Have you seen those illustrations depicting various concepts in journals, magazines or online? Those are Sketchnotes! While some might call these doodles, they are really so much more. A sketchnote is a visual representation of a topic that requires listening and synthesis of information.
What is the process? One description calls the process “circular breathing”: listening, synthesizing and visualizing (Berman). It’s about transforming what you hear into a visual piece of communication, structuring that understanding, giving a hierarchy to the concepts and synthesizing the information. It’s an individual, personal experience that isn’t about being an artist.
What do I need? Most avid sketchnoters agree that there are certain elements of a sketchnote: text, containers (shapes), connectors (lines and arrows), and icons (stick people, smileys, etc.). As you become more comfortable, try adding shading and color. Of course, you’ll need a medium. Blank paper and a comfortable writing utensil are the best places to start. Is there an app for that? Of course! Pair a stylus with an app like Notability*, Penultimate*, Paper by 53, Inkflow, Procreate, Sketchbook Express, or Autodesk Sketchbook*. Digital or paper, it’s really about what is most comfortable for the user.
Why sketchnote at all? Sketchnoting is personal and expressive experience which encourages the note-taker to interact with the material in new and different ways. The note-taker is engaged, making connections to the material and “adding some joy” to their notes (Irgens). Research has found that as a learning strategy, it can help learners “organize and integrate their knowledge and ultimately be transformative.” It can also provide “teachers with windows into students’ thinking” as well as being a means for peers to “share knowledge, discovery and understanding” (Davis).
What can I do now? Start with me! This is an area of growth for me, one that I’m diving into and cultivating. Take it easy and try some templates from the Sketch50.org resources page or join me in 50 Days of Sketches promoting a growth mindset with educators. Follow the hashtag #Sketch50 on twitter to see what others are sharing.
What can I do next week? Want to try bringing this into your classroom? Start by allowing students to sketchnote as they take notes in class. Encourage them to share or present their notes. Students are often really proud of these notes! Check out this Social Studies example or include students in the 50 Days of Sketches challenge.
What can I do next month? Assign sketchnotes to your class. Have students share their notes in an ALEC* forum, using the Remind* app, posting in Schoology*, or uploading to a class Padlet*. Did your students use pen and paper instead of an app? No problem! Have them take a picture and upload their sketchnote from the camera.
Some additional thoughts on sketchnoting. This is a brief introduction to sketchnoting. There are books, websites, podcasts and YouTube playlists devoted to this. This is about trying something different and engaging using digital tools or a combination of traditional and digital. There are sketchnoters that have turned this into a hobby and have preferences regarding type of paper, brand of pens, apps and stylus. Don’t let them keep you from trying! If you’re ready for more, explore some of the sites and videos linked here for more information.
A few of my favorite Sketchnote links:
One of my favorite parts of planning my lessons and reflecting on them was reviewing my students exit tickets, what I called “Ziel des Tages,” or goal of the day. Before my students raced out the door to meet their friends or get out of the parking lot as fast as possible, they completed one these, it was our routine. Each day I posed specific questions to reflect on our lesson and goals. In addition to those questions, I included a place for students to tell me what else they’d like to know and anything else they’d like to share. This closure routine created a lasting impression on the students, provided me with invaluable feedback and gave students a safe place to use their voice.
What was this routine? How did I collect their feedback? Initially this was a paper process, but when I became part of our 1:1 iPad pilot program, I switched to a digital format. I chose Google Forms, because it provided me feedback in a spreadsheet which I could manipulate to focus on whatever data point I wanted. I linked the form to a QR code which I printed on card stock. Each seating group had a container that housed various manipulatives for class. The QR code was included in that container on a ring of cards, one QR code card for each class. As part of our closing routine, students would scan the QR code which led to their exit ticket. Because I wanted to track their learning and engagement over time, students responded to the same questions each day. While I used Google Forms for this, Microsoft Forms would also work in a very similar fashion.
Google Forms and Microsoft Forms aren’t the only tools available to use for lesson closure. Padlet and Flipgrid are also some of my favorite tools for gathering student feedback. While I specifically used Google Forms for end of class reflection and feedback, end of lesson feedback can be done during the period or for homework.
There are many digital and paper tools that can be used for closure activities. Here are some of my favorite digital feedback tools:
Digital tools are intended to support the teaching and learning that is happening in the classroom.
They are tools, that’s all. They don’t replace the teacher or bring some magical force into the classroom. They definitely don’t mean more than the relationship the teacher has with their students. That relationship is one of the most crucial factors affecting student achievement. They do have a place in instruction and that place isn’t the backpack nor is it in front of their faces for the entire class period. That place lives in a balance weighed between the learning targets and how we can best help students find their way to those targets.
Technology does come with negatives. That’s why planning, preparation, and intentional use are so important. That intentional use provides many positives, too! Here are some examples of what tech can do:
There is a learning curve when searching for that balance. It’s about understanding how the various digital tools function and what you can do with them. Taking notes, reading and submitting work are just a few examples of what might look different using a digital device. You may need to reach out for some help and even accept that your students might be able to teach you. That’s OK. Find what works for you.
Some ideas to consider:
We can’t hide from technology, it isn’t going away. Let’s harness the good and work towards teaching our students how to use the devices that surround them in meaningful ways. Let’s work together!
The start of a new semester is the perfect time to review, reinforce, practice and even establish your classroom norms. Embedding digital tools into your procedures and norms is essential daily practice, but even more vital at the beginning of a course or semester. Our students may be older than some, but don’t assume that appropriate digital use is a natural practice for them. Our digital tools are tools meant to support classroom instruction. Understanding that isn’t innate. Our students are still kids, they still need direction, the still need guidance.
Digital tips for the start of the semester:
Now that our school year is in full-swing, it’s a good time to reflect on how you’re managing all those devices in your classroom. No matter what type of device you’re using or seeing in your classroom, it’s good to regularly reinforce your expectations regarding technology:
Ideas for routines with devices:
As you go through your day, watch for the signs of distraction:
Redirect as you notice distraction:
Don’t become outraged when students are initially distracted. Redirect and give them the opportunity to reconnect with you and the task at hand.
Remember, everyday is a new day to start, practice and reinforce expectations
Teaching in a 1:1 environment will involve all of these aspects of teaching. And while you can get by having students use technology simply as a substitute for what they would otherwise do on paper (read, write, work on math problems), there is a much larger world of discovery and creativity now at their fingertips. – iPad Bootcamp for Teachers
Taking Instruction out of the Textbook
It’s Friday afternoon, a time when so many students (and some of us) are counting down to the weekend. Keeping students engaged is often a challenge. Jeff's Algebra 2 classes were working on the Law of Cosines on just such a day. In this case, however, they weren’t counting down the moments until the weekend. They were engaged and having fun and so was he!
Jeff had the students take their practice out of the textbook and into the building. He challenged his students to find or create angles that couldn’t easily be measured. The students then took pictures of those angles, imported them to Notability, and solved their problems by writing on the pictures themselves. “What is great about this activity with iPads, is students can write all over the picture and see what the sides of the triangle actually represent.”
His students were being creative, and innovative with their thinking and problem solving. They collaborated in groups to demonstrate their learning. What a great example of our vision!
“The vision for digital learning at Pine Creek High School is focused on students as learners and teachers as their partners in the learning process. Here we use digital tools to create products, innovate design, collaborate with others inside and out of the classroom, and demonstrate learning. Our learners will be globally connected creators, communicators, collaborators, contributors, and constructivists.”
Students use Sphero Balls to Develop their Programming Skills
Did you find yourself watching small white balls rolling around the hallways a couple of weeks ago? Well, one of Denise's programming classes was responsible for that. Using the Sphero app and an iPhone or iPad, students collaborated in small groups to program those balls to light up and roll around the hallways. The goal was to race each other’s Sphero Balls around the hallways. Races, competition - how much fun is that?! Add in creativity, innovation, collaboration and a fun way to demonstrate learning and everyone wins! That’s not where the learning ended with this project, however, but only the first steps. After establishing those foundational skills, the class moved on to programming their own retro-style games on desktop computers.
Digital learning takes many forms throughout our school. Students and teachers are partnering to create, innovate, collaborate and demonstrate learning. Share your stories with each other (and with me). Talk in the pods. Visit each other’s classrooms. There are so many amazing things being done with our students and Denise’s example is just one. Let’s celebrate these moments!
Partnering to Create Stories and a Wonderful Experience
“Here we use digital tools to create products, innovate design, collaborate with others inside and out of the classroom, and demonstrate learning.” That’s part of our Vision for Digital Learning at Pine Creek and it’s wonderful when we can see that in action.
Linda is currently partnering her ASL 3 class with a 1st and 2nd grade class from The School for the Deaf and Blind. In small groups, her students are writing stories using the app called Book Creator. When finished writing their stories, the 1st and 2nd graders will then illustrate them. The final product comes to life as the ASL students learn to sign their stories to the 1st and 2nd graders. How wonderful is that!
Her students are creating physical and signed products; they are innovating the design of their final product; they are collaborating with others inside and out of the classroom; and, they are demonstrating their learning.
There are many classroom stories to tell; too many for this medium. Share your stories with each other (and with me). Talk in the pods. Visit each other’s classrooms. There are so many amazing things being done with our students. Let’s celebrate these moments!
Using Showbie and Skype to manage missed class time
It happens to all of us - sometimes we can’t be in class. Maybe we’re ill, maybe it’s our children, maybe we’re at a conference or meeting. Luci has figured a way to keep students on track in those situations. She uses Showbie to post assignments when she’s gone. With Showbie, assignments can be uploaded from home and guest teachers need only to ask students to login and begin. Assignments can include documents, links, and images. Directions can be in written or oral form (or both). Assignments can be completed directly in Showbie or uploaded from Google Drive or the camera (video). There are so many possibilities!
Most of the time, however, it’s our students that are missing class. Linda has managed this by having students Skype into class. She had an injured student Skype in from home to watch presentations and answer follow-up questions - she didn’t miss a beat! She has also has an ill student Skype in during group work. When the students break out into groups, this student participates via Skype on the iPad. How awesome is that?!
Who knows? Maybe one day, with the use of practices such as these, we won’t have to worry about snow days and losing instructional minutes.
Different people are at different places along any given journey. Some start at different times, some move at different speeds, some venture differently. That's where our group is. Whether it's how many of our classes are 1:1; how many of students have devices; how paperless we might be; or, how transformed our instruction might be, we are at different places and have different needs.
Because of this, we turned our time to looking at just that: where we individually are and what are needs are. We created a Padlet and added some examples of what we are doing in our classes, spotlighting high points and celebrating our successes. There are some great examples here! We also filled out a " needs assessment." This was so that our time together can really be meeting everyone's needs. We included our individual goals for the program, long- and short-term so that we could have some targets to aim at.
If you haven't seen our Padlet (spotlighting practice), please visit it and add a classroom experience of your own that we can help you celebrate. Additionally, please visit your Google Drive folder and fill out your own Needs Assessment. Let's continue to work together and grow by sharing and celebrating even if you are unable to attend our gatherings.
I am a Digital Learning Coach by title, but lifelong learner by practice. An Apple Teacher, Google Certified Educator and Microsoft Innovative Educator, my goal is to assist educators in investigating, exploring, and investigating resources to embed in their instruction. I also hope to be a part of their journey toward an innovative and transformative practice that empowers learners and strengthens their own craftsmanship. I spends my free time with my family, my dogs and a good cup of coffee.