Guilia Forsythe talks Sketchnoting

Last Thursday we had the great pleasure of having Giulia Forsythe discuss the art of sketchnoting (a.k.a. visual note-taking) during class. She didn’t come in live, rather she made a video wherein she shared an overview of what visual sketchnoting entails, her method, as well as some tips and ideas of how students in ds106 might experiment with the form. You can see her post on the resources she prepared for this class here, and I am also embedding her video below.

I had the students watch Giulia’s video “How ds106 changed my life”—which demonstrates her art form beautifully—before having them watch the above video that breaks down her thinking and method. We then went on to watch the RSA Animation of David Harvey’s Crises of Capitalism, which further demonstrated the power of sketching/drawing as a way to understand more complex ideas and theories—it is remarkable how much the sketching of Harvey’s talk makes it that much more accessible.

As a final exercise for the evening, I played Sir Ken Robinson’s “Changing Educational Paradigms” without the animation—only the sound—with the idea that we all would try and sketch our notes of the talk. It was insanely difficult for me, and you can see some of the results of the exercise on Flickr. A number of students actually remarked how much they enjoyed that class after it ended, and I too thought it went pretty well thanks to Giulia. But I was also concerned that the Ken Robinson example for sketchnoting was too difficult for a first shot—which I think it was.

What amazed me though is that during student conferences yesterday and today a number of them brought up their interest in pursuing sketch-noting as a final project, more specifically as a way to illustrate complex ideas in chemistry and historic preservation. I love the whole thing. Take, for example, Emily DelRoss who was so intrigued by the class that she used it to illustrate her work for another class as a design assignment, and I love the whole crossover of that realization because it’s not really about ds106, but rather everything else. What’s more, she talks about the idea of doodling providing a sense of humanity to the cold ideas of technology, which is a really profound observation, and she says it much better than I can paraphrase it:

Another aspect of Giulia’s technique regarding design, which I particularly love, is how it makes technology feel more comfortable. Doodles just feel really simple and organic. They remind me of my own hand-written notes from middle school (…and high school and college :/ ). As you have probably gathered about me this far, technology scares me. I feel like it’s this cold world where everyone knows what they are doing and they all have secret a little techno chat language and special little buttons they know how to use. (DS106 is helping me break down this perception, but it still lurks in the back of my mind.) Seeing a doodle integrated into technology makes the virtual world feel a little warmer and a whole lot more welcoming!

That’s the money quote, and this is the result of the exercise:
Image of Emily DelRoss's Doodle

Thank you for inspiring awesome, Giulia!

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10 Responses to Guilia Forsythe talks Sketchnoting

  1. Emily’s work is simply awe inspiring.

    Just this morning I was talking about Giulia’s sketchnoting with a colleague while riding the train to York. We often discuss unique pedagogies she uses to teach student’s in the Physicians Assistant program. The idea of visualizing concepts was really intriguing to her and I hope that she has the opportunity to use it with her students.

    I shared this presentation and a bunch of other links to Giulia’s work with her, but I’m going to have to add this one in another email.

    Great stuff! So excited to see your students bring it up to a new level. And as always I’m in awe of Giulia’s sketchnote work!

  2. Reverend says:


    Giulia’s videos are great because while she may not have been there in real time, her presence on Twitter, comments, etc.—as well as her constant sense of the pulse of the class—-made it seem like she was. what’s more, she inspired a number of students to explore this method which is really all you can ask.

    I wanted to ask you what is in the water at York College, do you also have a psychology professor use a ds106 approach to his or her discipline? I would love to know more about how you all are moving this approach beyond the confines of digital media classes.

  3. I’ve taken ds106 ideas into an ed tech course I taught for pre-service K-12 instructors this past winter session. I hadn’t taught it in sometime, and completely blew-up the syllabus. It got me to make my first multi-site space, which I’m hoping to ‘lend-out’ to anyone who’s interested. It’s a work in progess, but it’s pushing me to learn more WordPress Kung Fu.

    That class and the others for now are mostly tech/media related, but the professor I mentioned is in nursing and I’m hopeful she’ll play around with some of the ds106 ideas.

    The Psychology professor you may be thinking of is Bill Ashton, who’s fairly active on the Commons and beginning to incorporate some blogging into his teaching.

    But in the summer, I help run a workshop at York for online instruction which to date has focused on CUNY’s Blackborg system. If I can get our weak WP/BP install ship shape, I can officially offer an alternative. Academic Affairs has to commit the resources to make it happen though. If it does, I’d love to have you Skype or F2F in as a guest lecturer. There would be compensation. 🙂

  4. Ahhhh! This is crazy! Thank you so much for the mention and all the nice words! I love how people are seeing all sorts of uses for this note-taking technique; I really think it could be useful in so many applications! I just looked at the Flickr album of our first attempt at sketch-noting in class last week, they came out so well! Even in some of the sparser example, you could still see what people were trying to relay and it was interesting to see the similarities and differences between them. Fantastic job all!

  5. Giulia says:

    Jim, thanks again for inviting me to your class. It is always so fun to read twitter, the blogs & flickr streams as a way to connect, albeit asynchronously.
    Every time #ds106 runs I am more amazed at the talent and creativity just waiting to be tapped. It’s an open class but the open minds are what makes it awesome.
    Emily’s drawing is gorgeous and I’m so glad visual note-taking getting traction with many of the other students.
    I think there is so much potential to use sketch-noting as a teaching & learning tool and it brings me a lot of joy to know that so many others are out there who enjoy it as much as I do!
    Michael, I’d love to know if and how the nursing prof starts using it. As always, I appreciate all the kind words.

  6. Ahhh, Guilia, I miss DS106 so much. I just can’t do it justice during the year when I work all the time, and more so when I get myself involved national and international speaking engagements! Sorry to you Michael Branson too for my absence in the fall DS106. But watch out, I’ll be back in the summer. “DS106 for life” is not a joke! It’s a hall of mirrors, receding in infinite regression….and I’m lost in the flow forever.

  7. Jaap says:

    Hi, just some little technical questions. what hardware or software do you use for this nice pictures? have a lot of pictures, but how do you make it flow like a video?
    regards Jaap

  8. Giulia says:

    Kathy! I’ve been wondering about you! Especially as this the DS106 term moves into audio assignments. C’mon, at least throw us a little ds106 DailyCreate once in a while. It’s good for your soul 🙂

  9. Giulia says:

    Hi Jaap.
    I used Brushes by Taptrix on my iPad. It records your brush strokes as you draw. Then you can export them as a .mov from your desktop and import into a movie application.

  10. Nahyeon says:

    This is great! I have seen one of those on TED website a while ago, and since then I have always been interested in this thing. I was really surprised when I found this on your blog, because I’ve been looking for someone who could tell me about this! I am taking ITGS course in IB, and my class is trying to make a song about Product Development Life Cycle, and I am going to make the video (animation) for it. I think this could be another way to make the animation only if I knew how to do that. 😀

    Thank you mr. Jim

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