One of my favorite ways to document my learning during a conference is to sketchnote the sessions and keynotes with visual images and text. It’s something that I truly look forward to. This past week I went to the Spring CUE conference in Palm Springs, CA and once again, I thoroughly enjoyed sketching the keynotes and sessions I attended. I have found I am able to focus better, make deeper connections to the ideas, and retain the information longer when I allow my thoughts to fill the page with images and text. However, as one of the last sessions was coming to a close, I looked at my sketch and realized something. Though, my page was filled with images and text, there was very little color or detail. That’s because it wasn’t complete. My favorite part of sketchnoting comes after the session....the beauty comes in the reflection.
At times I am able to reflect immediately after the learning and other times it happens later as I fly home or decompress from the experience in my pajama’s in the living room. It doesn’t matter when it occurs, but it always does. This past week, as I settled into the airport after going through security I pulled out my ipad pro and opened up Paper53 to look at my sketchnotes from the week. With each quote I read and image I saw, the memories from each session came flooding back and I began to process. I rewrote some of my text, added in images, wrapped some of my thoughts in containers and bubbles, and colored. As a person who recharges in solitude, the act of coloring and creating is therapeutic for me. It brings me back to being a kid sprawled out on my bedroom floor with my big box of crayons and a coloring book. Coloring between the lines and adding my own unique details to the page, allowed me to process the day. It gave me time to untangle all of my complicated thoughts and ideas and organize them into manageable chunks. This is exactly what happens when I reflect on my sketches. I am able to take the new ideas and content, connect it to prior knowledge, and sort it out into manageable chunks of information that are meaningful and actionable. I also find that taking the time to make my sketches visually appealing, brings me joy. Like a photograph, it captures a memorable moment in time that I want to revisit.
When I teach sketchnoting to my students I also share the importance of the reflection time. I tell them to not worry so much about adding color and detail when they are documenting their learning. If it helps them focus, do it. However, if it distracts them from making connections and focusing on what they are learning, wait until after. I always try to carve out a minimum of 10 minutes for students to process what they sketch, add details, color, and ask questions of those around them to fill in missing information or make sense of what they recorded in their notes. I have found that my students really appreciate this time. Just as I do, they find this time of reflection to be valuable for connecting and sorting their new ideas and organizing them into chunks that are meaningful and actionable. For some students, they want to complete their sketches at home in solitude….I allow this too.
Sometimes I think people feel that if they can’t draw images, text, color, and make it beautiful before the learning is over, sketchnoting isn’t for them. I thought this too at first. However, I know now that this just isn’t how I process. I need time to reflect, sort, organize, and color. My sketchnotes have evolved over time as I’ve developed my own style and flow. The more I sketch, the more I love it and appreciate how valuable it is to my learning. I also find it's a way for me to give back to those who have shared their heart and passion as well as share to those who were unable to take part in the experience.
Here are some of my finished sketchnotes from #CUE18 that I completed on my flights home. It was an honor to capture the amazing presentations from my friends @taramartinEDU @jmattmiller and @julnilsmith in a sketchnote.
Here's an example of one I started when watching an episode of The Great British Bake-Off with my students today. You can see I've added some text and images, and a little color, but haven't finished yet.
Tech Integration Specialist in Southern Oregon and author of Make Learning Magical. I'm passionate about finding innovative ways to transform teaching and create unforgettable experiences in the classroom.