Wednesday, 20 June 2012

List and evaluation of iPad apps for higher ed

We have started an iPad interest group at work and my colleague, Lisa, has been looking into at some iPad apps. Here is Lisa’s post on using the iPad and list of useful apps. Thanks Lisa for letting me share this on my blog.

"This was the first time I had used an iPad (although I have since bought one). I found the interface very easy to use and generally intuitive. iPads should be able to replace textbooks and other digital media currently used by students, especially as universities could publish material into e.g. iTunesU.

As I was a complete iPad novice, I found most of these apps by looking in the app store, by asking colleagues, by doing internet searches for journal articles and web pages on ‘apps for tertiary education’.
All of the apps can be used by staff or students except those marked otherwise.

This gives ability to share files across multiple devices. Users copy a file to this and it can then be downloaded to their other devices, e.g., iPod, Windows and Linux computers. This is useful to transfer files (e.g. lecture notes) from iPad to home computer and vice versa. It also acts as an online backup mechanism in its own right, as well as enabling the user to save multiple copies of their files on multiple devices. Some online reviews criticize it for not dealing well with multiple file versions, but as a file distribution mechanism it would be very useful for students.
One of my favourite apps! I integrated my Twitter and Facebook account into this and use it almost every day (It is loaded on my own iPad now).  What I found useful about this was the ability to choose content streams (e.g. Technology, Entertainment). It would be useful for all students as it can cover all topics depending on the streams chosen (e.g. Politics, Media, Technology, Science, History students…)
This includes free and purchased ebooks and chapters, and as far as I could see it only works with ebooks from the Inkling store. There is a chapter display on-screen which allows quick movement between chapters. Multimedia items can be included in the ebooks. It gives the user the ability to annotate the ebooks, which would be useful for students to combine short lecture notes with the printed text-book. A useful option is that for chargeable books they can be purchased chapter by chapter. There is also the ability to work collaboratively with other people using the ebook. The text is also searchable, in common with most other ebook apps. They are also accessible to students using screen readers.

Ebook reader app. In order to use this you need to register with Amazon. Although I didn’t buy any books, my colleagues tell me that books are sometimes more expensive than the print editions, and that prices from the Australian online store are often higher than for the equivalent books in the US store. I could not sort the books into groups (this is possible on Pdf-notes). Users can email documents to the Kindle email address (assigned when user first signs up).

Paperport Notes
Free note-taking app which allows typing, writing or drawing with fingers, highlighting text (typed and written).  It also has a speech feature (useful to record lectures). Tests showed that it worked up to 8 metres but could be further (or less depending on level of background noise). Clarity and word recognition very good for dictation into iPad – could be used for students dictating notes.
Organisation of notes a bit confusing  - can’t categorise notes - but does integrate with Dropbox.
Similar to Paperport Notes but can categorise items and create new categories. I found it more difficult to use – toolbar kept disappearing!
Ebook search
Searches free and chargeable ebooks which can then be downloaded.
Free ebooks include those from Project Gutenberg (public domain originals), Feedbooks (classics and modern), Baen Books (sci-fi and fantasy), Smashwords (independent authors) and the Internet Archive.

Popplet Lite
This is a brainstorming / mind-mapping tool. It allows the user to create rounded boxes containing typed text, photos, and to write in the boxes using their fingers on the screen. The boxes can be different colours, and are linked by swiping from one box to another.
I found it was a bit slow to use and thus constructing the boxes and contents interrupted the flow of ideas when I was ‘mind-mapping’ during the trial.  I’m sure the process would speed up once I was more familiar with the software.
Could be very useful for students to construct revision mind-maps, but size of screen limits the size of the map.

Note-taking app. Can put speech recordings, take photos, add photos and type into this.  Can also use it to store clippings of webpages (text and photos).  When using this you can search for text within images. Documents are searchable, including handwritten notes (as they are an image?). Students could record lectures using this. Users can import documents into this app, but when I imported a Word document it could not be edited, only read. This could still be useful for student importing lecture notes, etc. Staff could use it for creating staff handouts, etc.

Skitch from Evernote
This app uses annotations, and sketches using different colours and adds arrows to page. These can be used for note-taking and collaboration on projects. Users can take screenshots, take photos with iPad, use existing photos, annotate maps from Google Maps, and then email them, Tweet them or save to iPad camera roll or Evernote
eBook reader which automatically syncs across devices – could be useful for students who could synch with iPad and home computer(s). Compatible with Facebook timeline so students can share the details of what they are reading and see what other friends are reading. Can access non-Kobo ebooks using this app. Allows multiple font sizes, so useful for those with reading difficulties.

App which costs $9.99 but is similar to a word processor rather than an ebook reader. The user can add designs,  diagrams, photos. Formatting is easy by using the Info button. Can use older formats of ebooks, and convert old formats to new using this.

Reference manager which would be useful for students. Allows finger writing, stamps, underlining and colour use to highlight text. Can also be used to import PDFs from other applications (website states EndNote, Zotero and Papers).


This costs USD 10.49. This is a PDF annotating tool. It allows highlighting of text using ‘highlighter pens’ selected from a palate. It is possible to search annotations, show  thumbnails and bookmarks.
It has tabs which allow several books to be open at the same time. These are also remembered when the app is next opened. There are multiple tools - pen, highlighter, typewriter, stamps, notes, straight line, underline, strikethrough, photos, voice recording, and date stamp.

This is very useful for students, as they can search for free lessons uploaded from multiple universities, including some well-known ones (e.g. Ashridge Business School,  Harvard University,  Cambridge University, George Washington University, Baylor University, and Australian universities such as Australian National University, Griffith University and Curtin University). Students could study these courses as a complement to their studies.

This can be used to take a photo of a page of textbook or notes, and it then allows the user to enhance the image. These can be grouped into documents, or pages inserted into an existing document. This could be useful for both students and staff in preparation of notes. It would be better if it allowed text recognition.
This app allows students to enter their classes, times of class, and work assignments as well as their due dates. Academics could also use it to keep track of assignments they set, but it is mainly for students.

This app is similar to PowerPoint, and users can add photos, various shapes (e.g. speech bubbles, and arrows) to their slides for presentations using their iPad. Staff could use it for presentations in the same manner.

Teacher’s Pick
Only for staff.
This allows staff to create classes, and to add students names to these classes. It keeps track of who within a class are asked questions. There is an ability to note those students who have already been chosen, and either exclude them from the random name generation or include them. Staff can also mark absent students so they are not chosen. There is also the ability to group students and choose an equal number of students from each group, delete students and copy a completed class.
Google Forms
This allows creation of forms which can be used by staff for student assessments in class (e.g. students complete the forms, or staff  use them while checking students work as a checklist. They could also be used by students if they were doing surveys, etc. There is an ability to create questions with text boxes, paragraph boxes, scales, checklists, and multiple choice questions."

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