EDUCATIONAL PLATFORM FOR LEARNING SKETCHING
SketchTivity is an educational platform for learning sketching that can be used on a Cintiq or any other tablet device. I currently lead the design, research, and front-end development of the project.
The learning objective of this software is to help users gain mastery of visual communication skills – Specifically perspective sketching, a skill that is typically taught to industrial designers. It utilizes sketch recognition, a form of AI, to give real-time feedback to the learner which could potentially accelerate their learning process and lead to better mastery of the skill over traditional pedagogy. I am also considering including elements of scaffolding (video tutorials), coaching (virtual teacher), and gaming (levels, points, etc.) to make learning sketching a fun and enjoyable experience. The software is primarily targeted at designers and engineers, but anyone else that wants to learn how to visualize in 3-dimensions can benefit from it.
Dr. Tracy Hammond (advisor)
Wayne Li (former advisor)
Dr. Julie Linsey
Sketch Recognition Lab at TAMU
Concept, Research, UI Design, Visual Design, Front-end Development (HTML/CSS/JS), Sketch Recognition algorithms, Usability Testing
Sketching is a skill that can be difficult to learn for many people. The act of drawing is complex and relies on many different physical and cognitive functions working together including fine motor control, spatial reasoning, mastery, self-regulated learning, and self-efficacy. Mastery of the skill requires a great deal of effort and many hours of practice. Many people have low self-efficacy with regards to sketching, and this hinders their ability to improve and master the skill.
One of the biggest problems with traditional pedagogy – Studio environments is the comparison to peers and lack of feeling any sense of achievement for many people. It often leads to feelings of learned helplessness. It’s also difficult for teachers to cater their teaching to individual students. They simply don’t have the time our resources to individualize the learning experience. This led to my research hypothesis:
Use of a touchscreen-based software that utilizes sketch recognition and gaming elements can improve self-efficacy in people attempting to learn conceptual sketching, and in doing so accelerate mastery of the skill as both a standalone learning tool and in combination with traditional methods.
My research (details can be seen in my process book) has been extensive and has included:
Analyzed existing similar software / apps like LearntoDraw, DrawThis, Circled, Duolingo, Khan Academy, etc.
Analyzed stakeholders including universities, educators, design firms, corporations, that may have interest in facilitating the learning of sketching.
Found a gap in the market for something like this – A professional sketching educational platform that utilizes sketch recognition.
Made a simple experience map that shows the progress of the learner towards mastery and the problems that they encounter on the way.
Interviewed several teachers from Georgia Tech that teach / have taught ID sketching, along with gaming experts, and an ME professor who works in the space of conceptual design for engineers.
Interviewed 16 users from a variety of academic backgrounds and skill levels.
I had two opportunities to plan sketching workshops for my HCI colleagues, the latter of which I used to test some paper prototypes of the software.
Sent a self-assessed sketching skill and motivation survey out to 76 design students and professionals who had a wide variety of skill-levels and motivations
Julia wants to learn sketching but struggles with improving and staying motivated to practice. For much of her life she has told herself she is not very creative and that she can’t draw or sketch. She switched to industrial design from engineering when she realized it was a more creative and collaborative career path. Still, she struggles with one of the fundamental design skills – skectching.
She dislikes comparing her work to peers in traditional studio environments as it can be very discouraging. She feels like she isn’t getting better despite the time she devotes to practicing. The only feedback she ever gets is a few seconds of harsh criticism each week as she is typically among the worst in the class. She even struggles with the theory and doesn’t quite understand how perspective works.
Johnny understands the theory at this point. Perspective, ellipses, organic shapes, etc. are all easy for him to comprehend, he just needs to improve his motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Knowing that the only way to get better is to practice, Johnny is more intrinsically motivated to get better.
He has seen improvement in his skills since starting to learn to sketch, so feels moderately accomplished. He is also growing more confident sharing his sketches with peers and is comfortable receiving negative feedback from time to time. He’s even started a rivalry with a fellow classmate. For those struggling in his class, he doesn’t mind helping them learn, and he finds it even motivates him.
David has been sketching for years, and has plateaued. He has grown bored of sketching the same things over and over again. He needs some fresh inspiration and maybe some challenges that help him master specific skills he hasn’t given much attention to.
He also enjoys teaching others and sharing his technique at this point. There is no kind of criticism of his work that would really bother him because he knows what he is capable of. Given the opportunity to teach others would be rewarding for him and potentially inspire him to sketch more himself.
The self-efficacy threshold is a breakthrough where the learner realizes that he or she CAN learn sketching, typically after some amount of achievement or seeing noticeable progress in their abilities.
My research has led to me realize the major difference between beginners who struggle at sketching and their more advanced peers is self-efficacy. I believe there is an important theoretical “threshold” which shifts a beginners mindset and leads to further mastery of sketching. Some people reach this threshold quickly and easily, others struggle. Either way, at this point the learner is:
– Beginning to unlearn any negative thought patterns that kept them from improving drawing skills i.e. “I’m not a good at drawing” or “I’m just not creative / artistic” Beginning to be encouraged by seeing peer’s work, rather than discouraged. (Peers should still be around the same level of mastery)
– Are more likely to take control of their learning experience (self-regulated learning)
– May gain a more intrinsic desire to improve sketching ability without relying on external praise or external motivators.
I believe that SketchMaster can accelerate the mastery of sketching in learners and help them cross this threshold sooner.
In order to determine how gaming elements should be implemented, I developed a motivation model inspired by the works of Richard Bartle (Bartle Test) and Jon Radoff. With the survey results, I was able to see how motivation is different from person to person and also changes based on skill level. Ultimately this had led to the design decision that the software should initially be achievement based (extrinsic motivator), but then eventually allow for many other motivators as the user becomes more confident, and becomes more intrinsically motivated to get better.
The first prototype was paper-based. This allowed to explore exercise designs with virtually the same interaction, just real pen and paper, not a stylus and a touchscreen device. For the assessment I used a Wizard of Oz technique to simulate what the software’s feedback might be like.
USABILITY TEST I
I arranged a usability test to test some UI designs and possible features, and to get some initial feedback on the project. I recruited the same 8 users I interviewed to take part in the test. After the test I surveyed them and gathered their feedback on the designs and concept in general. The results were very positive, with many participants liking the concept and offering great feedback and suggestions on the UI design and gaming features.
This prototype was originally built in HTML / CSS / JS utilizing an open source JS library called Sketch.js. I built in the evenings while interning in San Francisco. This allows for a user to sketch lines on an HTML canvas, and it works with any touchscreen device because it’s web-based. The prototype was later expanded upon by Trevor Nelligan and the Sketch Recognition Lab at Texas A&M to include sketch recognition and more fully-featured JS libraries.
USABILITY TEST II
For this usability test 4 exercises were developed, 2 of which utilize sketch recognition. The focus is on basics – Line and Circles, each with two different exercise approaches. This software is meant to be educational, so rather than focusing on traditional usability heuristics like task completion time, error rate, etc. I decided to focus this study on learning outcomes and whether or not the pages and exercises were accomplishing the goals I set out to accomplish. In order to do this I made the study much more focused on qualitative feedback. I also wanted to get some quantitative data so I created my own performance metrics to measure the effectiveness of the pages and exercises, as well as the UI in general.
Ultimately the usability testing showed the value that both exercises have – Both have advantages and disadvantages and it seems logical that they would both be in future versions.
A major flaw in the current design that was somewhat expected is that the users do not fully understand what to do before they begin exercises. Scrolling should generally be eliminated from
the interface due to the way people interact with it (pen-based).
I’m never afraid to dive back in to sketching after a round of usability testing. The insights gained from the 2nd usability test are currently being implemented in the following designs.