My iPad Workflow as a Post Grad Student

Hey folks,

As my MSc in Education Leadership draws to a close and I order my academic gown I wanted to gather some thoughts on how my iPad ended up playing a central role in my studies. For context I am an educator and was studying for this MSc while also working full time. I'm lucky enough to work within a 1:1 Local Authority meaning I have my own 'school issued' iPad for professional work. I am the Curriculum Development Officer for Digital Learning in my Local Authority so of course I wanted to try out using my iPad as much as possible in this new strand of my professional learning journey!

Right off the bat I'll say, the iPad quickly became my main device for accessing almost every single element of the course. Having everything in one place was a godsend the further through the course I got - but it wasn't without trial and error to figure out my preferred workflow. I also have to give a big shout out to my Apple Pencil who was a key actor in this workflow!


This was the one area I was super confident that I'd be using my iPad in. I prefer to handwritten notes so I knew I wanted to use something that allowed me to use my Apple Pencil. I started out using Notes. After one semester I ran into a few issues, the main one being that my notes became so long that at after a while the app struggled to load all of the handwriting and screenshots I'd put in. I also found that I wasn't enjoying the portrait scrolling nature of Notes it was quite difficult for me to find things when I was making use of the notes I'd made. I ended up moving to OneNote for subsequent semesters and much preferred the organisational structure and infinite canvas (these were the days before Freeform). The one thing I really wish I'd had was the ability to search handwritten text - imagine dismay when I found out that is a function in GoodNotes when I was already in year three!


iPad screen on left showing Notes app, iPad screen on right showing OneNote app.
I also made HEAVY use of Split Screen during notetaking to save me jumping between screens. Being able to pinch to zoom inside either pane was a regular gesture I used to save my eyes and being able to change the size of either side using the grey bar in the middle frequently proved itself a super handy feature.


iPad showing Split Screen between an academic article and some notes.

Accessing University Materials

I was able to access Canvas (my University's VLE) on my iPad and did my postings and discussion forums via iPad no problem. I got almost all of the articles and reading to my device by going to the PDFs and using the quick screenshot gesture (swiping up form the bottom left hand corner) and smashing that Full Page button with glee.


iPad screen showing a GIF of the screenshot process.

Every module the first thing I downloaded was the study guide, saved it to Files and immediately went through and highlighted all of the required readings which I then ticked off as I completed them. Being able to Markup this document with information from seminars and tutor conversations kept all my key assignment/task/readings based information in one easy to find place.


iPad showing some marked up Study Guide pages.


Speaking of Files, this fast became my favourite app - dull, I know, but it really did change everything. Using the Collaborate feature I was able to make my Files full of marked up readings accessible across both my work and personal devices. I used Folders and Tags to organise everything which was miles better than my usual 'dump it into Downloads and then curse myself when trying to find it later' method used on my work Mac.


iPad showing Files app with tagged documents.

When reading articles in Files not only was I able to mark them up (which I actually stopped doing the further on I went and just started going for the Split Screen / handwritten notes / insert screenshots of diagrams and important paragraphs method), but I was also able to use Speak Selection for some of the...more dry...material to help when my eyes were tiring, as well as Look Up which proved wildly helpful when reading some of the more sesquipedalian authors. These are both things I 100% would recommend to leaners of any age or stage!


iPad showing Speak Selection and Look Up in action.

Data Collection

As this was a research based Masters I had to collect data during my final project. For reasons related to the specific group of researchers we used handwritten notes on paper for ethnographic field notes. I also used drawing methods with pupils on paper. These were easily photographed/scanned onto the iPad where they joined photographs, screenshots and video/audio recordings which were organised in albums within Photos. I also used Pages to create a Data Book which organised the different types of data by session (although this became a massive document very quickly - I don't think I'd do this again).


iPad showing pupil drawings in Album and the data book in Pages

Data Visualisation (and Other Graphics)

My one true love Canva was used on iPad for data visualisation (we used a lot of situational/relational mapping) which made everything so easy - I really think the versatility it allows is unparalleled.


Canva showing a range of data visualisations.

I also used Canva throughout all modules for various different things. Academic posters were developed and downloaded for use in assignments and seminars as were all iterations of my conceptual framework (thank you 'duplicate').


Canva showing academic poster and conceptual framework.


Just as I was about to embark upon the write up of my final project Freefrom was released. By this time I already had a workflow in full swing but one place I did find it useful was in planning for the final written piece. I loved the clean simplicity of it (over OneNote) for this sort of loose, ever evolving mind-mapping.


An example of a section of planning mind map from Freeform.

Other Devices

Did I use my iPad for every single thing? No. I did also use my MacBook from time to time (and at one dark time of tagging data I used my HP laptop). I also used my MacBook to type final assignments purely for the bigger screen size (hello 24 inch monitor) and the elder millennial preference for a keyboard with deep keys (hello old style clacky keyboard). But in all, I was very impressed with the iPad's performance in this space. 10/10 would recommend!

If you've made it this far - thanks for reading. And do get in touch if you have used your iPad for this kind of learning. I'd love to hear about different experiences.

All Replies

Posted on September 18, 2023

Thanks for sharing Kerry, and congrats on your Masters.

I think all of us in this community recognise how you have used iPad, and learned a few more tips from you, but it is still a fact that many colleagues view an iPad as a device only for the very young and as soon as they can they have to start using clamshell devices for the move into secondary. Your article has clearly shown the many ways your iPad and other technology was used in your studies, and from that shown it can be used in any situation; work, learning or leisure. Let’s hope this article is shared widely in and out of this community.

Posted on September 19, 2023

beautiful piece.

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