Month: January 2016

Lecture Notes on iPad

The biggest thing I wanted to change this year was the way I took notes in lectures – something I’ve talked about a lot on this blog.

Today I just want to go a bit more in depth about it (don’t worry, it’s the last time!) and talk about how easy (or not so easy) it is.

First and foremost, it’s amazing how easy it is to get to grips with the large on screen keyboard of the iPad. It sort of becomes natural to type on when you get used to it.  I’ve owned several iterations of the iPad myself but never typed extensively on them, but typing on it is relatively painless and I find myself using the ‘touch keyboard’ A LOT to select text, indent a selection of text, create lists etc.

The real problem is really how quick it is. In a lecture, it’s really easy to get left behind while the lecturer is moving forward with his talk because you’re not striking real keys, rather a flat bit of glass, so I found myself typing slower than I would like. Often at times I would miss the lectures talk because the iPad constantly auto corrects you changes words. Also, sometimes the keyboard accidentally activates its touch keyboard mode and selects text, which then gets deleted when I start typing again. Luckily there are undo buttons in apps, but in the time I’ve made these mistakes, I’ve also missed a few minutes of the lecturers talk – which might not seem like much but it is a lot when you’re trying to understand Java!

Talking about Java though, I noticed that it’s quite challenging to type code in my notes. The special characters are not easy to type as you have keep changing the view of the keyboard from letters to symbols – which is understandable, given the fact you can only see so much on screen as one time. It also likes to correct any code I type into other “proper” words and changes the formatting of some code. It’s definitely not designed to take programming notes but it can be done.

If you overlook these small problems, I found the iPad to be a solid device for taking notes on and I am happy to report that a notepad has not been seen in my bag at all. It’s SUPER easy to get to my notes on and download them to my USB.

My preferred app for taking notes is Pages because it’s integrated with the iPad and iCloud (being an Apple made app) and is also clean and easy to use. I have seen other students using the built in Notes app, which is great. Another student uses the Notability app and they said they liked the larger text area and the amount of features it has.

At the top of my lecture notes, I like to write the name of the module, followed by the lecture number. It can be very long to keep typing “Object Oriented Programming 2” every time, so I have set up some keyboard short cuts to help me with them 😉


So now I can type “OOP2”, and it will expand automatically!

A small number of students are still lagging behind on pen and paper and an even smaller number are carrying laptops for notes + following slides. However there so are many brave students that are taking notes, following the slides & interacting with the lecture on the iPads.

In the next post, I will be talking about textbooks on iPad 🙂


Start of semester 2 – My Thoughts

Although its still the first week back, I think I can talk a bit about how semester 2 has started.

Firstly, tutors seem more relaxed with the idea of having iPads in the classroom – and thats GREAT.

2 of my lecturers have already emphasised that we should bring the iPads to every lecture as they hope to incorporate apps to help us follow the slides. One lecturer used a service called “Zeetings” to broadcast his slide show with some interactive questions in between.

Broadcasting slides is something other lecturers have done using NearPod, but I like how this lecturer has introduced a new app. We were able to run it all through Safari which was good because we didn’t have to install something new. Having slides right in front of you is handy if you’re sat at the back or can’t see the text at the bottom of the screen. I did notice, however, that you couldn’t go back to the previous slide when the lecturer has gone to the next slide, which is a minor annoyance.

Nevertheless, he went as far as saying that laptops create a sort of barrier between students the lecturer, and iPads are great because they lie flatter on the desks, which I agree with.


Digital Ambassadors can be located by these tags at the Digifest

Secondly, the Digifest has been off to a great start with many students interested in learning new things about the iPads. They didn’t know just how much power they are carrying around and its nice to be able to pass on some knowledge.

Students found the split keyboard, touch keyboard and slide over very useful features of the iPad and they said they could see them using those features on a regular basis.

There’s still 11 weeks to go, and I am confident tutors and lecturers will come out of their comfort zone and incorporate iPads a lot more!


Tip: Split Keyboard

The iPad Air has many specific features that take advantage of the device’s large display.

A great feature on the iPad is the ‘split keyboard’ which allows you to separate the onscreen keyboard into two halves, allowing for easier typing with your thumbs.

This feature is on by default in Settings, General, Keyboard, Split Keyboard.

When you’re using the keyboard, in the lower right hand corner you will notice a keyboard icon – officially called the “Keyboard Key”. If you tap it once, it will hide the keyboard. If you tap and hold on it however, you will see the following menu pop-up:


Slide your finger up to ‘split’, and your keyboard will raise up and split in half – for easy thumb typing in portrait (can also be done in landscape)!

To get back to normal, simply tap and hold that key and tap ‘dock and merge’.

You can also drag the keyboard up and down the screen by holding the key down and sliding your finger up and down.

Give it a try and tell me what you think.


App: Learn to code in Swift with ‘Swifty’

During the week, I came across a very interesting app on the App Store called “Swifty“. It’s a great app for computer science students wanting to making apps for iOS.

It trains you in the Swift 2 programming language, which was first released by Apple in 2014. Its a language you can use to make apps – instead of Objective C that was previously favoured.

If you are familiar with Java, C++, C# and the rest, you’ll be able to pick up Swift VERY easily. It covers everything – from basics to closures. I will able to download it and grasp it within minutes. Each section has a tutorial, that you can interact with, and then after each section there is a short quiz.

You can learn through the 3 free chapters, and then unlock the rest with a single in app purchase. It costs only £2.29 to unlock them all, and I recommend you do it because its really easy to zip through the tutorials! £2.29 is nothing compared to how much you can make when you start selling your apps! 🙂


Search for Swifty on the App Store, give it a download, and check it out!


Writing Coursework on iPad: Can you do it?

When I received the iPad, one of the questions that popped up in my head was “Can I do coursework on this?”

By coursework, I mean write ups, not programming or anything extreme.

Word for iPad is preinstalled on the FST iPads

Towards the end of the first semester, we were given a coursework which involved filling out a template (Professional Practice, CW2) and I thought I would try to do it on the iPad. It sounded easier than it was. I was able to open the doc right from the iPad on Safari, and then ‘copy’ it to Word.


 It turned out okay, but some of the formatting was lost and it was difficult to keep up with the template. I didn’t want to risk messing up the template and getting a low grade 😛

I eventually scrapped this idea, and completed the coursework on a traditional PC instead. 

For another module, we had to do a write up about a website we had created. It had to be a page long maximum and this was easy as I could simply start the writing on the iPad straight away. So I got into Word for iPad, and starting typing.

The experience of typing on iPad is strange, as you’re basically striking a flat pane of glass and it takes some time to get used to. I also noticed that I made quite a few typing errors on the iPad – more than I would make on a physical keyboard, but there was no lag in the keyboard which was good.


My Apple Wireless Keyboard connected to the iPad over bluetooth. Virtually no lag between key strokes.

I actually hooked up my Apple Wireless Keyboard to the iPad (via bluetooth), to give that a try and it was much better to type on. You can even use normal keyboard shortcuts! If in doubt of the shortcuts, you can invoke a pop-up of available shortcuts by holding down the Command key. Using the physical keyboard made the iPad less mobile, and I can’t see myself carrying a physical keyboard around with it. To me, it defeats the purpose of becoming lightweight and I might as well carry my laptop instead. I am aware of keyboard cases, but then you sacrifice thinness and portability again!

Back to just using the onscreen keyboard:

Despite the minor drawbacks, I managed to do it! At the end of it, I simply opened OneDrive on my PC, downloaded the file and did a quick spell check, and then uploaded it to blackboard.

The advantage of this was that I could do coursework (as boring as it sounds) on the iPad from anywhere – such as the tube, where journeys can seem long. Sometimes you don’t feel like sitting at a computer or having a laptop out and this was an easy way to complete my work while doing other things. Ultimately, you can’t leave a normal computer out of the equation, because you need a way of uploading to blackboard, and that’s something only a PC lets you do.

To summarise, yes you can do some coursework on the iPad, but it will take time to get used to it. Using the physical keyboard was good for when you’re not going to move around or have a desk to sit at. The layout of Word for iPad is heavily optimised for a touch screen so you might find some power features missing too. It’s great for getting started on work, not doing it completely on iPad Air. That’s probably where iPad Pro excels.


Tip: Get at something in your inbox before sending an email

If you’ve ever started to type an email on you iPad and then suddenly remember that there is a message in your inbox that you want to take a look at, to get some more information, you can do that using the following tip and you won’t lose sight of your email in progress.

To get started, tap and hold on the top of the new mail message (or email reply) where the email subject sits, then drag it all the way down to the bottom of the iPad screen. As you do this you’ll notice the Mail app Inbox becomes visible


The email has been minimised to the bottom of the screen

While the message has been minimised, you can get at your other emails, copy some text and paste it in to your new email.

When you wish to open and return to the minimized email message, simply tap on the minimized email subject header at the bottom of the Mail app to maximize and re-open the email

This is very useful when you want to email a lecturer and need to quote some text from a previous email!