Sam Bowles, Consultant
Just recently our Writing Center added to its technological arsenal a collection of iPads available for consultants to use with clients during sessions. As technology has always been an area of extreme interest for me, I actually piloted the use of an iPad during consultations last semester. Here are some of the key areas where I think iPads (or any tablets for that matter) have a lot to offer the kind of work we do in the Writing Center.
We help writers at all stages of the process, including the brainstorming or planning stage. The iOS platform has a litany of apps that can be helpful for getting started with writing projects. One that I like, IdeaSketch, allows users to create concept maps or flow charts and then convert those into a hierarchical outline. The process can also work in reverse, creating a traditional outline and then converting it to a mind map, both of which can be continually manipulated, moving items around with ease. IdeaSketch also has a nice iPhone app, so the file created during a session can be emailed to a student with a compatible device, or a PDF can be printed or emailed if needed.
Tablets can also be a great way to workshop drafts. Using a program like Notability, users can not only annotate a document in ways that mimic working with an analog document, but additionally, one can zoom in particular parts of the paper, allowing the consultant and client alike to focus on an isolated issued. Once the session is completed, the annotated document can easily be emailed to or printed for the client.
Finally, the iPad adds a lot to sessions because it puts access to endless resources at your fingertips. I regularly use the iPad in session to help clients look of terms, review citation information from websites like the Purdue OWL, or even search our library’s databases for articles. Sure, this could be done on a computer, but with an iPad the session doesn’t have to be interrupted by the move to a computer station. And the iPad is physically closer to a printed document that can be passed back and forth and set aside quickly, unlike a computer monitor and corresponding peripherals. Additionally, as with almost all the resources iPads have to offer, links to websites, handouts, and other resources can be quickly and easily emailed to the student.
iPads can add a lot to Writing Center consultations, making much of what we do already more convenient and accessible, but another reason to use such mobile devices in sessions is to demonstrate for clients how they could be using the mobile technology many of them already have to serve them in their academic work.
Students are using their phones and tablets to perform web searches already; why not show them ways they can use their devices to perform more academically relevant queries? They are using apps to find out what time a movie starts on Saturday; why not show them some apps that will help them find and understand a given term and its synonyms? They are using their phones and tablets to organize their lives already; why not show them the ways they can use their devices to organize their thoughts and ideas for upcoming projects? Could we grab a physical dictionary just to make a point? Sure. But by showing students good, reputable and often free mobile dictionary apps as well as the host of other uses and applications available on mobile platforms, we are demonstrating for them skills they can use on their own outside of the library or Writing Center with devices they always have available.