why I type my notes

her hands
“her hands” by Vyacheslav Bondaruk

When done with pen and paper, that act involves active listening, trying to figure out what information is most important, and putting it down. When done on a laptop, it generally involves robotically taking in spoken words and converting them into typed text. –Joseph Stromberg, Vox Magazine

Many of you long-time readers know that I take notes of presentations at conferences and post them here. I get lots of thank yous from folks for doing it, and that’s the main reason why I keep posting them publicly. It’s probably obvious, but just to be sure, you should know that I don’t handwrite them and then transcribe them later. I type them out on some sort of mobile computing device (laptop or iPad) and publish them after I do a look-see to make sure there aren’t any egregious errors.

What I don’t do with my typed notes is try to capture every word the speaker says, which is I think the digital note-taking that the author of the above linked article is critiquing. Instead, I actively listen to the speaker, and quickly synthesize their point into a sentence or two.

Sometimes I will quote directly if the phrasing or word choice is particularly poignant, but that’s hard if they are a fast speaker, because I end up missing a lot of what they say next in my attempt to capture it accurately. However, if I wait until they pause before their next point, I usually have enough time to quickly type out the point they just made.

This was an active choice on my part some years ago. I used to take notes with lots of bullet points and half-formed phrases, but they were virtually useless to me later on, and certainly not helpful to anyone who wasn’t there. When I take notes, I think about the audience who will read them later, even if it’s myself.

Which is another reason why I type. My handwriting is terrible, and it gets worse the longer and faster I write. If I want to know what I wrote more than a few hours ago, I need to type it.

So yes, students might get distracted by their neighbor’s laptop, but I think certain researchers will always find some classroom thing that distracts students and recommend we go back to the good old days. Instead, I think we need to work on the skills students (and future meeting attendees) will need in order to use their tools effectively and maintain focus.

If I can do it, surely they can, too.

being a student is time-consuming

I need to find a happy medium between self-paced instruction and structured instruction.

What have I done!?
“What have I done!?” by Miguel Angel

I signed up for a Coursera class on statistics for social science researchers because I wanted to learn how to better make use of library data and also how to use the open source program for statistical computing, R. The course information indicated I’d need to plan for 4-6 hours per week, which seemed doable, until I got into it.

The course consists of several lecture videos, most of which include a short “did you get the main concepts” multiple-choice quiz at the end. Each week there is an assignment and graded quiz, and of course a midterm and final.

It didn’t help that I started off behind, getting through only a lecture or two before the end of the first week, and missing the deadline for having the first assignment and quiz graded. I scrambled to catch up the second week, but once again couldn’t make it through the lectures in time.

That’s when I realized that it was going to take much longer than projected to keep up with this course. A 20-30 min lecture would take me 45-60 min to get through because I was constantly having to pause and write notes before the lecturer went on to the next concept. And since I was using Microsoft OneNote to keep and organize my notes, anything that involved a formula took longer to copy down.

By the end of the third week, I was still a few lectures away from finishing the second week, and I could see that it would take more time than I had to keep going, but I decided to go another week and do what I could.

That was this week, and I haven’t had time to make any more progress than where I was last week. With no prospect of catching up before the midterm deadline, I decided to withdraw from the course.

This makes me both disappointed in myself and in the structure of the course. I hate quitting, and I really want to learn the stuff. But, as I fell further and further behind, it became easier to put it off and focus on other overdue items on my task list, and thus compounding the problem.

The instructor for the course was easy to follow, and I like his lecture style, but when it came time to do the graded quiz and assignment, I realized I clearly had not understood everything, or he expected me to have more of a background in the field than a novice. It also seemed like the content was geared towards a 12 week course and with this being only 8 weeks, rather than reduce the content accordingly, he was cramming it all into those 8 weeks.

Having deadlines was a great motivation to keep up with the course, which I haven’t had when I’ve tried to learn on my own. It was the volume of content to absorb between those deadlines that tripped me up. I need to find a happy medium between self-paced instruction and structured instruction.

Learning 2009: Kindles, Sony Readers, iTouches, and iPhones

Presenters: Andy Morton, Olivia Reinauer, and Carol Wittig

The presenters brought three netbooks, three Kindle 2s, a Sony Reader, and an iTouch to pass around for attendees to handle. These are from the small collection recently purchased for experimenting with library and course use. They are hoping to get feedback or discussion about how the attendees think that they will impact classroom instruction.

While the Kindle is not likely to be very functional for traditional library services, rumors of the next version indicate that it will be more functional for textbook, newspaper, and media uses. This will definitely impact classroom activities. You can mark up text with notes, and it’s fully searchable, which could be handy for finding the notes you made to yourself.

Sony Reader uses the same kind of screen as the Kindle, but is smaller due to the lack of full keyboard. However, unlike the Kindle, it has a touch screen (and a stylus). There are expandable memory cards that can handle digital photos (in black & white) and audio. Like the Kindle, you can take notes on it. They’re also working with OCLC and Google Books to expand access to resources.

The iTouch and iPhone can make use of the Kindle software, and there are many other ebook apps as well. They are also useful for accessing internet applications on the fly. [Side note: I think I like this the best – one-handed touch-screen reading and much lighter than the dedicated ebook readers, but with a much larger screen than my old PDAs and brighter text.]

Netbooks are relatively inexpensive and easier to transport than full-size laptops. They’re certainly popular at conferences.

Learning 2009: Image Resources for Teaching

Presenters: Jeannine Keefer and Crista LaPrade

Keefer provided the attendees with a brief overview of licensed images. Specifically, ArtStor and why it would be used in the classroom (mainly art historians). There are also many free or Creative Commons licensed resources for images:

  • Flickr – range from amateur to professional, free to fully copyrighted
  • Picasa – similar to Flickr, but less communal
  • Google Images – search across the web
  • Google Earth – geotagged photos for specific locations
  • Creative Commons – search across several sites
  • MorgueFile – stock photography
  • OpenPhoto – stock photography
  • TinEye – reverse image search engine for finding more like the one you have
  • Cooliris – browser plugin for quickly flipping through images on various sites
  • Social networks like Facebook & MySpace

LaPrade and Boatwright Library’s Digital Production Services does all of the digitization and scanning for the library as well as scanning for faculty who need to convert analog images to digital for non-art classroom purposes. Non-presentation uses for this service (ideas beyond PowerPoint) include creating reference posters for students and images supplementing faculty publications (within copyright). Unfortunately, faculty will have to find their own storage (DVDs, flash drives, etc.) and delivery options, as DPS currently does not have a server for storage and delivery.

There are many resources you could use to share images in the classroom, including Blackboard and ArtStor, but also free image storage/sharing resources or your own web pages or blog. However, there are several factors to consider, since these can also be tools for managing the images: purpose, platform, ownership, collection size, image manipulation, metadata, budget, tech support, data integrity, file types, and presentation tool. Some possible solutions include Adobe Bridge (with the full version of Photoshop), Extensis Portfolio, Flickr, and Picasa.

(Side note: I think that many of the folks in the room were expecting to have a discussion of how faculty are actually using images in their teaching, and perhaps less about the tools that can be used to do so.)

Learning 2009: Keynote

Speaker: Bryan Alexander

He is interested in how social media is used to disseminate information. Shortly after CDC set up a Twitter account, many folks started following their updates with information. Many people and organizations created Google Maps mashups of incidents of H1N1. Alexander gathered examples of the variety of responses, and he doesn’t think that any institution in higher education is prepared to discuss or teach on this use of social media and how to critically respond to it.

Web 2.0 Bullshit Generator:
1. Click the button.
2. Watch the bullshit appear in the box.

Twitter has taken off among an unusual demographic for social media: adults with jobs. The news of the plane that landed in the Hudson was scooped by a Twitter user. It’s now one out of many news sources, and soon there will be better ways of aggregating news information that includes it. The number of individuals arrested for blogging (or microblogging like Twitter) has gone up dramatically in recent years. These tools are important.

LinkedIn: least sexy social media site on the net. However, they are making a profit! Regardless of how spiffy it could be, people are still using it.

Scott Sigler shout-out! Future Dark Overlord gets a mention for being the first podcast novelist to break the NYT bestseller list.

Recommended reading — The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom by Yochai Benkler

photo of Bryan Alexander by Tom Woodward
photo of Bryan Alexander by Tom Woodward

Before Web 2.0, you had to know HTML, have FTP access, and server space somewhere. The learning curve was high. With Web 2.0, it’s easy to create, publish, and share microcontent from a variety of free or open sources. The learning curve is much lower — barriers to access are torn down in favor of collaboration and information dissemination.

2.0 conversations are networked across many sites, not just in one or two locations like 1.0 or print. The implications for how we teach students is huge!

Mashups are great ways to take data or textual information and create visual representations of them that enhance the learning process. For example, Lewis & Clark University created a Google Maps mashup of the locations of the potters in their contemporary American pottery collection. This map shows groupings that the text or images of the pottery does not easily convey.

Alexander used the blog format to publish a version of Stoker’s Dracula, which was easily adaptable to the format. It took little time, since he had the text in a document file already (he was preparing an annotated version for print). This brought interested readers and scholars out of the woodwork, including many experts in the field of Dracula research, who left comments with additional information on the entries.

If you’re not using technology in teaching, you’re not Luddite — you’re Amish.

According to Google Labs’ Trends tool, “Web 2.0” is going down as a search term. That doesn’t mean it’s going away. Rather, it means that it’s becoming “normal” and no longer a new technology.

The icon for computing used to be the desktop, then it became the laptop. Now it has exploded. There are many devices all over the map, from pocket size to much larger. Wireless means nothing anymore — it’s defining something by what it is not, and there are a heck of a lot of things that are not “wired.”

Mobile computing is not a panacea — there are problems. The devices are too small to do serious editing of video or audio. The interfaces are difficult for many users to do much more than basic things with them.

Information on demand at one’s fingertips is challenging for pedagogy. Students can be looking up information during lectures and possibly challenging their teachers with what they have found. Backchannel conversations can either enhance or derail classroom conversations, depending on how they are managed by the presenters, but one main advantage is that it increases participation from those who are too shy to speak.

The pedagogical aspects of video games are finally making their way into higher education scholarship and practice. The gaming industry is currently more profitable than the movie or music industries. We need to be paying attention to how and what games are teaching our students.