My paperless student experiment

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My experiement: to take classes at the wildflower center completely paper-free.

Not too long ago, I was loaned one of those space-age tablets you hear so much about. I honestly didn’t know what I’d do with a bigger iPhone—I already had an iPhone—but I figured I might read free books on it and maybe read blogs in bigger formats. I didn’t figure on it really being a “tool” in my life.

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In class with my stylus, iPad, and cover my roommate loaned me.

Welp, skip ahead a few months and I’ve still not purchased a single app yet (but strongly considered buying the “Realistic Craigslist” app and still might), but I have purchased hardware for my hardware. I got a stylus and I like it. (No, that’s not an affiliate link; just a link to the item so you can see, but it’s also in my photo at left.)

I finally got what I’ve always dreamed about: some way to sketch and doodle (poorly) and have that transferrable to digital. Holy crap, yes. I use it to sketch wacky ideas, write (yes, handwriting) my notes out, and with my little experiment, take notes in class and go completely paper-free.

So, lest I digress into how much I love a way to sketch digitally, let me get right to the class notes and whatnot. I use a free app called Noterize, which actually gave me a 10% discount on the stylus I mentioned. The classes I’m taking email out pdf notes beforehand—the syllabus, reading list, and depending on the instructor also outlines—which I simply pull up in my mail reader on the “big iPhone”, click the link to the page, and then voila! A little button comes up in the corner of the pdf, asking if I’d like to open it in Noterize. I do and voila part deux: once the pdf is in Noterize, I can mark it all up.

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This is a really cool sketch the landscape architect showed us. I was extra glad I could sketch it out, since the photo didn't capture it at all.

So, I sit in class, pull up the handouts as pdfs on my device, use my stylus to take notes, sketch up things the teacher shares on the slides in the room (one particularly cool sketch came out of a landscaping class), and even take voice recordings from the app.

When we go outside to tour the grounds (the classes are at the wildflower center), I’ve still got my “notes” in hand, but a hard surface for it is built right in. It kinda rules.

The Noterize app has a limited color palette, but there is enough for me to sketch out a flower, shade it with the built in “highlighter”, and scribble out its name. I’ve been taking pictures, too, and importing them to the device when I sync up it and my phone later. Yes, the app lets me pull photos in. I said it rules!

Here are a couple pages I scribbled on, to give you an idea of how I’ve been taking notes.

A pdf page I wrote on, notes-style, during class.

In fact, the image below (with the menu displayed) is the sketch I made based on the slide we were seeing in the photo above. Well, I tried to make, anyway.

A screenshot of the interface. This is a pdf I was scribbling on and in the midst of which I inserted a yellow lined page to draw on.

 

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