For me, a laptop never really worked. Being able to chat, browse Facebook, and take notes at the same time was just too much — once my computer came to class, I lost any will to pay attention to my professors, so I stuck to pen and paper. That is, until I got an iPad my last year in college. The iPad is an amazing device to take to class. Its inability to properly multi-task makes distraction-free note taking possible, it's much lighter to carry around than a laptop, and you can still tend to things like e-mail and editing papers with it. And, there are many note taking apps available for iPad that will sync to all your other devices (Simplenote, Evernote, and iA Writer are all great options).
While it won't replace your dedicated research laptop, it's a great device for the classroom. But it's a little less than ideal straight out of the box. I got awfully fast at touch typing, but here are some accessories I wish I'd invested in while I was using my iPad for note taking.
1. A keyboard
You can use any bluetooth keyboard with the iPad, but Apple's own wireless keyboard is a great solution. It's small, lightweight, and pairs quickly with the iPad. Unfortunately it is a little pricey, and it's a pain to use it with multiple devices (like your desktop or laptop) because it can only be tied to one device at a time, but it's a clean solution. I prefer it to a dedicated keyboard case because when I'm at home I don't want a keyboard tethered to my iPad. You may or may not feel the same.
If you'll be using your iPad 100% for writing and taking notes, a keyboard case may be the way to go. The Logitech iPad Keyboard Case (pictured at the beginning of this article) is a good option for $90, and has earned the title of best iPad Keyboard Case on The Wirecutter.
2. A stylus
A stylus isn't a total necessity, but it is handy for jotting down diagrams or equations, depending on the type of classes you take. It's a tool science and art majors alike might appreciate. Try something like the Adonit Jot, which comes in several varieties starting at $19.99, or grab something as cheap as this generic 3 pack of styli from Amazon for only $2.25 (free shipping).
3. A stand
There are a number of ways to stand your iPad up, but something like Apple's magnetic smart cover is a good choice for its versatility. It works nicely as a stand when you need to take notes, and protects the face of your iPad from scuffs while you're transporting it. You can even use it as a study-aid with Evernote's quiz app, Evernote Peek. The Smart Cover might be a little pricey, but a search on Amazon yields a ton of generic options, too.
That's it. Though there are a number of accessories to make note taking easier with the iPad, you don't truly need any of them — but they do come in handy. Either way, the iPad (or any tablet for that matter) makes for a great classroom computer.
Will you be taking an iPad to class this semester, or will you be opting for a laptop? Do you even take a computer to class at all? Let us know!
(Images: as linked above)