Former students (especially tutorial students) may have noticed that I like to doodle. I always have a pen in my hand, I’m always taking notes, so I inevitably doodle. For the most part I doodle abstract shapes – networks and nodes, I suppose, or vaguely architectural structures, sometimes, apparently, sheet music.
Doodles are a picture of my brain on idle, and not necessarily a meaningful one. As often as not I don’t know what the words that come out of my mouth mean, so the likelihood that my doodles have ‘meaning’ is pretty remote.
But they do have a function. Research seems to indicate that doodlers have better retention of aural stimuli – they concentrate better, in other words. Doodling, so it is believed, stops the mind wandering (day-dreaming is far more cognitively expensive). If doodling has a bad reputation (doodlers look bored, idle, foolish) it is poorly earned.
Sometimes I notice my students doodling too. I don’t say anything, but on the whole I encourage it. It means, apart from anything else, that they have a pen in their hands, which to me is at least an emblem of an intention to learn. You don’t see people doodling on an iPad, or a smartphone (unless you count the finger smears), no doubt because digital devices offer other sorts of distraction. But that is a post for another day.
Here then is the doyen of doodlers, Sunni Brown, talking up its myriad benefits.