Doodle your way to an A


This is an old piece I submitted to my college’s newspaper, The Stylus.

How many times have you found yourself sitting in class, drawing random scribbles and doodles instead of paying attention? Probably more often than you’d like to think. It’s not as bad as you might think. The “Doodle Revolution,” started by Sunni Brown, is attempting to prove that doodling isn’t such a bad thing after all.

Brown, author of Gamestorming: A Playbook for Rule-breakers, Innovators, and Changemkers, has found recent evidence to prove that doodling actually has a profound impact on how we learn and solve problems.

Brown mentioned during a TED talk, a free talk event in Long Beach that is publicly broadcast on http://www.ted.com, that the word “doodle,” has had a negative meaning since the seventeenth century. The modern day social definition of doodling: “To dawdle, to dilly dally, to monkey around, to make meaningless marks, to do something of little value, substance or import, or to do nothing,” Brown said in the talk. “Our culture is so focused on intensely on verbal information, that we’re almost blinded to the value of doodling,” Brown said in the talk.

The Webster’s Dictionary definition of doodling is “to make spontaneous marks to help yourself think.”

“I doodle all of the time, both at work and at school,” Brockport senior Margy Lowe said. “[Doodling is] effective for paying attention in class because when you’re doodling, you focus on the paper. You’re still listening to the teacher, but most visual distractions are not observed since you’re not staring off into space or glancing around the room to see what everyone else is doing.”

Brown mentioned that teachers, bosses and journalists make negative examples out of those who doodle during their talks or during important events where important information is being discussed. However, Brown said people who doodle retain more information than those who don’t. It’s used as a preemptive measure to stop from losing focus.

Brockport junior Megan McGorry agreed with the information Brown said about being able to retain more information.

“I am a doodler and I can definitely say it helps me,” McGorry said. “I notice that when I’m doodling I hear every word the professor is saying (especially during a lecture) and retain it much better. I think it helps because I become less distracted [and] I’m not thinking as much.”

Brown states that there is four ways learner’s intake information – visual, auditory, reading and writing and kinesthetic. In order for people to successfully learn, they must engage in two of these, or couple one with an emotional experience. Doodling, however, causes the learner to engage in all four of these learning techniques, with the possibility of an emotional experience.

Brown states on her website, www.sunnibrown.com, that people don’t share the same mental image as everyone else. If you want someone to see something exactly the way you do, you need to draw it out for them.

Resistance to this method of taking notes and learning could be viewed as illogical because it could seem like more of a distraction to students.

Communication studies professor Elizabeth Thorpe said doodling is helpful to her.

“I don’t know that I’m qualified to say whether it helps or hinders students, but I will admit to being a doodler myself,” Thorpe said. “I find it is like listening to music when I work – it gives the fidgety part of my brain something to do so the work part of my brain can concentrate.

Brockport anthropology professor Tiffany Rawlings shared a different viewpoint than Thorpe.

“I was a doodler in school, and I typically only did it when I was bored,” Rawlings said. “I definitely was not paying attention while I was doodling. So, I don’t buy it that doodling helps during lecture.”

It appears that more scientific research and studies may have to be performed to fully confirm or deny this theory. Or it could be that it just depends on the person.

“Anecdotally, I’ve heard different ideas floated about it,” Thorpe said. “Some people do it because they say it keeps their minds from wandering.  Some people say they do it because their minds are wandering. I think it is just something to keep my hands busy while I am listening.

It is clear that even if the research confirms or denies it, whatever style of learning a student chooses will differ. Some people retain information better by doodling, and will continue to do so.

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