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Peer Review

Paper by FiftyThree App for iPad



Overall Numeric Rating:

4 stars
Content Quality:
Effectiveness: 4 stars
Ease of Use: 4 stars
Reviewed: Mar 23, 2013 by Teacher Education
Overview: Paper by FiftyThree is an iPad app that gives users the ability to create sketches, diagrams, and illustrations and share those drawings with others via Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, Camera Roll, and email. Paper also may be used to take notes or journal. Paper comes with a couple free tools: Draw (a fountain pen), Eraser, and color palette. For $1.99 each, users may purchase additional tools: Sketch (pencil), Fill (marker), Write (pen), Color (paint brush), and palette mixer. Users can also rewind their actions, reset color palettes, and rearrange or duplicate pages or journals. Paper organizes pages into Moleskine-style digital journals. Heavily gesture-based, the entire iPad screen becomes the canvas with swiping gestures to show/hide tools and change pages. Navigating a journal uses the iPad gesture for zooming (pinch-in to enter a journal page and pinch-out to exit the journal). Paper doesn’t have a toolbar, but does provide an innovative “Rewind” feature that replaces traditional undo buttons. Using two fingers in a counter-clockwise motion reverse the last sustained action. Instructors may use the app for sketching an idea, recording notes, or drawing a diagram. Students may use Paper for capturing their thoughts and ideas on a digital canvas instead of using a wide range of markers, colored pencils, pens, and watercolor paint. Although the app is free, full functionality requires in-app purchases (March 2013).
Type of Material: Drawing Tool.
Recommended Uses: App may be used both inside and outside the classroom for any assignment or task that involves drawing tools. In class, students can diagram workflows, create digital art or take notes with a stylus. The App provides space to sketch out connections and relationships between concepts and ideas.
Technical Requirements: iPad with iOS 5.0 or later. Wi-Fi and social network account (email, Tumblr, Twitter) are required to share images with others.
Identify Major Learning Goals: Paper by FiftyThree provides a digital canvas for users to draw, paint, and sketch. Users can use digital ink to create art, diagram concepts, map out workflow, or scribble notes from a lecture. With a wireless connection, users can share notes, journals, drawings and diagrams via email and social networking tools.
Target Student Population: App may be used with a variety of grade levels, subjects, and even professional groups. However, it may be better suited for secondary, undergraduate, and graduate students as the app includes a number of in-app purchases and makes use of social networking tools. Art educators and students may be somewhat disappointed in the limited number of tools available and their ability to control a tool’s width or functions.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: Users needs to understand how to navigate an iPad and would benefit from watching the app’s Welcome Guide on how to use its specific tools. A stylus would also improve the user experience. Users interested in sharing their drawings with others should consider using Tumblr, Facebook, and Twitter. Educators asking students to share their work should also take the time to address the topic of digital citizenship.

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Strengths: Paper by FiftyThree is a content creation tool.
Concerns: None.

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 4 stars
Strengths: • Paper is a replacement to an artist’s pen/pencil kit and notebook. It allows a user to only bring their iPad (and stylus) to create art, sketch ideas, or take notes. • Paper is simple to use. Choose a tool and start creating on a blank digital canvas that mirrors the iconic Moleskine notebook. Paper keeps everything in customizable notebooks and provides simple gestures to relocate items. You don’t need to rip out a page from your Moleskine and tape it in another one ever again. • With email sharing, a student can quickly email the whole notebook as a PDF or an individual page as a JPEG file.
Concerns: * Educators may want to explore other drawing tools first as Paper by FiftyThree requires a number of in-app purchases in order to gain full functionality. * Educators looking for students to compile a collection of thoughts and/or sketches over a term may want to consider other note-taking tools for easily organizing and sharing those items for assessment. • Paper is truly a simple Moleskine notebook with quality digital tools. However, figuring out a workflow for sharing for assessment isn’t immediately intuitive. Email (or Tumblr/Twitter) must be set up. Additionally, notebooks are shared differently than pages within a notebook (notebook – PDF and page – JPEG). Giving the user the option for preferred file type is preferred. • Extra tools are cost-prohibitive (only receive “Draw” for free). • Lack of layer control and inability to adjust size of pens, markers, and brush can be frustrating.

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 4 stars
Strengths: * App includes a helpful Welcome Guide and links to the company's support pages. * Easy to create additional journals or add pages to a journal. * The drawing tools are simple and produce elegant lines. * The app relies heavily on gestures, which makes provides a larger digital canvas to work with; tool bars are out of the way. For example, to undo something Paper relies on a two-finger rewind motion. * No mess; there isn’t a need for paints, colored pencils, markers and different notebooks. Paper provides a quality artistic experience for sketching, drawing, and painting. * A stylus greatly enhances using Paper.
Concerns: * Although the drawing tools are fairly straightforward, users should watch the Welcome Guide in order to learn how to navigate within and between journals as those processes are more complex. * Turning pages without accidentally drawing on a page is sometimes problematic. * The rewind (undo) function is a little difficult to control. * Cannot control a tool's tip width, with the exception of the Draw (fountain pen) which adjusts somewhat based on stroke. * Additional cloud-based saving and sharing options (i.e. Dropbox or Google Drive) would be a plus for users looking to quickly integrate their creations with their existing files. * Requiring in-app purchases in order to gain full functionality is a turnoff for many users.

Other Issues and Comments: To learn more about Paper by FiftyThree, visit To learn more about the company’s privacy policy, visit This app has been updated every one to two months.

Creative Commons:
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States