The other day, my fifth-grade students were brainstorming problem-solving technologies for future homes. Hands immediately flew up in the air. “Robots that wash dishes!” “Robots that walk your dog.” “Robots that do your homework.” I finally had to stem the tide of robotic responses with a reminder that these things already exist.

I challenged students to think beyond what they’ve read and seen to come up with their own ideas. “Think like a Doodler!” I told them! My students immediately understood the meaning of this directive, because doodling has been at the heart of so many of our classroom activities. Through their doodling experiences, my students have learned the following:

Doodling is Inquiry-Based

We always begin doodling by posing a question or problem. This is followed by a design process that paves the way to new learning. Within this format, the teacher serves as the guide, while students take the lead, doodling their ideas, testing them, improving them and retesting them in a fun, motivating fashion. Problems spawn solutions.

Doodling to Connect The Dots

Doodling is a physical experience that taps into prior learning while building neural pathways. I call this “connective learning,” because doodling bridges the old with the new, conflating the two into sparkling innovations. Doodlers know that great ideas come from thinking across experiences. Leonardo Da Vinci would have made a great doodler in the way he stemmed the tides of disciplines, like anatomy, geology, and mathematics in his inventions.

One Doodle in a Million

Doodles come in all different shapes and sizes. There has never been (and never will be) a one-size-fits-all approach to doodling in our room. Students are amazed at the range of solutions generated by their peers when given a doodle-design challenge. Doodling is an open-ended way of thinking that encourages a vast array of opinions and perspectives nurturing a growing bank of possibilities.

Empathic-Doodlers

Doodling enhances thought through feelings. Doodlers are receptive to the needs of others, connecting in ways that go beyond words. When you doodle, you open your heart to different perspectives, cultures, and ways of being. Characteristics like kindness and compassion not only generate ideas, they enhance our world.

For students to think like Doodlers, teachers must allow them the freedom to expand their frame of mind, nurturing a new language of invention that embraces doodles of all shapes, sizes, and color. Doodlers know that great ideas result from a diversity of lines and textures, awakening our creative spirit.

So, when was the last time you encouraged your students to think like a Doodler?

Julia Dweck is a public school teacher who works with students in grades K-5, focusing on the importance of creative and open-ended thinking. Julia is the 2016 winner of the Da Vinci Science Award for her innovative integration of technology in the classroom.

She serves as a school resource and exemplar for inventive implementation of the arts and sciences. Julia encourages her students, friends, and peers to take risks, whenever possible, in order to grow. Follow her on Twitter @GiftedTawk