Doodling in the Open & Thinking About Basics

I’m doodling around again. It’s habit forming as I build some basic skills. I’m doodling in the open. I received the invitation to the #21DoodleDays through an email from a friend (thanks @beachcat!) and got hooked, for the second time this year, on some daily doodling time. My first attempts at a daily doodling routine happened in March with Royan Lee’s #DoodleADay. With a daily prompt coming through Twitter, I’d sit down with my morning coffee and doodle for a while. You can see some of my first doodle attempts in this Flickr collection. I continued to lurk in doodling affinity spaces to learn more – CLMOOC Make With Me Cycle 3 helped me dip back into doodling this past summer. With this current doodling experience, these #21DoodleDays are bringing home the idea that knowing the basics in doodling is an essential step to becoming a better doodler.

#101OpenStoriesWith the #21DoodleDays doodle work, the focus for each day has been on developing basics – lines, shapes, borders, frames, banners and more. With each day of practice, I become more confident and adept at thinking visually and applying basics into combinations to communicate ideas. I’m noticing myself slipping into a ‘doodling mindset’ where images are becoming attached to text and ideas. Knowing the basics is removing a barrier to my visual thinking. Doodling is opening new ways for me to communicate, collaborate and reflect. Some recent doodles about open education (#101OpenStories – Four Hours of Open Storytelling and Open Education – Ethos & Practice) resulted from my participation in the 101OpenStories project. It’s becoming an alternative to thinking in text only formats.

Yesterday I attended a session presented by two colleagues at the University where I teach. The focus was on professional reflective practice. The students in the audience were in their first days of a two-year faculty of education program, just getting started in their studies to becoming accredited teachers in Ontario. Thanks to doodling inspiration from educators like Sylvia Duckworth, Giulia ForsytheJen Giffen and Debbie Donsky,  a supportive network of doodlers (@grammasherri, @wentale), and my growing aptitude with doodling basics, I put pen to paper as the presentation occurred. This was the first time I’d done this form of sketching-as-notetaking. Knowing some doodling basics sure came in handy. Since the session was about professional reflective practice I reflected on how the students in the audience, who are new to teaching, are beginning to learn the basics of the craft. Reflective practice is one of those basic skills for educators.

linesKnowing the basics helps break down barriers for participation within an affinity group, such as education.

Knowing the basics builds understanding of the tacit knowledge within an area of endeavour.

Knowing the basics doesn’t make you an expert, but it helps you recognize expertise.

I’m not a whiz at the video game Minecraft, but knowing the basics of building, mining and avoiding creepers helps me enjoy Minecraft-ing experiences when engaging with a Minecraft affinity group. I’m not a martial arts expert but thanks to many years of watching my son develop his skills, I can recognize basic stances and katas. This helps me understand the intricacies of a masterful karate performance when engaging within a martial arts affinity group. With a better understanding of doodling basics, I was able to integrate images and icons into the ideas and think differently within a listening stance. Knowing the basics of how to teach doesn’t make you a teacher. That comes through reflective practice.

Not knowing the basics can become a barrier or even a health or safety hazard. Those who don’t know the basics of swimming for example are at risk of drowning when they venture out on that new paddleboard. Those who don’t know the basics of fire safety when out camping are at risk of serious burns or starting a forest fire. We’ve seen on the news that those who don’t know the basics of driving a car are in danger of a serious accident with a vehicle. I recognize and appreciate the skill my husband has in basic home repair as he replaces a kitchen faucet. Not knowing the basics of plumbing would be a barrier when completing this type of work. Knowing the basics helped him resolve and problem solve when issues arise. Having a grounded knowledge of the basics lets your mind build connections where none existed or make leaps into new areas that weren’t previously evident.

As a new sketchnoting doodler, I know that repetition and work will develop my skills and this will require practice and reflection. Seeing how others sketch and doodle can help. Sharing my work with others and seeking feedback will hone my basic skills. Doodling the basics (bullets, arrows, faces, letters, people) will shape my expertise. A gymnast who performs a stellar floor routine is recognized for their expertise without anyone knowing the hours they’ve spent working on the basics. A pilot who successfully navigates a plane to a safe landing doesn’t show or tell the passengers about the hours of working on the basics in a flight simulator. Integrating the basics into how you perform your skills sometimes makes it look easy. Sometimes it is easy because you’ve mastered the basics.

As an educator, building a core set of basic skills is foundational to becoming a teacher. This doesn’t happen overnight and it doesn’t happen easily. Those who become master teachers work on the basics until these skills become part of who they are as an educator. Reflective practice is one of those basic skills – others may not see it but it’s evident in how they perform their craft in the classroom.

Doodling got me thinking about the basics, not just about drawing, but about teaching. What are the basics of teaching practice? How do master teachers share, model and build on the basics to make their teaching look easy? Maybe there’s a YouTube video to help? Becoming a teacher requires more than the basics, just as becoming an electrician requires more than basic knowledge of circuits or, becoming a surgeon requires more than basic knowledge of anatomy. But knowing the basics is an essential part of the craft. I wouldn’t hire an electrician who doesn’t demonstrate a basic knowledge of the electrical systems in my house. Nor would I trust a surgeon to operate on my heart who can’t demonstrate the basics of the surgery. Do we recognize teachers who practice the basics to perfect their practice or recognize their expertise without seeing the hours they’ve spent working on the basics?


IMG_9289What do you think?

How are ‘basics’ manifest in your day?

Doodle around with the idea of ‘back to the basics’ for the work you do. Can you identify the basics that make your work look easy? Thanks Diane Bleck for openly sharing your 21 Doodle Days basics.

Here’s the sketchnote doodle from the Professional Reflective Practice session. It’s my basics in action. Definitely room for reflection!


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4 Responses to Doodling in the Open & Thinking About Basics

  1. Wendy says:

    Thanks for your post, Helen. Nice to have related links in one place (curator). One thing I’ve picked up from 21DoodleDays is that everything is made up of basic shapes. In relation to T&L I think about not only recognising the basics but putting things together to make new interesting shapes. On of my basics is understanding how networks are put together. Some of the early work in my IT career was ‘boring’ and repetitive back then but, the lessons stayed with me. It has helped me understand the numerous systems I’ve worked with, technical problem solving and understanding how fundamental equipment like hubs, routers, patch panels etc join together.

    • HJ.DeWaard says:

      Thanks Wendy. Yes, the basics can be boring and repetitive but are an essential piece when trying to put components together in interesting ways. I think innovative leaps happen when the basics are understood and recognized, yet they are connected in new and unique ways. Still doodling with this idea of basics.

  2. Back to Basics for me, in my retirement, is to first, spend more time with family, and two, find the things I once loved, but didn’t take time for in the important work of teaching so students learn. You’re spot on in your thoughts on education, about basics: we teach students. Obvious, yes? But today, in the US, we focus on tests, Common Core State Standards, and what we used to call “remediation” but now is called “intervention.” The emphasis is on the test, on continuous interventions.

    But the basics are realizing that whoever comes through that door, with all they know and don’t know, and how they feel that day, and the dreams they have — that’s what is most important. Years ago ASCD emphasized the “whole child” and that was always the basics for me. So we found time for the things that mattered to them, which included my limited knowledge of art. Or music. Or whatever questions the students had. We made time to connect and build a learning community together.

    How I wish I had taken the time to find a doodler like Diane Bleck and learn the “basics” of shapes and expressions. I would have helped the students like me who loved art but felt intimidated by putting pencil to paper. In education today, I think “back to basics” means letting teachers teach, according to the interests and needs of their students; let them teach in authentic ways with the “whole child” in mind. And for me, I think I’ll be sitting beside a few kids who want to learn to doodle, because now I’ve got something to share.

  3. Pingback: #21doodledays Slice of Life – 1DR What Else? A journey into the cloud…

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