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09 Aug 2017
Comments: 1

#ScrapNotes: The Complete Guide to PD Note-Taking

“Um… TechChef… we don’t mean to bug you or anything. We totally appreciate this #scrapnotes kick you are on… but you used to write about technology and stuff… and we were just wondering…” It is totally fine… I know you were all thinking this. I do typically share about technology iOS and web applications and processes. I have decided to broaden that definition, as of lately, to define technology as any tool that students have in their hands… and paper and pen… is still a reality… even in schools with 1:1 iPad, Chromebooks, or carts of iPads. But, I also don’t want to swim so far from the shore that it is too difficult to connect the dots back… so this post is somewhat of a hybrid. To date, I have whet your palette for #Scrapnotes with posts 1 and 2… and now I want to share my process for PD Note-taking which expands the horizon for what is possible with pen, paper, and a device.

My Note-Taking Evolution

Many times there is a multi-pronged goal to notes that we take in professional development. Clearly we want to return to them and utilize them in the future. But many times we also want to share them with staff that didn’t get to attend that session or that conference. Previously to finding myself in an extraordinary note-taking situation, I found myself exploring a variety of options:

  • Conference Collage: At first, I created a collage of images from the conference and then thinglinked it with my notes taken in Evernote or links to particular session resources. (Example: Miami Device 2014).
  • Interactive Maps: Then PhotoMapo caught my attention and I began using it as a point of reference. From there I would add pertinent links on top of the maps. (Example: ETT Austin and Summer of 2014).
  • Crafting in Canva: Finally in 2015, I experimented with creating my own image in Canva and using it as the landscape for Thinglink. This afforded me more customization (and the images were beautiful) but honestly it was far more time-consuming. (Example: TCEA 2015 and SXSWEDU 2015).

So at the end of 2015… I started dabbling with this analog note-taking as I mentioned in blog posts 1 and 2 (linked above). At first, my notes for conferences were still very text heavy. But I noticed very quickly a few benefits. I was more focused on what the speaker was saying as I didn’t have notifications popping up in my “notebook” or a plethora of tantalizing tabs open… including my email. I also was only jotting down what I felt relevant rather than trying to gather everything the speaker said in Evernote. Pretty soon I found myself drawing mind-maps and even icons. And sure enough… I found that this style of note-taking was not only better for me as a conference or workshop participant but provided far more insight and information to the people I then shared my notes with.

But these notes were still flat and to make the learning adventure accessible to everyone… I had to go beyond the page. The beauty of this was simple… I could take a picture of the notes (with practically any device… as Thinglink is device neutral) and then add additional thoughts, links, resources on a dimension above the page… so to speak. I received multiple thanks from a number of staff on this process and I found that having the notes in two places made it easier for me to easily retrieve them whenever I needed to refer to them or share them.

My Process

Now I know you might be wondering which way you ought to go from here? 😉 Once you have the notebook you decide to use for your PD Note-taking, I did want to break down my process a bit:

  1. Tabs: I bought Post-it tabs for my notebook (more on supplies in post 4) that I use to separate the notebook for each conference I attend. My intent is to print out labels with titles on them as well… just haven’t had a chance. All of my notes are chronological so this allows me to easily find the notes from the conference or session.
  2. Dates and Titles: In the upper right hand corner, I always include the title of the conference and the date. In the upper left hand corner, I include the name of the session and the speakers and their Twitter handles and emails (if applicable). These get Thinglinked later.
  3. Session Notes: From there, I take notes. I draw icons, build mind-maps and really only write down things that speak to me. Drawing the icons is especially helpful to organize the content. I typically have my phone next to me and I search for an icon and then sketch it while I am listening to the speaker.
  4. More: I oftentimes will go over the notes after the session and add bullets or A, B, C … just to make them a little easier to follow. I will also use the right hand “Action Steps” column in my Behance Action Journal to jot down tools I should look at, next steps, great ideas, etc…

Once the notes are complete, then I snap a pic and Thinglink them with additional info. Below is an example of the interactive Thinglinked notes from the header in this blog post:

I won’t leave you with the lip service… “practice makes perfect” or even “practice makes better”… what I will tell you that with practice… you find your own style and I quite agree that is the best kind of ending… or beginning! 😉

Please don’t forget to check out NoteChef4u instagram for 80+ #scrapnotes examples and Pinterest for 180+ examples and resources to create the “Organized Brain” or at the very least… an organized notebook. I should also mention that all 31 of my interactive notes are posted here.

#scrapnotes… the NEXT CHAPTER…

Stay tuned for the next blog posts in the series (or catch up on previous ones):



If you are interested in booking Lisa Johnson and/or would like to know more about her speaking history or professional development portfolio… visit the TechChef4u speaking page for more info or email

03 Aug 2017
Comments: 1

#ScrapNotes: The Complete Guide to Book Summaries

With my last blog post “#ScrapNotes: How to Begin Your Journey Down the Rabbit Hole”, I hoped to pique your interest and provide information. With this post, it is my intent to share my process. You may have had a sip of the #scrapnotes potion and now your ideas are so big that you can’t seem to fit them through the door… or into your notebook. I may be a bit mad… but the process that I share should help you keep the journal jabberwocky at bay or at the very least… tame him or her. 😉

But before I do that, I would like to share a disclaimer. Please know that I am not one for fads. I am, however, one that shares ideas, tools, and processes that work for me… in hopes that they may fill a need for you too. I also think that the pendulum between analog and digital is always swinging. I went all digital with notes several years ago and for some things… it totally makes sense. But for others… it doesn’t. I began navigating this analog terrain again at the end of 2015. Since then, I have filled up 4 notebooks and started 3 more and I have to say I haven’t felt this organized and happy in years.


With that being said… I would like to snap (wait for the pun… or the Snapguide… in the case) my fingers and share with you my process. For this I felt like returning to the tried and true tool, Snapguide. There are many different things you can do with a notebook and we will cover a multitude of them in the next few blog posts. For this post… I wanted to narrow in solely on the process of reading or book summaries. I enjoy reading (both personally and professionally) and I am one of those people that loves to highlight in my book. What I was discovering is that I had a bookshelf of books with highlights and post-its but no easy way to commit that info to memory or practice… or to easy access…. until now. So here is my process:

  1. Read and Highlight: Read a book and highlight as I read.
  2. Tuck Away: Set book down for a few weeks. I find that by putting the book down for a bit, I tend to make better decisions about what highlights were really important a few weeks later and only transcribe and #scrapnote those.
  3. Title Page: Create a page that includes the title of the book and the author and the date I am transcribing the notes. I like to mimic the font and color of the book just for fun.
  4. Review Notes: Review the book’s highlights and begin adding info to your notes.
  5. Create a Color Hierarchy: Use only 2-3 colored pens. I try to match the color of the book or the theme. I tend to use one color for headers and one color for subheaders so it provides a nice visual hierarchy.
  6. Visualize with Icons: Icons tend to encompass a multitude of ideas and are easily recognizable. While I can’t conjure and draw these visuals from memory, I am able to look at icon sites and recreate similar visuals.
  7. Embellish Away: Embellish notes with washi tape, stickers, labels, and mementos. Washi tape and labels also serve as a great way to create sections on a page or a visual hierarchy and/or divide.

I think it helps to see visuals for each so I crafted a Snapguide (linked here) to do the trick.

Check out How to Create #ScrapNotes Book Summaries by Lisa Johnson on Snapguide.


I would like to get a wee bit more granular with this as multiple people have asked me about the organization of this process. While I am transcribing notes, I typically keep a page for:

  1. Research: I am always collecting research and I don’t always want to return to the book to recall a percentage or study. This page is typically a bulleted list. If the book is super research-heavy, then I include 2-3 pages devoted just to this.
  2. Lexicon Library: I am an author and I have always loved words and phrases. Anything that strikes my fancy gets added here. As this is not the main point of the book, sometimes I will paste a card to a page so I can add this info in there so it doesn’t detract from the rest of the content I am summarizing.
  3. Quotes and Insight: I have always had a hankering for quotes. Anything I find especially pertinent gets added here. I do try to use shorthand and abbreviations as much as possible. I also include page numbers. This is also where I start adding icons, illustrations, and visual equations.

The best advice I can give you… is just start. My process has evolved and been fine tuned over the past two years. If I had waited for it to be perfect, I would never have discovered which way to go. After all… sometimes when you wonder… you find your path.

#scrapnotes are BORN!

If I am using my Moleskine or Luechtturm1917 (which I do for my book summaries), then the pages tend to be a little thinner. This is when I take notecards, postcards, scraps of art, or really anything that adds to the content (both in idea or visually). I add these items in with permanent double-sided tape. Then, I get fanciful with my embellishments and add washi tape and stickers. The items also provide a nice visual hierarchy. Honestly, you could totally leave the fanciful embellishments out, but I have to tell you… this is one of my favorite parts and what makes me so happy each time I open a page to review my notes. Another thing I have noticed is that these visuals tend to heighten my memory for the book and the process. I can often remember where I was when I took the notes and what I was doing at the time.

Please don’t forget to check out NoteChef4u instagram for 80+ #scrapnotes examples and Pinterest for 180+ examples and resources to create the “Organized Brain” or at the very least… an organized notebook.

#scrapnotes… the NEXT CHAPTER…

Stay tuned for the next blog posts in the series (or catch up on previous ones):



If you are interested in booking Lisa Johnson and/or would like to know more about her speaking history or professional development portfolio… visit the TechChef4u speaking page for more info or email

02 Aug 2017
Comments: 2

#ScrapNotes: How to Begin Your Journey Down the Rabbit Hole

Part 1 of the #Scrapnotes process

Several people have asked me about my analog notes (or #scrapnotes) and so I imagined if there were a few that were intrigued… I might share the info with the edusphere. I am a huge fan of Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle and the idea of Starting with the Why. I didn’t just magically start sketch noting in analog. There were a few fortuitous things that sort of led me there: 1) I saw a HS student bullet journaling in class 2) a fellow colleague started analog sketch noting and 3) I saw Austin Kleon speak at Book People about journaling on his tour for his “Steal Like an Artist” journal.


Brace yourself… if you are really ready to journey down this rabbit hole… you have to find your why. Yes, several paths converged here… but I was also finding that the notes I typed from professional developments I never really returned to and that I did very little with the highlights from books I read. To be fair, previous to having my boys, I did journal daily and loved to scrapbook. Both of those practices were one of the first things to fall by the wayside when adulting and child-rearing became front and center. Sadly, I didn’t realize how beneficial those practices were to my comprehension, metacognition, and mental retention until I took up the practice again.

It started with one LEGO Moleskine journal and some basic bulleted or transcribed notes. As any practice goes, the more I took notes and transcribed notes in this fashion, the better I got and the more beneficial I found them to be. I also noticed that when I was taking notes in analog, I was less distracted. Because I can’t write as fast as I can type, this process also forced me to slow down and really focus on which pieces of the content matter most.

Scrap Notes Process Part 1

So before you unleash the power of the bottle marked #ScrapMe… ask yourself a few of these questions:

  • Retention: Do I remember information better when I type it or handwrite it?
  • Accessibility: Do I have info from professional developments or books I read that I would like to retain, use, and keep handy? (Research)
  • Organization: Do I enjoy making lists and thrive on a planner? (Research)
  • Creative Crafter: Do I like visuals and craft supplies?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then this rabbit hole might just be for you. I started with a simple notebook and then evolved to 3 or 4. The idea of bullet journaling is essentially the convergence of a To-Do List, Planner, and Diary. For me #scrapnotes is the convergence of a Journal, To Do List, Notebook, and Scrapbook. I am fully aware that this idea and process takes time to develop and that one blog post will certainly not do it justice… so be expecting more topics in the series.


Normally, if I was following Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle to the letter of the law, I would move to the How. But, honestly, it is difficult to understand the process without choosing the platform. In this case, I wanted to share 3 different types of notebooks and present you with their features. If this is something you really plan on investing time into, then I would also invest the money… nothing crazy… I just wouldn’t use a $2.00 mimsy (flimsy and miserable) spiral notebook… I would consider purchasing a $15-$20 notebook for longevity purposes. All 3 of the ones I mention below include these feature must-haves:

  • Durability: a hard cover
  • Size: are about 8 inches by 5 inches
  • Cinch: boast an elastic band to keep everything safe
  • Enhancements: a bookmark ribbon, and an envelope in the back of the back cover for storing odds and ends
  • Pages: I prefer blank or dotted pages… never lined. In my book (pun intended)… these are total essentials.

Now that I have perfected my process, I typically have 3 notebooks going at a time (e.g. one for ideas, one to summarize books I read, and one to take notes in professional developments). I wouldn’t have known that this is how I wanted to organize them until I just started with one. So know that your first one may look like Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum had a hey day with it… and well that is okay. 😉

Now on to brand preferences… I have created an interactive version here.

  1. Moleskine: These are great because they come in so many fun themes from Retro Cassette Tape and Toy Story to Batman and Game of Thrones.
  2. Behance Action Journal: I have one of these in every color. They are fantastic for professional development as they include an Action Steps list on the right side which makes it easy to jot down action items or to do’s based on what you have learned. Did I also mention they come in like 5 different colors? The pages are thick enough that you can write on both sides which is also a perk! (Note: this item is one of the few that is more expensive on Amazon than on its site – I buy direct from Behance and just buy 3 at a time and pay the shipping. They sell for $17.50 each on Behance and shipping is typically $10. Amazon retails them for $27 each.)
  3. Luechtturm1917: I recently tried my hand with this one AND it is quickly becoming my favorite for book summaries. The pages are blank BUT they are all numbered and it includes a table of contents at the beginning. Yes, I realize that I could very well number my own pages… but honestly… if it is done for me… that is a great perk (and time-saver)! Did I also mention that it comes in 16 different colors?
  4. **Passion Planner**: As I am doing a blend of sketch noting, scrapbooking, and note-taking, I use blank notebooks. I should mention that I also use a Passion Planner for day to day scheduling and planning. This is in addition to the notebooks listed above. I divulge this… mainly because some people that bullet journal use their notebook as both a planner and a note-taking device and that just never worked for me (not to mention I don’t have time to draw out weekly calendar spreads… though I appreciate all of the amazing people that do this and share these on Instagram – they are truly a thing of beauty).

I should also mention that both the Moleskine and the Leuchtturn1917 have slightly thinner pages than the Behance Action Journal. I suppose you could write on both sides… but I prefer not to so I end up doing some sort of #scrapnotes (stay tuned on more ideas how to purposefully embellish your own pages) on one side of the page.

If you are like me, I lost you on the notebooks and you have already started adding these items to your Amazon cart. Oh my! I found a Leuchtturm in Lemon, Lime, and Emerald… and… I digress. Before you get any curiouser and curiouser… I hope you are able to get two things from this post… 1) decide if #bulletjournaling or #scrapnotes is for you and 2) select the best notebook to meet your needs.


The next few blog posts will touch on ideas, organization, resources, process, planners, supplies, and more. If you are hungry to dive right in… I did leave you a wee snack… my new Instagram, account… Notechef4u (which houses my sample #scrapnotes and #bulletjournals).

NoteChef4u Instagram houses 70+ examples of #scrapnotes and the process.

I am nothing if not thorough… so I also curated a board of 180+ examples, resources, and bite-size morsels of research. Hoping these tide you over till the next installment. 😉

#scrapnotes… the NEXT CHAPTER…

Stay tuned for the next blog posts in the series (or catch up on previous ones):


If you are interested in booking Lisa Johnson and/or would like to know more about her speaking history or professional development portfolio… visit the TechChef4u speaking page for more info or email