Using the iPad to hack the grad school workflow

My Productivity Apps for School

I am lucky to be a member of the inaugural cohort of the hybrid Phd in Ed Psych/Ed Tech at Michigan State University. Not only do we do the majority of our coursework online, but we were lent an iPad to assist in our studies.

As I’ve gotten to know said iPad, I’ve discovered a way to hack my workflow with it in ways that I can’t on my laptop.  I like working on the iPad for things like reading and annotating. A few things about my set-up: I use the iPad apps in conjunction with web-based applications to seamlessly sync between the two. Also, I am a working mother while in grad school, so I am often reading while cooking dinner or while the kids play (I have three-year old twin boys): basically I like snatching whatever moments I am able for reading for school.

So, let’s begin with Mendeley. Mendeley is a social network for researchers that stores your articles and books on your desktop, on the web, and on your mobile devices like the iPhone and the iPad. Mendeley will also do your citations and syncs with Zotero.  I have set up groups to share my readings with my advisor and classmates. I can add notes, tagging systems, and make groups. I can also annotate within the desktop and mobile versions. I can not fully explain my deep and abiding love for Mendeley.

Mendeley on my iPad: I can read/annotate here or open in another program, like GoodReader

I hate doing searches for articles on the iPad, so I generally do library or Google Scholar searches on my laptop, save them using the Mendeley toolbar and then also save any PDFs to Dropbox.

Once I have an article I want to look at in Mendeley, I generally annotate in GoodReader. I like that I can import from DropBox or from Mendeley and then save my annotations as a new copy, thus always keeping one version clean of notes and scribblings. GoodReader has more robust annotation features, including drawing, notes, underlining, highlight, and shapes.

The annotation toolbar in GoodReader for ipad

All in all, I’ve found this Dropbox/GoodReader/Mendeley trifecta highly useful and productive, especially since I am not quietly reading in a sunny corner somewhere, but usually reading in the midst of barely controlled chaos.

Other apps I’ve found useful:

  • SoundNote: take notes and record; when the recording is over, the individual notes sync with the place in the recording when you wrote (think like the LiveScribe pen)
  • WordPress: love this way of blogging on both my iPad and iPhone. I also have a bluetooth keyboard to assist with typing on both devices.
  • Instapaper: for all those articles on twitter I would like to read later
  • Kindle: I read a lot of books for school on my Kindle. They are cheaper and I like the way the highlights and notes can be pulled out and looked at later as one list.

Any other suggestions? I would love to hear them in the comments! :)

POST EDIT: A twitter conversation reminded me of SpringPad which allows you to create sticky notes/notebooks/tasks and more. Similar to EverNote, but I like the way I organize the flow on it better than EverNote.  Both programs integrate between the web and the devices.