Dice UP the Classroom Episode 4: Sketch This or Sketch That


Do you ever find yourself drawing pictures or doodling when you are taking notes to better associate what your brain connects with your words? Don’t worry, you are not alone, you are creating Sketchnotes. What are Sketchnotes you might ask? Sketchnotes are purposeful doodling while listening to something interesting. Sketchnotes don’t require a person to have drawing skills that rival famous artists like Jack Kirby, Jamal Igle or John Romita Sr, but Sketchnotes do require a skill to visually synthesize and summarize using shapes, connectors, and text. Sketchnotes are as much of a method of note taking as they are a form of creative expression by the note taker. Through the use of images, text, and diagrams, Sketchnotes take advantage of the “visual thinker” mind’s to make sense of what they are learning. In this episode of Dice UP the Classroom I will take you through how to capturing that visual creation of note taking from the classic sheet of paper to the technological ecosystem of iPads to Chromebooks. So, get your pencils, stylists and creativity ready to Sketch This or Sketch That. The transcript is below:

Episode 4: Sketch This or Sketch That.
Episode 4: Sketch This or Sketch That.
Episode four filmed on May 26, 2015. Since as long as I can remember I’ve always doodled with my note taking. Puting text with images from learning safety equipment in the science lab to how icebergs are formed. When you add text to images you design a communication for learning. Tony Vincent from Learninginhand.com recently talked about this with Infopics. Where an Infopic is a photo with text layered on top that is designed to communicate a message and that message might be a summary, definition, notes, data, hashtag, or other informational tidbits. Sketchnotes are just a little bit different. When you take notes your brain is interpreting what stands out to you and then you express it in written form. For some note taking is writing everything word for word and for some its just a few words that just “pop” for the learner. Sketchnotes are used to capture your thinking visually and remember key information more clearly, and sharing what you’ve captured with others. Most note takers do not practice this skill because they don’t feel they can draw anything visual that they see as impressive. Here’s the big secret: Sketchnoting has zero to do with drawing skills. Trust me, I know. Sketchnotes has everything to do with how you process information through listening and then visually representing your thoughts. There is a fantastic book you can buy online or download called The Sketchnote Handbook by Mike Rohde (rohdesign.com) that is illustrated beautifully in sketchnotes and how to create and use them but we are not going to go into that kind of detail today.
Sketchnotes on IFTTT Recipes
Sketchnotes on IFTTT Recipes
Instead I’m going to tell you the basics and some of the advance ways to create Sketchnotes. One person I have found that explains Sketchnotes perfectly is Dana Ladenburger. Who lays out the structure in 5 easy steps.

1. Structure: spend some time organizing your space and set up your headings.
2. Add text: choose words carefully by listening to your brain for words that stick with you (make sure you use fonts)
3. Create images: assign icons quickly to text that makes sense for your own brain and not someone else.
4. Bold and Fame: Use black to contain and organize import aspects of your notes.
5. Highlight: add color only to things that SHOULD stand out not because they look pretty or because you love certain colors or designs. Trust me that can backfire on you when you are reviewing or presenting with sketchnotes.

That’s the real basics of Sketchnotes you are just transforming your work into visual thinking not becoming a professional artist. What I just showed you was sketchnote taking in classic pencil and paper with a little bit of markers thrown in. Twenty years ago this would have been a more common practice but we know now a days that education and business is moving away from this form into a digital and paperless society. So, how can you use sketchnotes in a digital ecosystem on either a tablet or mobile device? Its easier than you think and it’s extremely cost effective. In fact there are hundreds of drawing and notetake applications on various platforms and the majority of them are free to download and use. Here are the ones that I find work the best:

If you are like me using IOS most of the time like an iPad the best free App I have found is Paper by 53. Paper has a plethora of drawing tools at your fingertips from mixing colors to drawing tools. Whatever your subject, Paper is a fun way to spend a little time every day exercising your creativity in digital form with sketchnotes. If you are looking for something little bit more fun with teaching your students there is Doodle Buddy on all platforms. Doodle Buddy is the most fun you can have with a stylist or your finger. It’s like making your own digital finger paint with your favorite colors and you can even drop in playful stamps, images and stencils. You can even connect with a friend or classmate to draw together over the Internet. Doodle Buddy is perfect for group collaboration and learning and understanding sketchnotes. Another great App is Skitch from Evernote. Get your point across with fewer words using annotation, shapes and sketches, so that your ideas become reality faster and it syncs with the Evernote cloud system and related apps and works on either mobile or desktop and most of all you can even take a snapshot or use stored images to not only create sketchnotes but also Infopics.
If you are the Android platform there are a great set of apps including Sketch Notes as the name applies and is also on IOS. This free App allows not only works well with a traditional stylus and resistive touchscreen tablets, as well as with your finger on capacitive screen tablets and phones but it also comes with a grid paper layout and no ads. A great sister Android App is Pro Sketch – Drawing Pad that allows you to make professional looking sketches and drawings at a touch of your finger and also important, no ads.
If you are a Google Apps for Education or Chromebook school you don’t have to look any further than Google Drawings. You can easily create, share, and edit drawings online by creating a drawing using Google Drawings. Whether you are trying to make a diagram or chart, or to paint an image, you can use the editing options in Google Drawings to create the drawing you want. You can also use the doodle tool on Google Drawings to sketch with your fingers or chromebook add-on tool. It can be a bit tricky at times but if you keep at it you can make some amazing sketchnotes with Google Drawing and what’s even better it automatically saves to your Google Drive and be downloaded in either jpg or png form and can be easily imported in a Google Doc, Slide or Google Classroom. You can make an entire digital notebook of Sketchnotes for or your classmates and teacher and even collaborate. Its truly one of the hidden treasures of Google Apps.

Now, I’ve just given you a list of great free applications that you can use or with your students but there are some pretty great paid ones too. While there over two thousand paid drawing and productivity Apps from iOS to Windows but there a couple that really stand out for me.

Notability by Ginger Labs on both IOS and OS allows you to combine handwriting,photos and typing to bring your projects to life. You can as much detail as you like with a variety of colors and fonts. You can also import images, move text, resize sketches, images and expand your pages using Notability’s tools. What’s even better is you can also take audio notes with it. Have a problem remembering something someone said or wonder why you made a certain icon or word. You can play back the entire lesson and make adjustments to your sketchnotes and even upload the a cloud server with the audio still attached or in other Apps. I talked about the first step being structure with sketchnotes, with Notability you can resize your space and set up with just a few taps of your finger or keyboard.
If you love iPads and feel that Doodle Buddy isn’t enough for your younger students try Scribble Press. Scribble Press is a multimedia creativity platform for creating, sharing and publishing stories. You can not only create sketchnotes but also journals or books on your learning experiences and share them with your teacher or classmates.
But my favorite one to use is Explain Everything by MorrisCooke which is on IOS, Android and Windows. Not only is Explain Everything my favorite screencasting App but with the drawing tool kit you can use a pen or laser pointer, annotate, highlight text and add shapes with full color palette and transparency. You can draw on anything (including videos!). Annotations stick to documents and move with them and you can record them live. Bring sketchnotes to life as you see your words, images, icons and more magically appear in the recording. What’s even better, you can even animate your sketchnotes with Explain Everything’s animation tools. They say a picture is worth a thousand words and I say a word is worth a thousand pictures. Well, an animated sketchnote is worth a million ways to learn.
Speaking of Explain Everything you can use your Sketchnotes to either tech smash or App Smash with other applications. I mentioned Dana Ladenburger but educators like Matt Miller from Ditch That Textbook have not only used Sketchnotes for his lessons and practices but has also posted them on networks such as Thinglink. Where you can link text, videos and more directly with each piece of a sketchnote. Are you talking about Pirate Hooks by Dave Burgess? How awesome is it when students can add a direct link to a video on each Pirate Hook in their sketchnotes to show not only how they created them but also how they work. Thinglink is free to sign up and free to assign to students. Have them not only create their sketchnotes for their learning but also apply them to real world creations. You can even use Thinglink for downloads. One of my favorite things to use with Thinglink if you pardon the pun is to create a set of sketchnotes and then link them with my students to download a Stick Around Puzzle or link to a Google Doc for review on a subject or lesson. What’s even better, sometimes my students will take a sketchnote, create a Stick Around Puzzle and upload it back to a shared Google Drive folder to have others solve the puzzle to better understand their sketchnotes.

Seesaw App
Seesaw App
And while we are on the subject of iPads and IOS, Seesaw is a great alternative to sketchnotes and classroom instruction. Seesaw works as a digital journal that are organized by student and subject area. Journals can be accessible from anywhere, on any iOS device or on the Seesaw website. Teachers approve new items before they are added and can even share with others. As of this recording, Seesaw is only on IOS but it is a great way to teach students how to not only take Sketchnotes but also apply them to learning and understanding. Even better, sketchnotes don’t have to be strictly used for note taking and lessons they can be used simply as training too. Sylvia Duckworth has created dozens of sketchnote infopics based on other educators work from Matt Millar to my friend, Kasey Bell at Shake up Learning.com. Sylvia creates amazing infopic sketchnotes on her iPad using FlipInk, Tayasui and Adobe Draw. They range anywhere from basic learning such as being curious to how you can use social networks in education and even the simple sets of using technology in education. Everytime I see a sketchnote by Sylvia I am just blown away by what she creates. And while I’m on the subject of being amazed by other educators, Meghan Zigmond from Zig Zag Tech powerfully uses sketchnotes with her students from math to presentations. I have said many times that the world is a better place because of people like Meghan. When you see her sketchnotes in action you can see why.
Sketchnotes have really been a large part of my learning and understanding for years but it wasn’t until late last year when I really started applying to my teaching. As a result my students have seen their creativity and understanding really come to life and somehow I even became a better artist in the process but don’t sign me up just yet to make my own book even if I use Book Creator for a lot of my Sketchnotes. It reminds me a lot of Jack Kirby the legendary artist who co-created Captain America, The Fantastic Four and the Avengers. You know Jack Kirby was just shy of his 44th birthday in 1961 when he and Stan Lee launched the first comic book from Marvel that would start what is now known as the Silver Age of Comics and also give rise to many of the super heroes we love today. At the time, many thought he was too old to really do anything new or groundbreaking and just look what he did. Remember that because it doesn’t matter if you can draw skillfully like an engineer or can just form stick figures. When it comes to sketchnotes who you are is all that matters. That is going to do it for this episode of Dice UP the Classroom. I want to thank you for watching and also supporting my work and lessons. Be sure to check out my previous episodes for more tutorials right here on my website or swing by and look for me on Twitter @Ryan7Read #DiceUPtheClassroom. I’ll see you later and keep on sketching.

All Comic Book Creator images from Comicvine.com

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