One of the projects we discovered when we ran across Jie’s work was a project called the Telescrapbook, which she developed with her friend and colleague, Natalie Freed. The Telescrapbook was conceived as a playful way for two people separated by distance to communicate with each other. These proof-of-concept books use paper circuitry, circuit stickers, sensors, Arduino and XBee radios to trigger events in the other.

We were excited to find out that Natalie now lives in the Bay Area and even more excited to meet her and learn more about her own paper circuitry explorations. She told us about the SparkCore, a new low-profile wi-fi chip that makes it very easy to connect electronics projects to the Internet. We explored the possibilities of connecting a paper notebook to the web—why might you want to do this? What would you want it to do for you and your work? Natalie agreed to prototype a wi-fi connected notebook with us and she made this beautiful exemplar of what a multidisciplinary inquiry-based notebook can look like.

Natalie decided to create a custom-made notebook for her inquiry into tide pools that is designed to include a real-time data visualization of the current tide height at a previously specified tide pool site based on publically available data from NOAA. Her prototype speaks to the deeply personal nature of notebooks and showcases the interdisciplinary nature of authentic learning.

She’d taken some bookmaking classes before, so she decided to construct her notebook from scratch so she could control its form factor (allowing her to take it out into the field) and easily accommodate some of the technical features she wanted it to have, such as a dedicated rechargeable battery and the SparkCore chip. The paper she used for its pages came from her grandfather’s old ledger books, further connecting her to the notebook.

Overview of Contents

Natalie begins with a hand-drawn map of Northern California tide pools done in watercolor—an especially appropriate medium, given the subject! This is followed by a poem about tides by Walt Whitman. She then explored different artistic media to test their hues and visual quality on her notebook’s paper. She made a list of questions she had on the topic of tide pools. She created a number of thumbnail storyboard sketches exploring possible visual compositions for her tidal data visualization. This was followed with technical notes about the SparkCore, what the different status color codes on the chip meant. Finally, she painted her tidal image and created the paper circuit underneath using Jie’s LED circuit stickers.

Goal: Real-Time In-Notebook Data Visualization

Citizen science has long sought to tap the power of the crowd to help collect data for scientists. Many educators see citizen science as a great way to get youth directly involved in real world scientific inquiry and practices. As important as these projects are, they often focus on the professional scientists’ questions--what about helping people see that they too can use these data to conduct investigations. Natalie’s prototype provides a beautiful example of how these data can be repurposed to answer everyday scientific questions asked by you or I.

Natalie’s still working on the software application for her tidal project; we’ll keep you posted. NEXMAP, its collaborating educators, partner organizations and our community of interested makers are also continuing to explore what’s possible when we reimagine notebooking for the 21st century. Join our G+ community today to share your own hacks and ideas.

Edited 4.2.14 to more accurately reflect a couple of the finer technical aspects of the Telescrapbook and connected notebook. Thanks, Natalie!