Sunday, August 10, 2014

Learning to Sketchnote

This summer, I was introduced to sketchnoting and challenged to incorporate  the concept of sketchnoting as a means of note taking.  Sketchnoting is the process of creating a personal visual story while listening, reading, or recording an experience as it happens or on a later date.

Sketchnoting brings in a variety of cognitive processes, increasing the connection between speaker and listener due to the engagement needed to listen intently while synthesizing the spoken word into drawings and short narratives.  I decided to to take the challenge seriously.

The first lesson was to watch a video titled "A Sketchnote Primer" by Brad Ovenell-Carter. (See at bottom of post.)  One of the first points emphasized in the video was the need to let go of the idea that only a person with artistic skills could be successful at sketchnoting.  In fact, with a view basic design principals. The skill of sketchnoting will grow with practice.

And so I began to learn about the basics of text, labels and simple drawing details that would bring figures and inanimate objects to life on blank paper.  And I practiced. 

An important side note:  I am not, nor have ever considered myself, an artist.

My first experience with sketchnoting as a serious attempt in capturing a speaker's details was met with failure and an immediate return to what I knew how to do best, traditional note taking in which I act as a shorthand secretary attempting to capture as much of the story I was hearing.  Would I go back over the notes later and review details?  Perhaps. 
Remember, I had been asked to put on my learner hat for the week and so, despite my first attempt ending in failure, I decided to try again as soon as the next opportunity arose.   I didn't wait long.

This time I met an increased level of success.  I still had issues with the drawings that weren't satisfying to me overall.  We were also asked to share our sketchnotes publicly on Twitter, thus making our learning process public. (You can find them by searching for #adesketchnote on Twitter.) The confidence I received from others when they favorited even my most basic of sketchnoters was staggering.

Sharing made me feel good and gave me an increased desire to improve my skill. So I asked questions.  A lot of them - to anyone who would listen.
And those who we're accepting the challenge, learning right along with me but perhaps a little further along, taught me additional skills that soon brought my competences to the next level.  That felt good!  I couldn't have been more pleased with my next sketchnote.
Upon review, I was able to vividly recount the story being told by the speaker, Lisa Jackson, head of Apple's Environmental division and former head of the EPA for the United States of America.

And then, something amazing happened.  During a lunch, someone who was beginning to delve into sketchnoting asked me to teach them what I had learned.  This provided me with an opportunity to share my level of mastery on the subject and teach others what I had learned.  I believe this is where true demonstration of learning happens and the feeling was magnificent.  Not only the individual forever grateful for the time I had invested in her development, but I felt good, as if I was making the world, or a piece of someone's world, just that much brighter.

I'm continuing my study of sketchnoting by continuing to practice drawing basics through recaps of story and significant events.  Since sharing the concept of sketchnoting with others, several teachers have asked me to come in and run a primer for both themselves and their students during the first week of school.  And though my skill level is still quite basic, I know the only way to grow and improve is to continue to practice and share my experiences with a broader, global community of sketchnoters, both experts and budding sketchnoters.

Additional Notes:
A good stylus goes a long way.  If you don't have a stylus available, hold your pointer finger as if it were a pencil.  You'll be surprised at the gained dexterity.

I used a variety of Apps but ended up purchasing all of Paper by 53’s In-App purchases.  The trouble is this isn't a viable solution for schools purchasing apps through the VPP.  Explain Everything may be a viable alternative in addition to the variety of drawing and note taking apps available.

Watch the video that introduced me to the concept of sketchnoting.

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