Sylvia Duckworth is an author, sketchnoter, AIM French teacher recently retired, Tech Coach, Google Certified Innovator, and Apple Distinguished Educator. She has more than 30 years of teaching experience in the public and independent school systems in Toronto, Canada.
I’ve known Sylvia virtually for many years through social media and been fortunate to have met her face-to-face recently at several conferences. I had to share at least one of the selfies we took. Sylvia has written two great books: Sketchnoting and Google Cardboard Challenge that we discuss in the podcast. It is a great honor to share her story. Below are excerpts from our conversation:
Your background and family
My husband, Steve and I have two lovely daughters, Alana who is 27 years old is in media, and Lauren who is 25 years is a teacher who taught a year in Australia and is now teaching in New Zealand.
I taught French for most of my career. Last year, I had a 30% role as a tech coach at my school. For the past 21 years, I taught at Crescent School in downtown Toronto which is a boys only school grades 3 to 6. I recently retired. We have this wonderful program when you combine your age with the years you’ve been teaching and it adds up to 85, it is called the 85 factor. Then you can retire on full benefits. So my number came up in April so I’ve been retired since July. That’s why I’ve been doing so much traveling. It’s been a really busy fall and winter. Been to Moscow, Australia, Singapore and been invited to wonderful conferences. I retired from teaching full-time, but I’m still quite active, presenting at conferences and participating on social media.
Why creativity matters to you
Many different reasons. Personally, it is just my happy place. I love to sketchnote, knit, macrame, and do things with my hands. It calms me down. I decided to turn what makes me happy around and make my classroom a creative classroom. In teaching French, I start off with a 10-minute overview and then the rest of the time my kids would be creating something mostly with technology. It completely changed the atmosphere of my classroom. Students were loving coming to class learning there and then using the structures taught in my French class showcase what they learned through the projects they created.
The Sketchnoting Revolution
My sketchnoting started about three years ago when I noticed these drawings related to education and they were called sketchnotes. So I decided to give it a try. I stopped drawing when I was around 1o-years old because I thought I wasn’t very good at it. Then when I tried 3 years ago on my iPad and rediscovered my love of drawing.
I now do Sketchnoting workshops and start off the day with fun drawing challenges. I want them to get in the mood and access their inner child. Young children love to draw, but for some reason, most of us tend to lose that love of drawing around 10 years old. In the workshop, we play games and try to get into the mindset that drawing is fun and not something to be afraid of. Everyone can draw. It’s been a lot of fun doing these sketchnoting workshops especially when teachers say at the end of the day “I can draw.”
There are several apps on the iPad that you can use for sketchnoting. I use the app Procreate because it lets me capture and export my drawings while I’m drawing in a video. If you look on my youtube channel, I provide many a playlist of live sketchnoting.
Sketchnotes for Educators
People don’t realize that there are links to all the drawings to share with educators in my book. Sketchnoting has really taken off this past year. If you look at the hashtag #sketchnoting, you can see how it has grown. It is also great for students to put their thoughts to paper with visual thinking. Depending on the devices available in the classroom, it is okay to do analog drawing with students. I find I can draw on the iPad better because I can zoom in which is easier for me.
The Talent Myth
It’s one of the keynotes I love to do. It is about the ideas based on a book that I read “Bounce: The Science of Success” by Matthew Syed who wrote that there is no such thing as natural talent. That anyone can achieve talent an area of their choosing as long as certain preconditions are met. You’ve used the Iceberg Illusion which is crazy how popular is. The top of it is Success and underneath is what we don’t see in creating success. I include that in my Talent Myth presentation.
You can learn to draw, you just have to put your mind to it. It is our role as teachers to help our students find those talents. We need to give them the opportunities to broaden their perspective so they discover and explore their own talents. Holly Clark and I have launched a new course on sketchnoting called Making Thinking Visible with Sketchnoting.
How do you maintain your passion for teaching
My family is always amazed how much I loved my job or whatever I’m doing next. When we get together we share our days. I always say I had a great day. A lot of teachers feel that way but there are a lot of teachers that don’t feel that way about their job. One of the secrets at maintaining my passion for teaching has been keeping a growth mindset and wanting to try something different. It is about not relying on teaching the same thing year after year. The best way to get those ideas to maintain your passion for teaching is on social media. Since I joined Twitter about 10 years ago, the ideas, resources, and connections with teachers all over the world, that has really been key in maintaining my passion for teaching. There’s always something new you can try with your students. I never get bored with teaching. You can learn from other teachers on Twitter and not teach the same thing each year.
What’s next for you…
Like I mentioned before I have the online sketchnoting course with Holly Clark called Making Thinking Visible with Sketchnoting. I’m visiting several places including New Zealand in April and will be seeing my daughter. I’m open to doing Sketchnoting workshops at any school or district. I may even create a podcast show myself. As you can tell, every day is fun and an adventure now.
A New Book, How to Sketchnote: A Step-by-Step Manual for Teachers and Students
Sylvia Duckworth is an avid sketchnoter, AIM French teacher and Tech Coach, Google Certified Innovator and Trainer, Apple Teacher and Apple Distinguished Educator with more than 30 years of teaching experience in the public and independent school systems. Sylvia is an award-winning teacher from Toronto, Canada. Her mantra is “Connect, Collaborate, Create” and she is constantly searching for ways to enable teachers and students to maximize these opportunities. She is a frequent keynote speaker at educational events and the author of the book “Sketchnotes for educators”.
Sylvia blogs and shares her teaching resources at https://sylviaduckworth.com
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Click the links below to see Sylvia’s other blogs and websites.
For Sylvia’s Resources: https://sylviaduckworth.com/presentations/
Sketchnotes for Educators: https://www.amazon.com/Sketchnote-Educators-Sylvia-Duckworth/dp/1945167254/
The Google Cardboard Book: https://www.amazon.com/Google-Cardboard-Book-Explore-Educate/dp/194516719X?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1