PKM and Digital Gardening for kids. Improving accessibility

I’ve only just discovered this concept of ‘The Digital Garden’. I’d like to make it available to my classes, which range from 3 years old to 14 years old.

What would my best starting point be? It would be nice to have student work on a website. I want to go a long way past Jamboard and online pinboards if I can.

Pathways to get kids involved:

  1. Paper, drawing, photos
  2. Paper, writing, photos
  3. Moderated direct digital access
  4. Type work and send it

Scenarios to be involved:

A) In the class
B) Independent. At home on their own digital devices they’re already using for homework with Google Classroom and addicting videogames anyway
C) With a parent

  1. Paper, drawing, photos
    How to get this workflow efficient? How to directly upload that photo to the right place? Could kids handwrite their own tags? Could an online assistant assist with this process?

  2. Paper, writing, photos
    OCR could encourage good handwriting…

  3. Moderated direct digital access
    What Digital Garden systems have good moderation support?

  4. Type work and send it:
    Perhaps kids can email in their ‘work’ directly to Roam or something like that, including tags.

A) In the class:
This is easy. I’m already introducing this. I’d like to improve the bridge between paper and digital though. Paper is more familiar for a class.
I have keyboards that cache info and can then bulk send it. Everything else, like phones, tablets introduces distractions.

B) At home. Independent:
This is a minefield. Better the Digital Garden as a static reference.

C) With a parent.
Can’t rely on the parent to guard a password. Still need to moderate input.

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Best I have so far is not quite fast enough for live performance, which is MIRO. The scan to sticky notes does handwriting great but I need to crop the image every time, which is too slow.

I heard OneNote can do it but I don’t see the OCR function in the Android app.
The search continues.

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I’m just going to keep updating this with info as I find it.
The most interesting so far is MIRO. It’s a much more visual approach even than PADLET.

The keyword for this was VIRTUAL CORKBOARD.

Miro can only OCR via ‘stickynote’ capture on the app AFAIK. OCR is a premium feature of Evernote.

I’m really hoping someone with this visual paradyme will chime in here at some point. It’s a very useful approach.

Problems so far: Miro doesn’t support audio in anyway other than via YouTube.
Both Padlet and Miro are online only. No offline cachine. Both dont’ have e2e encryption.

Ideas: Use some other app to snap and share to pdf straight away from the phone and share that to some corkboard system.


Wow, what an interesting and cool project! I am a huge fan of the concept of digital gardening, and excited to see the space grow with various systems being adapted to the purpose. If you haven’t yet seen it, you may find some useful ideas in the digital garden list that Maggie Appleton curates:

as well as her own digital garden writing, which includes some info on tool use, explorations of various related areas, etc:

I am racking my brain trying to think of a tool - or group of tools - that would well meet your stated desires. So far it seems like there is a challenging combination of need for specific capabilities like offline, combined with a desire for interoperability and ease of use, which makes it difficult to find a great solution. I would say the offline need in particular is difficult, in my experience, as so many modern tools are SaaS. And those that are more open source and self-hosted/local tend to be less easy to use, in my experience.

That said, there are two (similar) apps that to my mind are starting to become the “swiss army knives” of PKM lately, and you’re probably already familiar with one or both: Obsidian and Logseq. I’m more familiar with Obsidian and it has a broader plugin ecosystem at present, so I’ll focus on that in relation to your needs, but Logseq may well meet some or all of this as well or better in some cases.

First of all, Obsidian is local-first, but very easy to transport data from as it’s all markdown (by default, at least; if you add file attachments it gets a little more complicated, but not bad). You could even store your vault on e.g. Google Drive (or your local/self-made/FOSS equivalent) for syncing, backup, and/or centralization (e.g. you give every student access to their own synced subfolder through Webdav or something).

Second, it has a really robust community and a quickly growing set of plugins that can easily be assembled into a centralized collection point for your content generation. So just looking at your list, you’ve got pen and paper, which would be scanned or photographed and added as an attachment in Obsidian, and/or use the Excalidraw plugin to draw natively in Obsidian:

Excalidraw is also available in Logseq:

Audio can be natively recorded and embedded in Obsidian.

Another plugin gives you some extended controls, etc.

PDF support is a little limited, but you can certainly embed and view them in Obsidian, and even extract highlights, though they must be created in another tool:

You’d need to do OCR separately, along with PDF creation and annotation. The tools for both are different enough between platforms (some particularly great ones available on Mac that are not on PC, for example) that you can’t really focus on just one I think. But it could all at least be reassembled in Obsidian.

Then you can follow any one of a number of publish workflows for markdown. Interoperability is high.

Obsidian is free, there are forthcoming mobile apps that work well (soon!), and WYWSIWYG is on the horizon as well. And even if it doesn’t have everything you want now, the plugin ecosystem is growing so quickly that there is good potential for your need to be addressed in the future. They also have a great community in their forums and on Discord, where I’m sure you could get some more ideas and pointers for implementing a collaborative digital gardening workflow…

Having said all that, since you mentioned Miro (which is decidedly not local or offline AFAIK), I’ll also point you toward Kosmik, which is one of a number of other apps starting to do cool things in the “free form whiteboard knowledge graphing” space. If you or any of your students are on Mac they might want to check it out.

Regardless of which direction you go, what you’re trying to do is really cool! I’d love to keep updated on the solutions and workflows you come up with, so I encourage you to continue your updates. :slight_smile:

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Thanks. Sharing my progress.

For my private notes I’m considering Obsidian instead of Standard Notes so I can search it along with browsing history and exported saved reddit notes at the same time with
Promnesia. Simple config was alright but advanced was too difficult.

In terms of front of class and kid involvement:

Separate OCR: Need to figure that out…?

Kosmik: On the waiting list.
Miro: Best but needs bandwidth which isn’t reliable enough for live performance.
Scapple, Curio: Basically laggy.
Pushpin: Alpha software. Couldn’t get it working.

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I’m not sure if web apps are OK or not, since Miro is on the list. But I thought I’d mention, I recently got into the beta of Clover and was pretty impressed! Basically right now it’s a simple and prettier version of Roam, but with a built-in whiteboard, support for images and a few embeds, and decent interlinking between e.g. whiteboard and docs/pages. It’s better than it sounds though. :wink: And seems to be progressing quickly.

A little birdy told me that if you email them asking to be bumped up in the beta queue they might just oblige (that’s how I got in).