apps from my setup. Underscore Notify is still my primary note taking application, although it has started to piss me off lately with constant crashes like you wouldn’t believe. I don’t know if it’s an issue with the iPad 2 (the app hasn’t been updated since November, after all) or just poor programming, but it seems to get serious RAM issues sometimes. I really wish a proper developer would take on this type of app as both smartNote and Notify get updated way too rarely. My hope right now is that Penultimate will expand into PDF annotation, as that app is a lot more stable (though also much more basic).

As I’m writing this I finished my exams a few days ago, and can finally relax after more or less living at school for the last few weeks. The iPad has been my primary (and in some cases only) source for studying for the exams, and that has worked well. It’s particularly nice to not have to rely on paper printouts of exercises for certain subjects, although the benefit of direct access is rather mute when you have to wait half an hour for the rest of the study group to print out a couple of dozen pages of toilet paper.

The end of the semester also means that I’ve now done an entire semester by only using my iPad, and I must say that as an educational tool the thing isn’t given enough credit. And I do say “iPad” rather than “tablet” because at the moment, Android tablets are next to useless for the kind of things I’m doing, simply because you don’t have the apps needed. Apps is what makes the iPad stand out, and what makes it such a useful tool. Many people say that a tablet that can do what a PC can do is the better tablet, but I disagree. The best tablet, at least for me, is the tablet that can do things my PC can’t. A 600 gram device with a 10 hour battery life and enough apps to annotate any document- digital or paper- that’s not a description of a PC.

The last 5 months have also been full of new app releases and updates. Splashtop is one of the most impressive apps on the iPad right now, and it’s also useful for school in that you always have the option to use your computer (though I’ve mostly used that option for getting files). Then you have apps like Air Sketch and Air Scanner that give teachers a few new tools by replacing expensive gear like interactive whiteboards and document cameras with cheap apps.

While all that is good and all, I think that the two most important pieces of educational software are still on the drawing board. Taposé is one, and while this apps is months away (at best) and little actual detail is known, it has huge potential. The other is even more of a mystery, as all we know at this point is that Kno sold its hardware business and is now focusing on software. Whatever they create, I hope it’s as good as it has the potential of being.

As for me, I’ll be back in school this fall for a new semester, and the iPad will be right there with me. By then I hope that I have even more tools at my disposal, both software and maybe some hardware. One thing’s for sure; my laptop is out of school for good.

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Andreas Ødegård

Andreas Ødegård is more interested in aftermarket (and user created) software and hardware than chasing the latest gadgets. His day job as a teacher keeps him interested in education tech and takes up most of his time.