Academic uses of the tablet

Perhaps out of a desire for shiny things or maybe out of a will for being modern, I am now one of the many adepts of the tablet for work on-the-move. Staying in touch with new technologies is a pledge I’m forcing myself to follow so as not to one day face some new iteration of smartphones with bewilderment. It’s also fun to see how much technology has advanced since the times of Rocket eBooks, of which I keep a specimen as an archival curiosity – and it still works!

Though the pool of apps appears endless so as to make you think that it’s all but an issue of you figuring out what else you need the tablet for, I find certain features rather limited. The file management system is surprisingly bulky and certain protections seem more like a hindrance. In that respect, a tablet does not replace a PC, and I still do most of my work in front of a large screen with nice ergonomic keyboard and mouse (the dream is to get a nice professional photo-screen as a second screen…). Wait, what? No laptops? Not in a while, no. The light weight and seemingly endless battery life make the tablet an ideal companion for trips – to campus or overseas.

Here are some of my main academic uses of a tablet (it’s a Samsung, in case you wondered) :

  • Fast reading. It’s very convenient while commuting because it’s smaller than a laptop (and has a reading mode), and it’s nice as a second screen next to the desktop. Still, I do not use the tablet for slow reading with annotation because one cannot flip back and forth as efficiently as with a printout or book.

  • Basic internet. The smartphone is nice but there’s a lot more you can do with a slightly larger screen. The most I've done using the tablet was browsing through tons of images on the BnF website and downloading some, but frankly, this was more out of a desire to stay in that nice warm armchair. A desktop is more efficient.

  • Note-taking. Not so much in class but in archives and on trips. I got a tiny keyboard plus stylus, which make life easier; unfortunately, the keyboard is so small it does not fully accommodate non-Latin alphabets.

  • Agenda. To be honest, I use a paper agenda but Andriy really likes a digital calendar with sub-tasks and all. I just haven’t had the time to try it out, which ultimately is the issue with new technology: it takes a little bit of time to internalize it.

  • Camera. This is more of a smartphone use, but the tablet can work too. Of course, it’s nothing like the hardcore DSLR, but it does the job in many situations, e.g. when photographing slides at a public lecture. The tablet is also great for viewing images (think second screen).

What of the multiplication of storage? First of all, a tablet can be connected straight to a computer for file transfer. Easy enough. Then there’s the array of adapters for mircoSD to USB or USB to tablet. There’s also the cloud, which I personally distrust perhaps out of a misguided resistance to technology.
So, to summarize, I perceive a tablet as an oversized phone and a lightweight laptop. There are new uses to be discovered every day. Some of the stuff I haven’t yet explored or which I have not been able to solve to my liking: Is there an adapter which allows connecting tablet to projector? - Yes! / Is there a better app for printing (the one I use basically makes documents into images, which makes for a not-so-great print quality)? Are there apps which improve selecting and touchscreen-typing overall?

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