Tag - note-taking

An Ideal E-Notebook

‘Spent the day contemplating Clarke’s e-note-taking advice.

Isn’t it amazing? They’ve got it all online but for proper note-taking tools.  I mean Moodle doesn’t have such a module or activity as a notebook. Nor does Blackboard Vista. Well, they do have blogs and notes sections, but they’re so-o badly designed that I do not want to comment.

What would one want to take notes for? According to Clarke (p. 25), there are 4 major reasons

to record the contents of a lecture, seminar or other learning activity so that you can later use the notes to help you revise (1.1) or aid your efforts in completing assignments (1.2)

to help you concentrate during a lecture. Undertaking an activity such as talking-notes during listening can assist you to focus on the content (2), while simply listening is often less effective.

to assist you to understand the content of the learning activity (3), since note-taking encourages you to analyse what you are hearing.

to convert the content of the learning activity into your own words. (4)

Ways of taking notes are also worth listing. You could write (Clarke, p. 26):

  • a comprehensive record of the content
  • an outline of the key points
  • a chart or a spidergram of the content
  • the references to other documents, sources and websites

Now where do we go from here? As it is necessary to take notes, we need a tool for that. If there is no such ready-made tool, we need to explore the affordances of the tools at our disposal for one of them might well serve the purpose.

Let’s see. I am using this blog to take notes and keep my thought organized. I should say it is efficient. But I do not need anyone to correct any mistakes I might have made. I would appreciate that, but that’s about it.

When it comes to language learning, the situation is more complex, because notebooks are frequently handed in for correction, and that means that blogs are not likely to make ideal e-notebooks unless both the teacher ans the student have equal access rights (A). Another thing is that you would not normally want to make your e-notebook publicly accessible if you were to hand it in for correction. There is a greater need for privacy (B).  In addition,  e-notebook entries need to be editable 24/7 (C) and should allow you to embed media (D) as well as add comments (E).  In terms of recording vocabulary, being able to insert a table (F) is critical.  The quality of notes depends on memory-boosting techniques that you use, such as tagging (G),  categorizing (H) and sorting (I) in addition to visuals. It is great to be able to sort your notes by alphabet, by date, by keyword or phrase, and some other criteria. Lastly, it never hurts to have a searchable (J) e-notebook.

Blogs tend to lack the sorting feature, but they allow you you to tag and categorize content.  Adding graphs and charts can also be a problem. I for one really like all sorts of spidergrams and flow-charts  –   they help me think. There is no technology out there that would allow that – none I would know of, at least.  The Moodle Glossary Module is a great notebook alternative, but it does not have a drawing toolbar, either. A possible workaround would be to combine regular and web-based  note-taking: whatever it is that’s easier to do the regular way such as drawing mindmaps can be done the usual way. Later,  you can scan and upload the respective pages for future reference attributing them to the right category and tagging them as you see fit.

At present I use both web-based and regular tools to take notes:

  • this blog (I might need one more  to blog in another language)
  • a private forum where I am all alone and happy and where I post all sorts of paragraphs and hyperlinks I encounter on the web – it functions as a kind of in-tray
  • I use the Moodle notes feature to make post-it notes – it is rather convenient, for I know which note goes with which course
  • I also have a size B5 160-sheet notebook where I scribble this and that when I am in an onsite lesson or teaching online
  • I also make use of traditional bright yellow post-it notes

That’s rather disorganized, eh? 🙂

E-Learning & Note-Taking

Alan Clarke (E-Learning Skills, 2004, p.  26) made my day today when I read this

E-learning does not provide an event at which you are required to take notes. All the content is presented in a form you could save as a file or print out. It would seem that you can capture everything. However, the danger is that, since you can save everything, there is no need to read the material or make any particular effort to understand the content. This can lead you into a false sense of security that you have a comprehensive record of everything and there is no need for you to do anything further.

A. Clarke has spotted and described the problem very well. Novice e-learners frequently have a lot of misconceptions as regards what they should or should not do, and note-taking  or rather their belief that saving files equals note-taking  is a topical one.  You have to take notes whatever your mode of study, you just have more tools at your disposal when you choose to take notes on the computer.

What you actually need to do is read the content and then analyse it. Word processors allow you to annotate electronic text that you have saved or highlight the key phrases using the bold, italic or highlight functions.

Hehe:) I guess my blog is an e-note-book in that sense. In addition to the formatting tools that Clarke suggests, I also use quotation marks and embed media when I deem that necessary.