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When The Stickies Won't Stick Use Sticks

As Carpentries (carpentries.org) instructors probably know, sticky notes are important in our teaching. Although we are now addressing the selection of stikcy note colours as an issue for people with colour vision deficiencies, traditionally a green sticky on a learners screen would mean the learner is okay, or they finished with the exercise given, while the red sticky means “I need help!”. As someone said to me: “You can’t type with one hand”, so rather than sitting with one hand in the air, with the help of the red sticky, at least you can carry on working while waiting for help to arrive.

We need our stickies. But, and I don’t know if it is only here in the UK, the stickies I buy here won’t stick. They keep falling of the screen which means they are more of a distraction than help and for this reason I have been trying to come up with an alternative solution for quite some time now. I do usually end up handing out Blu Tack [1], but that’s just wrong; sticky notes, as the name implies, should stick! Also, at the end of every class, I am always left feeling pretty guilty when having to collect and throw away a lot of wasted paper. We all know that duct tape fixes everything and I believe my 3D printer goes with everything that needs to be fixed - I had an idea. As usual, my bright ideas hit me the night before when I do not have much time left to implement it. In the six hours that were left of the day after getting back from the office I implemented this solution:

I used OpenSCAD to design two round discs, one with a cross and one with a tick mark. I printed these discs with red for the cross and green for the tick on a white background. My thinking was that for people with normal vision the red and green is helpful and for those with colour vision difficulties the colour wouldn’t matter because the contrast of green and red on white is quite signifant. Because the cross and tick are quite distinct, even in black and white it should be clear what the difference is. I designed the discs such that they can be mounted on kebab sticks and attached to the side of any monitor with Blu Tack. I have addressed quite a few issues with this option:

  1. Colour vision deficiencies are addressed
  2. No more paper waste and for those that use the stickies to get feedback - you can use a whiteboard or a collaborative document (or one of several alternative online options)
  3. Printed from plastic the discs are reusable and should last for quite a long time
  4. The plastic I used for printing is recycled PLA (from Filamentive) which can be recycled again
  5. The kebab sticks are wood, thus biodegradable

It takes about 2.5 hours to print 12 discs, which have to be glued together, back-to-back, giving you 6 sticks. So a bit time-consuming and tedious but doable - even the night before the workshop.

Sticks with red crosses on white discs and green ticks on white discs Grayscale image of sticks with red crosses on white discs and green ticks on white discs

In their feedback the learners indicated that the sticks worked well so I think they will serve as a good replacement for stickies that won’t stick. I will be uploading the OpenSCAD and STL files to printables.com [2]. If you don’t have access to a 3D printer or a 3D printing service, do give me a shout. Time permitting and at a cost to cover my expenses and postage I might be able to print for you.