Consolidating Learning with Sketchnoting
This week’s journey into infographics and data organization was the icing on the cake for Course 3. It coincided with the fact that not long ago, I became determined to learn more about sketchnoting or visual note-taking. It all started when I discovered Doug Neill’s webpage, Verbal to Visual. He has amazing video tutorials to learn how to combine text, sketches, and color to synthesize information and learn how to express your ideas visually.
At the same time, the word sketchnoting started to appear often on my Twitter feeds. Thanks to my PLN I got hold of this amazing eBook, Sketching for Teachers and Learning.
What is sketchnoting?
According to Sketchnote Army:
“Sketchnotes are purposeful doodling while listening to something interesting. Sketchnotes don’t require high drawing skills, but do require a skill to visually synthesize and summarize via shapes, connectors, and text. Sketchnotes are as much a method of note taking as they are a form of creative expression.”
True to myself, before I started venturing into the world of sketchnoting, I wanted to make sure that it wasn’t just a new fad and that its benefits could be backed up by research. What I found was that sketchnoting requires the synthesis and the retrieval of information and that there are numerous studies that support retrieval practices. It is not enough to ask students just to listen, read, highlight important information, and reread notes, but we actually need to engage them in a recall process. This will help in learning and in retaining information. Pooja K. Agarwal, a cognitive scientist and founder of the Retrieval Practice organization puts it this way:
“Often, we think we’ve learned some piece of information, but we come to realize we struggle when we try to recall the answer. It’s precisely this “struggle” or challenge that improves our memory and learning – by trying to recall information, we exercise or strengthen our memory, and we can also identify gaps in our learning.
In addition, another research-based strategy for learning is dual coding: using words and pictures in the process of learning. So, within this context, sketchnoting is an ideal tool in the learning process of teachers and their students.
All this research was not enough for me to start; I still felt hesitant. I don´t consider myself a great artist, and the few times I have tried to draw, I have become frustrated because my sketchnotes didn’t look like the ones people were posting on Twitter. However, Nicki Hambleton mentions in her L2Talk, The Power of Visuals, that the actual drawing isn’t the most difficult, it is the thinking—the cognitive effort that it takes to listen to what someone is saying and come up with ways to synthesize the information in a visual form so others can understand it. In the same way, the designer Craighton Berman, in this blog details that:
“With practice, you’ll be able to store multiple quotes, thoughts, or ideas in a queue while you’re sketchnoting. This “mental cache” also allows you to listen to multiple points and synthesize them down to what’s important—before writing anything.”
Uff, that is really hard! This reminds me of doing simultaneous translation at a conference, which I have tried and know how difficult it is.
For the purpose of learning, I decided to give it a try again. I used the app Procreate, and I sketchnoted the L2 Talk, Owning Your Story by Lisa Fung-Kee-Fung.
Of course, If I were a pro, I would have done it live and end when the video ended, but, as a beginner, I gave myself permission to watch, stop, draw, watch, stop, draw, until I got through it. Hopefully, with a lot of practice, I will develop my “mental cache” and be able to do it on the fly!
Things I learned after…
I decided to share the video above so you have an idea of what I struggled with. And, thinking as an educator, here are some things to consider if you want to introduce visual note-taking with students (or teachers):
- Start practicing with a simple paper and pencil before trying to go digital
- Make sure students or teachers have mastered the app they are planning to use. I wasn´t familiar enough with Procreate to fully focus on the process of drawing and writing. I often had to erase and start again because I misused a tool or I forgot to create layers for different sections of my sketchnote. I didn’t even use color because it required spending more time learning the app and its features. Paper by 53 may be easier to use with students, but still requires a certain level of familiarity.
- Start using text, connectors, and frames before drawings. It took me a long time drawing, and I often referred back to the app Bizz Draw to learn how to do simple sketches.
- Start by using it as a recalling practice instead of a live visual recording. This helps to provide a lower stakes opportunity to practice skills and get used to the process.
Finally, even after struggling at first, I see so many benefits of using sketchnoting in the classroom, and I definitely know that like any new learning, it requires practice and more practice for it to become a useful and productive tool in learning. There was indeed a certain power in representing and consolidating my learning through sketchnoting.
Do you have successful stories about introducing sketchnoting in your classrooms or your professional life? Please share and help me and others bring this important tool into their learning.
Free iTunes course: Lessons for the Classroom, Digital Sketchnotes for Visualizing Learning