iPad vs computer and keeping track of information and sources

I used this course as a test to see if I needed to buy a laptop or if I could work using an iPad.  I bought an iPad years ago with this in mind, but never really needed to at BSGE because I had access to a desktop Mac that I could use for 99% of what I needed a computer for at work.  I ended up often being unable to use the iPad to connect to LCD projectors, but I just borrowed a school laptop and moved on.

For this course, I borrowed a bluetooth keyboard for iPads, downloaded the microsoft word app (I still like word better than google docs for formatting - yes, I am An Old™), connected everything to Dropbox, made sure I had a stylus to write with for the Notability app, and headed out.

This all worked beautifully for 98% of what I needed to do.  I was perfectly able to type on the small keyboard, format my paper appropriately, annotate and organize my digital sources.  My major frustration was the inability to open two apps or two files at the same time on the iPad - I couldn't look at my digital annotations or highlights of articles at the same time as the paper in word; I couldn't look at my outline or typed notes and the paper at the same time.  I used some work arounds for this:

  • In Notability, you can circle part of a document and copy it as an image.  So I would circle parts of articles and insert them into the word document I was writing in so that I could see both at the same time.  (I deleted the images when they were no longer necessary.)
  • Once I discovered there was free printing, I printed a few pages of documents so that I could see them while I was typing
  • I would open some documents on my phone while I was typing on the iPad

In the end, I used the iPad for most of the writing of my final paper and for making daily preparation notes on each day's reading.  I ended up going to the computer lab and using their computers to finish the final formatting (changing the font for footnotes and page numbers is a pain on the word iPad app), and to access some specialized information databases in the Bodleian libraries.  Because I was using the iPad, I was unable to experiment with browser extensions like Zotero for source and bibliography support.  So I had to rely on my memory for this.  For a single course and a single paper, this was fine.