iAnnotate (do you?): More thoughts on iPads, apps, ebooks and education

There are a lot of apps for iPads that are useful for educational purposes, some of which I’ve already mentioned before. Dropbox lets you get your documents from other computers to your iPad in a very convenient fashion and maintaining the same system of organization that you have elsewhere. It also lets you share documents with others (e.g. what we may soon stop calling “handouts” as a result of this technology).

It is certainly true that the iPad is not strictly speaking an eBook Reader of the sort that uses e-ink. But thus far my impression is that the latter are completely useless for educational purposes.

One app in particular makes the iPad useful for students and educators: iAnnotate. It allows you to not merely read but scribble on it – or rather, to underline, highlight, and make marginal notes. Although it certainly is slightly less easy to highlight a specific section accurately than it is with a pen, you can easily erase your annotations and markings (something that cannot be done with paper). And so there are advantages, while disadvantages are minor. And being able to write notes and comments, highlight, and underline is crucial for those using iPads for educational purposes.

I’m also looking forward to trying out Inkling. At present it doesn’t integrate with Dropbox. Instead it is focused on delivering textbooks to the iPad and allowing for not only annotation but interaction. Coursesmart also delivers textbooks textbooks to the iPad, and allows for notes to be added, although in the present version once you open a note, it is impossible to close it if you change your mind. A new page also regularly takes unacceptably long to load. So there is definitely room for improvement – but also progress being made.

Other apps aimed at students include iStudiez, which is like the built-in calendar but with additional features specifically aimed at students (lists of instructors, syllabi, due dates and grades). And CourseNotes is useful for taking notes if you think you might want to go on to share them on Facebook!

Given the apps that already exist for the iPad and what they can do, I can’t see the other eBook Readers ever making it into the educational market. Those devices don’t allow easy flipping or annotation, and don’t let you take notes as well. And so when it comes to the question of new devices for educational use, the iPad wins no question.

[NOTE: This post can also be found on the Butler University iPad blog].

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  • Michael Appel

    Penultimate for hand written notes.

  • One thing I've found that the iPad is almost useless for is taking handwritten notes. Is that just because I didn't have the right app? I tried with a stylus and it still didn't come close to the sort of writing one can do with a tablet PC, for instance.