Marking (up) papers on an iPad

 How to read, write on, and return papers with an iPad

I’ve grown quite attached to my iPad and have found it invaluable for reading, listening to and watching many interesting things. It’s a fine device for all news junkies.

 And, while I prefer a full-featured computer for writing, the iPad is ok for for taking notes, short writing, and editing.

In my classes, it’s been useful for quickly locating some piece of information, including accessing the Constitution with my U.S. Constitution app (really!).

And I can put grades into a spreadsheet that is synched to my dropbox.

But what about reading — and more importantly — writing on student papers? The comments are the most important, particularly for assignments that are elements in a larger project, such as research proposals or required drafts of papers.

I have been marking (up) papers today, following instructions I found here (although next time I will have the students send me their papers as pdfs, since that will shorten and simplify the process).

What I’ve need to make this work, besides the iPad and connectivity

1. E-mail

2. Dropbox 

3. Pages (a $10 word processing app)

4. Goodreader (a $5 app) or another app, such as iAnnotate. The instructions above and below are based on Goodreader.

5. A stylus to write notes on the iPad screen ($10-30, depending on the model)

Detailed instructions (my extension of those given at link above):

1. After students email their papers, I transfer these to my Dropbox. This is a free service that holds up to 2 gigs of data and is accesible from any computer.  I have a folder for my course, a subfolder of that for papers, and subfolders inside that for each student.  This enables me to organize various drafts and related materials.

2. Then I take the Word doc and hold my finger over it until “open in” shows up. Open in “Pages”.

3. In Pages, tap on the top left, and return to “My Documents.” Below,  see a few symbols. The first one “send to” (with the arrow shooting out of the square”) is the one to tap to email the document to yourself.

You can send it as a PDF (or pages or word doc). Select PDF, type in your email address, and jump over to your email program.

4. In the email program, tap and hold the PDF document, and select “Open in Good Reader.” You can now mark-up the PDF document.  There is a set of possible tools you can use.  I like to use the tool with the squiggle icon. This enables me to circle items, draw arrows, and write.  On the side menu, I hit the pin icon so that I can easily move between marking up and moving to writing with the keyboard and going to new pages of the document.  

5. When you’ve finished marking up, e-mail the document back to yourself.  Be  sure to send the document back to your email with “flattened annotations.” That’s the format that will enable other people to read your various lines, circles, comments, and printed comments.

6. After the paper has landed in your e-mail, save it in the appropriate place in your Dropbox.

The big question — Is all this worth it?

Having spent many years having read papers from, well, paper, the question arises as to whether all these steps of converting documents and emailing back and forth are worth it. After all, it’s a very simple process to just pluck a paper out of a file to read it and mark it (up).  

But there are some advantages

1. For assignments involving required drafts or preliminary assignments, such as research proposals, this method makes it easy for me to see to what extent students have taken account of previous comments and suggestions. 

2. Although misplacing papers is rare, this makes it almost impossible — particularly if I have backed up the papers that I’ve stored in my Dropbox.

3. Students can more easily find their own papers, along with the comments, suggestions, and edits.

4. Faculty members who commute on mass transit need not shlep piles of papers. When traveling for conferences and other events away from home and work, it is easy to access and work on papers, without having to carry the hard copies. In order to work without an internet connection, make sure you’ve saved the papers to your pdf annotation app already.

Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.