A Luddite Reviews the iPad Pro

I prefer my books on paper, please. I cancelled my subscription to Time when the editors decided to print photographs in color. I have never owned a dishwasher, but I do own several fountain pens. Although I send text messages to my husband in the next room, I do not allow them from my students except in cases of true emergency. Although I am a great fan of Netflix and Amazon Prime, I prefer my movies on the silver screen. And although I own a Nikon D3 professional digital camera, I still love the look and feel of film and the smell of fixer in the red glow of the darkroom.

I am not exactly a Luddite, though. When telephones got smart, I immediately began using mine for–well, everything. I no longer have to wonder anything. I can know in seconds when Jimmy Durante died and where to buy squid-ink pasta and who hit 61 in ’61  (just kidding; I already knew that). My telephone can give me both the quickest and the shortest directions to Sitar, take high-definition photographs of the delectable chana masala from the buffet, and give me the history of camels in India (or Indiana if I touch the wrong item in the list Google has prepared for me). I have always had a fondness for tools that make tasks quick and me efficient, so I am happy to embrace technological advances in that direction. And I am especially grateful that the Internet has enabled me to reconnect after decades of silence with dear friends who would otherwise have been lost to me.

image.pngMy job requires that I teach online classes, so I have become adept at reviewing essays in Word (“track changes” and all that) and creating visually appealing and rigorously organized Blackboard sites.

This is where the iPad Pro comes in. I previously had a hand-me-down iPad that I used for word games and Netflix and GPS–and, in a pinch, reading the New Yorker on car trips. Clearly, I used that machine mostly for fun, and it seemed a little too hedonistic to get an iPad Pro (around S1,400 with all the accoutrements) for the same purpose. My husband told me repeatedly how much I would enjoy it–and how much use I could make of it. But it wasn’t until I saw it in action that I realized how much of a difference one thin device could make in my life. As I researched the Apple Pencil, I shouted “Eureka!” and rushed to the Apple store to try it out.

The most cumbersome task in the life of a teacher of English composition is grading never-ending avalanches of essays, and it’s a task I take very seriously. Not only do I fill out a grading rubric with both scores and explanations, and not only do I make specific comments on thesis, topic sentences, use of evidence, and writing style. I also make extensive corrections of grammar and usage. The editing feature on Word is certainly adequate to the job, but using it is very time consuming.

imageUsing the Apple Pencil with the iPad Pro, I have reduced my grading time by at least a third–perhaps by half. I am now able to write my comments on the papers, draw arrows, and correct grammar–all by hand. I can use blue for general comments about thesis development and red to mark errors in grammar and citation style. I can highlight plagiarized passages in yellow or chartreuse. Then I can save both Word and PDF files and attach them to Blackboard.

And I can do these things anywhere that I have an Internet connection. I need not be tied to a desktop computer; I can work in the kitchen or in the car or at the beach.

This device has truly changed my life–and my students’ lives–for the better. Because providing critiques for essays is so much easier, I am now offering even more thorough commentary than I did in the past. My remarks are more accessible to the students because they are directly on the document–not in a side column that most students never go to the trouble to click. And from the feedback I have received from the students, I can see a little secondary gain as well; because they are a little wowed by the technology, they see their stodgy 63-year-old instructor in a more flattering light.

And of course, it doesn’t hurt that my felines can nudge me away from the screen to play a little JitterBug or Catch the Mouse every now and then!

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