Thursday, January 12, 2012

Doodling & Visual Thinking: A Case For Paper

Source: ASIDE, 2012
In our point-and-click world, especially for our born-digitals, have we moved too far away from the tactile approach to learning? Oh sure, we can swipe an iPad and move things around on an interactive whiteboard; heck, we can even brainstorm and mind-map using Web 2.0 tools. But what about the good old making-it-with-your hands approach? We’ve seen kids who are terrific playing archery on the Wii, but who cannot follow simply directions for physically holding a bow, because they don’t get to touch that stuff often enough.

That’s why making a case for doodling seems so important to learning. Doodling with a pen, pencil, or whatever instead of a mouse, stylus, or finger is different. The sheer act of making something with your own hands changes the way we look at things. It is also permanent in a different way. On electronic devices, creations can be saved, but you have to turn them on to see them. On paper, you can leave a doodle visible to live with, think about subconsciously, or change immediately because you notice something in a fleeting moment. They say inspiration is lost if not captured. Artists do this all the time. Their studios are filled with finished and unfinished work.

Source: DanRoam.com
Doodling is a way of thinking, of designing information around a thought process. We work with students as educators to pre-write, revise, edit and publish. Why not try having them doodle vocabulary words, or what it would look like to hunt buffalo by the Plains Indians? Best-selling author Dan Roam uses drawing to work with some of the biggest companies in the world. His books The Back of Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures and Unfolding the Napkin: The Hands-On Method for Solving Complex Problems with Simple Pictures are international best sellers.  His latest book, Blah, Blah, Blah: What to Do When Words Don't Work, continues his philosophy of balancing the world between "the fox and the hummingbird" for what he calls "vivid grammar." In other words, he urges us to be double-minded, using both verbal and visual connections. Roam uses visual thinking to spur creativity and innovation. Isn’t that what we want for our students?


Be Double Minded from Dan Roam on Vimeo.

Too often, we associate doodling as a distraction or not paying attention. Is it? Not according to the studies. Check out our earlier post on Sunni Brown and her CNN interview “What We Learn from Doodles.” Doodling can actually lead to improving cognitive performance, increasing retention of information, and engaging and motivating students in a more meaningful way. To doodle quietly while listening to information can make it easier to concentrate. In other words, it can take away the distractions.
Source: Sunni Brown: Doodlers, unite! TED Talk
Take a look at Vi Hart’s Math Doodling videos with titles such as Binary Trees, Snakes + Graphs, and Infinity Elephants. These lively videos demonstrate how doodling can be an engaging form of learning. What an innovative and creative way to explain math concepts to help students learn.

Information today is not linear but fluid and organic. So is doodling. It allows for the design of images and words in a different way from the traditional model of organizing content. Planning a lesson built around doodling might just yield results that surprise us. It’s worth a try, isn't it?

Source: ASIDE, 2012
For the techies out there, see our earlier post on Doodlebuzz, the news aggregator for the visual thinker. It is anything but linear. And, if you really have an aversion to paper, try using doodle.ly during a meeting or conference to keep you thinking while doodling.

No matter what your preference, the process of organically taking information on a spontaneous path through doodling can lead to new discoveries and ideas. Remember, doodling is not as the modern definition suggests:

Source: Sunni Brown, Doodlers, unite! TED Talk

2 comments:

  1. Great post. Within the past year I have gone from being a techno-enthusiast paper-shunner to a huge proponent of pen and paper visual note taking. I feel like I now have access to a whole new layer of creativity, and I'm excited to see where that takes me both as a educator and as a student.

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  2. Doodling, calms the mind, helps lower anxiety and helps problem solve what is going on deep inside of you.
    As an art educator who uses 1:1 ipads in the classroom, is loving technology.....I make my students doodle. It is good to see patterns, details, and help one visually process what is going on in thoughts, feelings and emotions. It is a skill that IS disappearing. Recently I saw a specialized class on reducing stress: what was this expensive skill that taught this, and created art work......doodling.
    Guess we need someone to often tell us it is ok to just relax....and doodle.

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