Horn or Halo Series – Digital Note Taking

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  • July 30, 2015

From the educators:

We often assume students are familiar with best practices for using digital tools when, in fact, what happens is they tend to use in a substitution manner instead of a transformative one.” –Sabba Quidwa, Director of Innovative Learning for the University of Southern California and an Apple Distinguished Educator.

Before making a blanket statement that one device may be better than another (e.g., pen vs. laptop) or calling into question what may be the best note-taking system, what if we approach the concept by identifying what is best for individual students?” –Beth Holland, an instructor with EdTechTeacher.

Horn or Halo Series - Digital Note Taking

Background:

With the rapid adoption of technology devices in classrooms (1to1 and BYOD growth), more and more teachers and students are considering digital note taking options over traditional pen and paper. This presents various challenges, not least of which include, distractions, impact on learning, technical considerations and more.

Horn – Taking notes on a device distracts students from the lesson.

While it’s common knowledge that using an internet connected device to jot down notes in class may increase distractions, some research has found that even using devices not connected to the internet limits learning potential as well. This study found that students who wrote down notes with pen and paper outperformed, on conceptual questions, those students who typed their notes on devices. The researchers attributed the difference in performance to the tendency for digital note takers to record lecture notes word-for-word whereas pen and paper note takers tended to have fewer notes but captured the ‘bigger picture’ of the content

Halo – Note taking on a device is a great organizational tool and there are tons of innovative apps available.

Typed notes are undoubtedly more organized than pen and paper notes; they can be bulleted and reformatted, cut and pasted, organized into files, and perhaps most importantly, searched. When stored online they have accessibility and longevity far beyond pen and paper. Additionally, there is an ever growing universe of apps to help students with note taking; several apps, such as Evernote, allow students to record notes and have them synced across multiple devices. Other innovative apps are blending various input options together including typed notes, audio (Audionote), photo (Microsoft OneNote), video (NoteLedge), digital pen input (Livescribe) and more.

The Verdict – Digital note taking is a necessary skill for today’s learners that should be gently developed and supported, alongside pen and paper note taking skills.

As effective and reliant as yesterday’s learners have become with pen and paper, tomorrow’s learners will be with digital devices. The limits and drawbacks that we identify today on digital note taking are often times the result of inserting these newer digital options into older settings and paradigms. Schools that ‘get it’ know to invest in developing the digital note taking skills of their students (and teachers!). Further, as we all know, every student is different, and for those who need extra support in organizing their work, digital note taking can be essential.