Adventures in Technology Enhanced Learning @ UoP

Tag: Visual

The Art of Sketchnoting

I’ll start this one off with a disclaimer. I do have an A Level in Art. Please don’t judge me.  

I remember this like it was yesterday, as I sat as a delegate in a training session. The trainer came over to me and boldly called me out in front of my colleagues: “Am I boring you? What are you doing? This is important, you need to engage and be taking notes!” To the untrained eye, sketchnoting can seem like the mind is wandering and all that is generated is a creation akin to that of Mr Doodle. Little did they know that I was deep in thought, connecting the dots in my head and arguably taking better notes than most in the room.  

In its most basic form, a sketchnote is a visual representation of information often crafted from a mix of drawings, shapes and handwritten elements. I first came across sketchnoting in 2019 while at the Apple Distinguished Educator institution in Amsterdam. I was fascinated by the process – visual stories that came to life right in front of me! Simple drawings and illustrations, personalised to the creator. A new approach to note-taking! Of course, the iPad and Apple Pencil provided the perfect vehicle for this, however, there’s no stopping a creator with a pen and paper either. 

The Power of Sketchnotes – Scriberia

Visual note-taking has been found to have a number of benefits in academic settings. Studies have shown that students who use visual note-taking strategies tend to have improved comprehension and recall of material (Mayer, 2014). Additionally, visual note-taking can help to promote active learning and engagement with the material (Koszalka, 2015) and also support the development of critical thinking and problem-solving skills (Nelson & Narens, 1980). Sketchnoting allows creators to make connections between different pieces of information and to see the big picture, rather than simply focusing on individual facts. A study by van der Meijden, Paas & van Merriënboer (2015) found that visual note-taking strategies were effective in improving the retention of complex information and that students who used visual note-taking strategies scored significantly higher on a test of recall than students who used traditional note-taking methods. 

hand drawn sketch titled Data Protection

Credit: Chris Wood – Data Protection 

You don’t have to be amazing at drawing to sketchnote. While I am not gaining a nomination for the Turner Prize this year, the process is what matters here (as an honest answer, I see myself as more of a knock-off Banksy you ordered from Wish than Picasso). Sketchnoting is a skill that takes time to develop, but the results can be astonishing. When I first started to sketchnote, I found a few skills that I needed to develop quickly, for example being able to actively listen and draw. However, I now find I am able to recall more information than I could with ‘traditional’ note-taking. More importantly, I am able to synthesise new and existing information much more easily, creating deeper learning and understanding more quickly. I could also turn typically mundane training sessions like a GDPR workshop (no offence if that’s your jam!) into something much more visually appealing and engaging.  

Hand drawn sketch on how to make a latte Hand drawn sketch on how to make a latte Sketch drawing on how to make a latte

In 2022, I remember running an INSET session for teachers on the benefits of sketchnoting and you can see the results above. We used a YouTube video on ‘how to make a latte’ as a stimulus and simply drew (because we all know teachers love coffee! Surely this was a winner in itself?!). I asked the teachers to discuss their sketchnote and tell me how to make a latte. All the teachers said they were able to recall more information than using traditional note-taking techniques and had a better understanding of the topic because they were actively engaged. They were able to link new and existing knowledge together and see the big picture like never before. 

Examples of Sketchnoting


Slides 1 and 2 – Lynsey Stuttard – Coaches corner, 1564

Slides 3 and 4 – Chris Galley – Inquiry by the fire, The equal classroom 

Slides 5 and 6 – Mathew Pullen – New curriculum, Data

Slides 7 and 8 – Kammas Kersch – Get Goog-smacked, How to organise a state summit

Slide 9 – Chris Wood – VESPA mindset

The sketchnotes above are from a range of educators, taken within conferences, classes, meetings and workshops. Simple use of colour, shape and text is often the best way to start.  Using these elements to create contrast and highlight key ideas. Each sketchnote has its own style that is unique to the creator – over time your sketchnotes will develop their own personality. It is important to remember sketchnotes aren’t a transcription. There is no way to capture every single word – and you don’t want to! There is also no right or wrong way to create a sketchnote. Sketchnoting is not a strict format, and shouldn’t be treated as such. It is deeply personal to the creator. Quite often the biggest challenge to overcome is the one of self-belief, that I can do this. Creators should feel proud of their sketches, embrace mistakes and evolve their own style. We must also acknowledge that visual note-taking is not necessarily a direct replacement for traditional note-taking methods but rather a supplement. It can be used in conjunction with traditional methods to enhance the learning experience.  

Apps such as Freeform “help users organise and visually lay out content on a flexible canvas, giving them the ability to see, share, and collaborate all in one place without worrying about layouts or page sizes”. The possibilities are endless for sketchnoting and even collaborative approaches. Do we need to change the rhetoric around what is effective note-taking? Or even what it means to be ‘actively engaged’ in a session?   

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this blog post. Why not sketchnote what you’ve learnt? Or try sketching your ideas in the next meeting or workshop you attend? Share and celebrate your sketchnotes. I’d love to see what you come up with – make sure to tag me on Twitter: @ChrisWoodTeach 

Until next time. 

Chris Wood – eLearning Support Analyst


Mayer, R. E. (2014). The Cambridge handbook of multimedia learning (2nd ed.). Cambridge University Press.

Koszalka, T. (2015). The effectiveness of visual note-taking for college students. Journal of Educational Technology Development and Exchange, 8(1), 1-11.

Nelson, L. D., & Narens, L. (1980). Complex information processing: The impact of the visual display on memory. In G. H. Bower (Ed.), The psychology of learning and motivation: Advances in research and theory (Vol. 14, pp. 53-81). Academic Press.

van der Meijden, H., Paas, F., & van Merriënboer, J. (2015). The effects of visual note-taking on learning and transfer. Journal of Educational Psychology, 107(1), 1-13.

For further blog articles from the TEL team on doodling, check out Marie’s ‘Is it time to give doodling an image make-over?

Audiovisual in Education – A general discussion about a topic that is more relevant than ever

My colleague Tom Langston recently visited a session hosted by Learning on Screen, The British Universities and Colleges Film and Video Council ( and it reminded me of a previous visit I undertook a few years ago (before Instagram!) which I thought I’d use to form the basis of this blog. One of the great things about escaping the university is the possibility to network and have discussions with professionals from other institutions and companies. Spanning business and education, it is amazing how views match or differ and hearing a different take on modern university life is insightful.

Technology is a “new” problem

A concept I encounter on a near daily basis is the trouble of meeting the modern demands of the student with technology as it has progressed at such a rate of knots, that we are struggling to keep up. Interestingly, the minutes from the council’s meeting in 1954 were shared with the attendees and the main themes and issues raised were assessing our own pedagogy, how to use new mediums in education and the advancement of technology. Issues that are very topical even in 2019.

A concept also levied at us is that the “modern student” has never been so technologically advanced. They were raised in the age of the internet and the school years were entwined with handheld device usage. They have not necessarily needed to phone up Uncle Ray or another assigned family expert to ask him about 17th century monarchs as they can “google” it. This Generation Z or iGen, as they may be referred to, use and naturally access technology in a very different way to their predecessors or their more ancient educators.

However with this is a common misconception about levels of understanding. Just because a student can use an iPhone and access film, does not mean they “know” or are experts in it. 

Access does not automatically equal knowledge 

Are these digital natives as savvy as we think they are? Or is it a gross assumption based on our observations of them accessing technology. HE Institutions (as well as our team) are looking closer at digital capabilities and providing support for those who need it, but do we as educators need to consider assessing the digital needs of the students rather than naturally assuming that they would want VR tours and interacting with embedded H5P content. 

It draws me to the constructivist approach when teaching Primary Science in my previous life, where you would have your topic but it’s ultimately the students who govern how they are going to learn and find out things and it can result in an outcome at a far greater depth due to their immersion in the process.

A tension between form and context

Visual Literacy and the use of audiovisual also opens up an array of issues to consider. Take for example the BBC , which has an unbelievable bank of resources. The issue of copyright and ownership is a topic we have had blogs about in the past. There is a view that we need to have some buy in from the broadcasters and content owners to serve education. This would open up the concept of not just reusing sources but being creative beyond the content’s initial use. The idea of repurposing the material, taking an old thing a part and making something new with it. The BBC Archive, was created to be used by film-makers and was not necessarily intended for public consumption. It opens up a can of worms that perhaps material that looks fairly inconspicuous today, can have a massive impact in the future. This is evident due to the scandals raised by historical tweets being uncovered and the use of archived film footage in investigations into high profile court cases about abuse.

There has to be some education for students about not just the technology and media we use but the context around it.

Final Thoughts

The more we look to bring audiovisual into our teaching, the more we are going to have to look at ourselves and change how we teach. The idea that people sit in blacked out rooms watching films is an old school pedagogic view, just as the days of students being sat down talked at are no more.

There is an element of Audiovisual that gets their eyes off of their screens and onto the intended one at the front. We can use technology and platforms such as Twitter to allow students to engage on an individual basis. We must ensure that it is not a passive viewing experience but allows students to research, reference and back up their own point of view, offering the stimulus for a voice that otherwise may have stayed quiet.

The final thing to consider is the danger that if we spend too long of today worrying and focusing on “how to use technology and film” and it prevents trial, implementation and reflection, in ten years time those concerns will be obsolete and new issues will have replaced them.

Images from:

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash


Augmented Reality as an Educational Tool


My first dealings of Augmented Reality within an educational context came with an attempt to engage 4-year-old boys with their first steps in writing. To anyone who has worked within an open plan early years environment containing 90 children, trying to get boys – who would much rather be running around outside – to pick up a writing tool to mark make, is similar to herding cats! Using the Quiver app, children were able to choose a picture from a selection and colour it in how they liked. The app then showed an augmented reality animation of their picture, showing their specific markings. This gave the children ownership and allowed them to buy into the creative process.

Earlier in the year I was fortunate enough to attend the ‘Working with Technology Enhanced Learning’ networking event in association with Southern University Libraries. Debbie Holley from Bournemouth University gave an inspiring and practical presentation demonstrating Aurasma and told us about her experiences researching it in collaboration with Anglia Ruskin University. You can visit Augmented@ARU for further user guides, blogs and some useful resources to use to demonstrate  the app.

What is Aurasma?

Aurasma states that it is the world’s leading augmented reality platform, is currently used across a wide range of sectors and is beginning to filter into higher education. Aurasma allows the user, with the use of a mobile device, to combine a real time/real world view of an object (such as a poster, book, brochure or item of equipment) with an overlay that plays sound, displays an image or even a short video.

It works by using the mobile device’s camera to ‘find’ the image, which then links to the given media that the user has associated with it. Because it is essentially trying to match the image, the subject needs to be static and something that is unlikely to change over time – I’ve tried this out using numerous face images and decided that people or moving objects don’t really work! The ‘Auras’ that the user creates can be stored and used on the device, or uploaded to Aurasma and made public for anyone to find. This YouTube video shows how Aurasma can be used:

Aurasma in action

Aurasma is relatively easy to use. Depending on their device, users can download the Aurasma app from the relevant Apple or Android store. On downloading you are prompted to create a free account, though free ‘Auras’ are limited in their accessibility to followers of the creator.

There are enhanced ‘Pro’ accounts available at a cost that allow access to a wider range of media content that allows the creation of ‘Auras’ that can be accessed by the general public.  

This makes sense as it allows Aurasma to police the amount of open Auras created, as well as limiting it to high end advertising campaigns of companies that can afford the high cost of this service. While this limits the average user in terms of creation, it does help provide a number of high quality Aura’s that really show the possibilities and the power of Augmented Reality. (I would particularly recommend the Frozen, Star Wars and Mike’s Hard Lemonade as examples of how marketing campaigns have used Aurasma to incorporate video, animation and interactivity with their users.)

You will also need to consider your device’s Wi-Fi connection. Though it can use a phone’s 3G/4G data allowance, do bear in mind that most Aura’s link to video, animations or music, so it will be dependent on this.

Aurasma requires the user to capture a trigger image within the parameters of the viewfinder, namely an indicated rectangle on the screen. When an Aura has been discovered the 7 dots change to a pulsing circle animation to inform the user that content has been found and is loading. The speed of this is dependent on both the speed of the device’s internet connection and the size of the download. Factors such as light and stability of the camera shot can create difficulties in the app ‘finding’ the Aura. Equally, trying to use an Aura displayed on a computer/television screen seems to take longer than when finding a real life object, possibly due to reflection or glare from the screen’s brightness.

Discovering and finding content is great fun given the variety and ingenuity of the Auras on offer. Within the app or website there is an opportunity to search for terms, and most Auras have various hashtags to help you.

It should also be an educator’s first port of call when wishing to add augmented content to their lectures and resources, as there is no need to reinvent the wheel by creating content that already exists, and the eclectic range gives a good scope of possibilities. Should you not find exactly what you were after, it is quite easy to create your own Aura with the user placing an overlay over an image. The overlay can be one of the animations provided by Aurasma’s default library. You can use existing video, audio and images up to a 20Mb limit on your portable device within the app.

Alternatively you can download Aurasma Studio, which is a free desktop application available from the website allowing up to 100Mb overlays, so if you want to have video of a higher resolution, this may be the method for you.

Creating an Aura is very straightforward and user-friendly and there is a nice feature of quality control on the image capture, which grades your Aura by contrast from red (insufficient) to green (good image quality). The overlay image can be positioned simply by dragging, and intuitively uses all of the finger gestures of a portable device for resizing and rotating objects. Once created, the user can publish it to a ‘public’ channel that followers can access on the Aurasma app.

Final thoughts

I think the use of augmented reality can only help engage students further into the subject they are studying. The advantage of using Aurasma is it’s ease of use, the ability to use it on a variety of devices and platforms, as well as being free and actively encouraging users to create their own content.

The drawbacks come with a limited choice of templates and a cap on the amount of data you can use, but as a ‘gateway’ for encouraging educators to use augmented reality in their session, it is excellent. It’s ability to provide information and weblinks give much wider usage – from interactive university maps during induction of new students, to historical views of monuments on field trips – that mean higher education has numerous and unlimited possibilities for its usage.


Images from:

Featured Image:

Photo by Patrick Schneider on Unsplash


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