The second pre-conference workshop entitled ‘R U Noteworthy?’ was led by Andrew Middleton and Helen Kay, and asked “…what can we do to develop note making as a core learning activity by connecting the act of taking notes to the learning of processing and using them.” I’ve often reflected on how we make notes from information provided since my time as an undergraduate to now as a doctoral student. Both as a creator of notes for myself, and equally as a teacher in thinking about the notes my students made.
This session truly was a workshop, our facilitators providing a scenario through which we worked:
Starting from a learning activity of our choice, we were asked to think about how students might capture notes (note taking), then subsequently imbue them with meaning (note making). Embedded within that however, we had to have in mind any students who might have particular additional needs, such as a disability or not having English as their first language. The overarching theme, given the conference title, was how social media or digital technologies might support all the students.
We chose a casting workshop demo as our scenario, thereby making things a little more complex than if we had chosen a conventional lecture. Nevertheless, we felt our approach had universal applicability. In essence, students would capture information in whichever format suited them, be it video, audio, text on a laptop or in a notebook – the note taking part. Then the whole class would upload their notes to a site; we settled on a WordPress blog as offering the most functionality and features. Here the gathered resources would be classified, edited and refined for consumption by all – an activity for the whole group, individuals being assigned different roles. Most importantly, to ensure subsequent retrieval would be the taxonomic and folksonomic classifications; a technically straightforward task in WordPress. In addition, any ‘found’ resources could be added at this point – videos, imagery, links etc. When the tutor aided by a student sub-editor, signed the notes off, the next step would be for each student, on their own blog, to make their own notes from the resources assembled on the class blog. This is the point at which they are making meaning for themselves and creating a resource on which they can draw in the future. Finally, there could be a peer review process at this point where students comment on each others notes, using a rubric for guidance.
We recognised that this might be an idealised view, acknowledging issues like freeloading, non-participation, format compatibility etc, but we were working under time constraints so couldn’t really resolve all of those at once. However, we felt that the collaborative essence of what we proposed arose naturally from the social aspects of the technology; a feature not always available when using institutional content management systems. To conclude, all the groups then individually fed back to the full group, leaving an unfortunately brief time for discussing the issues. (Think we might have been off task occasionally!)
I can’t help but feel that the process of note making is rarely questioned; certainly from my experience at secondary schoollevel anyway. Are students of that age (or even undergraduates) capable of making notes for themselves … and if not, how do we help them structure that process and guide them in developing this crucial skill? That’s applies to ALL students, so let’s keep in mind there are weighty SEND issues to consider here. Technology and social media could help, but as always, the devil will be in the detail.