Digital Art: SketchNoting

“All our knowledge is the offspring of our perceptions.” – Leonardo da Vinci

When I searched for an appropriate quote for this post about SketchNoting, I was thinking of note taking as idea gathering and remembering, working through thoughts in a visible way. Of course my mind jumped to Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks, which are full of his documented ideas for projects, philosophies, and observations. I love them and have seen some of them in a museum. You can see them and virtually turn the pages of some of them here.

SketchNotes are rich visual notes created from a mix of handwriting, drawings, hand-drawn typography, shapes, and visual elements like arrows, boxes, and lines. – Mike Rohde, The SketchNote Army

Over the past few years the concept of SketchNoting has become talked about and practiced by many of us who learn well visually. Personally I find that by translating content into writing, sketching, and illustrating, I remember it and make better sense of it, finding connections that otherwise wouldn’t be there. Many people SketchNote with writing implements on paper (especially in notebooks). I prefer to SketchNote on my iPad, employing many of the digital painting and blending tools. You can see some of my SketchNotes from conventions, workshops, courses, and books here:

Here is an example of my SketchNoting to retain content, from an MIT MOOC (massive open online course) I took a couple of years ago – I use the Adobe Sketch app:

Because I enjoy SketchNoting and find it helpful in retaining information, I decided to show my students how to do it, also using iPads, but with Autodesk Sketchbook app. I offered them the opportunity to SketchNote a book or movie and asked them to include the title, author or director, characters, and setting. We kept it really simple because the act of SketchNoting was challenging. Here are some of the results:

Shortly after my students finished up their SketchNoting projects, renowned SketchNoter, Sylvia Duckworth, released a series of tutorials in advance of the release of her book on SketchNoting. Here is the playlist of those SketchNoting tutorials: SketchNoting Tutorial Videos.

As I reflect on this activity, I think I would start the kids with pencil and paper first and work up to iPad SketchNoting. They would have benefitted from more time on the project as well. Most importantly, I would like to see some second attempts, because many were really grasping the process just as they were finishing up. I understand some of my students have been given the option of using SketchNoting in other subjects areas recently, and I’d love to see those results as well.

Grade five and six SketchNotes have been uploaded to Artsonia and you can see them here:


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