I love notes. I really love notes. I still have notebooks of mine going back to when I was in high school. I have been known to take photos of my whiteboard after class. I have PDF files dating back years from three generations of Smart Boards. Why? Notes are records of reflection and understanding; they are transcriptions of transient yet highly teachable moments; more significantly, they reflect learning in process. Papers, presentations and Prezis have more polish, of course, however nothing beats notes. They are immediate. They are concrete. They are enduring.

Notes reflect a student’s own style. There is no MLA style guide for notes: whatever works, works. Finding the style that works means experimenting with different styles in different situations. What works in history? What works in Spanish? What works for younger students? For seniors? What works in “need to know” situations? How can we separate the “need to know” from the “good to know”?

Enter the sketchnote. Sketchnotes are single page, mixed media presentations of content. Sketchnotes can be summaries of single sessions or synthesis of whole works. Sketchnotes allow students to made notes that express relevance (composition, connections), relativity (size) and resonance (images) in a way that traditional notes can not. Kathy Schrock (@kathyschrock) has pulled together a great archive of examples and resources on sketchnoting here.

I have seen many…more and more recently. Sylvia Duckworth (@sylviaduckworth) does fantastic work and the team from EdTechTeacher really helps spread the love. (I wrote a bit about it here.) The staffers make their sketchnotes public and also share example from educators who attend their sessions. Curiously enough, in doing some research I found this class in sketchnoting at Murray State. Very meta!

I have tinkered with Notability, Paper and Penultimate. All are great platforms: powerful, packed with just enough tools to get you going and easy to save and share across platforms. For those interested in using good old paper or experimenting with hybrid high-tech/low-tech platforms, Moleskine has some attractive products.

I created my first real sketchnotes with Paper this weekend. I created two variations on the same theme: connectivity through a thoughtful mix of real and virtual communities. The central principle was “Global + Local Learning Communities.”



I had fun doing it. A ton of fun actually. I guess it is surprising it has taken me this long to get on the sketchnote express. I fancy myself a visual learner and I usually find myself crystallizing concepts with drawings. As a teachers I try to present concepts this way for my students: visually, logically, sequentially. This style of presentational and simultaneously long and short view can help language students a great deal. The connection of the verbal to the visual makes for multiple points of contact and, hopefully, comprehension. I think this is true at the beginning levels where they are working with language constructions and at higher levels where they enter into the conceptual reals.

Here are some questions I’m trying to find answers to, both for myself as a nascent “noter” and for my students:

  • How can we begin to include note taking more systematically in class to help our students see the forest and the trees?
  • How can we use time in class to help students develop note taking skills and a personal style? Should we?
  • How does sketchnoting fit into this skill building process?
  • Should teachers begin with more traditional styles (Ia., Ib., II.) before moving on to other forms of notetaking?
  • Can we flip the process–using visual note taking as an entry point to more traditional forms?

Are you a seasoned sketchnoter? Do you have answers to these questions? Do you have questions of your own? Please share your experiences and ideas.


Update: 3/7/14…I’m still at it! Here are some recent sketchnotes from #sunchat and #FLF15 plus one on the future tense in Spanish.

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