The difficulties of kicking it “new school”

I think I used one of these… once…

Considering that I am in my mid-20’s and grew up watching cordless phones turn into cell phones, which have now turned into mini computers and cameras, I have been shockingly behind the ball when it comes to new technology. A lot of it has been because I simply cannot afford the hottest new electronics when they first come out. However, a lot of it is also because I tend to be a little old school anyway: I hand-write everything– my notes from the books I have been reading this summer (which means that it often takes a ridiculously long time to get through one chapter), to-do lists, class notes– I read real books, and I prefer to make things rather than go out and buy them. I could not bring myself to buy a smartphone until this past January (though I have had an iPod Touch since last year, which was equally difficult to transition to after using a traditional iPod since 2005. And don’t get me started on how difficult it was for me to transition from CD Walkman to iPod). I have also been using the same Macbook laptop since 2008. Of course, everything is relative when it comes to technology, as it seems to advance in leaps and bounds every few months, eventually rendering 3-year-old technology completely obsolete. 

There are many benefits to being old school. Perhaps the biggest benefit is that one saves a lot of money (though again, it’s not like I can afford a lot of new gadgets anyway). I have often found that people who are always on the cutting edge of electronics quickly lose their infatuation with their new toy after 6 months, as something new eventually comes out that would be so much better! Plus, a lot of new technology ends up needing kinks ironed out (remember the issues with the iPhone 4 and the “grip of death“?). However, one of the worst realizations is when you have spent a lot of time– and money– building up something like a video cassette or CD collection for it to only be rendered useless by DVD/Blu-Ray and MP3 devices.

Oops, wrong school.
Asher B. Durand, “An Old Man’s Reminiscenses (1845) [an example of Hudson River School painting]

In terms of school– real school– I have found that hand-writing my notes often helps me remember things better, as it takes more time for me to record a thought by pen than it would take by key. However, I should note that in terms of comps, I have been typing up my thoughts based on my notes onto this blog; eventually, if I have time, I am hoping to type them all up as a Word document. Since I am still working on getting through my books and only have 3 weeks before school starts up again, I doubt that this will happen, but perhaps I will type them up over winter in preparation for writing my thesis. But whatever, the point is that repetition helps in addition to taking the time to write things down.

What I’m saying is: I like old school. It’s familiar. It comforts me. I love the feel of a book in my hands and being able to flip through my notebook to find a great thought I wrote down. And lists? Writing a list is almost meditative to me.

New toy. And a kitty.

But alas, the time has come for me to join 2012. On Saturday, I bought an iPad 3. I had been wanting an iPad for a long time, but I had grown so comfortable (and by “comfortable” I mean “habitually miserable”) in my routines that I couldn’t convince myself that spending $600-ish was a worthwhile investment. At my school, almost all of our class readings are posted online. I am only on campus three days a week and my roundtrip commute by bus is about 3 hours. My class PDFs are usually not posted until Thursdays and Fridays– the days I am not on campus– so I would have to go to Kinko’s to print them out. I estimate that I spent about $150-200 on printing each semester, and it took about 45 minutes out of my preciously limited weekend time to get everything printed. The piles of paper at my desk in the grad office are embarrassing and filled with green-minded guilt.

When I got my book list for my History class, I began thinking about how nice it would be to not have to buy 13 books that I will likely never read again and will not be able to sell back for more than $5. I also started thinking about how disgustingly little time I am going to have to wait on anything while I study for comps and take a full class load. At that point I began seriously entertaining the idea of getting a Kindle Fire, since they are relatively inexpensive, but I figured that if I was going to invest in a tablet, I wanted something more versatile: I wanted something that I could not only read my books on, but something that I could upload PDFs onto and mark up. One of my classmates used an iPad all last year and would show me how her highlighting app worked and how she neatly filed away all of her readings. She also used it to introduce me wonderful games such as Kitten Sanctuary (seriously, all art history folk are cat people).

One of the great things about being a student is that Apple gives students perks. When I bought my Macbook 4 years ago, it was 10% off. For my iPad, I got $50 for apps. As soon as I got it up and running, I started loading it up with every book-reading app I could think of: Kindle, Nook, Kno, iBooks, ebrary, you name it. I also took the advice of one of the Apple Geniuses and bought this app called Complete Class Organizer. My school’s tech website listed an app called Junos Pulse that will allow me to connect to a secure VPN so that I can access ebooks that are available on the library’s website and other scholarly sites like JSTOR. Perhaps the best app I found is GoodReader, which allows you to highlight your PDFs, write notes in the margins, make Post-Its– anything. And of course I bought some great accessories my iPad off of Amazon, such as this awesome cover, a set of styluses, and screen protectors (I also bought Manifestoes of Surrealism, but that’s a topic for another post :-)). Seriously, though, I just can’t get over how much stuff you can do with an iPad! And now I don’t have to carry my print-out/computer/book-filled backpack to school all the time– I can grab one of my many messenger bags and put my iPad and a notebook in it (because I’m not sure I can give up on my notebooks just yet…).

Long story short: I am now 3 steps closer to being green, slightly less frantic, and a bit of a techie. Now if you will excuse me, I am going to go play some giant Fruit Ninja download some essays from JSTOR.

Can I just go back to the days where “awesome new school supplies” were crayons?


2 thoughts on “The difficulties of kicking it “new school”

  1. I am sitting at my iPad as I read this, so the app I use is “iAnnotate”. It’s about $10. I also just picked up Pages for typing documents and notes into, and I will also be getting Keynote, and a dvi plug to use the holy iPad for class presentations, to avoid all carrying of my giant laptop.

    Also, dropbox has a lovely iPad app, and it’s not terrible to compose blog entries on the WordPress app. The myfitnesspal app is quite lovely as well, and Mr. Reader is the best rss feed reader for iPad that I’ve found. Sadly, Pinterest doesn’t have an iPad app, which makes me cry.

  2. As a grad student with far too many scanned pdfs for my dissertation, I’ve been contemplating an iPad as well. It’s useful to hear your take on it! Thanks for sharing.

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