Visual note-taking-why the hate?

One thing that I have noticed when my teacher was instructing on a new way of note-taking this week is that there is a lot of hate out there against any type of note-taking that doesn’t follow the “standard form” of what we are taught in our early years. Specifically this class was learning visual note-taking. The idea is simple. As someone lectures or as you are reading information you write down a few words that sums of a point and then draw a picture to cement the meaning.

The first thing that students, and non-students, said was that “I’m not artistic this isn’t fair”. Okay, your not artistic but I’m not asking for a Picasso. Everyone can draw a stick figure, a clock, a mind bubble, a set of stairs, simple little pictographs. They don’t have to be perfect; if someone doesn’t understand what they mean that isn’t your problem as long as you can read your notes that’s all that matters because after all the notes are supposed to be for YOU!

So we addressed the “I can’t draw problem” now we have the “I can’t keep up because I can’t draw that fast” issue to deal with. If you watch any professional instruction on how to do visual note-taking such as the ted talk on the topic you will hear and see them explain that you don’t always get a chance to draw your pictures as your doing your notes. Yes I’m saying the dreaded words, you need to spend time outside of class to draw some pictures or refine what you have, oh no! Some students may find they are just too involved in their pictures and this is what is keeping them behind in their notes. You may have to suggest they draw or finish drawing the notes out of class or that they make simpler drawings.

Now to address my favorite argument against this style of note-taking “Not everyone is an artist it’s not fair to expect everyone to have to draw for their notes”. Yes, not everyone is an artist. When we instruct our students on visual note-taking we are not trying to make them take all their notes in this way, we may not even be trying to get ANY notes done this way. Spending thirty minutes just teaching the concept allows the students to add this tool to their toolbox. Some will decide that they don’t want to use it, that’s fine. What is important is that the students who think visually now have a viable method of note-taking that they can use. You can never expect all students to take notes the same way, some use the Cornell method, some Visual note-taking, others bullet points, the important part is they are taking notes. So long as the student and repeat back what they learned from reading their notes is all that matters.

Is visual note-taking something that is easy to do in every class? No. Some classes it will be easier than others such as science classes where you can draw what you see for your observations. Others like math the ideas can be very complex and difficult to do this with. I’m not saying every student should have this style of notes. What I am saying is I believe part of being a good educator is teaching your students how to take notes best for them and in some cases visual note taking is the best option.

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