Taking Notes Beyond the Classroom

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.

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4 Responses to Taking Notes Beyond the Classroom

  1. Jeff Nugent says:

    Spot on, Steve. Your perspective here makes plenty of sense, and I agree. That said…what might be the value, if any, of a repository of notes from various courses?

  2. Rachel says:

    I use a software tool called PerfectNotes on my laptop. When I take notes, it records the lecture and cross links it with my notes and a timeline to make it easy to go back and hear again later anything I missed. I can also bookmark the recording so I can see easily anything I wanted to come back to. This lets me free up my time and really focus on participating in the lecture rather than focus on taking the notes. I personally learn better through interactions during the classroom experience rather than trying to write everything down at the same time I’m trying to understand it.

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