Why teachers should allow students to sketchnote in the classroom?

In June of this year, I went to my first ISTE Conference & Expo, to say it was one of the best professional development experiences of my life would be a huge understatement. Being in the presence of over 15,000 educators from all 50 states and 73 different countries, all seeking to improve teaching and learning through technology integration was humbling.

The first night of the conference, there was an electrifying keynote by renown Theoretical Physicist, Michio Kaku, but what inspired me as equally as the keynote was a sketchnote of the keynote by Vanessa Perez I found while perusing my PLN on Twitter.

After seeing this sketchnote and doing a little bit more research on the process of sketchnoting, I decided to try my hand at it (I sketchnoted each of my sessions). Sketchnoting (also called visual note taking) combines various doodles, drawings, and text to capture the essence of a class, workshop, or presentation. What makes sketchnoting so powerful is the visual nature in which it allows the notetaker to capture the information. What educators need to understand is that sketchnotes are as unique as the people who create them. It takes some time to master sketchnoting, but over the course of the four days of the conference, there was an evolution in my ability to create sketchnotes. It's important to sketchnote often to perfect the craft.

What I didn’t realize is that I’ve seen sketchnotes before, specifically from Sylvia Duckworth. I’ve seen her artistic creations throughout my PLNs but never thought it was something I could do. The fact is, anyone can do it, and everyone should do it. Studies show that the act of combining images with text helps the brain retain information better; however, because every notetaker is different, you may not understand all of my notes and vice versa. Sketchnotes are primarily for the person creating them and not a wider audience. The creator of the visual notes is the only one who knows why he/she combined certain images and text, but getting students to share and explain their visual notes is a great way to extend learning.

Teachers can explicitly teach students the sketchnoting process, and here are my five suggestions that students should remember when sketchnoting:

        1. You do not have to be an “artist” to sketchnote.

        2. Your notes are your notes, create them in a way that makes sense to you.

        3. Your notes don’t have to capture everything, get the gist of the information.

        4. Low tech or high tech, it doesn't matter.

        5. Have fun while learning.

I captured my sketchnotes on an iPad Pro (12.9”) with an Apple Pencil using the Procreate app, but sketchnoting can be done just as easily with a traditional pencil and paper, and there are other great apps that can be used to capture sketchnotes.

So, the next time you are in a faculty meeting, professional development, or at a conference, try your hand at sketchnoting. You can even practice by taking visual notes of your favorite song, book, television show, or movie. And this school year, have your students try their hands at visual note taking and see what great works of art they come up with. I can’t wait to see what you and your students create.

Educational Leaders who Sketchnote

Vanessa Perez

Sylvia Duckworth

Matt Miller 

Sketchnote Army

Apps for Sketchnoting:

 Paper by FiftyThree
Adobe Photoshop Sketch
Adobe Illustrator Draw
 Tayasui Sketches