Using the iPad in your Academic Workflow: Best iPad Productivity Tools for your Classroom Practices

15 Jun 2017 1:15 PM | Anonymous
Using The iPad In Your Academic Workflow:
Best iPad Productivity Tools For Your Classroom Practices

David Berg, Ph.D.
Community College Of Philadelphia

This document is based on workshops I presented at 35th Annual National Institute on the Teaching of Psychology.

Introduction To “Using The iPad In Your Academic Workflow”
In the academic world, our workflow involves a number of different elements which may include planning and scheduling, project management, reading and writing, information management (gathering, sorting, storing), collaboration (students, colleagues, department, college, and organizations), participation in meetings and committees, and interfacing with cyberspace (email and web). We could add many more things to the list, however it’s best to emphasize that workflow for the iPad looks like old S→P→O Psychology. The workflow starts with the INPUT (stimulus) into the iPad from either your computer (via iTunes sync), from the cloud (via DropBox or WiFi), or from your thoughts and ideas. The workflow ends with the OUTPUT back to your computer, to the cloud, to a projector, or perhaps to a printer. OUTPUT can take many forms: written and marked-up documents, media (audio/video/artistic/photos), presentation materials, podcasts, collaborative documents, and so on. What goes on in the middle is the PROCESSING which entails the use of many interconnected tools or apps on the iPad itself -- the majority of this essay focuses on the Process.

iPad In The Classroom
Over the past two years or so, more and more faculty have been making use of the iPad as the “tool of choice” in their academic lives. As the iPad (and iOS) have matured, we’ve seen greater numbers adapting the device for their personal use. What about the iPad in the classroom? Beyond some simple usage, most faculty have not tapped the full potential of the iPad—still relying on laptops, smart carts, and the classroom smart podium (nice if your classroom has one). My favorite classroom is currently outfitted with 1976-era technology: a 27” wall-mounted monitor with attached VHS/DVD player (that works most of the time). Schlepping the smart cart from A/V services around the campus is a Herculean chore not for the faint of heart; getting all of the parts working and set up for class...well...resistance is futile!

So I made an executive decision. Though on a shoe string budget, I decided that I would not upgrade my old laptop but invest in the new tablet technology instead, and adapt it to both my classroom needs and my academic workflow. Mind you, I have a decent up-to-date desktop computer that provides a way around some of the content creation issues that come up regarding the use of tablet computing.

The next section is aimed at the professional user who wants to make the most out of using the iPad in the classroom. It does not cover classes in colleges that give everyone an iPad (we should only be so lucky), but rather how to make use of the iPad as your go-to-technology.

The four biggest issues usually raised when we discuss using the iPad are: Content Creation vs. Consumption, Laptop vs. iPad, Device Integration, and College vs. High School teaching. When the original iPad was first released, it really functioned as a superb consumption device—great for personal use but lacking in many ways to create content. Times have changed! You can create to your heart’s content albeit with some limitations in a few areas; however, there isn’t much that you can’t do. Probably (for academics) the most serious limitations are in creating major presentations (PowerPoint and Keynote), developing large media projects, and other areas such as business applications (large excel spreadsheets and such). You can do these things, but not with the same ease as on a laptop or desktop computer.

Of course this brings us to the next issue of Laptop vs. iPad. The iPad excels as a portable device whether at college, in the classroom, at home, or for travel. In a classroom, the iPad can be connected to any monitor or projector with ease, and further it can be used as a whiteboard making for an interactive class. The laptop may be preferential in terms of data management, content creation of presentations and media, or for research and data. If you need to make a decision, think in terms of what your needs are rather than in terms of what device to buy. I have a wonderful desktop machine so I have given up my old laptop in favor of my iPad; when I retire, I will give up the desktop machine. If you do not have access to a good working computer, you might think about updating.

Once these first two issues get sorted out, you can then consider the third, Device Integration. NOT A PROBLEM. When the iPad first appeared, about the only way to get information in and out was through iTunes sync. Now, with the proliferation of cloud computing, the issue is no longer a difficulty. I prefer to connect my iPad to my computer every few days and use the sync apps-file sharing method in iTunes. However, many people prefer to use DropBox as their primary means of transferring information between their iPad and their Mac or PC. For specific types of documents, both Google and Microsoft have also introduced their own versions of the cloud for document syncing and collaboration.

Finally, high school Psychology teachers may have other responsibilities that college instructors don’t have to deal with, such as interfacing with an administrative network, putting together course lessons for five day/week classes, and making lesson plans available to supervisors. There are now a number of apps to facilitate these functions.

Fair Use Guidelines & Copyright Issues
We need to exercise great caution in what we download, copy, and/or display. Distribution of copyrighted materials is a serious issue but simply displaying the material may not be. There are strict copyright guidelines regarding such matters. Understanding the fair use guidelines and the exceptions is very important. My experience has been that an email asking permission is easily obtained and avoids many hassles. For an overall view, the Center For Social Media has provided a “best practices” paper dealing with copyright and provides a FAQs review (

Some accessories are a must to make full use of the iPad. Choose among the categories based upon personal look, feel, and expense. Try before you buy is always best, so speak to other colleagues and friends to determine what works best for you. If you live near an Apple store or BestBuy then go play. If you cannot, then four reliable online sources for accessories are,,, and Must have accessories include:   

  • Bluetooth Keyboard (stand-alone or in a folio case, approximately $50)
  • Folio style case or iPad cover (approximately $35)
  • Stylus (approximately $20) and Screen Cleaner (approximately $10)
  • Auxiliary speakers & headphone (range in price from $5 to $200)
  • Extra charger for office or auto (approximately $20)       

There are a few excellent websites that will be helpful for both workflow and classroom teaching with the iPad.

What Do You Want To Do?
Probably the biggest question is “What do you actually want to do with your iPad?” This needs to be well thought out because it will entail investments of time, training, and some cash (for apps and accessories). I have arbitrarily divided the use of the iPad in both the workflow and the classroom into a number areas. These overlap and are by no means exhaustive. I’ve also listed apps that are highly rated in each category; some are free and others not. Check them out at the iTunes Store online or the App Store app on the iPad. Download the freebees and play. For those that cost, read the reviews and click the “most critical” in the reviews link before buying.

The Workflow and Classroom Categories & Specific Apps
Beginning and Ending the Workflow: Input and Output

Getting your documents into the iPad is a fairly straightforward procedure called syncing.

The two most popular and efficient ways are through iTunes sync and DropBox. Simply drag a file to DropBox on your computer (PC/Mac), and it will show up on your iPad (assuming that both are in the same wifi network). Once you have the document on the iPad, use the “open in” command to move the file to the appropriate app. Reversing this process moves the document back to your computer.

iTunes sync occurs when you attach your iPad to the computer. There is a window in iTunes that contains all of the apps that share your documents. Simply add your document into this window, and it will sync to your iPad. The reverse process updates the document which can then be saved.

The advantage of DropBox is that you don’t have to attach the iPad to the computer; further, you can set up folders to share with other people over any network. iTunes sync’s advantage is better organization and control of your documents. I prefer iTunes sync.

Output from the iPad is pretty much the reverse of the processes listed. In addition, we can add email and printing as output methods. While I list presentation and communication apps later, printing is a special case, because it can take several steps to print. Some apps are AIRPRINT enabled meaning that they will, without any extra steps, print to an AIRPRINT ENABLED PRINTER. All of the major manufactures make them so if you are purchasing a new printer, look this up in the specs. For those of us who do not need a new printer, several apps are available in the iTunes store that will enable you to use a printer in the same wifi network. Choose apps that have two versions: a lite (free and trial) as well as a paid version. Download the lite and give it a try. If it works, then purchase the full paid version. Loading the app onto the iPad, and the computer version on to your Mac or PC will enable you to print wirelessly over your network. There are several choices: I have used PrintCentral from Eurosmartz ($10) since the iPad came out (it was one of the first apps) and it works just fine for me.

Project and Task Management
This category includes apps useful for project and event planning. The particularly popular apps are those that use the built-in Calendar and Reminders; those of you who use Google’s apps may want to integrate the Google Calendar into your iPad use. Additionally for those who really like to have more control, there are numbers of To-Do apps (e.g., Wunderlist, which is free, and ToDo, which costs $5). If you want to do graphic layouts of projects, Popplet and Corkulous are quite good. For special presentations and projects, Exhibit A ($10) is worth investigating. (Costs of the apps below are listed with the app; free apps are denoted by “F”)

Project and Task Management Apps
  • Calendar (F)   
  • Corkulous (F + $5)   
  • Popplet Lite (F)  
  • ToDo ($5)  
  • Wunderlist (F)    

Writing and Collaboration And Communication Tools and Apps
These apps include writing and note taking apps, grading papers, email, Skype, Google docs, Dropbox, Podcast and Screencast production, internet.

Apps to Substitute for MS Office and Note Taking
  • CloudOn (F)
  • DocsToGo ($10)
  • Google Docs (F)
  • Notability ($1)
  • Pages ($10)
  • Penultimate ($1)
  • Smart Office ($5)
  • SoundNote ($5)
Good Utilitarian Browsers
  • Chrome (F)
  • Life Browser ($1)
  • Safari (F)

Browsers That Play Flash
  • Photon ($5)
  • Puffin (F)
  • SkyFire ($3)

Utility Apps for Recording, Communications, Bar Code Reading
  • Dictate (F)
  • Display Recorder ($10) 
  • FaceTime (F)
  • i-nigma (F) (QR codes)
  • Skype (F)    
  • Twitter (F)       

Utilities for Printing                 
  • PrintCentral ($10)  
Utilities for Displaying
  • Reflector ($15)    
  • Splashtop ($2)

Finding WiFi
  • Wi-Fi Finder (F)

Information Management
These apps include textbooks, readers, database for information materials, lecture note replacement, and pdf readers/annotators.

Apps for information storage -- A personal file cabinet
  • DropBox (F)     
  • EverNote (basic app is free, there is also a premium version for $5/month)
  • Exhibit A ($10)
  • GoodReader ($5)   
  • Google Drive (F)           

WebPage Storage Apps (Read webpages offline without an internet connection)
  • Instapaper ($4)
  • JotNot ($2)
  • Offline Pages ($5)
  • Pocket (F)
  • Safari (F)

Research and Reading and Reference
  • APA Journals (F) (priced by subscription)
  • CourseSmart (F) (books – prices vary)
  • Inkling (F) (books – prices vary)
  • Mendeley Lite (F)   
  • Wolfram Alpha ($5)

PDF annotation, Pdf readers, Book Readers
  • iAnnotate ($10)
  • iBooks (F)
  • Kindle (F)      
  • neu.Annotate+ ($2)
  • Nook (F)

Apps to use for Presentations, Whiteboard, Digital Jukebox, Survey and Polls (without clickers).  For a digital jukebox use GoodReader, Keynote, or any app that will play PowerPoint Slides
  • GoodReader ($5)
  • Keynote (F$10)
  • Lecture Tools (F)
  • Poll Everywhere (F+)
  • SlideShark (F)

Classroom Management
This category includes apps that are used for organizing the class such as calendars, grade books and attendance (roll book). If working with these types of apps feels cumbersome, then setting up a spreadsheet grade book on your computer and transferring it to the iPad may be a good choice. (I personally use the spreadsheet methods but some faculty like an all-in-one app.)
  • Calendar (F)
  • Google Calendar (F)
  • Numbers ($10) (an office spreadsheet)
  • Reminders (F)
  • ToDo ($5)
  • Wunderlist (F)

The following are specific apps to organize classrooms, attendance, and gradebooks.
  • Class Organizer Complete ($5; for students)
  • GradeBook Pro ($10)
  • InClass (F; for students)
  • TeacherKit (F)
  • Teacher’s Aide (F)

Demonstration Apps
This category includes specific psychology-related demonstration apps. These vary from those that can be used as “labs,” class A/V displays, digital jukeboxes (brain and body), and informational for both the professor and students. The list is by no means exhaustive.

General Psychology Information Apps
  • Psych Drugs (F)
  • PsychExplorer (F)
  • PsychGuide (F)
  • PsychTerms (F)
  • PsycTest Hero ($4)
  • Psychology Latest (F)

Lab Demos
  • Cardiograph ($2)  
  • PAR CRR ($4)
  • Puffin (APA OPL) (F)
  • Stroop Effect (F)   
  • TouchReflex (F)

Anatomy & Physiology
  • 3D Brain (F)
  • Brain Tutor (F)
  • Cardiograph ($2)
  • EyesandEars ($1)
  • Grays Anatomy ($1)
  • iMuscle ($2)

Sensation & Perception             
  • 3D illusions (F)
  • Eye Illusions ($2)
  • EyeTricks ($1)

Audio/Visual Informational Resources
  • iTunes U (F)    
  • Podcasts (F)   
  • SoundBox ($1)

DIY Presentations
  • Educreations (F)
  • Explain Everything ($3)

Video Presentations
  • Apple Video (F)
  • NetFlix ($8 monthly subscription for streaming)
  • YouTube(F)

Social Media
  • FaceBook (F)
  • Twitter(F)

You can find a digital version of this document with LIVE internet links (where applicable) on my college webpage ( and click on “TUTORIALS & DEMOS.

David Berg is Professor of Psychology at Community College of Philadelphia where he was the recipient of the Lindback Foundation Award for excellence in college teaching, and where he served as past chair of the Behavioral Sciences Department. He received his Ph.D. from Temple University in experimental psychology and completed postdoctoral training in family systems theory from Drexel University/Hahnemann Medical College. David has pioneered workshops focusing on “wellness in the workplace” and has presented these to government, business, and educational institutions. He trains other psychologists to enable them to perform similar workshops. Dr. Berg has presented a number of workshops that focus on the use of writing in Psychology courses, both at NITOP and at APA. Further, he has presented a number of NITOP workshops on use of technology in the classroom. Since the advent of laptop computers, David has consulted with academic teaching faculty to bring them up to the cutting edge in using technology in the classroom. He also serves as a resource for those who teach in institutions on a “shoestring budget” like his own. He views and uses technology as a means to heighten the standards of critical thinking and writing in teaching rather than as a mere adjunct to lecturing.


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