iPad Mini vs Pen and Paper / Note Taking

Pen & Paper has forever been the norm of note taking throughout the ages. For a long time, pen to paper was the sure fire way of taking a note down, of writing something or just general being able to make a mark on some form of paper. 

As the years progress and technology is slowly taking over every aspect of our lives in some way or another, I share with you, the students, the iPad Mini for note taking whilst in lectures – or wherever else you may be. 

When I first started my course back in September 2014 I entered my lecture armed with all the stationary I could possibly need, like a young child at high school armed with the entireity of W H Smith in their backpacks. 

I went in with notepads and different pens and highlighters. Anything I believed would help me take notes and make them more appealing to read actually after taking notes during lectures. Up until Christmas, this was fine. Sometimes I fell behind whilst note taking and would miss something out and due to rush, notes would be messy. Therefore, I got to Christmas 2015 and thought to myself: “I’m not in my overdraft yet, I’ve done well with my finances, I’m going to treat myself… with my overdraft”. With that in mind I marched into my local Apple Store and brought an iPad Mini 2. Did I ever look back? No. I’ll tell you why.

Pen and paper was good, but like I said, it had it’s faults. Then came my iPad and the apps I could use.

As with most universities, we have something called ‘Blackboard’ – where lecture content gets posted as well as everything else. I could download the app to my iPad and have it handy in lectures when we started discussing content that was on it. Making it easy and accessible instead of straining my eyes trying to read specific sections our lecturer was talking about. Then, I downloaded Microsoft Word. This was the best app I’ve used for note taking. Every lecture I am able to open up word and type away, and fast. I’m a fast typer as it is, so I always able to make more notes and in more detail because it was so easy to type. Also, with Microsoft Word on the iPad (iPhone), you can connect it to your Dropbox account – therefore, when saving my notes for the day, I’d save them straight to Dropbox meaning I could access them on my laptop at the end of the day if I needed to work from there. I’d set up a folder called ‘First Year’ and then within that ‘Personal Work’ and ‘Group Work’. Meaning I could share work easily with the people in my group – again they can access it on all devices they own. Making it easy to share and access work we’d done together. At the same time I had the ‘Dropbox’ app on my iPad, meaning I could access the application from lectures, add people to folders and much more. Making life 10x easier than it was with pen and paper – I didn’t have to let people borrow my notes so they could copy them up. Finally, I use an app called ‘RefME’. A handy little app that allows you to set up projects, choose your referencing style and then it helps you reference web articles/pages, books and much, much more. This made assignment writing so much easier because it did it all for me. All in all, with the iPad I had a useful little package of useful apps and tools that I could use in lectures daily. The best part is, all of these apps are free! Apart from Blackboard but one payment means I can use it accross all devices. 

Now, as of the recent iOS9 update on iPhone and iPad – they’ve upgraded the ‘Notes’ app that comes with the devices. You can now draw, add pictures and type as before. However, this is really helpful during lectures because with doing Drama in The Community like me, I can draw up staging designs and what not on my iPad – again, a useful tool all around and free! Students like free things, let’s be honest.

Of course, not everybody can afford an iPad but if you can, it’s worth it. My iPad is purely one that works with Wifi, I didn’t pay for the more expensive one to use my ‘3’ network on it, I didn’t see the point. It does what I need it to do and that’s all that matters. 

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not just about the apps and what not. It’s easier to carry around and have wherever. With pen and paper, I feel I need a flat surface to work which is best for neat notes. Having to balance a notepad on my lap and attempt to take notes makes them messy. With an iPad you can buy a handy little case for it with a stand and then in lectures, no more messy notes. You can have it balanced on your lap and it’s so much easier. 

I swear at this point I am not trying to do advertising for Apple. Purely showing how much their device has helped me along in lectures.

Of course, as with pen and paper, the iPad does have some downsides. Mainly the fact (which is my own fault) sometimes I forget to charge it and then it may die during a lecture and I’m left with going back to pen and paper. Other days I may forget to put it in my bag. Yes, it costs a lot of money (for what a lot of people would consider a lot of money) and it is vulnerable to damange if you drop it and crack the screen – resulting in more money being spent. 

Amongst all of this, there is even more apps. Such as my student email (Outlook) which I can have set up being able to send emails to lecturers and fellow students – if they don’t have Dropbox – and it’s easier to contact them that way. As well as countless others, all which aid me during lectures.

As of recent, I’ve read that a lot of students don’t see the point in taking notes during lectures because they can easily get the content that their lecturers post elsewhere. That’s all good and well but that’s not your notes – so if you didn’t understand something how they said it, you aren’t going to get much from their content. Writing notes helps put it into a way you understand – be that pen and paper. If you are afraid of pen and paper, get an iPad.

Unfortunately, for the majority, technology is something we all use and need on a daily basis whilst studying at university. It can be costly but it’s helpful.

A lot of the apps I have mentioned can be accessed on my iPhone, such as Blackboard, Word, Dropbox, E-Mail and more. Now you’re questioning why I’ve got an iPad? Because 1. Lecturers don’t think I’m just messing around on my phone and 2. The iPad has a bigger screen making it easier to note take during lectures.

Don’t get me wrong, I still use pen and paper now and again because as I stated at the beginning, it’s something that’s always been used and if it’s just a quick few notes, it’s easier to get out a pen and paper rather than getting my iPad out, unlocking it, opening the app and what not. I also still write notes up after lectures using my iPad so they are in my writing and out on paper so I can understand what I’m writing and get it planted in my head! If that makes sense?

A lot of people still use pen and paper or even laptops and other devices but at the end of the day, for note taking, I don’t think you can go wrong with an iPad Mini.

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George Burton

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