notetaking

In addition to working for EdTechTeacher, Beth Holland also coaches a high school sailing team. Recently, on her blog, when describing a situation with some of her sailors, she wrote:

“About half-way through our lesson, I looked at my group’s slightly glassed over expressions and said, Go get a notebook and write all of this down! As the words came out of my mouth, I stopped in my tracks, turned to them and then said, “No, wait, go get something to keep track of this information. I don’t care if it’s a notebook, a Google Collection, Evernote, or some random app on your phone.”

What does it mean to take notes in the digital age? When most of us were in school, we had a 3-ring binders for major subjects, spiral bound notebooks for labs, vocabulary, and math problems in addition to a few of those hard cover journals covered in black squiggles.

However, last week, when Beth asked another student what he had done with his notebook, he said, “I forgot it, but can just use my phone.”

If notebooks can now synch between devices, is there a role for paper in this most essential academic proess? In his most recent blog post, Co-Director, Tom Daccord, questioned the realities of moving beyond the textbook. Meanwhile, Greg Kulowiec has been documenting a paperless research process. All the while, we have been working with a group of educators preparing for a 1:1 iPad environment and discussing the implications of moving to either a paperless or hybrid learning environment.

This concept of going paperless also presented itself at the recent EdCamp Social Studies conference this past weekend at the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, PA. Much of the conversation about going paperless has revolved around tools, programs, apps, and logistics. However, if you have ever tried to decipher middle school student scrawl, or spent an afternoon excavating lockers and backpacks in search of worksheets and notes, you may be ready for a change. While there is certainly a valid argument that at an elementary, and even middle or high school level, there are some students who need the tactile experience of putting pencil to paper in order to brainstorm or problem solve as well as the times when large pieces of paper and markers or crayons can be the perfect brainstorming tool.

In The Paperless Classroom…What, How & Why, Greg raises a critical point.

“Too often in an attempt to integrate technology into our classrooms, we start with the “What”, proceed to the “How” and rarely get to the “Why”. Here is “what” we are going to do today, this is “how” we are going to do it…and oh yeah, this is “why” it matters…if we are lucky we get to the why.”

So why paperless? Why digital note taking? Can paper….

  • Create a backup of itself and make itself available both at home and at school?
  • Incorporate pictures of the white board, or of a worksheet, or of a digital artifact in order to support the note taking process?
  • Include audio of class discussion, verbal directions from a teacher, or oral questions from another student?
  • Link directly to web content?
  • Include video to provide an alternative version of the material?
  • Check spelling and grammar?
  • Quickly reference a dictionary, encyclopedia, or thesaurus?
  • Read a student’s notes back to them?
  • Connect with another student’s notebook in order to increase collaboration and share resources?

As Beth titled her post, the future may have teachers shouting, “Go Get a Notebook! No, Wait, Go Get a Means for Aggregating Information!”