Inspired by @webgalpat‘s list of iPad apps and resources for school administrators, I’ve been thinking about how I will use my iPad this school year. I had my iPad for the last few weeks of school last year, but many new apps – and insights about how to best use the device – have entered my repertoire for this coming school year.
First, a word about workflow – if you just do discrete things in different apps, your important information will be dispersed among them, and may be hard to keep track of. For example, you don’t want to do great brainstorming in a whiteboard app but then forget to do anything with it. If you have 20 different apps holding your work, it’s easy to forget what you’ve done and where it is.
The key to managing your app workflow is to limit the number of places where actionable information resides. Most apps have a way to email a document either as plain text or as an attachment. Use this feature to send your work to your own email inbox so you can follow up later.
For example, if you do some brainstorming in a whiteboard app, you can email an image of the whiteboard to yourself so you have it in your inbox for later processing.
If you identify action items, add them to your to-do list rather than leave them in another app (see below for my recommended to-do list app).
Core Workflow Apps
Of course, some apps, such as the calendar, are the best repository for their own information, and you’ll have to commit to checking them regularly or setting reminders so you don’t miss anything important. If you find yourself forgetting to check something important (like your calendar for the next day), put a recurring popup reminder on your calendar.
My “repository” apps include:
- OmniFocus – a powerful to-do list manager. If it’s a task or project I’m responsible for, it’s in OmniFocus.
- Mail – the built-in email app on the iPad is excellent. Needless to say, it contains my work email, including any documents that I’ve emailed to myself from other apps.
- iCal – the built-in calendar app on iPad, which syncs with my Outlook/Exchange work calendar and my Mac personal calendar.
If I need to deal with something and it’s not in one of the above apps, I put it on my to-do list or calendar to ensure that I don’t lose it.
Another key is to batch – to do similar items together in a group. Having similar items in one app – for example, all the EdWeek articles I want to read together in Instapaper – makes it much easier to get everything done quickly, since I’m not switching back and forth between different apps.
Finally, I highly recommend getting a Bluetooth wireless keyboard. Apple’s model is extremely light and portable, and makes your iPad an excellent replacement for a laptop in meetings, on the road, or in classroom observations. (I don’t recommend the Apple iPad keyboard stand, which isn’t portable.)
I’m getting fairly fast typing on the iPad’s on-screen keyboard, but for extended typing, it’s extremely helpful to have a real keyboard.
I will have more detailed posts on other apps soon, but here’s my advice for now:
1. Limit the number of apps containing actionable information
2. Email yourself or put a to-do item on your list for other information in apps
3. Do similar items together in a batch
4. Get a Bluetooth wireless keyboard