Review by Megan Leppla, Common Sense Education | Updated June 2014
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Paper by FiftyThree

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Beautifully designed digital sketchbook for any age

Subjects & skills
  • Arts

  • Creativity
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (7 Reviews)

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Pros: The intuitive design makes this easy for anyone to use.

Cons: Experiencing the app at its fullest (with the Pencil stylus) is likely cost-prohibitive for most classrooms.

Bottom Line: The simplicity and effectiveness of the app make this a powerful sketch and note-taking tool for the iPad.

For teachers wanting to emphasize handwriting skills while keeping their classroom digital, Paper is your solution. The writing tool makes for a slightly more legible option than the drawing tool when it comes to taking notes. For teachers wanting to integrate the arts and digital tools in the classroom, Paper is ideal. The drawing tool is excellent for sketching out ideas. The app is designed to look and feel just like picking up a notebook. In keeping with this clean aesthetic, you won't find any buttons or login screens. Multiple sketchbooks can be added to each device, allowing students to share a device, but without a multiple-user login, there isn't anything to stop students from accessing other sketchbooks.

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Paper by FiftyThree is a digital sketchbook full of powerful tools to create beautiful illustrations. Begin with a brief tutorial and get started drawing. There are no buttons, and the emphasis on touch features makes for an intuitive design. Sketches are stored in sketchbooks that sit neatly on a shelf. Once your book is full, you can start a new one. Share your creations via Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, or email, or save them to your camera roll. Paper is completely free, including the additional tools (mixer, color, write, outline, and sketch), which formerly were in-app purchases. Although all the creating can be done with your finger, there is the option to purchase Paper's aptly named stylus, Pencil ($99).

The tools are all so responsive and intuitive that it’s possible to teach basic drawing and painting techniques using Paper by FiftyThree. The harder you push, the thicker your lines. Layer your paint to create darker values of colors, and use the mixer to create new colors. Create multiple illustrations, fill up your sketchbook, and start a new one. Paper is also full of potential as a productivity tool. Students can use the app to brainstorm ideas, sketch out a storyline, or take down notes. The versatility of Paper makes it easy to combine the arts and productivity while utilizing digital tools -- talk about a power combo!

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Give students a digital alternative to their notebook, with touch in mind, and a variety of drawing tools.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Students can use this digital sketchbook to store notes, brainstorm ideas, and practice artistic skills.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

Begin with a brief tutorial and then jump right into your sketchbook. Intuitive design makes it easy to get started, and explainers are available throughout.

Teacher Reviews

(See all 7 reviews) (7 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Emily T. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Homestead Elementary School
Centennial, United States
Everyone can be artist and use this app for anything.
This is great for offering an open-ended way to show understanding. The pens are easy to use and the app is very simple. There is no need to purchase any extra tools for the classroom. It is very intuitive to use and helpful for students who are visual learners. Since you can use the pen to write words or draw pictures, each student can explain his understanding in the way that works for him.
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