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The Digital Notebook: Notation of Digital Design Learning and Practice

Adam Sheffield, Nicholas Spratt, Graphic Design and Animation Department of Design and Visual Arts, Unitec, Auckland, New Zealand

Change in practice from physical to virtual notebook.

Notebooks are a way of understanding how people think and the way that they work. Notebooks are descriptive and analytical tools. Historical tradition of artists and scientists using notebooks eg Da Vinci and Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Notebooks  can be used formally or informally. They give people the opportunity to “think aloud”.

Notebooks are important in the teaching of design and encouraging self-directed learning. 5 criterion used to assess notebooks: Analysis, research, exploration, synthesis and communication. These demonstrate a process of action and reflection. People that have a very hands on way of working tend to embrace this format, which is a challenge. It is a very analogue way of working which has worked well, but as students more who more digital processes need to incorporate this into notebook notions. Challenge as to how to embrace digitisation in notebook concept. Need to create a digital space that brings together creative thinking and critical thinking- Hurson.

Features of notebooks: Portability of notebooks is important as is the personal nature of the notebook-need to feel close to notebook, flexibility, availability, scalable, customisable. If you put it all online it is constantly open and this is a problem. Want to be able to share certain bits when you want to.

Created workflows for notebooks which enabled them to define software requirements. Felt that digital publishing software was appropriate. Small shift from publication to ‘open document’. Developed method and then tested in two classes; one where it was compulsory and one where it was optional. Exported work as a pdf at assessment time, but could continue to develop it themselves. Enabled students to understand and see their own design processes.

Not a replacement for traditional notebooks but sits alongside it and is another option especially for those who struggle with analogue form. One student who struggled with analogue form increased their grades significantly when moved to digital form. Can see purpose of blogs and use them of feedback elsewhere but didn’t quite work for this purpose. Not having to teach students new software so using tools that are familiar to them which is important. Now going to do more research into how using notebooks and purpose etc. There were some students who struggled within digital form but they had to learn how to use the software anyway.


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