Friday, July 01, 2016

Sketchnoting revisited

This article originally appeared in the Discovery Education blog "Kathy Schrock's Katch of the Month" in July 2016 and is re-posted here with permission.

Back in December of 2013, I posted a blog entry titled Sketchnoting: A Primer . I had recently been introduced to the topic of sketchnoting and this mode of visual notetaking was just starting to be talked about and tried in schools. That article provided some of the research behind why one should sketchnote, including the important work done by Paivio, Begg, and Sadoski in the development of the Dual Coding Theory. The Dual Coding Theory “was the first systematic, scientific attempt to bridge two traditions in philosophy and psychology: the imagery tradition and the verbal tradition.” (Sadoski, 2009).  The research discovered that the brain processes information using both visual and verbal cues and makes connections between them.
Since my blog post in 2013, teachers have been experimenting with sketchnoting on their own and teaching students how to take visual notes. There are many more resources to look at, learn from, and practice with today!
Kevin Thorn, on his blog, offers a great definition of sketchnoting by defining it as “a form of visual writing by expressing ideas, concepts, and important thoughts in a meaningful flow by listening, processing, and transferring what you hear by sketching either by analog or digital means.”


 The UXmastery blog breaks the components of sketch noting into planning, listening, processing, and drawing.  Let’s talk about the planning process.  The first thing to do is to decide on your tools. A good notebook and a thin line marker or an iPad app and a drawing drawing stylus are the two basic choices.
 Next, they suggest you practice sketchnoting a TED talk (or a Discovery Education Streaming segment) to help you become adept at sketchnoting a presenter’s talk or content-based video.  Continue on your own to practice basic drawings for things that might pop up in your area of interest  such as basic shapes, basic objects, logos, or brand names. One well-known sketchnoter, Mike Rohde, contends you can create any sketchnote by using just a circle, a square, a triangle, a line, and a dot.
The next part of the planning process is to think ahead. Look at the conference or presentation program ahead of time and populate your sketch with the presenter’s name, the date, the title of the talk, and sign your name to the sketch. You might also want to decide what format you will use — a grid, a map, or a flowchart — and set up the structure on the page.
Brad Ovenell-Carter states that most presentations, meetings, and lectures flow in one of three ways and you should layout your page to match the presentation.
  1. People speak in a narrative. First this  happened and that happened.
  2. In a meeting there is usually an agenda so there might be a section on the page for each short topic.
  3. If a team is brainstorming or you’re just pulling key points from a presentation, then notes usually can wind up anywhere on the page that makes sense to you.
A GOOD sketchnote captures the meaningful bits as text and drawings.  A BETTER sketchnote uses composition hierarchy to give structure to the content and brings clarity to the overall narrative of the lecture.  And the BEST sketchnotes express a unique personal style and add editorial comments on the content– these are entertaining and informative all at once.


The actual process of creating the sketchnote takes some practice too, but there are some basic things to remember and Craighton Berman outlines these in a great article entitled “Sketchnotes 101: The Basics of Visual Note-taking”.
  • Text – When recording what is being said, capture the meaningful quotes and key points in text.
  • Containers – Simply putting words inside shapes brings structure to a page.
  • Connectors – Your should connect ideas and pieces of stories with arrows and lines.
  • Frameworks – try to use your own design structure to help you better understand your thoughts later.
  • Icons – Use icons for objects and concepts to represent an idea as simply as possible
  • Shading – Adding simple shading can add contrast to your sketchnote.
  • Color – Use color to differentiate and distinguish information.


I have been collecting samples of teacher sketchnotes and student sketchnotes that have been shared with me. Here are some of my favorites!
This teacher sketchnoted my “Do the Ed Tech Hokey Pokey” presentation.
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Heather Marshall (@MsMarshallCMS) has her students create a variation of the sketchnote she calls the “sketch quote”. Heather, a 6th grade English, World History, and Media Studies teacher, first taught the sketchnoting basics to her English class and then had them to “sketch quoting”.  She shares the images on her class Instagram page.
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Angelyn Cheatham sketchnoted my activator and summarizer presentation at a conference earlier this year.
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Brad Ovenell-Carter, an educator, has created a Google+ group called “Sketchnote Scribes” which is a place where K-12 students can showcase their work. Here is a student sample titled “World Bank vs. IMF”.
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  • This teacher used a science lab setting for grade 5 students to sketchnote, using the iPad, for documenting the process and results of a science lab.

  • Katherine Bilsborough was inspired to have students work with sketchbooks in her high school ELA classroom, and has a nice overview of how to introduce the process of sketchnoting.
    Screen Shot 2016-06-18 at 12.30.55 PM
  • Hall and Russac work with teachers and have students visual note-taking in the elementary grades. Grade 2 students sketchnoted about communities. Grade 3 students sketchnoted about the rain forest. And, in grade 5, students conducted research and drew a sketchnote from their research notes.
Have you tried sketchnoting yourself? Have you had students create sketchnotes? Do you have any samples or lesson plans to share on the topic? 
And, remember, I also have much more information on my sketchnoting page on Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything!

Virtual Reality in the Classroom

This post originally appeared on my Discovery Education blog, Kathy's Kathy, in April of 2016 and is published here with permission.

We hear a lot of talk about the use of augmented and virtual reality in the classroom to support teaching and learning. Here is a simple explanation showcasing the difference between them.

Augmented Reality
One way to experiment with and learn more about  augmented reality is with the use of the iPad and the app Quiver (previously known as colAR Mix). This app includes design pages to print out and color, and then, when viewing the page through the iPad app, the page “comes to life” and is interactive, as seen below. In addition, students can even record the interactivity as seen in the video below. 

Virtual Reality
To learn more about virtual reality, the use of Google Cardboard is a great way to start. Although the definition above of virtual reality includes the words “alternate world”, I like to describe it as immersion into another place or space.
As an early adopter of  new technologies, I have assembled and experimented with a Google Cardboard device since 2014. For those of you not familiar with the Google Cardboard technology and what it can do, it is really quite simple to get started. You need three things. First, you need a smartphone. Second, you need a Google Cardboard-certified viewer. The smartphone is housed in the viewer and the viewer includes two lenses that focus on the smartphone screen.
Some Cardboard-certified viewers I own include:

And thirdly, using an app on a smartphone, you simply load a VR image, game, or movie that shows up on the cell phone screen looking something like this. You then place the smartphone in the Google Cardboard viewer.

When you view a 360° spherical panoramic image with Cardboard viewer, you are able to move your head up and down, turn your body around, and view a 360° aspect of the image, as if you were standing where the image was taken.
To get a feel for this without Google Cardboard, there are now Web sites that allow you to use your mouse or finger to move a spherical panoramic image to interact with a 360° view. It is not as immersive as looking through a Google Cardboard device, but click on this URL and use your mouse to move the image left, right, up and down to get a tour of my geodesic dome home!
There are are also Web sites and smartphone apps that allow the viewer to both manipulate a 360° image (like above)  as well as view the same image using a Google Cardboard device for an immersive experience. Using your smartphone, download the app for iOS or Android, search on “Cape Cod Houses” and, when you see the full image of the interior of my house on your smartphone screen, you will also, for a short second, see a little Google Cardboard icon. If you miss the icon, which fades away quickly, just lightly tap your smartphone screen to make it appear again, and then tap the icon. You will see the split view of image, and can load your phone into your Cardboard viewer, and now have an immersive tour of my home!

In addition to static images, Google Cardboard allows you to be immersed in a video, as if you were there. You can move away from the view of the camera to look around at anything you want! Discovery has begun to create virtual reality experiences and tours through their Discovery VR project. In this project, you can view videos in 360° through your computer Web browser or via the Discovery VR app for iOS,Android. In addition, using the same app, you can be immersed in the video via a Google Cardboard device or Gear VR.

I cannot show you the immersive view I see when using Cardboard to view the video, but below is a short movie shot in the the app as I moved from viewing the video in 360° and then viewing it in the way Cardboard needs to see it.

The Discovery VR site  includes many great videos and tours, which include the videos below and others in the areas of extinction, extreme sports, a visit to Austin, and more. With a Google Cardboard headset, students can experience these events as if they were there! And, without a headset, they can interact with the videos and control what items they are viewing.

Creating virtual reality tours
Virtual reality is an engaging way to experience something that you can’t do in real life because you aren’t at the site, don’t like rollercoasters in real-life, or have no desire to really swim with the sharks!
However, the exciting thing about this new technology is your students can easily create their own virtual reality tours to share with the world!  I have just started doing this in the last month, and have created 360° spherical panoramic images and and few videos that others can view with a Web browser or via a Google Cardboard headset. You can see a few of them here. I also discovered, when uploading my VR images to Google Photos, they become interactive when clicked on in a Web browser or in the Google Photos app. Check it out!
The start-up cost is under $400 (in addition to having a smartphone) and I guarantee you and your students will find it as fun and educational to create these images and videos as I do!
My VR toolkit includes:
An iPhone 6s+, the Ricoh Theta S camera, the View-Master VR Starter Pack, aSmatree tripod, and a Promaster SystemPRO TB1 tripod bag (not pictured).

The use of this technology to support teaching and learning, both by embedding videos such as those in Discovery VR to enhance the curriculum or by students creating their own VR images and videos, is starting to be used in classrooms across the world. I add links to my augmented and virtual reality page as I find new information, apps, successful practices, and tutorials, so please visit often!
Have you used Discovery VR in your classroom yet? How about Google Cardboard devices? Have your students created 360° images that others can view? Please share your experiences and ideas with the rest of us on Twitter! #kathyskatch