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Guest Blog: A Student’s iPad Experience

by Tom Bittman  |  April 6, 2011  |  14 Comments

(This blog post was written by my teenaged son, Danny)

I’ve been using the iPad in school since April 2010. Since I bought the iPad, I’ve probably gone through ten different note-taking apps, and four or five planners. So rather than dwell on each app and describe why I didn’t like them, I’ll just tell you my current system and along the way explain why the other apps didn’t work.

Right now I use a total of four apps in my everyday school work, so I’ll start with my notes apps. To take notes I use an app called UPAD. This app allows me to draw, type, highlight, change font sizes, add guidelines and so on. So, using a feature that allows me to write on a zoomed in spot of the sheet while still seeing the whole piece of paper, I can do all of my math notes on the iPad without slowing down behind everyone else. But then, when a teacher gives us a word definition to write down, I can switch to typing mode by tapping one button and I can insert text where ever I want and highlight anything important that I think I will need to study. Then, when all is said and done, I send my notes to my “filing folder app” which is a note-taking app itself, yet I use it as a filing folding because of its friendly interface. This app is called aNote (Awesome Note). Now this is what I basically had been doing with the iPad 1, but now with the iPad 2, I can do ALL of my work on the iPad using the cameras. The app I was talking about before, UPAD, lets you change the background image that you draw on, so, when a teacher hands out a piece of paper or packet, I quickly snap a picture of all sides and put it as a background on my notes. So if a teacher hands out a packet worksheet, I snap a picture of all sides, and hand the worksheet right back to them. If the whole school was on this system, the teachers wouldn’t even need paper, because they could just email the documents to all the kids so right as they walk into class, they should have the worksheet. When the kids finished they could just email it right to the teacher, saving a good 5 to 10 minutes from passing out and collecting papers.

Now this filing cabinet app, aNote, is really something else. No matter what, when kids come into class, they always have their papers; there is no possible way that they “lost” it because it’s all saved on the iPad. But that’s in the short term. Due to the small file size of every note, you never have to delete notes, or “throw out your papers / empty binders” so when a quarter comes to an end, a student does not have to be scrambling to collect their notes for tests. All they have to do is go to their classes tab and there you go, the app even has a calendar where you can see your notes. Maybe you’re a senior in Spanish level 3 and you remember that you took extremely good notes on the command form of words sophomore year, all that senior would have to do is either jump to their sophomore Spanish folder and look, or just search “command form”.

The third app I use is Pages, Apple’s word processing app. This app allows me to work on all my essays in school, so if a teacher tells us what type of header to write on our essay, I can put it in right away. If our class goes to the computer lab to work, rather than waste (and I actually timed it) 14 minutes to turn on the computer, find your essay, then start up word, I can just turn on my iPad and Pages will come up in less than 30 seconds. Also, don’t forget the fact that if all the kids had iPads, we wouldn’t need to take even more time out of class to walk to the computer labs.

The fourth app I use is called OmniFocus. Now there are a plentiful amount of planner apps out there that work just fine like iStudiez pro and iHomework, but Omnifocus beats everything by far. With Omnifocus I can create tasks, folders, projects, project start times, locations, contexts, anything. So I have a school folder, and inside that folder there are folders for every class. Then inside those are my projects, so I have a homework project, which is where I put all my regular homework, and then I have my Project projects, like for lab reports and presentations. This way, Instead of just writing down what’s due, I can make every task that I have to do to get a project done, and then order them sequentially to make sure I finish everything in a timely manner. Although this is great, a regular planner app would probably work the best for everyone, so I would suggest using iStudiez pro, because you can add semesters, partners, teacher contacts, and much more.

Finally, there are a bunch of apps that I just use every now and then, but they save my back from carrying the extra weight – for example, iBooks. Most of the books we read in class are classics that, in the iBooks store, are free. So when my teacher hands me a copy of Macbeth, I can instantly go online and download a free copy of this book, which I can read, take notes on in the app, book mark certain pages, look up a sentence or word online, or even, without any type of online service, look up a word in the dictionary. Another app I use is’s app, which gives you a 43mb full, offline dictionary and thesaurus. My calculator app is also very useful. I’m sure there are others, but everything above are the must-haves.

Prices (in addition to the iPad itself):

– UPAD = $4.99
– aNote = $4.99
– Pages = $9.99
– Calculator = FREE
– Dictionary = FREE
– iBooks = FREE
– iStudiez Pro = $2.99

Total cost = $23

Now think about all the pencils, binders, folders, papers, books, planners that people would have to buy in one year, and multiply that by the 4 years a kid is in high school. I’ve been collecting every piece of paper that my teacher gives me and bringing it home to put in a pile of papers to make a point. Without notebooks, that pile is already 8 inches tall from just my sophomore year. With 5 notebooks, that’s 11 inches tall of pure paper. If you do the math for the 1,700 kids in my school for 4 years, that’s about 1.2 miles of stacked paper!

So overall the iPad extremely convenient, not a hassle, and I actually find it humorous to watch people walk down the hallway with these huge 20-pound backpacks, when sometimes I have nothing in mine because I carry my iPad in my hand. Then when I get to my next class, there is no need for me to switch my binders, or file my papers, just sit and take off the smart case.

Category: education  

Tags: education  

Thomas J. Bittman
VP Distinguished Analyst
20 years at Gartner
31 years IT industry

Thomas Bittman is a vice president and distinguished analyst with Gartner Research. Mr. Bittman has led the industry in areas such as private cloud computing and virtualization. Mr. Bittman invented the term "real-time infrastructure," which has been adopted by major vendors and many… Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Guest Blog: A Student’s iPad Experience

  1. thanks for sharing your experience! I’m particularly interested in the apps you use, and your workflow. Nice and clear explanation.

    Two apps I can’t live without are Instapaper and Goodreader (for doc organization, syncing, and markup).

    Can your teachers keep up with your use of the iPad? What do they say? Do your friends use tablets other an the iPad? What’s their experience?


  2. Danny Bittman says:

    @David Bressler – For the most part, yes they do keep up. One major problem I run into though, is my teachers are a little bit tentative about receiving homework as emails. Even if I have the work done yet not printed, they insist I print it.

    About the friends, I have 3 friends that all have iPads, they all share the same experience that I have had. On a side note though, another one of my friends is getting the Motorola Xoom, so when he starts using that for school, I’ll be sure to note his experience!

  3. Andrew Walls says:

    Excellent view into your usage patterns! I am curious. What steps do you take to provide for backups of your iPad content? Do you synchronize using a computer or rely on a cloud service directly accessed from the iPad?

  4. John says:

    Your spot on. The iPad is a great tool, and should be used by more students. It’s easier to be organized and makes things more fun. Great blog

  5. I too generally agree that tablets are perfect for education.

    What I don’t agree with is a current notion floating around public schools to provide a iPad for every student… forcing them to use the tools and tax payers having to foot the bill.

    This mindset that iPads will solve many scholastic issues is very frustrating to listen to. And we can’t afford to be so fiscally irresponsible. I’d rather the money go to teacher salaries.

    Just to be clear, I am completely for allowing students to purchase their own iPad and use them in public schools. Public schools should allow technologies to enhance their use, such as providing eBook resources in conjunction with physical books, interactive labs that utilize tablets and touch technologies, and providing forums and knowledge bases to deeper dive into subjects that enhance curriculum.

    These type postings seem to turn up as evidence as to why government should either provide or subsidize these technologies. Also very frustrating to read to listen to.

    Key point is Danny and you should be applauded for outfitting your son with tools to enhance his education.

  6. […] Tim Bittman’s Guest Blog: A Student’s iPad Experience […]

  7. anthonythor says:

    i think it is a supplementary tool for a student.what a great deal ipad now is getting too personal lol!

  8. virtualTodd says:

    A cool glimpse of what the future could be like for students.

    Eventually the cost of getting a tablet for everybody will be less than the cost of getting physical books for everybody. That’s when schools should consider getting them for everybody, and then use the extra money left over to hire more teachers!

    It might not be that an ipad is ever going to be low cost enough to reach this point, but it will likely happen with Android based devices.

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  10. deedee says:

    I agree. Tools like iPad are very useful, simply because they are portable. There are apps on iPad store that are educational, and are also suitable for professional use.

    One great app is the ghostwriter Notes. Note-taking has never been that good if you use this app. It’s like also writing on a paper. the advantage is that you can convert your notes to PDF.

  11. Shonnayy says:

    Still like the feel of paper …

  12. Sheryl says:

    The IPAD/APP world is moving quickly, do you have an update for this article?

  13. […] begin with, I read this article by a student way back in 2011 who uses his iPad for school. He mentions ihomework and istudiezpro. Then I read this other article […]

  14. Great article. Keep writing and shower your readers with such useful information. Keep it Up!!!

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