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Making Learning Visible: Doodling Helps Memories Stick (


Shelley Paul and Jill Gough had heard that doodling while taking notes could help improve memory and concept retention, but as instructional coaches they were reluctant to bring the idea to teachers without trying it out themselves first.

To give it a fair shot, Paul tried sketching all her notes from a two-day conference. By the end, her drawings had improved and she was convinced the approach could work for kids, too.

“It causes you to listen at a different level,” said Jill Gough, director of teaching and learning at Trinity Schools. Doodling has long been seen as a sign that students aren't paying attention. But it may be time to give doodling an image makeover.

“I sat through two 45-minute lectures in high school social studies and not only was I super focused because I was doodling, I could also basically give the lecture afterwards,” said Paul, who is director of learning design at Woodward Academy. “And if I look at the doodle again today for three to four minutes, I can basically remember it all again.”

These experiences convinced Paul and Gough that something powerful happens when auditory learning is transposed into images. It didn’t take much to excite students about the idea.

While doodling has often been seen as frivolous at best and distracting at worst, the idea of sketchnoting has grounding in neuroscience research about how to improve memory. When ideas and related concepts can be encapsulated in an image, the brain remembers the information associated with that image. William Klemm, a professor of neuroscience at Texas A&M University, says the process is akin to a zip file.

“This is a way to get your working memory to carry more,” Klemm said at a Learning and the Brain conference in San Francisco.]

To read more of Katrina Schwartz' article, please click here.

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