Drawing For Dummies

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Students learn about visual note-taking and RSA-style drawings

 

I prefer pictures over print. Always have, always will.

Yes, I do love a good book/article/blog post too, but since I was a child I was always drawn more to pictures and images than to printed text. I’ll never forget the used book sale at my school, when I was in 6th grade…lining up behind my peers…I looked at their collection of chapter books and noticed the large collection of picture books and comics I’d chosen for myself. It’s not that I couldn’t read…it’s that I felt there was so much more to be said by an image than words.

That’s why I wish I’d been introduced to concept of Visual Note-taking when I was in school. I first heard about it at the Apple Distinguished Educator’s Institute in Bali (2013), when I met Nicki Hambleton. She shared some of the amazing drawings she and her students created on Adobe Ideas and I was sold. I brought this back to my own classroom and had my EAL students use this form of communication to develop their ideas for oral presentations. We shared their migration stories (in conjunction with their G5 UOI on Migration) using an RSA-styled visual notetaking ‘story’ of how their family came to Indonesia. Since English was their second language, I wanted to see if they could articulate their story more thoroughly through pictures. Below is an example from one student:

This step-by-step project is outlined on my professional blog here: RSA-Style Animation with EAL Students

Below is a quick pictorial retell of some of the steps:

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We read a story about a girl moving from Vietnam to USA. Students noted the different steps in her story.
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Students documented the girl’s story, then below they made connections to themselves.
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The students started by mapping out their visual migration stories in writing first, then progressed to illustrating the different parts. They used the text to help guide them as they retold their migration stories in an iMovie voiceover.
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Students had practice using Stop-Motion HD app on the iPad to record their drawings.
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Students edited their personal migration stories in iMovie, using voiceover, transitions and themes to enhance their storytelling.

 

Since it was everyone’s first attempt at RSA-style drawings and Visual Note-taking, there were (and still are) multiple areas for improvement. However, it was a project the students really enjoyed because it allowed them to think more critically about ways to represent their story in pictures, and also allowed them to be creative with their hands and digitally.

In our upcoming October PD with staff, I’ve decided to focus one of my sessions on Visual Literacy and Visual-Note-taking. The goal is to help teachers see the connection to Visual Literacy across all grades and subject areas, and also to introduce a form of note-taking that enhances creativity and strengthens connections and understanding.

Our school has very few outcomes for Visual Literacy but teachers have access to First Steps Resources, including the Viewing & Presenting Map of Development. My Google Presentation (at the end of this post) outlines some elements from the map of development so teachers can be guided in their teaching of digital literacy.

During my research for this workshop, I came across Brandy Agerbeck‘s website who has several great resources and videos explaining the benefits of visual note-taking and thinking in the classroom and beyond.

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Screenshot of homepage from loosetooth.com

 

I particularly liked her free copy of the BrandyfestoHer quirky, visually-rich manifesto provides examples on how to adopt and practice visual notetaking and how to use it in your own profession.

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Screenshot from The Brandyfesto p.15

 

During her TedX Talk “Shape Your Thinking” she describes the importance of addressing the majority of visual thinkers. This infographic she drew was included to demonstrate how the majority of people are visual-spatial learners rather than auditory-sequential.

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I will use this infographic and her TedX talk as part of my workshop for teachers on Visual Literacy and Visual Note-taking. Below is a copy of the (nearly finished) Google Presentation I’ve developed so far. You will notice a lot of visuals, and very little text, keeping in line with CARP design principles.

Of course, visual note-taking is only one way of representing data and information in a creative and visual way. Infographics are another way to quickly summarise paragraphs and pages of data into one, clever image.

Infographics are an area of visual literacy I have not had much opportunity to explore and create with my students. I think it’s a hidden area of visual literacy few teachers think of explicitly teaching to students, but one that could link directly to visual literacy outcomes. This recent Edutopia Article highlights the benefits of creating infographics with students: Inventing Infographics: Visual Literacy Meets Written Content

The author, Brett Vogelsinger, writes:

“As texts compete for attention with soundbites, scrolling headlines, tweets, and vines, writers and readers alike are seeing the value of text that uses visual design features to organize ideas, provide background, and emphasize key facts in ways that make it easier for readers to engage a topic thoughtfully. “

The same way we may have taught students how to shorten lengthy pieces of text into a succinct ‘precis’, we now need to modify this skill for the 21st century and include visual elements. There are numerous tools for creating infographics with or for students and this recent post from creativebloq highlights the top 10.

Our edtech team will be leading another Tech Parent Workshop in November, and in my research for effective videos and data to share, I found this summary of how different popular social media tools are used:

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Screenshot From Leverage New Age Media: https://leveragenewagemedia.com/blog/social-media-infographic/

 

This infographic succinctly showcases some facts and data about social media use across the globe. I think it also highlights the different purposes for social media and helps parents gauge their own use of different platforms, and how naturally their own children may be inclined to use specific platforms. We will also be surveying students over the next few weeks and presenting data using Google Forms. When the survey is complete, I would like to create a school-focused infographic to showcase social media tools and popularity within our particular community.

The motto K.I.S.S( ‘keep it simple stupid’) never had more weight than it does today – an age where we are constantly looking for quicker, faster ways to capture an audience’s attention. For many years, I also believed that, as Vogelsinger writes, “writing better equaled writing longer”…equally reading longer equaled reader better. I experienced this growing up as a student in the 80s and 90s, where the longer your book was, the better ‘reader’ you were. The fact that we are now making more of a push for understanding and making meaning of visuals is not just ironic and contradicting, but vindicating in many ways. How many students (like myself) have gone through their schooling feeling like ‘the dummy’ because they preferred picture books, or enjoyed doodling while they took notes? At last students who are visual-spatial learners have a place at the literary table, and at last they will have the opportunity to surpass traditionally strong ‘readers’ and be leaders in a visual world.

Drawing for Dummies: RSA-Style w/Paul Bogush

The excerpt below is from the post that inspired me to try a step-by-step approach RSA-style animation with my EAL students. I love his example on how he helped his students gain confidence in their drawing skills.

 

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5 Replies to “Drawing For Dummies”

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this! I love your student’s story, and the pictures are helpful to see what the whole process looked like. This must have been such an empowering project for your EAL students!

    I teach mostly EALs, and they definitely struggle at times to express themselves through writing. After reading this and checking out those resources, I’m very inspired to do something similar with my kids. I might try to collaborate with our art teacher, as well…

    1. Hi Tara

      Thanks for your positive feedback! I’m so glad you found the post helpful. Collaborating with the art teacher would be a great initiative…and if you haven’t explored many visual note-taking resources, there are lots more on that topic too. Good luck and please share the final product if/when you can!

  2. Thanks for sharing! I wish I were going to be at your PD session on Visual Literacy (in fact, the whole two days looks like it would be useful, Eddie shared his schedule with me 🙂 Will you be recording the session in any way?

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