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Visual Notetaking at ISTE 2013

I have learned a great deal about visual notetaking the past year as I’ve been working on my second eBook project, “Mapping Media to the Common Core: Vol I.” Canadian educator Giulia Forsythe has been and continues to be inspirational to me as a VERY amateur and “emerging” visual notetaker. Rachel Smith’s 18 minute TEDx talk, “Drawing in Class,” has also been a big influence. Since I believe we should all “walk our talk,” I resolved before the ISTE 2013 conference to try the suggestions of Giulia and Rachel at some of the conference sessions and create my own visual notes. Here are the results.

My visual notes of Stephen Johnson‘s morning keynote today at ISTE:

Where Do Good Ideas Come From?

My visual notes from the panel discussion Steve Hargadon led on Monday on “School 2.0.”

School 2.0 #iste13

Most of the drawings of people still look like they were drawn by an advanced second grader in these sketches, but I’m reminded of both Giulia and Rachel’s advice: Visual notetaking is not about creating great art, it’s about creating images which convey personal meaning for the artist. The litmus test of successful visual art is whether or not someone can summarize key points from a lecture or presentation, using his/her visual notes as a memory aid. That is something I CAN do fairly well using both these visual note examples, so I’m pleased with my ISTE 2013 drawing experiments.

I used the full version of Brushes for iPad (with the $3 layers upgrade) along with a Rocketfish stylus to draw both these visual note examples. Following the advice of Giulia, I drew the outlines of my shapes in narrow point black, and then used a background layer to fill in with color afterwards. I like the effect and am really pleased with these drawings as my formative attempts at visual notetaking. I’ve used Brushes for iPad a bit in the past, it’s the tool I used to create my icons for the Mapping Media digital literacy framework. My familiarity with pinching to zoom in and out was definitely helpful in creating these drawings this week.

What Do You Want to Create Today?

One of the most interesting things about creating these drawings was interacting with other people around me in the sessions who had been watching me take notes. After both sessions, I had several conversations with people about visual notetaking and the value of asking students to nonlinguistically represent ideas in a lecture or from a presentation like this. I may have won over some new visual notetaking converts! I encouraged people in both cases to watch Rachel Smith’s TEDx talk, “Drawing in Class.” Hopefully if you haven’t already, you will as well… and you’ll be inspired to give visual notetaking a try too. Check out my page for visual notetaking on “Mapping Media to the Common Core.” Also check out my eBook on media products 1 – 6 in the Mapping Media framework. It’s $5.

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Learning about Visual Notetaking from Giulia Forsythe

In the process of writing and finalizing the chapter on “Visual Notetaking” for my forthcoming eBook, “Mapping Media to the Common Core,” I found Giulia Forsythe‘s blog page “Visual Practice” and her WONDERFUL presentation a year ago for the 2012 University of Mary Washington Faculty Academy. Her presentation slides are available on SlideShare, and the entire 68 minute, recorded presentation is on Vimeo. I highly recommend you watch this entire presentation if you’re interested (as you should be) in learning more about visual notes.

Giulia Forsythe at Faculty Academy 2012 from umwnewmedia on Vimeo.

In her presentation, Giulia cites and recommends several books related to learning, cognition, brain research, drawing and visual notes. These include the following titles, which I’ve added to my own Amazon wish list.

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain: The Definitive, 4th Edition by Betty Edwards

Keys to Drawing by Bert Dodson

Keys to Drawing with Imagination by Bert Dodson

Now You See It: How Technology and Brain Science Will Transform Schools and Business for the 21st Century by Cathy N. Davidson

Thinking in Pictures, Expanded Edition: My Life with Autism by Temple Grandin

All the above links are to the Kindle eBook versions of the respective books.

Giulia also referenced “The Art of Changing the Brain: Enriching the Practice of Teaching by Exploring the Biology of Learning by James E. Zull.” Unfortunately it’s just available as a paperback from Amazon, but I found (via Google) an openly posted PDF version by a Vietnamese professor teaching in France. Not sure what the backstory on that is.

Giulia’s work as a visual notetaker has been and continues to be incredibly inspiring as well as challenging to me. As a teacher and a learner, I want to have the artistic and instructional courage of Giulia Forsythe.

#umwfa12 @timmmyboy talking maker spaces

Of the six “media products” in this first volume eBook of “Mapping Media to the Common Core,” visual note taking is definitely the one I feel most uncomfortable with and least skilled at doing. That’s exactly why I think I need to practice my visual notetaking skills more. As Giulia encourages us in this video, we ALL can learn to draw effectively, but we need practice. When I drew the icons for “Mapping Media to the Common Core,” in several instances I found icons I liked on but then drew my own versions. I’ve learned this is something other artists do too.

What Do You Want to Create Today?

My modified icon for “Visual Notetaking” is used with permission from an amazing original Giulia created last summer at Unplug’d 2012 in Canada.

UnPlug'd 2012 Visual Notes

Do you take visual notes YET? Have you taught your own students about visual notetaking or graphic facilitation YET? In addition to watching Guilia’s presentation video, check out some of the other videos and tutorials on the “Visual Notetaking” page of “Mapping Media to the Common Core.” VERY inspiring ideas to both apply personally and share with students!