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  • Translator: Carmen Costina Reviewer: Denise RQ

  • When I was in high school I was a pretty good student

  • and I took very good notes.

  • My teachers really appreciated that.

  • My notes looked a lot like this most of the time.

  • You look at these notes and you say to yourself

  • "This is great.

  • This student is clearly paying attention in my class."

  • That's what it looks like.

  • The trouble is that sometimes, my notes looked a little more like this.

  • And this was a little hard, a little more problematic,

  • because to the teachers it looked like I was drawing in class,

  • and so I would get a different reaction.

  • But for me, it was just as easy to listen closely to what the teacher was saying

  • if I was drawing images as it was if I was writing words.

  • Sometimes, it was actually easier for me to listen and pay attention

  • if my hand was doing something,

  • and it didn't matter if the images that were coming out

  • had anything to do with what I was hearing.

  • It was just easier for me to focus if I was drawing.

  • But teachers would stand in the front of the room

  • and see me in the back of the room,

  • because my last name started with an S and so I was always in the back,

  • and they would say, "She's drawing in class again."

  • And they'd make me stop

  • and stand up in front of the class and recite some exercises

  • to induce me to pay attention better next time.

  • Maybe, after class, I'd have to stay and clean off the blackboard

  • and I'd always get the same lecture which went something like this:

  • "Rachel, you're such a good student,

  • but if you don't pay attention, you're not going to do well."

  • Guess what I do for a living now?

  • Any guesses?

  • 25 years later,

  • it turns out that what I do for a living is pay attention.

  • I get up in front of a group and the group talks,

  • and while they're doing that, I pay attention.

  • I pay attention totally, and completely, and with everything that I am.

  • While I'm paying attention to what the group is saying,

  • I take notes.

  • Those notes look something like this.

  • This is called graphic recording.

  • I use huge sheets of paper on the wall, I use big markers,

  • I listen to the group's conversation and I record it, using words and images.

  • Sometimes there are more words and sometimes there are more images,

  • but usually the notes come out looking something like this.

  • This helps the group in several ways:

  • It lets them see what they're doing, it lets them see their work

  • in a way that's not normally possible in a meeting or a conversation.

  • It lets them see the big picture together.

  • They can make connections between pieces of information

  • that come up at different times in the meeting.

  • They can follow the thread of a conversation

  • through a multi-day meeting

  • because it's all around them on the walls, all the time.

  • It really helps the group to see what they're accomplishing as they do it,

  • and that's my contribution.

  • I make the group's work visible.

  • I also use visual note-taking to take my own personal notes,

  • when I'm listening to speeches, or lectures, or meetings, what have you.

  • A couple of things are different than when I was in high school.

  • I'm using different tools, so my notes look a little different.

  • I draw on an internal library of images that I've developed over the years

  • and that I carry with me so I can draw very quickly when I need them.

  • They're just ready for me to use.

  • I've gotten better at pulling out the key points that speakers are making,

  • I've had a lot more practice.

  • I've stopped worrying that people will make me stay after the meeting

  • and clean up because I've been drawing.

  • Any type of note-taking is designed to help the student take what they're hearing

  • and hook it to their internal frame of reference.

  • That's how learning occurs.

  • You take new information and hook it to old information you already had.

  • When you take notes, it's very possible

  • to write down word for word exactly what the teacher's saying

  • and not understand any of it.

  • Has that happened to any of you?

  • I know it's happened to me; where I have no clue what's going on,

  • so I just write it all down and hope I can figure it out later.

  • When you're using visual note-taking though,

  • you have to listen to what's being said,

  • you have to really hear it, and you have to understand it,

  • because that's the only way you're going to come up with an image

  • that connects what you're hearing with what you already know in your mind.

  • Visual note-taking opens the door

  • for more playful connections between information,

  • for students to use their imaginations

  • in an activity that can often be very passive: note-taking.

  • It also helps students to create a personal visual memory aid

  • that they can study from later, look at, and tell themselves the story again.

  • When a teacher is teaching, what they're doing, really,

  • is telling a story about something they're passionate about.

  • And when a student takes visual notes,

  • what they're doing is making that story visible.

  • When taking visual notes,

  • the critical thing is that your images are very quick and easy to draw,

  • and that they're relevant to the content that's being said.

  • If you find yourself doing a really, really detailed image,

  • and it has nothing to do with what the speaker's currently saying,

  • this happens to every visual note-taker at some point

  • then you've lost track of what's going on, you've fallen behind,

  • and what you need to do is stop, leave a space,

  • move on and keep up with the speaker.

  • When I was taking the notes here,

  • the speaker that I was listening to, Chris Schunn,

  • was talking about the difference between low-success teams and high-success teams,

  • and you can see that in the lower portion of the slide here.

  • And I had this image of how I wanted

  • to represent his description, of what those two teams were like,

  • but I didn't have time while he was talking to work it out

  • because I hadn't had those postures of the people that you see here.

  • That wasn't in my image library already.

  • So I left a space and I went on with him,

  • which is good, because if I hadn't,

  • if I'd tried to work out that drawing right then,

  • I would've ended up missing the take-home points of the lecture

  • which is the important thing,

  • this is what the speaker wants you to walk away with.

  • So I waited until he was finished

  • and when the talk was over, I went back and I worked out the drawings

  • the way that I want them.

  • Now when I look at them, they remind me of the descriptions that he used

  • because this is the image that came to my mind when he was saying that.

  • I'm not saying this is the only way to take notes, or the best way,

  • I'm just saying it's another way to take notes, another option,

  • and for some people it can be very, very helpful.

  • Some people have a very hard time writing words while they're hearing words;

  • for some reason, it's very hard.

  • Other people naturally think of images as they're listening.

  • For other people, like me, it's easier to focus and listen closely

  • when you're doing something with your hands.

  • We like to think that school has changed in 30 years, gotten better, improved.

  • I want to tell you a little story about my niece, Elizabeth.

  • Elizabeth is 13 years old, she going into 8th grade this year.

  • And Elizabeth is a really good student, most of the time.

  • Last year in school,

  • she got caught drawing in class.

  • Astonishingly, she got in trouble.

  • I can't believe this is still happening, but it is.

  • So, she got called up after class to the teacher

  • and he was going to assign her a detention,

  • but before he could say anything,

  • Elizabeth, who is much sharper at 13 than I was,

  • showed him her paper and she said,

  • "I wasn't just drawing in class."

  • This is what she showed him.

  • She said: "I was taking notes in your class, I was paying attention."

  • She went over this paper with him, point by point,

  • and she used her words and her images

  • to recall the story that he had told in his lecture.

  • She captured all the key points.

  • It was clear that she had been paying attention,

  • and that she could read her notes.

  • When she was finished, her teacher said:

  • "That's really good.

  • If you want to keep taking notes like that in my class, you go right ahead."

  • So, some things have changed.

  • And she continued to do it all through the semester.

  • As you can see, her notes got better.

  • She got better at organizing the information.

  • She got better at choosing which images to use.

  • In the end, she was able to demonstrate that these notes could help her study

  • so she was able to do it in other classes as well.

  • I talked to her recently and I said:

  • "Elizabeth, how was this experience for you, this visual note-taking in class?

  • What was the experience like?"

  • And this is what she said to me:

  • "It helped me remember better

  • because I could place the information with a picture that's relevant."

  • And that's what it's all about.

  • But the key point here

  • is that the picture and the information

  • are not just connected in Elizabeth's notebook.

  • The picture and the information are connected in Elizabeth's mind,

  • that's why visual note-taking works.

  • What do you think is the most common objection I get

  • when I start to teach people how to do visual note-taking?

  • Any ideas? Here, I'll show you.

  • OK. Say it with me, "But I can't draw." (Audience) "But I can't draw."

  • I get that all the time.

  • The good news is it's not about drawing, it's not about making beautiful pictures.

  • It's not about making detailed images.

  • It's not about accurately drawing a person, or a car, or a light bulb.

  • It's not even about doing something

  • that's recognizable to anybody other than yourself.

  • The thing that you need to do with visual note-taking

  • is capture what you're hearing in a way that's memorable for you.

  • It's a personal experience

  • that needs to be personally relevant and connect with what you heard,

  • and that's all.

  • So, let's say that you're convinced and you want to try this yourself,

  • or, if you're a teacher, let your students try it.

  • We'll go over three simple steps

  • that will get you set on this road, get you started.

  • The first one is to choose a tool that works for you,

  • the second one is to start building up that mental library of images I mentioned,

  • and the third one is to really practice listening and capturing the key points.

  • After that, it's just practice; that's all you need to know and then just practice.

  • Let's go over these one by one. Choose a tool that works for you.

  • This can be anything at all,

  • it can be paper, a pen or pencil, a tablet computer or an iPad.

  • You can use lots and lots of colors, just a few colors, just one color,

  • whatever you like.

  • It just has to be something that you're absolutely comfortable with.

  • Whatever's happening, the tool cannot get in the way of you taking your notes.

  • It can't get between you and capturing that information.

  • If your tool is too confusing, or if you're not familiar with it,

  • it's not going to be helpful to you.

  • Whatever you choose, you should practice with that tool

  • before you record a lecture, or a class, or a meeting that's very important

  • because you want the tool to be seamless not in your way at all.

  • By the way, the sketch notes here have been done by Mike Rohde,

  • and he's a fantastic inspiration

  • if you're going to begin doing visual note-taking,

  • So I really recommend looking at his books and his pictures.

  • Second thing is actually your most important tool.

  • The tool that you write with is important,

  • but the most important tool is your internal library of mental imagery.

  • You start with one or two icons;

  • when you see something that somebody else did

  • you steal it, you make it your own, you modify it,

  • and gradually you build up this library that you can use whenever you need to.

  • Every image that I use in my digital notes, in my visual notes,

  • digital or paper,

  • I've done dozens and dozens of times.

  • I know exactly what I'm going to do.

  • I might modify it slightly to fit the context, I might add a little detail,

  • but I'm not making it up on the spot.

  • It takes all of your attention

  • to listen and capture those points that you're hearing.

  • All of your attention is bound up in that.

  • If you're creating a new concept,

  • if you're creating an image or an icon for a new concept or idea,

  • that takes all of your attention.

  • You can't do them both, it's one or the other.

  • Think of it this way: if you are taking notes in a lecture,

  • and you are just using words, you are not using images at all,

  • you would not dream of inventing a language to take the notes in

  • while you're listening to the lecture.

  • Can you imagine making up words

  • and trying to assign a consistent context to them

  • while you're listening to something else?

  • No, you couldn't do it.