Sketchnoting as a #GrowthMindset Journey

A couple of colleagues and I are facilitating a full-day sketchnoting workshop, and as an introduction, we plan to share our sketchnoting journey, so I wanted to take time to reflect and pick out key steps on my path. By the way, I have no art background, and I feel like I'm quite under-qualified to "lead" this session, but I'm working with fantastic colleagues, and we've had a great time planning the workshop.

I discovered sketchnotes in the winter of 2014, and I've been trying them off and on since then. I would like to be more consistent with my practice, so this post will also serve as my attempt to become more accountable. ๐Ÿ˜‰

After I learned about Carol Dweck's work, I always shared the concept of mindset with my students. (Check out all of my posts about mindset.) That particular year, however, my students really struggled with the ideas of failure and risk-taking. I thought if I took up the practice of sketchnoting and shared my work with my students, I could show them my attempts and we could document my improvement over time. I still say, "I'm not an artist," and I continue to have a pretty fixed mindset about it, but I'm determined to practice what I preach!

I found a few sketchnoting resources and started practicing. I believe that's when Sylvia Duckworth started freely sharing her sketches too, so she has inspired me for many years!

At the same time, one of my teammates was finishing her dissertation (basically about notetaking and retention techniques) and she asked if we could try some visual thinking maps with our students. YES, please! One of our units was extra-heavy with vocabulary, so that's where we started. We asked the students to create graphic organizers/sketchnotes to show the relationships between the terms and concepts in the unit. Here's the only sample I saved (and it wasn't even my student) but I loved this student's design and use of colors.

At the end of that school year, I transitioned to my current job, and my interest in sketchnoting grew. Sketchnoting was the subject of my "Genius Hour" project in 2015, and I shared one of my very first sketchnotes with session participants that fall.
Since 2014, I watched countless videos and webinars about sketchnote techniques and tools. I read books, blogposts, and followed Twitter hashtags. I attended sketchnoting sessions at TCEA, ISTE, and at edcamps.

My sketchnote turning point was participating in the 2017 #sketch50 Twitter challenge. I completed all 50 prompts (on time!), learned new techniques, and grew my PLN. The daily prompts were perfect brain breaks, and every day, I looked forward to creating during lunch or as a relaxation activity after work. Here's my entire album of sketches, and it's so fun for me to see the growth and improvement in my sketches.

Another key from 2017 was participating in #ClassyGraphics. That course taught me about colors, fonts, and design, which really helped with my sketchnotes, too.

For the 2018 #sketch50 challenge, the focus was creating quick sketches and #ProcessOverPretty. I'm working to complete more quick sketches, but I still like to take a bit more time with my sketchnotes.

In 2018, I took #ClassyVideos and the subject of one of my earliest videos was a quick overview of my sketchnote journey.

Over the years, I have sketchnoted blog posts, TED talks, podcasts, personal learning, and books. I also try to sketch workshops, but I'm much better at creating sketches as reflections and to synthesize my work, rather than real-time sketching. I've included a few of my sketchnotes in past blog posts, and another goal is to start sketchnoting our podcast episodes. (We'll see.)

For 2019, I have 19 goals ("19 for '19") and one goal is to master 50 sketchnote icons. The experts say you should have 100 icons in your visual vocabulary, and I'm about a quarter of the way there. ๐Ÿ˜ณ

A sketchnoting highlight of 2019 was to host Sylvia Duckworth at Region 10 for a full-day workshop, so I learned from the best!

I continue to have a #growthmindset about my sketchnoting, and I'm always learning!

If you want to see the images that are too tiny to see in my Sketchnote Journey graphic, here's the entire album.


Inspired at ISTE, 2019 version!

sketchnote of 5 points from my ISTE conference
It is a privilege to be able to attend conferences, and I feel with that opportunity comes the responsibility to reflect and to share what I learned.

With 20,000+ attendees, the ISTE conference definitely qualifies as a mega-event, and now that I have attended four of these conferences, I have a (slightly better) grasp of how I "do" ISTE.

I've been able to share some key takeaways with my colleague Ashley, and I'm still sorting through my notes and other Tweets I curated, but here's a quick summary to explain my sketchnote and to help me document what happens next.
Takeaway #1:
Since reading Make It Stick in 2015, I've been so interested in the learning sciences, and now my interest has turned into a mild obsession. ๐Ÿ˜ƒ (Read more of the story here!) I was surprised that there weren't more sessions about this topic, but I found one presentation and added the presenter's book, Design Ed: Connecting Learning Science Research to Practice to my TBR list. I also learned about ISTE's new initiative called Course of Mind. It includes a podcast, blog, research, and coming-soon a course.

The other presentation related to learning was Dr. Scott McLeod's session and exploration of his 4 Shifts Protocol. (Here's a recent blog post about understanding one of the 4 domains: deeper learning.) He walked us through a couple scenarios, and we worked through a (re)design pivot to "up" the learning experience. I've looked at his 4 Shifts protocol several times, but his explanation and our practice during the session really opened my eyes. I can't wait to explore and implement his work! (And it added his book Harnessing Technology for Deeper Learning to my book pile, too.)

Takeaway #2:
The other big idea on my mind is equity. ISTE definitely made progress this year with more diversity in their keynote speakers and the number of sessions with "Equity" or "Cultural Responsiveness" in their titles, but there is still a long way to go for all of us. (There was some Twitter backlash about some glaringly un-diverse panels.) I think it was also at the forefront of my mind because the week prior to the conference, I worked in districts with vastly disparate device "situations." (In one district, the high school has been 1:1 MacBooks for 5 years. The next day, I was in a district where teachers were hoping for Chromebook carts in the rooms...but they had heard that for the past two years.) I also caught some Twitter discussions about the expense of the conference...how many districts or schools have the funds to send teachers to these kinds of learning events? Travel to Philadelphia and conference fees definitely added up. $$$

I attended the session Constructing the Culturally Responsive Citizen: Moving Beyond #DigCit, and I loved that one of the session norms was to "Be Brave" -- to step outside your comfort zone and to be willing to have harder conversations. We went through scenarios to analyze what bias was present and how to respond. We also had thoughtful discussions about how we equip our students with the language and skills to navigate these sensitive situations. Powerful conversations.

Takeaways #3-4:
Take time for creativity! I've been interested in sketchnoting for at least 4 years now, so it's time I do more with it! Several of the featured speakers emphasized the importance of risk-taking and sharing your failures, so I'm on it! I've sketchnoted conference takeaways from TCEA and now 2 ISTE's and I plan to do more sketchnotes as reflections.

I also enjoyed (more than I expected) our weekly podcast format, and I did almost all of the editing and "producing" of the episodes this year...but I know that can be better. I'm working on that, too! I attended one session about podcasting for students, and it gave me great ideas for our podcast, too. I'm ready to get more creative with our podcast. Stay tuned!

Like other conferences, the hallway conversations are often the best. Conferences like these often turn into reunions, and I also enjoy opportunities to expand my PLN. I also love supporting other #R10tech friends and strive to stop by their presentations.

Takeaway #5:
More about this news and process later, but I've spent about 6-months working on the ISTE Certified Educator process, and it was fun to be able to celebrate that accomplishment at this conference.

I'm a huge fan of the podcast Note to Self, and it was awesome to be able to hear Manoush share her Bored and Brilliant ideas (and other work).

Reflections for another day: I'm glad to see more conversations on topics such as teacher wellness, mental health issues, device distraction, and the importance of unplugging.

Attending a conference is a perfect example to apply John Dewey's quote:
We do not learn from experience... we learn from reflecting on experience.
Always learning!


Takeaways from TCEA 2019

After three solid days of "conferencing" in San Antonio, I am happy to be able to spend a bit of time reflecting, processing, and synthesizing a few things learned.


I think it's important to have a plan or system for how to collect and share conference resources with teammates, colleagues and others. Of course, the use of collaborative Google Docs or Slides is a go-to for many of us. I've recently started implementing outline mode in my digital note-taking, and I hope the headings and subheadings will make the massive document a bit easier to manage.

Of course, I had Tweetdeck going for TCEA, but our group also created a Twitter hashtag, #R10atTCEA. It wasn't used as much as I would have liked, but I loved that others in Region 10 contributed to this hashtag, too.

A new favorite curation tool is Wakelet, and just last month, they announced the feature of collaborative Wakelets, so I thought it would be fun to try out that tool with colleagues at the service center. (Here's a post from Matt Miller that shares more ideas to use collaborative collections.) We had 9 colleagues attend the conference, and several of us posted in our #R10atTCEA wakelet (and I hope others will continue adding to it next week.)

John Bimmerle, a TCEA area director, took curation and Wakelet to the next level, and I loved this idea! He facilitated Solution Circles throughout TCEA, and he created a collaborative Wakelet for every single session AND made them public so we can see all of the session ideas and notes!
I'm always a bit bummed when presenters don't share their slides/resources, but that only happened a couple of times during this conference. Something new that I would like to adapt is a "condensed" version of the slides. I attended a 3-hour workshop from Mandy Froehlich, and instead of sharing her entire slide deck, she gave us a condensed version of organized resources. She used the same template as her original slide deck, but included only slides of the key definitions and resources. Her presentation slides were colorful and more detailed, and this small deck was mostly grey. I thought this was a great idea because it allowed us to focus on her content, but when necessary, we could click links for activities or additional resources.


The conversations in the hallways are often the most valuable! For an introvert, it is always a push for me to strike up conversations with strangers, but that was a goal that I met this year. (I even had a conversation with two other educators while waiting in line to board the plane home.) Now that I've worked at the service center for 3.5 years, the conference felt like a mini-reunion, and I ran into former colleagues and people from districts all over Region 10.
One glaring takeaway: when facilitating an extended workshop and expect interactions (i.e. "turn-and-talk" activities) take time at the beginning of the presentation for introductions. I think I always remember to do that, but when it's absent during a session, I feel it's sorely needed.

I have now volunteered at several conferences, and I think this will be a must-do for me for all future events. Not only is it a way to connect with other educators, but I feel it's a very small way to give back to all of those who worked to put on this massive event! I had a great time greeting people at check-in, and helping in the Google teaching theater is always a learning experience.

During my sessions, I was also on the lookout for content that might be interesting for others in our group. By using Twitter, it was easy to tag colleagues when I found resources that might connect with their subject area (even if it wasn't applicable to me.)
And as a bonus to show how connections help me, I heard about Tony Vincent's "Random Reflection Generator" during a session and posted that on Twitter. Someone in my PLN shared the blog post from Tony about how to create the prompts, and he then shared the script he used to make his own! (Don save me so much time on my weekend coding project!)

And speaking of reflections...my third huge takeaway from TCEA...


After several days of learning-overload, it's so important for me to process and reflect. One new thing I tried this year was to create a separate document for singular ideas and reflections. I kept one document of session content notes (resources, links, summaries, etc.) but when I experienced something that I wanted to use for my own work, I added that idea to a different document of "Random Ideas." When I saw an interesting way to format slides, start a session, survey question, or prompt, I added that to my other document. I hope this will be helpful with future work.

I'm also fortunate to work with a colleague who likes to "convention" like I do. After a full-day at the conference, I'm ready to get a super early dinner and then go back to the quiet of my room...and she wants exactly the same! Our dinners were very work related though, and we spent the majority of the time sharing ideas and information we experienced and discovered throughout the day.

I was also determined this year to find the good in every session or experience. In the past, I sometimes left sessions feeling like I just lost an hour of precious time, so this year, I was on the lookout for even the smallest takeaways. Armed with that mindset, I got something from every session. When I was completely unimpressed, I didn't feel guilty about sneaking out of the back...and my takeaway was to be extremely thoughtful to make certain my session description matches the content of my session.

My final thought and goal was to reflect and blog ASAP, and voila! (I've been home less than 24-hours, and I have this new post!) As a bonus, I attended a session with Lisa Johnson on Notable Note-Taking, and I've been a fan of her digital/analog notes, so I'm trying something I've admired in her work...my sketchnote of take-aways, along with a Thinglink.

Conference learning is powerful in so many ways! These days, I don't think I should expect (or want) to walk away from conferences with tools; instead, my head is full of ideas to try.

Always learning...


Zigging and Zagging

I enjoy January, the start of a new year, and new beginnings. During the past several years, I created resolutions, participated in happiness projects, wrote 18 goals for 2018, and distilled yearly themes to #oneword. (This year's word is heart, by the way.) As part of our work evaluations, we write and submit reflections on our past and future goals, and I really enjoy that process. (I wonder how many people like completing these reflections?) I'm currently working on a portfolio for a certification project, and the synthesis process is very fulfilling for me.

In spite of all of my thinking and reflecting, for the past several months, I feel that I lost my sense of direction, and I am zigging and zagging all over the place. I don't think I even realized I was at such a loss until I heard the discussion of "Defining Your Everest" during an interview with Dave Stuart on this podcast. Bottom line, I would like to distill my work into concise, focused goals.

It's not like I've never done something like this before... I discovered this quote in 2006, and it continues to be one of my favorites. It suited me perfectly as a math teacher, Student Council sponsor, instructional specialist, and now as a digital learning consultant.

A couple years ago, a friend even created this painting for me, and it's prominently hanging in my office.
Starting in 2012, my students and I created 6-word memoirs. I still love this focus sentence.
I love to help find solutions.
The sentence worked in my previous job because it was very "math-y," plus I was working at the campus level to solve problems. Now I find ways technology can solve problems.

I created a 5-word GPS for the 2014-15 school year (my last year on a campus). When I look at the words now, I see my focus was so much about building a community of learners and creating psychological safety in my class...and that is all still good to remember for my professional development sessions.

Last year, I took an online class (#ClassyGraphics) where an optional assignment was to create a manifesto, and I worked for weeks to choose the right words that described my values and beliefs.

Looking at all of these quotes, words, and reflections from past years helps me understand my values and priorities, but how can I be more concise? I see a lot of similarities in my words and ideas. What I like about the Everest Challenge is the teacher says every single day in his classes, his students are working on one or more of his 5-6 broad goals. During the podcast interview, Dave said he started writing his ideas on an index card, carried it around for days (weeks?) to refine and reflect on his words.

What is my work all about? Right now, I'm thinking something like, "I want to help others see how technology empowers us to learn, connect, collaborate, and create." Hmmm... Am I able to spend the majority of my time using technology for learning, connecting, collaborating, and creating? Is this focus fulfilling for me? Suggestions?

Still thinking and reflecting, and always learning. 

PS - With "Zigging and Zagging," I'm finally ending my alphabet blogging challenge. Talk about perseverance. It took way too long to finish 26 posts, but I'm glad I did it!


YouTube for Learning?

Anyone who is around me for more than 5 minutes hears about my favorite educational book The New Pillars of Modern Teaching. The ideas in Gayle Allen's book truly transformed how I think about teaching and learning. (See this post for an overview.) So this reflection started as ponderings about YouTube, but as with most everything in my educational world, it's going to circle back to the New Pillars.

Last year, I read great advice for conference-going, which was to attend a session that was outside your comfort zone or area of interest. Find something that might push your thinking. For that reason, on the last day and the final session of ISTE 18, I found the session Teacher Reflection and Professional Growth Through Vlogging. The session description sounded interesting (except for the video part) but I didn't recognize the presenters' names. I ran into a former colleague in this session, and based on his enthusiasm (and the response in the room!) I learned that the presenters were "celebrities" in the TeacherTuber world! I had no idea that just like blogs, Twitter, and Instagram, there is an entire community of educators that share and support each other on YouTube. Check out CJ Reynolds' and Darin Nakakihara's channels to see their vlogs. Their presentation was dynamic and inspiring, and they spoke with enthusiasm about their community of learners and how they used video to learn, grow, reflect, and share.

As wonderful as their presentation was, I have not spent any additional time exploring YouTube and TeacherTubers. I am not interested (right now) in joining that community of learners. BUT because of my understanding of the New Pillars, I realize that's OK...that type of medium is not my learning preference. I also realize that vlogging might be a favorite platform for some of my session participants, so how can I provide more video as an option? Just like students in our classrooms, our preferences are not going to be the same as our students, so how can we accommodate for those differences? How can we design learning experiences that meet the needs of more of our learners?

In The New Pillars of Modern Teaching, Dr. Allen provides a brief self-assessment for us to determine our own learning preferences. She asks us to reflect on a favorite learning experience and break down the experience in terms of the four elements of powerful learning design: time, place, medium, and socialness.

  • Time: How much time did the experience take? Was it a short burst of time or a semester?
  • Place: Where did the learning occur? Face-to-face? In a university? Online? Synchronous?
  • Medium: What platforms were used? Audio, video, online, face-to-face?
  • Socialness: How much interaction occurred? Was it face-to-face or virtual?
I've reflected on my favorite learning experiences multiple times, and for our online book study, we ask participants to create a graphic to explain their preferences, so here's one of mine.

Now that I deeply understand my learning preferences, I know to look for learning opportunities that meet my needs as a learner. And because I realize my preferences differ from most others, I strive to include multiple elements in my sessions. I'm always looking for more ways to provide more choice, though! And for classroom teachers, what does this look like for classrooms where the curriculum is so tight and we have so many other spinning plates?

A couple of years ago, we interviewed Dr. Allen for our podcast, and here's a short clip of a suggestion from her.

In the book, Dr. Allen recognizes that teachers lack time to be able to do it all, and she frequently reminds us to start small. With learning design, she suggests to choose one of the four elements (like medium) and make a few tweaks. Her example above was part of a discussion about curation, but the idea applies to both of the pillars.

Understanding these elements of powerful learning design also align with the ISTE Educator standard of Designer. At first glance, The New Pillars doesn't look like a technology book, but if we are going to succeed in implementing the three pillars, technology must be part of the picture. This standard and indicator ask us to use technology to design experiences that take all of those learner preferences into consideration.

If interested, here's our entire episode with Dr. Allen.

So if a vlog and a YouTube community is not your cup of tea, I'm certain it is for someone you know. (Have any of your students declared they wanted to become a YouTuber? That's a thing!) Maybe you're extremely social and believe collaborative groups are the way to go, but is that true for all of your students or session participants? (oops!)

Have you reflected on your learning preferences? Do you use those preferences to design your own learning experiences? Would the learning preference self-assessment help your students or those you coach?

Reflecting on learning preferences and learning design...and always learning.


X-tra Special Summer X-periences

Many (many) months ago, I thought it might be a fun challenge to create blog post titles using the first letters of the alphabet, not knowing it would take so long to complete 26 posts. Now that I'm so close to finishing the pattern, ๐Ÿค“I'm taking creative liberties with my spelling. But I did want to share what I learned from a few special summer experiences.

Don't forget about conference Poster Sessions and Playgrounds!

At this summer's ISTE conference, my colleague and I "presented" during the ISTE Administrator Playground, and it was so fun! I loved the opportunities to visit with people, share our work, and have face-to-face conversations. It wasn't nearly the pressure/prep of a full-scale presentation, and it was a fantastic way to network. We used our online book study example (I've mentioned The New Pillars in several posts) as a way to design professional learning to empower others. (Here's the document we shared.)
Ashley and I are ready to share at the ISTE Admin Playground!
Because we were presenting during one of the Playgrounds, I made a special point of attending as many of these types of "sessions" as possible. What I learned: Posters and Playgrounds may be one of my new favorite ways to conference! In the past, I did not participate too much with these types of sessions, but this summer, I was much more strategic about how I visited, and I loved this format.

With Poster sessions, you can wander around and do a bit of window shopping and eavesdropping, or you can find the 4-5 tables that truly interest you and have wonderful conversations with the table hosts. If you're strategic about your timing, you may also have the opportunity to engage in discussions with others and learn a lot in a short amount of time. OR if you're feeling introverted, or if it's too crowded, you may just smile, grab the information link, and move on. I will definitely check out future Playgrounds/Poster sessions at upcoming conferences, and I feel these types of sessions allow much more personal interactions...and because of the ability to have these up-close conversations, it brings me to the next extra-special experience...

Let others know you appreciate them.

At mega-events like ISTE, there are more opportunities for "fan-girl" moments when you see those you admire. So this year, I decided to actually share my appreciation and thanks to those I don't know IRL. And for the most part, people seemed genuinely happy and appreciative that I spoke to them. And because I found these educators during Poster/Playground sessions, we had time for more than a few seconds of conversation. 

I stopped a couple other people and just said, "Thanks for your work and what you share with educators," and that always resulted in hugs. Most people want to know that you appreciate their work, so my lesson is to tell them!

Step outside your comfort zone.

Several colleagues from my former district created EdChange Global, which is a 24-hour online learning experience. When they asked if I wanted to be on the organizing team, I agreed and helped plan the event. But the giant step outside of my comfort zone was to go to ECG "Headquarters" to help facilitate everything the day of the event. I flew to Scottsdale, AZ, for a quick weekend of work, and wow, what a learning experience. (Everyone said to visit Arizona in January, not July!) I had not spent much time with the people from my former district, I had never been to Arizona, and I only knew the location host from Zoom meetings and emails. 
The event was exhilarating (and exhausting.) Participating allowed me to connect with people from all over the globe and to expand my PLN. I discovered some best webinar practices. I helped connect others. I better understand the ins-and-outs of leadership and teams.

At about 20-hours into the event! ๐Ÿ˜ด๐Ÿ˜ด
The downside of this experience was that it occurred during the busiest part of my summer. It took about two weeks for me to be able to catch up on sleep and work. If the event is at the same time next year, I doubt if I will participate in the same manner, but I'm very glad I stepped outside of my comfort zone and tried something new with a different group of educators.

Prepping for the closing session of EdChange Global
As a consultant, I spend my summer facilitating learning experiences for educators. Now that school is in session, I have a bit more time to think, reflect, and unwind. It was fun to remember these extra special summer moments and to consider how these experiences helped me learn and grow.

Always learning, even during hectic work times!


Wondering in the Windy City

Even though the conference was a couple months ago, I wanted to share a bit about this summer's ISTE Chicago experience.

I'm still processing and working through ideas, but here are a few key takeaways from my day 1:

Ken Shelton's Designing Culturally Relevant Learning Experiences session:
  • A something-to-think about quote was “If you don’t have the technology to hear from every student every day, that’s not an equitable classroom.” I'm wondering: how many of our districts practice this kind of "techquity?" (his word) Our districts are all over the place with access and use of devices. What can our team do to help facilitate more techquity in our region?
  • We tried several culturally relevant icebreaker activities during this presentation. One I adapted and played in several of my subsequent sessions this summer was Game of Phones. Click through the slides to see additional resources and ideas. The idea from this activity: most of our students use Snapchat or Instagram, so how can I take advantage of those platforms in the context of learning environments? Students use visuals and imagery, so why don’t we? (If our students don't have phones, use a computer to look up a relevant image.)
Tony Vincent's An Emoji Education:
  • I waited outside the room for an hour to ensure I had a seat in this session. I participated in two of Tony's online courses and learned so much from him, so I really wanted to meet him face-to-face. I appreciated my colleague Ashley for waiting with me, and we both wanted to see him present. And side-note: I know the long lines cause some grumbling, but that's part of the conference experience, and that's where great conversations happen, too.
    • Tony's session was fantastic and fun. He was engaging, the ideas were easy to implement and relevant, and he shared many tools and resources. 
    • One of my favorite moments of the session was that Tony recognized me in the audience...even though we had never met face-to-face! After I recovered from the excitement of his simple, "Oh hey, Kathryn," I reflected on the importance of names, acknowledging others, and making connections. How often do I call others by their names during my sessions or even in the hallways at work? (Not enough!) After this huge reminder, I worked during the rest of my summer sessions to learn as many names as possible, even if I was with the educators for only 1 hour. If I knew anyone in the audience, I wanted to make certain I said something to them personally. How many opportunities have I missed when working with teachers? I think I did a much better job when working with students, but this personal experience made me realize that "I see you" is just as important for adults.
    • As Ashley and I reflected that evening, we brought up the possibility/need of offering more online courses in our work. We both mentioned that a problem with online courses was the lack of community and collaboration...but then Ashley said WAIT, Tony created an amazing community of learners in his courses, so it can be done. I experienced it myself, as did apparently most people in the room and in line in the hallway. As soon as Tony started walking toward his presentation room, the energy seriously changed in the waiting area. When he mentioned #ClassyGraphics or #ClassyVideos during his session, the room erupted with applause! Tony created this terrific community of learners, all within the confines of an online platform, so it was a reminder of the power of virtual collaboration. So the big question for us is how can we replicate a similar sense of community for online courses we develop?
Revisiting my notes and reflections from ISTE day 1 has given me plenty of things to wonder about. My theme from this day (and probably the conference) was connections. It's so important to find ways to make connections with our students and the adults we serve. What can I do connect with others in more meaningful ways?

Wondering and learning...


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