Friday, November 28, 2014

Playing with Paper by 53

Playing with Paper by 53
by Susan Stephenson,

Book Chook confession: I had Paper by 53 on my iPad for around 12 months before I looked at it again. I loved the idea of an app that encouraged creating via drawing/doodling/jotting notes, but …to be honest, I have to admit I found it a little confusing. After I began noticing how several educators like Silvia Tolisano, and Brad Ovenell-Carter were using it, I decided to bite the bullet and actually read the instructions! Wow! Suddenly it all became clear.

I badly wanted to share my joy in using this app via a blog post, but again, found myself hesitating. Eventually I worked out it was fear holding me back. I have no illusions about my artistic ability. I squiggle. I scribble. I play. I even enjoy myself. But sharing what I’ve made - the stick figures and the childish patterns - was a very scary proposition. And then I realised that while I knew I would never be an artist I thought I just might become a sketch-noter. So that’s what I recently gave myself permission to be - someone who uses Paper by 53 to practise sketch-noting (and more likely my own chookish version of sketch-noting!)

What’s sketch-noting? It’s visual note-taking. Usually you use little images and embellishments as well as text to remind yourself, or convey to another, what you hear/saw/want to say. There’s much more information here at UXmastery in Sketchnoting 101: How to Create Awesome Visual Notes. Some sketch-noters use more traditional media like pens and paper; others use digital media.

Because I love comics and graphic design, because I am fascinated by communication in all its forms, because I find myself curating resources and prodding my ageing brain to remember stuff, I was immediately drawn to sketch-noting. Looking at others’ sketch-notes is a little like being honoured with a glimpse inside their brains. But surely these people were all artists! I knew I could never be as good and almost gave up again.

Yet several things kept me going. One main one was all the help I found online. It somehow mitigated against my irrational fear of actually having a go. The big take-away message for me was that you don’t need to be an artist to be a sketch-noter. It really is accessible to everyone. If you check out the Flickr sketch notes pool, you’ll see a range of styles and abilities. The sketchnoting 101 article suggests you practise basic shapes and objects. After watching Brad Ovenell-Carter’s brilliant Sketchnote Primer, I realised I wasn’t the only person in the world with an internal editor criticising my drawings.

I have always doodled when listening to a talk or lecture. Mostly this was a way to help me concentrate, or give me something to do to fight off boredom. Sketch-noting though is like doodling on steroids. As well as listening, I’m taking notes, thinking about the overall impression I’ve captured/want to capture, finding and recording a framework and layout, and drawing bits and pieces to help the communication.

Another thing that excites me about this kind of communicating, particularly with Paper by 53, is its potential for other forms of conveying a message. What if I used Paper to create slides for a presentation? What if I "sketch-noted" using Paper to create images I need for a blog post? Would I be able to use it to make an infographic? How about journalling - could I finally commit to creating something visual with Paper every day? (I created most of the elements in the image above using Paper by 53.)

I don’t yet know the answer to those questions for me personally. But I’m keen to try. Why, they’ve even included Paper in experimental theatre!

If you’d like to learn more about the basics on Paper by 53, and how it might be used by kids, look out for my review of this app next Monday, December 1.

Interested in creating with kids or for yourself? Check out the Creating button in my right sidebar. 

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