Can’t Organize Myself Out of a Paper Bag and Mourning the Loss of Circus Ponies Notebook

Old school mind mapping

Old school mind mapping

I’m in the process of planning next year’s STEAM Lab curriculum and I’m having a hell of a time organizing my thoughts and resources. Going back to organizing my Magnet school resources in the mid-1990s I grabbed chart paper and spent many days drawing/writing out a first draft. I think that must have been when I began to lust for having some space where I could set up a wall of white-boards. Sigh. I’ve been trying to replicate the experience with drawing/sketching ideas using my 12” iPad Pro but it’s been less than satisfying. But at least, once I had a first draft going I’d switch to my computer and continue the organizing process using Circus Ponies Notebook which went way beyond just a notebook metaphor with pages and dividers and let me do some heavy duty outlining and content generation. I created and organized several Master’s level online classes using this little app. I would create the list, then build out the content with URLs and images and it was all nested so that I could see things from a collapsed list view that could be expanded out to reveal every paragraph and graphic. Then last summer the one-man shop that was Circus Ponies (Jayson) folded shop and went away, and I feel like I haven’t been able to organize my way out of a paper bag since.

Admittedly, I know that there are great tools that do the outlining and others that use the Notebook metaphor and others that do the drawing/sketching thing. But I’ve yet to find them all in one app and, more honestly, I’m a bit burned out trying to learn another app. I want to draw on my damn chart paper/whiteboard and organize in my digital notebook. Ugh.

I was hoping that Notability would fit the bill, and while I love writing notes by hand on my iPad Pro with my  Pencil, it doesn't seem to do the collapsible/expandable outlining that I had with Circus Ponies Notebook. Evernote has been great as my Internet bucket where I save anything I find, but I can't use it for design or organizing things. I tried Microsoft's OneNote, but it was a huge resource hog and ran really slowly on my old MacBook Pro. I bought MindNode after it was promoted by David Sparks from Mac Power Users, but I'll probably have to get into OmniOutliner for the collapsible/expandable listing that I'm want and I'll need to get up to speed with DEVONThink that I also purchased for data/resource organizing. Typical technology "advance," I need to master three or more apps to do what I previously did with one.

After beginning this rant I was inspired to go old school/analog and draw up curriculum ideas on my classroom whiteboard (see image above) and later today  am going to get a large whiteboard to use at home for curriculum design (and other design projects). Sometimes you just have to go with what works.