Visual Practice

As a closet doodler most of my life I was enthralled to learn that note taking through drawing is not only a practice but an evidence-based accepted practice filled with amazing people working in the field.

To take my visual notes I used to use an iPad & a pogo stylus but I’ve since moved to a Microsoft Surface. I’ve always used AutoDesk Sketchbook Pro on both devices. Sylvia Duckworth recommends ProCreate and I know lots of people who use Paper 53 Brushes. À chacun son goût!

This 4 minute video gives a quick summary of how I use visual practice in my work to plan, organize, teach, and learn.

My excellent colleague, Alison Innes created this great resource for students in first year Humanities course: The Master Student.

In 2011 I submitted the following “essay” to UnPlug’d about Why Doodling Matters.

Why Doodling Matters

As Temple Grandin says, “the world needs all kinds of minds.” and some of those minds “think in pictures”.

Doodling is a form of external thought that allows you to visualize the connections you are making while thinking. In the conscious mind, doodling can assist concentration and focus but even in the unconscious mind, while doodling and day dreaming connections are made.

As Steven Johnson says, the “mind’s primordial soup” can lead to “serendipitous collisions of creative insight”.

Doodling has allowed connections to be made between people and ideas, the magical space between.

These aspects can lead to better problem solving. By sharing my thinking through visual means, my most important connections have been to people, by way of sharing my perceptions of their ideas, presentations and words back to them. All my drawings are released under Creative Commons and are available on my Flickr stream.

Additional Resources

Workshops & Presentations

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Giulia Forsythe


Visual Practice for Teaching and Learning Resources, presented to Teacher Education candidates at Brock and UPEI. [online]

Visual Practice for Teaching Assistants, Brock University Teaching Assistant Orientation. St.Catharines. September 2013

Visual Practice at Society for Teaching Learning in Higher Education, Montreal. June 2012

Visual Practice at Canadian Association University Student Services, St.Catharines. June 2012

Visual Note taking on the iPad at MooseCamp Northern Voice, June 2012

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Nancy White

Learning by Design. University of Mary Washington Faculty Academy, Fredericksburg, VA. May 2012

Narrative Representations of Teaching and Learning, Educational Developers Caucus. Halifax. February 2012

Facilitator, small group peer edit UnPlug’d, August 2012

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Andrew Forgrave

28 thoughts on “Visual Practice

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  4. Philip Cummings

    This is fascinating work, Giulia. I’m so grateful that Royan shared your work with me and that you have shared all these wonderful resources. Actually, I was in a parent conference today discussing a student’s need for help with note-taking and it occurred to me that he might benefit from sketch-noting. I cannot wait to share this with my students. Thank you!

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  6. Trish

    ah the magic of ds106 continues. so glad to have been connected to you through ds106 and especially to have seen this. a born doodler, i abandoned it long ago because i thought it indicated lack of focus and rigor in notetaking/thinking. after reading/watching this i’ve got pens, pencils, and paper all spread out before me ready to work on ds106 and other projects. thanks giulia!!

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  12. Stephanie Stranges

    Thank you so much for sharing your mind with us at Connect 2014! Your explanation and illustration of Graphic Notes has truly inspired me!

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