Developing A Visual Vocabulary On The Topic Of Education

Over at Verbal To Visual I recently suggested that folks interested in building their visual vocabulary should focus on one topic at a time.

The topic that I’m most interested in is education, so I decided to follow the steps in that blog post to build up a set of icons that I’ll be able to use when I’m sketchnoting things related to education.

Here’s the list of relevant words that I came up with:

School, student, teacher, classroom, computer, learn, read, write, think, study, test, goal, brain, math, science, social studies, language arts, foreign language, arts, physical education, parents, administrators, staff, subjects, pencil, paper, notebook, pen, ruler, calculator, book, video, discussion, chair, table, graduation, real world, work, socialize, history, listen, create, online, offline, emotion, technology, money, transportation, opportunity, privilege, race, class, expectations, bully, culture, diversity.

When you’re forced to come up with individual words about a particular topic, it’s interesting to note how the words that come to mind reflect the way you think about that topic (either at a conscious or subconscious level). I think that some of the last words that I came up with on my list are also some of the most important.

After brainstorming that list of words, the next step is to develop simple icons for some of those words. Here are the ones I decided to sketch out:

I also added those icons to my Visual Vocabulary Board on Pinterest.

Is there a subject that you’d like to develop a visual vocabulary for? Check out this post on Verbal To Visual to see the full set of steps.

Comments 6

  1. Hi!

    I thank Kathy Schrock for linking to your site and thank you for sharing your inspiring work! I too am a teacher (in EdTech) and have recently become immersed with the world of sketch noting. I’m still trying to figure all this out but I’m so into it. Being in edtech, we can get so into the bits/digital world, that I’ve almost forgotten to write with a pen and paper! Anyway, I’ll be scouring around your site for more gems. I also plan to preorder your new book! Btw, maybe I just missed it, but what is the difference with this site and

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      Hi Fred,

      Kathy Schrock has been posting some great stuff! Great to meet another educator interested in sketchnoting – I think it has got lots of potential in classroom settings, even as there’s a broader push to go digital. Thanks for pre-ordering the new book! I hope that you find it useful. Regarding the difference between The Graphic Recorder and Verbal To Visual – TGR is where I post my own sketchnotes, VTV is where I teach folks how to sketchnote. That distinction is not as clear as it could be at this point (VTV is still pretty new), but I hope to make that more clear over the coming months! Keep me in the loop with your exploration of the world of sketchnoting, and how you’re incorporating it into you work!

      Take care,

      1. This is a great approach Doug, and one I have been using myself. I use sketch noting in Higher Education, both for teaching business, and facilitating problem solving.

        I love your vocabulary so far….and I’m interested to see the development of the more abstract ideas…
        Real World
        Diversity…and if you want a real challenge…Pedagogy?
        Keep Sketching. Love your sites. Charlotte

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          Hi Charlotte, thank you for the comment! Great to hear you’re using sketchnoting in higher ed. What has been your overall experience with that so far? Great list of additional (and in many cases difficult-to-visualize) words. I’ll be giving them a go over time!

          1. Well, I started sketch noting when studying architecture 10 years ago…a few lines on a page can give you the ability to recall an image and a whole feeling about an environment that words could possibly never ever do.

            I find sketch noting particularly useful for exploring relationships and processes…so when people start to describe something difficult I like to ask “can you draw it?”.

            I am a big fan of Dan Roam’s Back of the Napkin stuff, and really like to use visuals to solve difficult problems. I work as Space Manager at the University of Oxford, and sometimes we solve problems graphically that we can’t even get near in words, or on a spreadsheet. Do you remember studying relative velocity at school? I was struck then that if you drew three lines carefully you could solve a problem and save yourself three pages of working. Why would you do it another way?

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            Very cool background Charlotte – I can imagine sketchnoting would be very useful in the study of architecture. I’m totally with you on using sketchnoting for exploring relationships and process – I think that is its most useful application. Love the physics example! (that’s what I studied in college) Often times the visual approach to solving a problem is far quicker than any other. And I imagine the more you use that visual style of solving problems and explore different approaches, the more powerful that tool becomes.

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