10 Jul The next level of Note taking
One principle of universal design of learning is to provide learners with multiple means of action and expression of their knowledge. If you consider what this principle can mean in practice you understand that providing analogue, traditional means of expressing knowledge needs more preparation and time than using the possibilities of new technologies.
How do learners normally build their knowledge and make it their own?
An explicit act of knowledge building usually involves any kind of personal note taking – whether it´s with a traditional exercise or note book, or nowadays with a tablet or a personal computer. The iPad combined with certain powerful note taking apps offers a creative possibility to create rich-media notes that are highly personal and live up to the UDL-principle mentioned above.
But is this already happening in schools you might ask yourself? The answer is yes. Yes it is happening right now and let´s take a look at a wonderful example.
Around 70 km away from our main course location in Graz, in Fürstenfeld, in the regional high school I discover an example of innovation. The local school has started a couple of years ago with iPad classes and the students are free to choose if they want to use an ordinary exercise book or take their notes with the iPad. Note taking on a tablet only using your fingers is difficult and tiring. But technology has advanced and now pens specially developed for tablet use, such as the Stylus from Bamboo or the Apple Pencil, in combination with special note taking apps allow for highly personal and fast note taking, without using a single piece of paper. In Fürstenfeld the learners as well as the teachers use different note taking apps like Notability, Penultimate or Good Notes.
“Can you connect your iPad to the projector and show us your solution” Mr. Friessnig the maths teacher says to Andreas. Andreas mirrors his device wirelessly via Apple TV to the projector and shows his work that he made with the App Goodnotes.
And what do the kids say about notes taking with the iPad. “It´s all easier with the iPad, because I have all things that are relevant for me in one place”, Maria says. It´s easier to keep clear and organised Notes, she adds.
“At the beginning it´s unusual, but after a week I got used to it”, her friend Elisabeth replenishes. I prefer to take notes with my iPad, because there’s no need to carry too many books with me anymore.
“Can note taking on the tablet support inclusion in the classroom and how?”, I ask Mr. Friessnig when we sit outside on the terrace of the schools cafeteria. “I´m sure it does”, he answers straight away and comes with a convincing list of arguments. Creating content on the iPad allows for combining different material and sources and this helps especially students with learning difficulties. You can take pictures with your device, use videos from YouTube or any web content that you find on the internet or insert scanned documents or pdfs. You even have the possibility to record your own voice and make audio notes. That is a big benefit, because students can enrich and design the information they study exactly in the way and on the level they need. Students can also choose the app they feel comfortable with. All arguments comply with the need of differentiated and individualised learning material for different learning styles and levels. In addition to that it seems easier to keep clean and organised notes, because the device offers you a sorting structure.
When I visit the last class on that day, an English lesson, I get the feeling that some kids have perfected their digital handwriting and a thought spreads in my mind.
Video showing boy who writes in the App Notability during a group work about health in the English lesson
Am I the witness of the development of a new cultural technique like the invention of handwriting or the letterpress print? Being able to combine handwritten or typed text with so many different pieces and types of rich-media information with so little effort brings note taking to a totally new level. There´s no doubt that writing on a touch screen without putting down your hand is something different than writing on a piece of paper. If and how it changes knowledge building and learning is something that only time and research will tell.
Apps & Accessories mentioned:
- Notability – http://www.gingerlabs.com
- Good Notes – http://www.goodnotesapp.com
- Penultimate – https://evernote.com/intl/de/penultimate
- Bamboo Stylus – http://www.wacom.com