Rachel Burnham writes: I think paper & pen can enhance the effectiveness of digital learning and particularly virtual learning sessions. I have been experimenting with the use of drawing-based activities over the last few months, as most formal learning, whether in the workplace or in education, has moved into the digital sphere.
Whilst many in Learning & Development were already using webinar technology, elearning and other digital technologies such as video and podcasts (or at least some of these); for others in L&D, it has been a major shift. I have been using a range of webinar technologies for live online learning, as part of my practice, for many years. As fellow professionals have been discovering, there is a whole skill set to designing and delivering effective learning using webinar based technology. As a Sketchnoter myself, I have been testing out how we can use drawing for more than just a fun element to enable effective learning within live online sessions.
I am, of course, always keen to encourage the creation of Sketchnotes by individuals to aid their own learning and thinking (see previous blogs on this subject and I offer workshops to help people get started in doing this). However, I also wanted to explore the how and why of using very simple drawing based activities that any L&D professional could incorporate into their sessions.
I think drawing-based activities offer the following five benefits for learning designers and facilitators:
· They can add a wider range of options for learning activities beyond the standard polls, chat and whiteboard activities and thus enable online learning to be more tailored for the particular topic and impact required.
· They bring a hands-on tactile element to a session that can enable a session to standout as more memorable from multiple online sessions, plus give time away from the screen within a session, both of which can contribute to reducing the digital screen or ‘Zoom’ fatigue that many experience.
· They provide an opportunities for activities that are learner-centred rather than instructional eg asking participants to map out their own understanding of a process or illustrate a concept. This can be used to create more challenging recap activities, or activities that tease out deep understanding and enable more personal sense-making.
· They often have the effect of slowing things down and getting participants to think more deeply, which is great for encouraging reflection and application of learning. Drawing often makes use of observation in order to draw a physical object, process, or even our own behaviour – it requires us to slow down and pay attention to ‘what is’, rather than what we think there is. It can help us to notice how things are working currently and provide space to look at what we can do differently.
· They can enable different voices to be expressed and new insights gained. Often drawing something out, will help us to see something differently and give us a fresh insight. Drawing-based activities can enable some individuals to express themselves more clearly than other more traditional online activities. Whilst there is a concern that not all participants may feel comfortable drawing or may feel excluded by a lack of skill, I think that often we don’t recognise that some voices are silenced or muted by the tools we currently use – not everyone is comfortable speaking up over the microphone in the free for all of a Zoom, not everyone is comfortable typing comments into a chat panel eg because of dyslexia.
For example, imagine encouraging a verbal discussion of what ‘leadership’ involves or facilitating a whiteboard activity to record points on the same topic or inviting people to each draw a picture using metaphors of what ‘leadership’ involves, which are then shared and discussed. The latter often enables different people to express a range of more thoughtful and nuanced ideas, providing the basis for richer learning.
I want to be very clear – this is not about learning styles. Whilst individuals do seem to have preferences for how they learn, there is no evidence to support the idea that using different types of activities to match individual preferences improves the effectiveness of the learning.
In contrast there is evidence from studies into Dual Coding (see my earlier blog) that the combination of words and pictures used effectively can be a helpful tool in learning for all people.
Secondly, many people feel that they can’t draw or simply haven’t drawn since they were a child and feel uncomfortable drawing. You don’t need to be an artist to either facilitate these sorts of activities or participate in them – the sorts of activities I have in mind are based upon the simplest of drawing – neither art nor even illustration. You can reassure participants that it is definitely not about the quality of the pictures.
The best way to encourage participants to have a go at a drawing-based activity is to be comfortable with it yourself. Practice drawing in preparation. Keep the activities simple, be positive & encouraging and focus on facilitating the learning from the activity.
I think getting comfortable with using drawing-based activities within online learning sessions is a great addition to any L&D professionals’ toolkit. Why not give it a go yourself?
29 January 2021
For further support
If you would like to explore the use of drawing-based activities but would like some support in getting started, why not sign up for my new short programme ‘The Power of Paper & Pen in Digital Learning’? I have designed a series of ‘pick-up and use’ drawing-based activities that can be adapted for use in many different contexts – this session will enable you to have a go at them and explore how they can be used. Follow this link to find out more & book a place.
I help individuals and organisations to work and learn more effectively, particularly though using the tools of Sketchnoting and the curation of resources. I make use of Sketchnoting to introduce people to using visuals to aid thinking, working and learning.