Using my iPad as a Student

I know I’ve written about my iPad before – using it to read, and using it in class – but I feel like this semester I’ve really gotten the hang of the best way for me to use it. In past semesters, I’ve just used it as a mini version of a laptop, basically – I’ve used the bluetooth keyboard case that I have and typed my notes. But I really learn best by handwriting things, not typing them. So this time around, I decided to try a different approach.

When I bought my iPad, the employee at the Apple store told me about the app Nebo. There are a ton of note-taking apps out there, but this one takes what you write by hand with the Apple Pencil and translates it into typed text that you can turn into a Word document, a PDF – whatever you want. This has been life-changing for me this semester. I’ve been able to take handwritten notes, plus draw images/figures (which I could never do when I typed my notes), and then turn them into Word documents. For me, carrying around an iPad is so much easier than a notebook – it gets heavy for me really quickly, and having to flip it over to turn the pages is a struggle for me, especially to do quickly enough to keep up with note-taking. I’m only taking one class this semester, but the app lets you create multiple digital notebooks, so you can create a separate one for each class and keep things separate and organized.

I’m really impressed with the app’s ability to “read” the Pencil notes, too. I don’t always have the neatest handwriting, especially when I’m writing quickly and my hands can get tired. The app hasn’t had any issues deciphering my writing. There’s a bit of a learning curve to figure out the different styles in the app – headings, bold, bullets, etc. – but they are fairly straightforward, and they give you a tutorial of sorts to walk through when you start using the app, and you can go back and reference that whenever you want.

I can really tell a difference between notes that I type, and notes that I write by hand (even digitally “write”) – I’m just more engaged and more likely to remember things that I actually write down. Maybe it’s because I grew up taking handwritten notes (I didn’t have a laptop until I went to college), but it’s definitely my learning style.

Since this class is open book/open note, I’ve been able to create a master outline/study guide, combing the notes I take during class and convert to a Word document, and the notes from the Powerpoint slides that the professors post. It’s been a huge time saver – in the past, I’d have to create my master outline from scratch. I wish I had been using this for more of my graduate school career, but I’m glad I have my method down now.

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