My Academic Kit, returning to college w/tech

I graduated high school at 18, back in 2010. I started at Eastern Washington University in the fall of 2010 without any real issues. I had a calculus professor that spoke English as a third language, and her _very_ academic lecturer not a teacher attitude made understanding her explanations of complex and new (to me) mathematics nearly unattainable. I dropped that class because I wasn’t handling it to well, as I didn’t have the time required to study math outside the classroom. I was focusing on my computer science classes, and didn’t really care about calculus at that time. Little did I know I’d have to face that course down again, and now I’m doing it in 2023.

I’m returning to school part-time (9-10 credits/quarter) at Eastern Washington University. I dropped out in Fall 2011 after getting an internship at F5. I was learning so much more and making great money, so I didn’t see the point (at the time) of continuing with a degree that I thought was actually getting in the way of my work.

Now, I’m fortunate enough to have a flexible work schedule, allowing me to work 7am-6pm, with a two-three hour block in the middle of the day to account for classes and transit.

I promised that I’d treat myself with something for returning to school, so I got an iPad mini (6th Generation) w/5G Cellular, in conjunction with an Apple Pencil (2nd Generation). This has been perfect tool for the little fold out desks in lecture auditoriums. I really don’t like those desks because most favor right-handed individuals, and leave out left-handed people. I have a few friends who write with their left hands, and I heard all about it during high school and college. Anyways, the iPad mini fits perfectly on those tiny desks.

My note taking app of choice is Notability. You can record a lectures audio in real time while you’re taking notes. The audio turns out pretty well when you consider your distance from the source.

Handwriting digitally is a must unless you want to carry paper notebooks around, so I’m working on my penmanship so that the built in OCR can more easily translate my notes to searchable text (it’s a pretty amazing if you don’t have chicken scratch handwriting like I do). I never thought good penmanship could be an asset.

I’ve been able to take notes for calculus and computing ethics (a degree required, specific philosophy course) with ease. Notes are dated, so everything is in sequence like it would be in a paper notebook. It’s nice, because I can group lectures by topic as well.

I’m able to use Canvas to access everything from the iPad, but I do most homework on a MacBook Air (M1). Notability shares notes between devices, allowing me to use the desktop app to access notes I took in class on my iPad. I use a Cengage textbook and homework site for calculus studies, and that’s best on the laptop. The mobile experience is not quite as good. I’m able to have the assignment and textbook open simultaneously when I need to reference an equation.

I use Pages on MacBook and usually export it to Word for writing assignments. I’m not a huge fan of Pages, but it’s a decent word editor. Why can’t CS teachers accept markdown files?

All in all, the iPad mini and Pencil have been a fantastic, compact alternative to pen and paper, or a larger tablet. I have large hands and find all the devices comfortable to use. The price tag is a little steep, but seamless integration between the Apple ecosystem made it solid choice for me.