Thinking back to my college days, I remember sitting in lecture halls and feverishly writing down all of the notes I could while the professor lectured. It was always a challenge to keep up with what they were saying, writing while at the same time trying to understand and make sense of the new information. This was something I was prepared for while in high school even as we were taught to take notes by writing everything down and that our notes were for ourselves only. This was in the late 20th century.
Today, technology has advanced greatly since then and yet most students, and teachers, have the same viewpoint of note taking as the past. We just experienced the 10 year anniversary of the announcement of the original iPhone which should signal how much technology, and thus life, has changed in the last 15 years. Why is it that we still take notes today, the same way we did in the past?
Recently there was a great tweet made by an educator about how their students were taking notes and collaborating on their notes. (Tweets are below)
One student created a Google Doc and then shared it with their classmates so they could all take notes together while in class. They were posing questions and helping each other out as a group, instead of lone individuals attempting to record everything.
Collaboration is one of the 4C’s that should be integrated into every classroom and is something that employers are looking for. (https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/01/the-10-skills-you-need-to-thrive-in-the-fourth-industrial-revolution) Why have we not made this a thing where we are teaching our students how to collaborate on notes? Why is it that many classrooms still see this as a solitary activity?
I know that I would not take notes the same as I did when I was in high school or college. While at education conferences I am trying to learn as much as possible and my notes are important for me to continue my learning after the conference is over. My favorite tool is Notability because I can take a quick picture of a presentation slide or poster, then write around the image so that I can record the information they shared with the information that I am creating. I then share my notes with others so they can see what I am learning, so that we can engage in conversations later. Often times if I am at an education conference with others from my school, we will create a shared document or folder to place our notes into. This allows us to easily have conversations later about what we learned.
How many teachers would let their students use their cell phones, or other devices, to take pictures of notes in class so they can spend more time focusing on making sense of the information instead of just focusing on their copying down of information? How many would allow their students to work collaboratively to take notes and to help each other make sense of what they were learning? How are we preparing our students to be collaborators when they leave our schools?
Note taking should not be viewed as an assessment activity or as a way to teach students “grit”. If we want students to be able to learn effectively and we view note taking as a way to assist in this, we need to ensure that we are doing what we can to get to our goal of learning, and not just the goal of being able to take notes. Allowing students to use the tools they have and to work collaboratively are just a few of the ways that note taking should be changing. We should be teaching this and helping students instead of holding on to the ways of the past which no longer prepare our students for their future.