In the midst of my newfound love affair with my iPad, I’ve been doing the app shuffle. I have, of course, loaded it up with the apps essential to my research practices (Evernote, Sente, iAnnotate, Pages, etc.), appropriate music (songs from my iTunes and Pandora), travel apps (Tripit, American Airline’s app, etc.), and other travel entertainment apps (Netflix, some movies, and more). I’ve also loaded some other note taking and productivity apps to test out in the classroom and beyond. One gem that I had the pleasure of using throughout my grad class tonight was Notability.
Notability is an awesome note taking app that, in just a few hours of usage, has fundamentally changed one aspect of my teaching: student presentations. Notability lets you take notes, draw figures, insert photos and web clippings, and record audio — all from within the app. Once you’re done, you can export the notes in the format of your choosing (including options that retain the audio) to Dropbox, email, iTunes file sharing, and elsewhere. The app lets you make lists (numbered or bulleted), change the font and size of text, and indent text. You can also search within the text of a note for particular terms.
So in taking notes on and grading my students’ presentations tonight, I created a new note for each student, started recording right before they began speaking (which also gives you a clock counting up, so you know how long they spoke for), typed my comments on their presentations, and took pictures of their moments of brilliance. When I got home, I reviewed the notes for spelling errors, then emailed them to each student. So basically, what would haven taken me four apps and a camera to do with my MacBook Pro took me one app to accomplish with my iPad. That, my friends, is what I call streamlining.
For all of it’s awesomeness, however, Notability isn’t perfect. The iPad keyboard, while generally good, takes a little getting used to. This isn’t Notability’s fault, of course; but I still long for the day when I quit pressing the ‘s’ when I intend to hit ‘a’ and quit hitting return when my muscle memory makes me hit an apostrophe for a contraction.
One thing that Notability could fix is the spellchecking. I most apps, if you misspell a word that autocorrect doesn’t catch, the word gains a squiggly red underlining. For some reason, this app doesn’t tap into that feature. Second, I wish the photo insertion worked like it does in other apps. Notability only gives you the option of choosing a photo from your library/camera roll. Other apps, however, give you the option to “take a photo” or “choose from library.” Adding that choice would enhance the app and save a step in integrating photos realtime.
Despite those minor insufficiencies (things I won’t be surprised to see fixed in a future release), Notability truly is a game changer for my work and I would recommend it strongly to any teacher who assigns student presentations. Furthermore, I imagine it would be marvelous in classes (as a student), public lectures, and conference presentations where recording is allowed.** I can’t wait to use it in my undergrad class next semester.
Hope that review and info helps. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments and stay tuned for more info on how I’ve got the iPad setup for my upcoming research trip.
**NOTE: Obviously, you’d want to make sure that recording a class or presentation is allowed before you go and do it.