Grading Assignments with an iPad

Guest post by Professor Karen Cukrowski

I want to share with all of you a MAJOR time saver I learned here at the Adams Center when Cynthia Powell was teaching us how she uses Notability in her classroom.

I’m going to show you Notability ($1.99). However, iAnnotate ($9.99) or Evernote (free) work almost the same way.  I use this app for assignments that are pretty short and for which the students could benefit from quick feedback from me.  I’ve now graded about 300 such papers, and since the process works like a charm, I expect I’ll grade many hundreds more before the semester is over using this method. Special thanks to student Billy Haten, who allowed me to demo one of his drafts of a research question.

The following tutorial will show you how to use Notability for grading.  You can also check the video tutorial:

Open the file:  I have my students turn in their homework to the class files.  However, you can open a pdf or Word Doc from an email,your Google Drive, or Dropbox. I just don’t want to deal with that much email!   Regardless, you need to retrieve the student’s document/homework from wherever it is.   When you have a document open, just tap anywhere and “Open in ‘Notability’ “ pops up.   Select that.  You have to click a couple of more things, but don’t be discouraged.  These clicks become quite automatic once you’ve done it a couple of times.  Select “Create new note” when the dialogue box comes up for you to make such a selection.  (Notice you can add a rubric or something if you want by clicking “Add to other note.”)  Hit OK.  And voila! You have the student’s paper ready for you to mark.

Grade the paper:  You can mark the paper any way you see fit, by handwriting with a stylus (my preferred method), typing, or even by speaking your notes into the little microphone icon.  I almost always use the pencil tool in a thick blue line, and that setting is then saved for me the next time. Very handy.When grading it, notice that there is magnifying glass at the bottom. If you click it, you can drag the little box around to see everything up closer and write more precisely.   If you make stray marks, no problem—you can either erase them with the eraser or by clicking the left-facing back arrow to undo it.    Unfortunately, there is nothing I can do to help you with the wretched step of grading itself!

Return the paper:  After grading, it is time to send the paper back to the student by email. To return the paper to a student, use the “send” arrow that’s up there at the top. Select Email. Then hit Email Notes. When the email dialogue box launches, type in the student’s address, which is conveniently in the subject line automatically.  Note: you do have to add to send the email.   And guess what? You only have to type the whole address ONCE—our email program remembers that student for subsequent assignments, making the whole process even more streamlined.   Once finished with the email address, hit Send, and the student will soon receive the attached file.

Record the grade:  Don’t forget to record your student’s grade in your gradebook!

I have saved SO much time by sending back papers this way and NOT having to distribute them in class. Also, notice that no trees died today due to this assignment—and yet the students will receive fast feedback on an important step in their research projects.

I hope this tutorial helps you.  Using this method is far less complicated than all these pictures make it look. I’d be happy to help you, if you’d rather just have a demo. Karen Cukrowski,, or text me on my cell phone at 325-829-8249, and we can set up an appointment. (Berlin Fang in the Adams Center also knows how to use this program, if you want to see him.)

Writing with the iPad

Written by Berlin Fang

In one of our recent surveys on iPad usage at Abilene Christian University, we found a good “word processing” app is what students want most from an iPad.   I do hope that someday someone can produce something like Microsoft Word for iPad, but I have already found iPad to be a great tool for writing.   To do this, we have to dispel a myth that there is one single app that does all you need to do with a writing activity.    No, there is not.  Instead you use a combination of tools.   Even on a laptop one uses for writing, a writer uses several applications, such as a web browser to do research, a PDF reader to read articles, some bibliography management software to manage references and a Word processor for the actual writing.

Cloud computing has made it possible for us to work fluidly across platforms and devices.   We can use applications on both a laptop and an iPad (or other mobile devices) for the production of a writing assignment.    Involving iPad as part of the process gives a writer certain advantages due to the voice input and touchscreen features that iPads have while many laptop computers don’t.   Here is a sample process how I write an article using both the iPad and the Laptop:

  1. Gather references with iPad.  iPad comes with the Safari browser, but you can download some other browsers for easier gathering of information.  For instance, you can use Diigo, a social bookmarking browser, to read and bookmark anything you read.   Using a Diigo account, you can access your bookmarks anywhere on a mobile device or on a laptop.   You can use Chrome to do something similar to this.

  2. Take notes with iA Writer, Evernote or CamScanner.  I take notes with an iPad app called iA Writer, which has an onscreen keyboard (with quotation marks, brackets) that is better than the one from iPad, for easier editing.    Evernote can also help you take notes, including notes in multimedia formats.   When you are reading a print book, iPad can be extremely helpful as you take notes in a variety of ways, including taking pictures of a paragraph, which you will refer to in your writing, if typing notes is slower.  Camscanner allows you to scan print materials which you can then turn into text using its OCR feature.

  3. Write with IA Writer.   After gathering the notes and references, I can then produce a working draft with IA Writer.  This seems rather counter-intuitive, as iPad is not best known for the ease of input.   This challenge can be addressed by purchasing a Bluetooth keyboard identical to the one you’d use for a laptop.  I also love writing on the iPad as it is possible to dictate using the voice input method of iPads.   The only weird thing about it is that I risk giving impressions of talking to myself.

  4. Syncing your draft to the Laptop for editing.  After you have finished writing your draft on the iPad with iA Writer, export it to Dropbox or Google Drive which you can then open on a laptop for editing and formatting.

  5. Minor editing on the iPad.  A piece of writing is never complete.   Once I have the bulk of editing done, I sometimes continue to proofread it through Google Doc.    This is most helpful as I carry the iPad/iPhone around and can use odd time for such purpose, for instance, when waiting during kids’ extracurricular classes.   Of course, it is not advisable for you to do that if you have rich formatting to preserve.   A word processing software would do better.

This may seem to be a cumbersome process, but it actually works extremely well once I am in the flow.   The combination of tools allows me to take advantage of the strengths of various devices (such as laptop for editing and formatting) and iPad for reading, notes and drafts.   People’s writing processes are personal or even idiosyncratic, so I assume you may find better combination of devices, tools, functions and features that work for your purpose.

Writing, whether for a class paper or for academic publication, involves both the consumption of information and the production of it.  iPad has been around for quite a while, but I noticed that many people use it predominantly to consume information, such as going to web sites, checking email, listening to podcasts, and watching video,  which are all fine.  However, the device can also be helpful for the “production” of things, such as notes, audio and video segments, and presentations.  Of course there are situations when the dichotomy between “production” and “consumption” is an artificial one.   The two can take place iteratively during the same project, such as the writing of a paper.  I hope this post gets you to think along those lines.

Using Evernote to Mark up Photos

Evernote is a versatile tool for taking notes in a variety of format, including text, audio and picture, which you can easily tag for retrieval and share with people you designate or the general public.

You can also use Evernote to do some quick editing with photos in your notes. This function previously only worked in Skitch, but is now incorporated into Evernote after Evernote acquired Skitch.

Photo editing works especially well on mobile devices. Once you have a photo in your note in your mobile device, double tab on the photo, and then tap on the annotation icon which will bring out a column of markup tools (as shown below) for cropping, pixelating, stamping, highlighting, circling, typing and pointing.


Here are some popular editing features you might find useful:

  • Pixelating, which allows you to hide elements of a photo or other kinds of graphic if there is a need to do so. For instance, you can hide students’ names (for FERPA considerations), contact information, birthdays, faces of minors in a photo, license plates of cars, etc.

  • Pointing and typing. You can use them together to highlight a particular object or person in a photo.

  • Cropping. This allows you to quickly crop a photo without having to use another application such as Photoshop.


For further information on these markup tools, check this video:

Or check here for more information.

All of these can be done within the note that you are editing. Once you have finished such editing, you can sync it to the web, and download it to your computer where you can easily share it using your class sites or send it to others.  Please feel free to check with the Instructional Design team of Adams Center if you need any assistance using this tool.

From iPad to WePad: Teaching with the iPad as a Tool for Class Collaboration

During the summer we offered a workshop on using iPad in teaching. By popular demand, we are offering a sequel on November 7th on teaching with the iPad. In this hands-on workshop the Adams Center instructional design team will demonstrate five iPad apps that may make a difference in your teaching. At the end of the workshop, we will also ask you to share with us your favorite apps for teaching.

The apps we introduce are:

  • Evernote is an app that allows you to take notes in text, photo, or audio.
  • Socrative is an app that will turn your students’ iPads and yours into a free clicker response system.
  • SoundCloud is a free app that allows you record audio messages to share feedback, announcements, sound clips, etc. You can send them in an email, embed in a course, etc.
  • Shadow Puppet is a free app that lets you select photos on your iDevice, put them in any order you like, then narrate the slide show while you highlight something in the photo with an animated icon, or zoom and move the photo.
  • iCue is a 4.99 app that can function as a teleprompter.

Using Evernote for Ethnography

Written by the Instructional Design Team

Evernote is a great application for taking notes in text, audio, and photos using your mobile devices and computer. It is one of the most popular note-taking applications that is used increasingly in education.

Sensing_TimDr. Tim Sensing (Graduate School of Theology) uses Evernote for a student ethnography assignment. In the course BIBM 657: Context in Ministry that he taught, he required students to go into the field (contexts) to study. In the past, students had had to use pencil and paper, or tape or digital recorders to gather field notes from various contexts. It had been a time-consuming process to gather, code, and sort such data as it came in.

The last time he taught this course, students took their iPads with them in the field to take notes. The class explored using Google Docs, Audio Notes, Pages, and Drop Box. Sensing discerned that each of these applications had various limitations. They used Evernote accounts to have student groups working in various contexts take notes in text, photos or audio recordings. All the notes were saved in the cloud for immediate access by other group members. If further editing was needed, students could also use laptops to edit as Evernote can be used on different platforms. None of the other apps were as flexible or as powerful for group projects according to Sensing.

While utilizing this tool for group field work, Dr. Sensing suggested the following factors for better results:

Critical Reflection: After gathering the field notes, students could tag such notes and count the frequency of such tags to facilitate coding. Teams were engaged in tagging too. By doing this, they were able to compare trends with the literature they had read about specific topics for consistency. They sometimes discovered new themes or trends. This turned out to be a tool for critical reflection which allowed students to have more in-depth analysis of the literature.

Faculty Presence: Dr. Sensing also recommends that as a professor you have to be “present” in the use of any out of class assignment. He enrolled himself in each student group account in order to see student progress. He also provided comments and feedback using a separate folder in their group account. This way, he keeps interacting with students as they collaborate on their field work.

Work Tracking: Evernote does not have a version control or tracking feature (e.g., Quip ( It is difficult to find out who did what as each group would have a shared account. Dr. Sensing recommends students include their names or initials in each of their contributions to keep track. This, in turn, provides accountability and motivation for various members in the group to participate.