Working with the iPad has encouraged me to think more broadly and creatively about student reading assignments. As a philosophy professor, one of my primary teaching frustrations is that the students do not read critically – that is, they merely pass their eyes (or sometimes their highlighters) over the material. They often do not seem to have the habits of mind that encourage thinking with the author, through the text. To address this issue, and help inculcate these habits of mind, I have, in past, assigned reading questions or reading journals. Although these assignments go some way to making the process of reading active for the students, they do not make the text ‘come alive,’ and are generally viewed as just another assignment externally imposed. The applications available on the iPad, have encouraged me to rethink teaching critical reading, as several apps make available the creation and manipulation of texts. I am hopeful that this will allow students to come to our class meetings able to discuss questions beyond those of simple comprehension (‘what did the author argue?’).
For example, using apps like iAnnotate, one is able to embed notes, observations, directions for reflection and quick understanding checks within a pdf. This allows me to create dynamic texts for the students by embedding the traditional reading questions directly into the text, or directing them to links outside of the text for related questions or texts. The app Notability allows one to create new ‘notes’ that incorporate not only typed text, but also sound and images. I am especially excited about the possibility of using this in my upcoming philosophy art course. I can pull text from an article, locate it visually directly next to an image, for example of a work of visual art or sound file, being discussed in the argument and include my own annotations directing the students to go beyond comprehension, to asking critical philosophical questions about the material.