Today’s Inside Higher Education has a thought-provoking article on the increasing number of websites which provide class note sharing. One important aspect of this discussion, which is underplayed in the article, is the understanding that note sharing doesn’t promote deep learning. The act of note taking involves processing the information in the learner’s mind. The notes embody context which is less meaningful for another person. It is this engagement with the material that leads to deep learning. As a consequence, having someone else’s notes even when they are well done only promotes shallow learning.
I often take notes during conference sessions, but the notes may not be very meaningful to anyone else afterwards, since their purpose was not to create a transcript but rather to record clues or records to allow me to locatein my mind the insights the session generated.
I’ve struggled with this problem in my experiments to have classes create collaborative notes, which build on the notes of previous classes. It’s in the creative act of taking the inputs of text and discussion and converting them into a useful product that true learning occurs.