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.