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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