PDF Expert for the iPad
Type of technology: iPad App
SAMR Model Rating: Augmentation
Grade level: k-12
Subject area: Any subject
Description of the lesson taught: Marking text in the classroom using digital technology is fun, easy, and exciting for students using PDF Expert. PDF Expert is a great app if you use PDFs and you like to mark them up. PDF Expert allows students to not only underline, highlight, or strikeout, but also provides students options to annotate – the skill where they can hone their literacy skills. For those veteran teachers who used transparencies at one point in their career, and who recall getting ink all over their hands – you’ll appreciate this app. I’m not going to discuss every single feature of PDF Expert as there are more than one blog post can describe, but I’d prefer to focus on how using PDF Expert to annotate texts can both augment and modify your current lesson plans.
PDF Expert has a great interface and is connected to dropbox, Google Drive, and other online services. Opening up the app, you will notice on the left hand side – a navigation pane, iCloud sync, and list of your most recent documents. In addition, you will see several folders where you will be able to store, and organize all your work similar to any desktop folders or dropbox. Similarly, it is just as simple to move and edit PDFs.
I want to take a minute to orient you to PDF Expert. When you begin to work on a PDF, the app will usually show you what page you are on and how many pages there are within the PDF which can be helpful if it is a large PDF and you need to navigate back and forth between pages. You will notice across the bottom are the dots that represent each page and show you where you are in relation to the text.
At the top you will see the title of the book or article, and above that you will notice what appears to be a pencil. When you tap on the pencil you get a “mini-screen” on the left. If you tap on the “aA” it brings up the brightness button, and various backgrounds for night, day, etc. There is also the opportunity to scroll horizontally or vertically. Or you can have the computer recite the text to you – the voice is a computer voice – definitely not Siri – I find it hard to listen to and quirky.
There are various annotation tools along the left-hand side which allow you to add text to the document, highlight (a choice of 18 different colors), underline, strikeout, add a message (which I use for both annotations or when I read a text with students and “plant” questions within the text), a stamp option, signature option, and an option which ,”magnifies” the screen in a box below the text so you can write in “normal” size and apply it to a smaller section of the text.
To get started with using this app in the classroom one obviously needs to open then upload the document to PDF Expert. This past week I used a PDF in my AVID class titled “Using the Inquiry Process in Tutorials.” If you have a class set of iPads with PDF Expert then I suggest you upload the PDF into your resources in NEO (our district’s Learning Management System) and have students access the file from there and open it in the app. For this particular lesson I printed a copy for the students and handed it out. As we read through the document, we discussed and annotated the text together. This can work two ways: 1. As the teacher you can show them what to annotate or 2. You can solicit annotations from the students and create an opportunity for discussion. Once you have underlined a particular part of the text click on the “message” icon along the left hand side. I use this for Commentary or the actual annotation aspect of “annotating the text.” This is similar to using a data projector with the exception of being able to store all the documents within PDF Expert and no longer use the cumbersome file cabinets. Additionally, instead of printing several copies of the same text to use with subsequent classes – PDF Expert allows you to clear all annotations, so you can start fresh. Students appreciate the visual and since my handwriting is not the best – it makes it much easier and “cleaner” for them to read.
In my AP Language and Composition class I use PDF Expert in a similar way. In AP we are constantly annotating texts either on our own or as a class. The difference is that while we annotate a text in class I will plant questions within the text and open those message boxes as we get to that point in the text. This solicits discussion and helps show students where they need to underline and add annotations.
One thing I am constantly working on is integrating quotes into all writing and obviously annotating is a strategy which can facilitate this process. By using PDF Expert as we move through a text together, students will be able to visually see and join the conversation of how a text is constructed and whether or not a text is effective. Additionally PDF Expert allows students to highlight certain aspects of a text in different colors. If we are reading a text with several rhetorical strategies I will have them use “blue” for diction that shows the tone of the text. I might use green for different types of sentences that add to the text. I will have students underline the thesis statement in red and then highlight the supporting evidence in yellow. The options are plentiful, the app is playful, but most of all it offers a new way to delve into a text and enhance students literacy skills. This is simply a snapshot to get you started using PDF Expert and the many functions and ways it can help facilitate teaching literacy skills in all disciplines.