How I used a pencil at a 3-day Conference…


This Summer I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a national conference for D2L Brightspace. It was held in Washington, DC over the course of 3 days (more if you did the post-conference) and covered related topics in online learning and of course, D2L Brightspace. (from here I will just call it D2L, btw)

I found several sessions to attend and overall had a really great time, but I had additional plans for the experience…I decided that I wanted to see how well taking just my iPad Pro and Apple Pencil worked in comparison to my usual laptop approach. I also wanted to compare taking notes for a full day with the Pencil and another full day with the attached keyboard. (the third day was a mix of whatever since it really was just networking) I used OneNote to take notes each day and although I did not qualify my comparison with specific topic areas, I did find a few specific ways this improved my workflow and things I will probably avoid in the future. Here is what I found:

Keyboard only

I am sure it is no surprise that using the detachable keyboard with the iPad Pro was not all that different from using my MacBook Pro. Similar feel and functionality, without the bulk that comes with the full laptop.


  • As mentioned above, the lighter weight of the iPad/keyboard was most welcome especially when carrying around the airport and in-between sessions at the conference. Even though I had a backpack, so my hands were still free, it was nicer to have there than a heavier laptop.
  • No changes to the interface, so the UI was very familiar…just like taking notes on my laptop or desktop computer.
  • I could tuck the keyboard away if I just wanted to use the onscreen keyboard.
  • I think I was faster in some ways, and even found time to highlight and link to other resources while taking notes. I am guessing this was due to my familiarity with taking notes that way for years.


  • I chose not to have a screen protector, but this would probably still show up there too. When the keyboard is closed, it presses ever so slightly on the iPad screen so there is a barely visible line on one side of the screen. I have tried to clean it and it does get most of it, but not all. Thankfully it is only visible if the iPad screen is off and you are looking at it at just the right angle.
  • I found myself typing more word for word what the presenter had on the screen or was saying (at times).

Apple Pencil Only

I will admit that when I started this conference day, I instinctively pulled out my keyboard and started typing. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked using the Pencil and how well it fit into my workflow.


  • Good to know I have not forgotten how to write – the physical action of writing in cursive or not is something that should be practiced now and again. As much as I like typing things out, this was better. The main reason I think I stopped writing was because I just do not like to have paper copies of stuff (except for post-its, I am clearly addicted to post-its…just look at my desk).
  • Along with the point above, I enjoyed writing in different colors and line thickness. Yep, I was one of those kids at school that had those 4 color (or more) click pens. That must have annoyed so many over the years! Click, click. Click. ha.
  • I found I used my own words more and synthesized the presentation to make sense for me. This was a weird thing to notice, I have to be honest. Maybe I was more ‘connected’ to the writing experience. Who knows.
  • The writing was amazing. Really looks like my writing. Now and then I would get artifacts from where my left hand (non-writing hand) was…but this was minimal.


  • It took a little bit to get used to the UI in OneNote. Not that it was hard, just new. So this did cause some extra time and attention but I would imagine as I use it more this will not be an issue.
  • The pencil roll. Ugh. I found myself just holding on to it when I was not writing because I was worried it would roll away from me. Or I doodled…that was kind of fun too. Brought back memories of the margins in my school notebooks. (more haha)
  • I forgot to and found it tedious to add tags (checkboxes etc.). Or maybe I was just doing it wrong.
  • This could be a like and dislike – I found with using the colors I did not need to highlight stuff.

Overall, it is clear that I liked using the Pencil. I think I will have to find out how and when I will use it at work. I could see it being great for collaborative or personal brainstorming. Or when sketching a mock-up. Meetings I think I will still type…unless the agenda is digital and I can write on top of it. We shall see.

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