Friday, September 21, 2012

Can my iPad replace my laptop when I'm teaching abroad?

While it has been a while since I last posted to this blog, I haven't been idle.  In anticipation of an upcoming three-week trip to Tanzania (I'm on sabbatical leave this semester), I spent the summer exploring what apps might allow me to travel and teach while overseas using just the iPad. Put another way, was there sufficient software support and computing power available with an 16GB iPad to make it reasonable to leave my heavier (and somewhat recalcitrant) 5 yr old Macbook pro behind?

I began by considering my teaching needs... they aren't too different than on campus and basically involve either the Microsoft Office Suite of programs (Powerpoint, Excel, and Word) or the Apple equivalent (iWorks). The ability to project lecture outlines and images to a larger screen using something like PowerPoint or Keynote was particularly important, as I have a number of prepared lectures in these formats. I also needed the ability to input and process data that could then be used to generate figures. Word processing was less of a concern with regards to teaching needs, but would probably be needed for handling correspondence and, possibly, gaining access to student assignments.

In the end, I decided to try two different apps.  The first, Quickoffice Pro HD, cost $19.99 and provided slimmed down versions of the traditional Microsoft Office programs. I had no trouble opening previously created files, and after a bit of fiddling, learned how to transfer from Dropbox or Google Drive to the internal storage of the iPad.  This is important, since I won't have access to WiFi when I'm teaching in remote areas.  I enjoyed more or less equal success with using iWorks equivalent apps for iOS.  Unlike the bundled Office app, hoever, each of the three apps (Pages, Numbers, and Keynote) was purchased separately at $9.99 each.

After a variety of activities, in which I opened, edited, projected, and saved different files, I've decided that in terms of handling files, either set of apps should work fine.  My biggest concern, however, relates to internal storage.  Both of these apps rely heavily on connectivity to the web, allowing files to be stored away from the iPad but available for retrieval when needed.  This seems to work great when I'm at work or at home in the midst of a WiFi network, but it is basically useless when you aren't connected.  And I haven't found a decent external storage device for the iPad that would get around the storage limitations of the iPad.  Anyone have any suggestions in that regard?

Anyway, I'm off to Tanzania on Sunday and will be back with a report on how things all worked when I get back.  I've stored as many files as I think I'll need on the iPad and we will just have to see whether I planned well enough. As a back up, I think I will probably end up taking my Macbook Pro along as well.  More weight and hassle, but also more comfort in having a backup.

1 comment:

  1. Hi,

    From a fellow educator, I wish you well on your adventures. As an external saving device I suggest any of the Hyperdrives. They worked amazing well for me. I could store movies and backup my photos on it on our 4 month trip to Europe.


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