The use of technology for note taking in classes, whether that is in the primary, secondary or even tertiary sectors, can still be a contentious topic amongst educators and parents alike. Today, I read a fantastic article that not only tackles some of the main areas of debate, but more importantly offers practical strategies to promote deeper thinking by students.
I am not going to re-post the entire article here, instead I encourage you to click the above link and read it in its entirety, however it touches on some key points that I will mention below. It cites two important pieces of recent research as being detrimental to the wider conversation of digital technology in the classroom and challenges the conclusions by asking how teaching styles were adapting to use the technology more effectively. The research referenced was:
- The Pen Is Mightier Than The Keyboard (Oppenheimer 2014)
- Effect Of Computer Usage On Academic Performance (Carter, Greenberg and Walker 2016)
The key sections of the article are broken down into distinct strategies that students can use to improve their use of technology in classes, but importantly it emphasizes that the educators must take the lead in introducing these to students. Rather than simply tell the students to “take notes on the following topic”, providing them with strategies that leverage the full benefits of technology (such as tags in OneNote and search features across notebooks) is a more effective method of teaching.
- Digital Organization and Content Curation
- Multimodal Notes
- Concept Mapping
- Visible Thinking Routines
One of the telling passages towards the end of the article is:
Too often, educators project their own note taking habits onto their students, applying paper-based strategies to digital tools. With that mindset, it becomes far too easy for short-sighted studies to confirm previously held biases against technology. However, as students progress in an increasingly digital and connected world, one challenge for educators will be to view digital note taking as a unique, necessary and completely different skill set to be taught.
This accurately highlights the challenges educators face in terms of not being unduly influenced by older learning styles and remaining open to leveraging newer technologies that will benefit students. However, these new methods need to be clearly articulated and presented to students. Using the old adage, they are “taught, not caught” – in my view at least, it’s not enough to hand off note taking to students and simply hope they settle on a technique that works for them. Instead, by providing them with a range of options (like those above) and actively modelling this to them as they master the concepts, students will have the best opportunity to learn and process key information.
Again, I encourage you to read the entire article for yourself.