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The emerging scribe (slightly updated, crowdsourced, enhanced)


1 : a member of a learned class in ancient Israel through New Testament times studying the Scriptures and serving as copyists, editors, teachers, and jurists.

Let’s hear it for the scribes.

Especially those who take their craft to a place well beyond copying. 

A new age of scribe is emerging.  We’ve seen the work of sketchnoters at the SXSW (South by Southwest) Conference.  Their archives at SXnotes Flickr GroupSXnotes on Pinterest, or their Visual Recap artfully capture the big event’s major themes, as well as its conversations.

I met one new age scribe last week at the Building Learning Communities Conference. Brad Overnell-Carter (Director of Educational Technology at the Mulgrave School in Vancouver), not only sketchnoted most of the major presentations and captured the big ideas at the conference, he generously offered an impromptu workshop on how he does it. (Interesting that Brad’s tag line is the ancients stole all our good ideas.)

I am in awe of how Brad uses this simple, elegant iPad app Paper, to record and share conference notes on his Twitter stream and his Pinterest Boards.

I am in awe of his generosity in volunteering to participate in the culture of the conference by creating images that capture meaning and transform powerful learning moments into art.

In his spontaneous session, Brad shared a number of his logistical strategies and tricks–like prepping speaker titles, bios, anticipated symbols, and his own sig in advance and how he uses color and shape protocols to consistently represent elements and patterns of a speech.

In a Twitter conversation, I asked Brad about the purpose that drives his efforts.  He shared thoughts that have direct connection to our work with encouraging K12 learners to listen and process and interact with content to construct meaning:

Note taking has two parts: recording and processing. 

Recording is passive, the note taker could be a machine in this regard. Processing is active. 

Typically, we record in the moment then process later. Only my problem was I never got to that 2nd step.

I suspect a lot of students are the same; note that studying notes is not the same as processing. 

So I started sketchnoting. People often see this as merely drawing. But it more about listening and processing. 

You could say it flips the normal work flow: process first, then record. That means I (students) practice active listening. I find that when the lecture etc. is over, I’m also done. I have no homework, as it were.

And when I do need to study or view, the sketchnotes trigger that memories not just of the content, but also of my engagement with the content.

You can try this at school and it doesn’t have to be a technology experience. For me, this conversation reinforced the value of introducing sketchnoting to students this past year at our spring poetry slam and in recent art lessons.

Thank you, Brad, for creating and sharing these and many other sticky memories.

You can follow Brad’s notes, as well as the new scribes he inspired on Twitter and their takes on the events @Braddo and on his A Stick in the Sand blog.
Update note: Since I posted this, a few days back, Brad offered further reflection in a follow-up Twitter conversation:

When sketchnoting I am so focused I lose track of everything else; not so w/ regular notes.

I love that people share and publish sketchnotes; doesn’t happen with regular notes.

When you share, friends make remarkable value-adds.  

See Tom Barrett’s (@tombarrett’s) annotated, media-rich Thinglink of Brad’s notes on his Design Thinking talk.  Another example of the power of crowdsourcing for building on and enhancing our work!

Below are a few other samples of Brad’s work at BLC.

David Weinberger Part 1

Big ideas summary (click to read explanation of the bubble color code)

Alan November part 1

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza


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