Various threads have led me down this path – I’ve always liked to draw on a whiteboard, doodle mindmaps with an array of fine textas, and do free form notes on graph or dotted paper. When equipped with a lined notebook and a pen the words stream out of the pen, it does help with retention more than just listening, however I find structured but not linear notes help me to structure my thoughts better, see connections and have more insights as I’m listening or participating.
Nancy White is an inspiration in this area of graphic recording and facilitation. I love colour, bringing ideas to life and highlighting and linking and drawing a sense of the process for a group. Being able to do this on paper is something I’ve toyed with. I’ve often used hand –drawn mindmaps to summarise, structure and tease out ideas. Mindmapping software is a bit of a hit and miss effort for me. Useful when I know a document will be coming out the other end, handy when I want to reorganise sections, possible to share and collaborate with others. So the software has its place.
When I got my iPad, I wondered about the possibilities for creation. The early criticism of the iPad, especially in the learning area was that it seemed more a tool for consumption than creation. What a challenge! So my early questions to myself were about how I could use it for creation and how that opened up use of iPads for learning.
Notetaking was an area I wanted to explore. Yes, text based notes are possible and functional, but what about mindmapping?
Then Rachel Smith and Visual Raccoon posted about graphic recording on the iPad and that got me going. Based on a number of comparative reviews I bought Sketchbook Pro, and tried a bunch of free apps as well.
Testing some tools
- Adobe Ideas ($free) Nice tool, smooths lines so looks better when you zoom. Brush controls are harder to control than Sketchbook Pro. Free form drawing. Can’t type text in. Blank Canvas.
- Popplet ($free for Lite version) Text, drawing and images in boxes that can be moved around, resized and linked to each other. More mindmap-like than others.
- Sketchbook Pro ($9.99 AUD) Recommended by several reviews. Multiple (too many?) brush options, fine level colour controls, multiple layers, ability to import images, flexible output options.
I also tried, in no particular order:
AirSketch free, iBrainstorm, Stickyboard, Draw, Paperdesk LT, iPocketDraw, MindMash ,Idea Sketch, Iditia Free and some other ones I’ve since deleted. Some are better for different styles of recording than I’m talking about here.
My basis for comparison
What is important to me:
- Ease of use including quick colour change and eraser tool access
- Zooming in and out intuitively
- VGA output option
- Export options and formats
Preparation for Use
I knew I’d soon want to use this approach for a real event, so I tested out tools and got to know them through doing graphical records of TV shows and evening conversations around the house – low risk and I wouldn’t be annoyed if I accidently deleted the lot! Through this process I settled on Sketchbook Pro because of the zooming, layers and colour changing speed possible. So I ended up with some pretty random images but it was fun. I played around more with a visual note taking approach, more so than my traditional mindmap technique and appearance.
Real life Use
Recent Changes Camp came up in Canberra and that was it – my challenge to myself was to use the iPad for note taking.
What I discovered:
- Found not typing/ writing with a pen shifted my focus from capturing words as such to capturing thoughts and ideas.
- The freeform conversational approach of the unconference gave a starting point to the notes, and suited my default mindmap style. I reverted pretty quickly to my standard style – you could put my handwritten maps from months ago next to my iPad ones and they are definitely both mine!
- When in a session where I talked a fair bit at the start I wanted to capture what was being said but graphic recording required too much brainpower to allow for talking. I relaxed when I reminded myself that other people were taking notes and I could access them later.
Wikis in Learning and Education
- Use of colour and brush controls still requires conscious thought, much like picking up a different colour texta when starting a new subtopic.
- I found I captured what was for me the right balance of quality and quantity of notes while still participating reasonably in the discussion.
After the event
After the formal sessions I wanted to pull some of the overarching thoughts and issues into a more graphic style than my mindmaps. I planned it out roughly on paper and searched for visual cues to suit the topics. Being able to colour in areas of the canvas on a layer to allocate space and arrangement, and then put my actual text and graphics on another layer meant I could end up with a well organised output. I simply deleted the ‘underlayer’ when I was done.
What I learnt:
- I didn’t save often enough. Sketchbook Pro would crash occasionally and I couldn’t see a pattern as to why.
- Learnt about the layer transform tool and how that could be used to manipulate or edit an image you’ve imported from elsewhere.
- I would like to spend more time playing with the brush options
- Practice of large lettering styles would add more visual interest and variation.
Summary of my notes from #ucrcc
I love it!