Matthias K. Gobbert

Teaching with an iPad since 2011

This page can be reached via my homepage at
Since Fall 2011, I use an Apple iPad with Wi-Fi as my main tool for all aspects of teaching. More precisely, but still in short, I write in hand-writing in the application NoteTakerHD and display it via the data projector onto a screen; if desired, I can also show slides in PDF form from NoteTakerHD and write on them with hand-writing on the fly. Either of these results of NoteTakerHD sessions during class can be posted as transcripts of the lecture in PDF form on the web at some place where students can access them, as record of the class or for review, e.g., if a student missed class. When I want to show students how to log in to a Linux computer in class, I use iSSH; this application can even display graphics that are produced remotely, for instance by Matlab. To gain much more screen space in iSSH, it is vital to use a bluetooth keyboard with the iPad here. Of course, the iPad can also display webpages and show (certain types of) video (not: flash, many mpeg). Some of these techniques assume Wi-Fi connectivity in the classroom. Additionally, I am currently prototyping homework submission in PDF form, which I am planning to grade using NoteTakerHD and return to students with the red grade marks, just like homework submitted on paper; when returning by e-mail, I can of course also type up additional comments or give links to webpage with specific resources (e.g., posted solutions).

Fundamentally, the iPad allows for several types of zoom-in (magnification) and zoom-out (enlargement) features, and these are the key tools that allow it to be used successfully for my purposes, in particular in lectures. This is the key difference to a tablet laptop with Microsoft OneNote: Due to its fixed scale without zoom-in or -out, one has to compromise between writing size and display size; see more in the previous page. I want to interject already here that mastering the capabilities of the hardware and software of the iPad is not easy, if the use of the technology is to be smooth and the not a distraction in class to teacher and student.

It is a challenge to explain how precisely the use of the iPad works and how it appears to students. Very fortunately, my lectures in the course Introduction to Parallel Computing at the Universität Kassel in Wintersemester 2011/2012 were video taped (expertly produced by the Zentraler Medien Bereich and with gracious funding by the AG Analysis und Angewandte Mathematik under Andreas Meister). These conventional videos can show both the normal student perspective of how a lecture looks like and (due to a technical glitch one day) also show how NoteTakerHD looks like from the instructor's perspective using the zoom features.

Following this paragraph are postings from two lectures. For both, I post the PDF transcripts to show how a static record of class looks like. The video of the lecture under the first bullet (dated 12/21/11) shows how a normal lecture looks like, which demonstrates the student perspective. The video under the second bullet (dated 12/19/11) shows a lecture, where (due to some technical glitch) the projector displays the exact view that the instructor has in NoteTakerHD, which demonstrates the instructor perspective and is critical here to understand how the whole technique of using an iPad for lecturing works. --- Caution regarding the videos: They are very large. For some reason, they are also twice as long as the actual lecture; after the first run with audio, the second run is without. The videos are also in a format that is not streamed and thus leads to fits and starts on most desktops/laptops; so, you may want to download the video file first and then play locally. However, an iPad has no trouble streaming this format automatically! Go figure.

The use of the iPad described on this page replaced a tablet laptop that I used from Summer 2006 to Summer 2011, which is described in the previous page. That webpage contains more programmatic details than spelled out here; this page focuses more on showing how the technology actually works.

More specific information on hardware: I found that there are a lot of video reviews of hardware available online, where you can see the product in action. This really helped me understand the features of the keyboard and the smart cover before purchasing them.

Details on software:

Collection of other lessons learned:


Steven Anderson, Nagaraj K. Neerchal, Andreas Meister, UMBC, UMBC DoIT, UMBC Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Consulting (CIRC), Universität Kassel Zentraler Medien Bereich (ZMB), Universität Kassel AG Analysis und Angewandte Mathematik.

Copyright © 2007-2012 by Matthias K. Gobbert. All Rights Reserved.
This page version 1.2, February 2012.