December 27, 2020

Share with students your sticky notes and storyboards

Posted by Laura Guertin

I’ve been working with a student on an undergraduate research project since May 2020. As we began her journey into research and she gathered pages and pages of notes from virtual conferences and articles, I suggested she use Post-it Notes to begin grouping and organizing her categories of information. I typically do this exercise with students in my office, using wall space and different colored stickies to outline the work.

But in this case, in Summer 2020, the pandemic prevented us from doing research in-person, on campus. Instead, we moved this Post-it mapping exercise into the virtual world, with her completing this at home.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have any pictures to show her of what previous student projects had looked like on my office wall. And although I could sense a hint of skepticism at my request for her to claim some wall space at her house (fortunately, she had a long hallway that was empty and ready for use), I was so impressed with what she was able to do without me there next to her, walking through the process together. She successful in organizing her notes and creating storyboards for her ArcGIS StoryMaps she generated. We then continued the storyboard process for her AGU Fall Meeting presentation.

Because she had never heard of or seen anyone use Post-it Notes in a research or dissemination capacity, I wanted her to know that others use Post-its and find ways to “map” their presentations through storyboards. Twitter answered my call with tweets posted by my fellow [email protected]U presenters.



Tweet from Belize GEO, posted December 3, 2020

Tweet from Belize GEO, posted December 3, 2020. Link to thread of tweets on this topic.


My research student was thrilled with these tweets. I think it helped her to see that she is engaging in process of disseminating research with the same methods professionals do – even if it is with Post-it Notes. She was already convinced of how powerful sticky notes could be, as when I Zoomed with her during the academic year, I could see a wall of Post-it Notes next to her desk, outlining additional projects she was working on.

Although she’s been taking excellent photos of her walls and documenting the sticky notes, we certainly could use an online tool like Google Jamboard to collaborate during project development [see previous blog post on Remote student collaboration via Google Jamboard]. But I certainly don’t want to disrupt her process at this point – she has found a tool/technique she embraces and is quite effective with!

I encourage all researchers and research mentors to post more about the process of science – the stages of research, the tools we use, how we prepare to disseminate results, etc. All of these are important for students to see and connect with, especially with students doing work during this time of the pandemic away from research labs and face-to-face research communities.



Related articles

Visualizing Our Research with Sticky Notes (September 22, 2017), Living in the Layers [blog post]

From Sticky Note to Storyboard: Developing and Evaluating Ideas (May 1, 2019), Public Radio Incubation Lab [blog post]

Great Talks Start with Sticky Notes (August 8, 2017), Huffington Post, Canada Edition [blog post]

How to make a storyboard with Post-it® Products, Post-It Brand [webpage/video]