In school I’d sometimes get scolded for “doodling” during class. The charge was that because I was drawing, I couldn’t possibly have been paying attention. Since then I’ve learned that for me, and for lots of people like me, drawing and attention are linked, the former often improving the latter.



Your students may find that if they attempt to listen to a lecture, for example, with utterly still hands, their minds wander and they end up with poor retention of what was being said. If, however, they occupy their hands by doodling while they listen, they end up with a much stronger sense of not only the content of what they’re listening to, but of the discussion as a whole–even if they’re not trying. One study 1 suggests that doodling wrangles the attention so that  primary focus isn’t distracted by wandering thoughts.

Students might doodle on good old-fashioned notebook paper, and there are several free digital tools that may facilitate doodling:

Visual Notetaking

Visual notetaking is a more active task of processing information­—a lecture, again for example—in a final product that will serve as a useful memory-jogger. Visual notetaking may be the result of doodling, though doodling does not necessarily result in a referenceable artifact.

But I Can’t Draw!

Visual notetaking isn’t just for cartoonists whiling away a boring class. If you can create very basic shapes and write legibly, then you can create visual notes.

And just like with traditional note taking, the more you practice, the better you’ll get—and you’ll have your own style, as well.

It’s Everywhere

Visual notetaking, and other forms of visual literacy, is gaining a foothold in pedagogical practice. Practitioners are sharing their work and offering training sessions for use in education and elsewhere:

  • featuring the book The Doodle Revolution
  • is a “curated blog covering the creative world of visual notes, visual recording, graphic facilitation, graphic recording and sketchnotes.”
  • Lynda Barry is a consistent source of information and inspiration regarding visual notetaking and doodling (check out her Doodling and Neuroscience course offered at the University of Wisconsin.)
  • Even more about visual notetaking:

1. []