Nice to Meet You…

Photo Credit: Caro Wallis via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Caro Wallis via Compfight cc

Lucky me, I was one of the many COETAILers at Learning 2.014 in Bangkok last weekend! On the first morning I arrived at the HUB ready and excited for Pre-conferences. Naturally, I headed straight for the coffee to make sure that I stayed awake and alert throughout Shaun’s (@shaunyk) fully day session on Differentiation with the iPad. I lifted up the full jug of milk to pour some into my coffee cup and of course, it went all over the place! It just so happens that this was the exact moment when fate decided I would meet Jeff Utech face to face…hmmm…

His first words to me were, “Are you causing trouble already?!” With the way things looked, I figured my only response could be, “Yep, I guess so.” We got the usual small talk out out the way and then I mentioned how I had no idea how I was going to finish my COETAIL blog post for the week. His response, “Just write a reflection on the conference, we’re all here anyway!”

Two Birds with One Stone

Sure, I could easily write a reflection on the conference, but I wanted to write a reflection that also hit one of the big ideas in couse three. The two that I hadn’t written posts for yet were ‘Digital Storytelling’ and ‘Infographics and Data Visualization’. After getting to meet Nicki Hambleton (@itsallaboutart) in person and attend her extended session on Demonstrating Learning Visually, I found the perfect combo: Data Visualization through the lense of Visual Note Taking.

Let’s begin with some of my first attempts at using Adobe Ideas within Nicki’s session and during the following day’s L2L Talks. In Nicki’s extended session, we were asked to think about an idea or a word from the L2L Talks that we would then draw visually. I thought of the word ‘Risk’ from Sara Fleming’s (@sfleming36) talk, but it took me a long time to come up with an image. Eventually an image came to mind, a wine glass breaking. My first attempt wasn’t very good, it was also rushed since I drew it as Nicki counted us down through the last minute! Unfortunately I did’t think to keep that drawing. I erased it and continued to edit it through the session with more tips and tricks that Nicki taught us. Here is my first completed visual note with just a single idea from Sarah’s talk:


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Since I wasn’t great at free hand drawing, I relied heavily on the ability to search for images that you could trace within Adobe Ideas. I decided I would practice the skills I had learned from Nicki in the following morning’s L2L talks. They were short and I could pick out one idea from each to show visually. Here is my second try at visual notetaking:


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What did I learn from Nicki and my first few experiences taking visual notes?

This has led me to ask the same question that Nicki repeated several times in her L2L talk:

Why aren’t we teaching more visually?

It obviously draws on so many skills and so much learning!

Let’s Make it Personal

The effectiveness of visuals in learning and importance of visual literacy was undeniable after our weekend at Learning 2.014. So, how would it all fit into where I was coming from? Where was its place in my school, how could I use these skills in my teaching?

In my cohort, we spent some time thinking about how we could incorporate these skills as tech coaches and within the age groups that we worked with. One of the ideas that I thought of was to tie it in with Project Zero’s Visible Thinking Routines. Obviously, they’ve already started with the CSI (Color, Symbol, Image) routine. But, what if students had the option to respond visually to other routines like See, Think, Wonder or I used to think…Now I think… I feel like it would create more opportunity for discussion, extension and creativity.

After returning back to work, I had a couple meetings with different grade levels to plan the next series of lessons I would work on with their students. In first grade, they are moving into a reading unit on Character Study. Students need to think about characters in the books they read and reflect on what their characters would say, think and feel. This could be a perfect opportunity for the first graders to use visuals to represent their characters, then later interpret each other’s visuals and build further discussion. I will have to meet with the first grade team again to see if there will be a way we can build this into their reading unit, but the possibility of it excites me!

Thank you to Nicki for all the learning and fun! Thank you also to everyone on the Learning 2.014 team that made this wonderful conference possible. I cannot wait for next year!!!


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7 Responses

  1. Hi Pana,
    I’m still digesting the conference. So many new inspiration – I couldn’t appreciate it more. The app Paper FiftyThree and all the visual notes on Twitter made me curious to learn more and to give it a try. Unfortunately part of my mind still tells me … I can’t … I’m not creative. Luckily another part of my mouth mind tells … Yes, I can. I might take some time … You wrote Nikki gave you some tips and tricks how to start. Do you mind to share them? How do I go from just writing to actually creating visuals?
    Thanks in advance. Verena

    1. Hi Verena, I’ve been postponing replying to your comment because I wanted to make sure I replied in such a way that was useful to you. I think that the best tip she gave was to focus on a main idea, or even just a word that you would then translate into a visual. From there you could write around it, under it, whatever you thought was appropriate. She also emphasized the use of layers. This is something you cannot do with Paper 53 which is why I don’t think I’ll be going to back to it for visual notes now. I prefer Adobe Ideas for the fact that you can create as many layers as you need so you can resize and reposition your images and writing on a page. The last thing I found most useful was the ability to put in a photo to trace then removing the photo later. This takes away the fear of creativity, since you don’t have to draw free hand you can just trace it! Give Adobe Ideas a try, No water color feature but I am a convert! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Awesome. Check out my last post as well titled killing two birds…
    It was great to meet you and chat about TAS and meeting someone in my Coetail. Still digesting here as well. So much information. So much drawing to do as well.
    I look forward to your posts.

  3. Hi Pana. Great work, great resources and great reflecting! Really wish I had the opportunity to go to Learning2, by all means sounds like it was a great experience. I’m going to have to download that Adobe Ideas, looks like an amazing resource to create visuals. Happy to see that you’re flourishing in your new role and documenting the process as you go. A real treat to read the ideas and lessons that you are doing there. Many possibilities like you say for incorporating tech into the classrooms. Keep up the great work!

    1. I started sketchnoting or visual notetaking on Paper 53 because at another conference (BLC14) that’s what everyone was using. Now that Nicki has introduced me to Adobe Ideas, I don’t think I’m going back to Paper 53, Adobe ideas is just easier! You should try to get to Learning 2.015, it’s in Manila, totally worth the experience!

  4. Pana, I enjoyed your examples of visual notetaking. I think the amount of concentration that it takes to create them might push out other distractions that fill my mind as I try to listen to a presentation. I have not heard of Adobe Ideas, so thanks for that. I’m looking forward to giving it a try.

    On a similar thread, I get more out of videos that are illustrated in the RSA Animate style than the original talk they usually come from.

    1. Hey Mike, I found it extremely hard to create those visual notes live. I was able to do it for the L2 talks because each was about 5 minutes long, so once you got the main idea of the talk you could create an image for it. Otherwise, I think I would have to take notes and then come back and later create the visual notes for them! Thanks for the link to RSA Animate. I’ve never seen these before, I can understand how they’re easier to follow than just listening to the talk alone. Proof in itself that teaching visually is important! ๐Ÿ™‚

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