Our brains like words. But they really love images.
The brain works in images. When we talk, our brains change the information we’re receiving into images to encode it and make it available for recall later.
A powerful way to take advantage of that is visual notetaking — recording ideas using both images and text. Some call it doodling, and many have gotten “in trouble” for doodling in class even though there were cognitive benefits of it over standard notetaking.
I’m a sketchnoting fanatic and have written several posts about it:
At a recent conference, I was chatting with fellow sketchnote enthusiast Carrie Baughcum. We were talking about some work her students were doing. What they were doing wasn’t official sketchnoting (free drawing images and text by hand), but she said …
I would consider that visual notetaking.
It was such a passing thought that she probably doesn’t even remember it, but it had an impact on me.
Because I really like the sketching side of visual notetaking, I didn’t even think of other forms of it. There are many ways to get the brain benefits of mixing visuals and text (the verbal and the visual).
Then it dawned on me — this could be done with my favorite of the Google Apps, Google Drawings.
Google Drawings visual notetaking.
What is Google Drawings? It’s part of Google Apps, and it’s kind of like a digital poster board or a digital sheet of paper. You can add text, shapes, line and images to Google Drawings. It’s simple and very visual. Find it by clicking the red “New” button in Google Drive, hovering over “More …” at the bottom and clicking on “Google Drawings.”
Why use Google Drawings to take notes? Letting students create visual notes in Google Drawings provides the brain benefits listed above. Plus, students can pull in Creative Commons-licensed images to help illustrate their notes.
How’s it different from other Google Apps for taking notes? Google Docs is great for taking very text-based notes. It’s more linear (i.e. writing text in straight lines). Google Drawings is very spatial (i.e. you can move items all over the page).
Can students do this with iPads? A Google Drawings app isn’t currently available for iPad. However, the Google Slides app is. Students can create visual notes in a one-slide Google Slides file and it will be almost exactly like Google Drawings.
Here are a couple of examples of what it might look like …
The first is a visual notes summary of the introduction of my book, “Ditch That Textbook”:
The second are visual notes I might create as a social studies student about the Berlin Wall:
(Note: Click on either image to open the Google Drawings file I created them in. Feel free to click “File > Make a copy …”, but please don’t send me requests to give you editing access. If you make your own copy of the file to your own Google Drive, it will be just as good as having editing access. Promise. 🙂 )
Here are some features of Google Drawings you can use to create these visual notes:
These notes can be shared in a number of ways:
I wrote a post called “Google Drawings interactive posters: No glue sticks necessary!“. After creating the book introduction summary in Google Drawings, I started to realize that it was more like the interactive poster I described in that blog post and less like what I’d consider visual notes. (That’s really why I did the second example!)
Here’s the main point, I think …
Whether we’re thinking of these tasks as posters or notes, the more visual we can get with them, the stronger the links we’ll create in our brains.
And the beauty of these visual notes in Google Drawings is that any of us can create image-infused notes without needing a bit of artistic talent![reminder]How can you use Google Drawings visual notes in your class? What other features or uses are there for this idea?[/reminder]
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How is Google Drawings different from Paper 53? I learned about this from you at a conference. My students love it!
Hi Michelle — Several differences. Google Drawings is an app for Google that’s only available currently for browsers on computers (desktop, laptop, Chromebook, etc.). The Paper app by FiftyThree is an iPad app. Google Drawings uses text, images, shapes, lines and are controlled mainly by a mouse or touchpad on a computer. Paper is mainly hand-drawn (although you can incorporate images and text) through a finger or a stylus. Sharing is different too … Drawings through a link, a JPEG, a PDF, etc. … Paper through their Mix site as well as through PNG (image file). Those are some of the differences. Great question!
I am going to have my level I Spanish students make a meaningful diagram of Ser vs. Estar using this. They will each have a Spanish-speaking country assigned to them. All of their examples have to be culturally relevant to their specific country. They will be listing and organizing the reasons for ser/estar and then using images from their countries and sample text sentences to illustrate the differences. I think they will enjoy the visual nature of this grammatical task plus being put in a cultural context, they should be discovering quite a bit about these countries.
OH MATT!! I am just in love with this piece. I feel like you have reached in part of my brain and captured so much of what I think about connecting words to visuals. The verbal-visual connection is such a powerful tool for learning! You are also, right, I don’t know that I remember the exact moment I said that phrase but I do remember such rich conversations and ideas about using drawing/doodling/images in the classroom and how open you were to the idea sharing and that there really are no rules as long as it is good for students and learning is happening. Oh man, I love this post! Really wonderful post, full of so much information, a wealth of ideas and most of all a really great idea for using Google Drawing and connecting images to ideas and information!!
[…] Use Google Drawings for brain-friendly visual notetaking | Ditch That Textbook […]
The link for this “It provides multiple entry points to the brain. Dual coding theory, according to this Education.com article, states that including visuals helps encode ideas in the brain through two routes: “a verbal code specialized for dealing with language in all its forms and a nonverbal code specialized for dealing with nonlinguistic objects and events in the form of mental images” – doesn’t work. What article are you linking to?