Friday, March 20, 2020

Sketch Notes: One Way to Help Focus Attention For Sermons and Online Learning

TBH: shouting rocks have always intrigued me.
(Future readers [if, indeed, there is a future], please note: this blog post was written at the beginning of the COVID-19 / coronavirus pandemic. Michigan, along with most of the free world, is shut down. Grocery stores are devoid of toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Schools, churches, restaurants {::sob!::}, salons -- all closed. The times, they are *weird*, and only expected to get weirder.)
I'm especially happy with the party
limo and the "Jesus Prius."

As the realities of quarantine settle in, the name of the game right now is Online Learning, which involves parking on the couch in your PJs, nibbling on a stale bagel, trying to stay focused on the tiny talking head on your screen that is attempting to enter your home via the internet in order to impart knowledge into your noggin.

One thing I've noticed: the older I get, the more easily my attention wanders. Especially during lectures. Even lectures that I want to pay attention to.

Though I no longer spend a lot of time in the classroom listening to lecturing professors, I do spend a significant amount of time in church. And though it pains me to admit it, if all I do is sit and listen, I have a mortifying tendency to ... dozzzzzze offff... ~ZZZzzzzzz~

Or, rather, I *did.* Until I started taking sketch notes as a way to focus my attention and absorb the information coming my way. Not only did they stop me from falling asleep, but when I return to them -- even months later -- I find myself readily remembering the source content.

Got a little carried away with
treeing Zaccheus.
Now that so many religious services are being held online, not to mention business meetings and educational classes, it occurred to me that perhaps sketch notes can help others as well.

The Point

There are three primary purposes of sketch notes.

One is to give your hands something to do to keep you engaged while your brain focuses on whatever words are being said. Doodles, patterns, drawing things in close proximity (since most of these examples were drawn in church, that explains the sheer number of sketches of the backs of people's heads). The sketch doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the content of the lecture, but it does anchor you to the place and time.

Another is to jot down important data. Write out verbatim quotes and references that are important or that you want to be able to revisit for further study at another time.

The third is to make intuitive jumps between what was said, and what you got out of it.  (See the party limousine contrasted with the "Jesus Prius" as part of the story of calling Matthew, for instance...)

FWIW: the kids' story was about a loose moose...
The purpose of sketch notes is not to take down extensive content verbatim. Rather, it is to find ways to encapsulate the information or anchor it in your mind for later recall when you revisit the sketched pages.

Required Items

All you need for sketch notes is a sketch pad and a writing utensil. Artistic talent is irrelevant (as you can plainly see in the accompanying photos).

I find that too many options (say, a complete array of colored pens or pencils) is too distracting. With so many choices, instead of concentrating on the information coming my way, I'm deciding which color is best to work with.

For me, my "sweet spot" is a pencil, a pen, and a marker. Those three mediums are enough to provide a nice variety without overwhelming me with choices. Your actual mileage may vary -- do what works best.

From snakes named Prince to pet huskies
to "Finding Dory," one sketch page
helps me remember it all.
The Approach

I like to start with a date, so I can quickly locate a particular note at a later time.

When the speaker starts, I begin filling up the page, using one of the three methods mentioned earlier. Generally, I'll start a doodle and noodle around with it for a significant portion of the lecture -- but I'll often leave it to cite specifics or to note connections, then return to it as the lecture progresses.

That's what works for me.

The point is to use your sketching to help focus your thoughts on the new information coming at you. Whether learning online or in a more traditional lecture setting, fiddle around with sketch notes to see if they can work for you too.

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