iPad: The Students’ Perfect Machine?

Technology has always gone hand-in-hand with education, and Apple has been a fervent supporter of the role of technology in the future of education. Apple has focused very hard to make it easy for educational staff to get Macs in the classroom.

Up until recently college students partook in a common practice known as the “get a laptop and a printer before going off to school” ritual. Students would then use their laptops to take notes, write papers, create presentations, and do research on the web. Now that the iPad has gone through its third revision and has become a popular device among all age groups, students are beginning to break from the common trend and buy iPads either along with a Mac, or as their main machine.

Is the iPad ready for this task? Can a student take notes sufficiently without being limited in any way? Let’s find out!

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How It Used to Be

Let’s take a step back and look at what the average student used to do. If a student had a laptop, you’d be surprised how often they would leave it in their dorms. Many students keep their computers on their desks and just grab a plain old spiral-bound notebook to take notes in during their classes. After the day was done, some of them might type up their notes for easier legibility, but the usual case would be that their notes would stay handwritten on paper.

Here’s where some problems begin to arise. Handwriting could be difficult to recognize or a student could bring the wrong notebook to class. There isn’t a uniform note-taking system here and many students’ grades could suffer the consequences.

What Has Changed?

You can even get a white one!

This is what I have dubbed as “The iPad Complex”. The iPad is a digital sheet of paper. Students can type notes quickly and legibly with the speed and power of a word processor. Concepts such as cut, copy, paste, and delete are now available to students in a small, notebook-sized tablet. Colors become available as well as text styles such as Bold or Underline. What’s more is that there is virtually no size limit. A document could be 15 pages long and not take up a giant chunk of your notebook’s available writing capacity. Let’s also not forget the ability to search through your notes making it extremely productive to find a small bit of info in a short amount of time.

iPhones have dominated college campuses. Everywhere you look, students are playing Words with Friends or looking at FaceBook. The iPhone is the perfect companion for the iPad. Almost every popular app for the iPad has a universal counterpart on the iPhone or iPod touch. Students can sync their information between the two devices making it possible to leave your iPad at home or in your backpack and take down some quick information. This is possible through Apple’s latest grand invention – iCloud.

A succinct representation of iCloud.

Apple has hardwired the concept of cloud computing into the devices that students are buying. The idea of iCloud isn’t necessarily a hard drive online that anyone can access no matter where they are, but a seamless way to synchronize your files so that they are always at hand.

How does this concept help a student? Think of the iPad as a source of input. After a student finishes typing his or her notes, the iPad sends all of the information up to iCloud. Then, if he or she wishes to review those notes or edit them, they can simply log onto iCloud.com and download them straight to their desktop. Once done editing, the document can be re-uploaded back to iCloud and then accessed on any of their devices be it an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.

How Can This Help?

Because students no longer need to worry about carrying all of their binders and notebooks around, the idea of loosing any information is greatly minimised. Students can take down notes in class and then study on their Macs back at home. Presentations can be created on the iPad during class. Need to do some quick research for a group project? Open up Safari and copy down some information. Where might one want to copy that information down to? How about Evernote?


What is Evernote? Evernote is a cloud based service designed to easily capture information and organize it so that you can access it quickly and use it later. Whether you see an interesting tidbit of information in a book while you’re at the library, or have found the perfect link to a website filled with information for your presentation, Evernote can can capture it.

With Evernote, one can easily capture important information and sync it to all of their devices.

Evernote has a bunch of apps for all of the popular mobile and desktop platforms. Whether you have an Android-powered phone, or a MacBook, Evernote has an app designed specifically for that platform. The best part? Everything syncs.

If you take a note down in Evernote via a web browser logged into your account, that note will show up on your iPad and vice versa. Everything from pictures to audio clips sync. A really cool feature about Evernote is that when you take a snapshot and add it to your notes, their servers will automatically identify the text within that picture and make it searchable. Imagine you as a college student at the end of class trying to copy down the rest of what is on the board. With Evernote you can take a quick snapshot and let the software do the rest. Your notes will be there for you when you get back home with all of the metadata ready to be searched and indexed.


Apple’s suite of work apps makes it extremely easy to keep all of your files in sync. Documents, spreadsheets, and presentations are all handled with these three apps known as Pages, Numbers, and Keynote. What makes these apps so special is that they have mobile counterparts. These are fully fledged word processing, spreadsheet making, and presentation creation tools on both the iPad and iPhone. The best part is that they use iCloud to sync all of their documents.

Pages organizes all of you documents so that everything looks the same on all of your devices.

Pages allows you to type up reports and create posters. Whether you want to get a jump start on your paper while at a local cafe on your iPad, or if you forgot to print out your paper after a long sleepless night of writing it the day before, Pages will have it and save the day.

Numbers is available on all iOS devices, just like the rest of the iWork suite.

Numbers is an excellent way to organize all of your charts, tables, and databases. With the iPad, students can add the power of spreadsheets to their digital sheet of paper.

Keynote is perfect for those dreaded presentations!

Keynote makes creating “PowerPoints” easy and accessible. The experience of adding slides and charts to your digital “notebook” during class is a huge timesaver especially when you are working with a group.


The built-in Reminders app on the iPad and iPhone uses iCloud to sync - you'll never miss another assignment.

Both the iPad and iPhone come with a built-in Reminders app. This might seem like a simple concept but to a college student it’s a lifesaver. Jot down your homework in the Reminders app on your iPad and through iCloud they are automatically synced to your iPhone and MacBook. So whenever you need to check on what work you have to do tonight, open up Calendars and check your todos. They’ll all be right there and you’ll never miss an assignment again.


I think the iPad is ready.

College students will be pleased with the iPad. The prospect of having a digital sheet of paper is a very enticing one especially for a student. If you think about it, the ritual of getting a laptop is mainly for the same purpose – to jot down notes and do research, among a few other things of course.

Though it is possible for a student to use an iPad as their only device, it does play extremely well with the other kids. With iCloud, your iPad keeps all of your data in sync and with tools like Evernote, taking notes couldn’t be quicker or easier. The iPad for a student does very much the same as a laptop does with a smaller form factor, and an innovative interface. Be sure to leave a comment with your thoughts on the matter.

  • http://techinch.com/ Matthew Guay

    I think it’s definitely possible to use the iPad as a full computer for students, even college students in many majors. I used mine extensively in my college work. One quick tip, though: while iWork is great for making Microsoft Office compatible documents, it doesn’t make it easy to submit them to web-based homework solutions like Blackboard. For that, I used iCab Mobile. It actually lets you upload files to websites, and worked great for me. Also, using Dropbox in iWork with WebDAV (as I explain on my site – http://techinch.com/2011/02/02/integrate-dropbox-with-pages-keynote-and-numbers-on-ipad/) made it a ton easier.

  • http://cansurmeli.com [email protected]

    iOS itself has come a long way since it first started blowing our minds. Also the hardware under the 3rd iPad is marvelous. And we have bunch of apps that work in a great environment with great architecture like iCloud(also don’t forget Dropbox).

    That’s why I don’t see any reason why a student shouldn’t bring his/her iPad to the class. It makes learning much easier, much innovative and much more fun.

    They were right in Apple’s iBook Author video. Students doesn’t have to learn with the technology of the past.

    P.S. Though they might need their Macs for some special, rare occasions outside the class. Even though iPad’s are a powerhouse they lack some most needed features.

  • http://www.topschools4kids.com/blog mike

    hm…but i would say that android is not far behind iOS …

  • Matt

    As a freshman who is about to end his first year at University, I can attest to the dexterity of an iPad as a portable computer for use in school. I am rocking an iMac for all my extensive work (graphic design, coding, AutoCAD, etc), partnered with an iPad 1 for all my note taking, text book reading, etc. I can say, for me, this system works extremely well.

    While I can’t say anything for the newer two iPads, I must confess that the original iPad is just a bit slow for my tastes. However, like previous commenters, I have paired it with Dropbox and the iPad is nearly perfect for college. Whether it’s typing notes (I use my iMac’s bluetooth keyboard with my iPad when I go to class),using Penultimate to handwrite notes, browsing the web between class, or using iBooks as a textbook reader (PDF textbooks are my favorite way to go!), the iPad is indispensable. The weight alone, carrying 1 iPad with 4 textbooks and 2 required books loaded onto it is worth it for me.

    In addition to that, there are some terrific apps that pair the iPad, mac and iPhone nicely. iStudiez Pro, for example, is my go to calendar and assignment tracker. Like the article recommends, I use Reminders constantly as I tend to be the forgetful type.

    In all, I can’t really recommend an iPad as a full computer replacement for college students who need computing power at all, I can’t imagine going to class without it.

  • lucascorny

    U can do all this stuff with your notebook, dont U think?

    • Vishal

      Ofcourse, you can!

      But imagine what’s all possible with a digital tablet. You have reminders, a device that can carry 1000s of books, notes all in one place. Feeling bored? Play games, watch movies, browse web and listen music all in one small notebook sized device.

      Just imagine, students carrying a single tablet in a hand where in earlier days, we had to carry a bag load of books. This might not be an issue for regular students like us but if technology like this can reach the masses for cheaper prices (Current prices aren’t cheap IMO), school kids in rural areas can access technology like the urban kids and get all the resources in sync with their urban counterparts. Do you think a single Notebook can give video lectures to kids or teach them to write?

  • Philipp

    Not everything a company sales as their big invention and improvement of zhe world is relly invented by these compnies. Microsoft invented neither the internet nor e-mail, and Apple did not invent cloud based systems like thr icloud. Thry give it only a good integration in their devices and software, but is it. E.g. Dropbox is not that diferent to the iCloud but existed erlier. Of course it is not integrated into the system that deep, but this is because the systemit is used on is not theirs.
    The same for tablet computers. Apple did gave tablet computer a hugh push, but did they really invent them? The idea exists since several decades, but technically it was not possible to build them. Nowadays it is possible and several companies did it, but Apple did most successfully. So, Apple gave an idea a real physical substance, but I wouldnt say invented.
    I say this as an Apple fan, but also Apple fans should not only listen to Apple but open the mind and eyes for the reality and other point of views. Otherwise are the prisoners of 1984 controlled by Apple.


    yah ipads r da bestest option 4 students. and i request all 2 buy it not nothing more!