A Note about taking Notes (and using ICT)

Twitter is such a useful feed of information about research. I usually search on the #legaled hashtag each morning to see what has popped up from overseas during the night. This morning it was this tweet from @vivmb:

vivmbThe tweet linked to this blog post by Danya Perez-Hernandez at The Chronicle of Higher Education. The post reports how researchers (Daniel M. Oppenheimer and Pam Mueller) found those using laptops to take verbatim notes:

“took almost twice the amount of notes as those writing longhand, [however] they scored significantly lower in the conceptual part of the test”

The take home message was:

“Verbatim note-taking, as opposed to more selective strategies, signals less encoding of content”

I agree that selective note-taking strategies are good for recall and higher levels of cognitive processing, such as symbolisation and abstraction. Personally, I switch between two note-taking strategies: concept mapping, and the Cornell note-taking system. Sometimes I make a map from my Cornell notes, or vice versa. I like to switch between and combine graphics and text. I’ve also used Prezi to map notes, you can see a video of it here.

One lovely thing about the Cornell system is the summary section forces you synthesise information, and provides matter for writing up in your thesis or journal article etc. With concept-mapping, I often adapt maps and use these as figures in the writing up.

I have appalling hand-writing – a consequence of missing some formative parts of my primary education.  So I use devices, a lot.  I adopted and adapted mapping and Cornell methods for note-taking on my devices.

On my phone, tablet or Macbook, I use the IOS and OS X versions of “Notes”. My notes are synced across all devices (no more lost notes!) and they are searchable. Instead of ruling up the page as per the Cornell template, I simply divide the page into horizontal sections and use them as the “cues”, “note-taking” and “summary” areas. I can export these notes as PDF files, and drag them into my citation manager or Scrivener or Evernote (or just leave them where they are). Here’s one I prepared earlier (click on the image for full sized version):


On my tablet, I use Mindjet Maps, Idea Sketch, Doodle Pad, Notability and Penultimate. The nice thing about Penultimate is that it syncs to Evernote. Each of these apps offer something a little different, and I switch between them, depending on how “free form” or structured I want the maps to be. All of them are capable of exporting the image in a format that can be used in writing up. On my Macbook I use Xmind – here’s a concept map note from a book I’ve read (click on the link for a full-sized version):

Symbolic Violence

Writing verbatim notes has limitations, but it is not the use of ICT that is the problem. Devices are just a tool, we need to exercise our intellectual abilities in using them, but they can expedite our learning and understanding strategies. Devices also have the potential to improve equity and parity of access to cognitive processes.



PleagleTrainer 2012 YouTube Videos in Review

Last year I began experimenting with YouTube videos as a way of presenting aspects of my conference papers, or just bits of my reading and research as part of the review of literature for my PhD candidature. I thought it might be useful to recap them here.

It would be fair to say that none of the videos went gangnambusters (or viral), but this was not one of my aspirations. It was interesting to see which videos attracted views, given the subject matter is a fairly nichey niche. For me the videos are a bit of note-taking, journal-keeping, doodling exercise.

At the time of writing, the most viewed video was Using Prezi to make Mind Maps (115 views). It seems the idea of using a dynamic presentation tool such as Prezi to create and display mind maps or concept maps (or other graphic organisers) was attractive. I occasionally launch my public Prezis here.

Next most viewed was Elements of Critical Legal Studies and Law & Society Movements Part I (114 views). Unfortunately, Part II attracted only half as many views (108). Perhaps Part I was too long – as I worked on videos I have aimed to make them shorter and not to exceed 3 minutes where possible.

My Mind Maps – Qualitative Analysis Strategies really was a private note-taking exercise, but I decided to share it. It attracted about 73 views, and I was contacted privately by researchers in the UK and USA, who seemed to like it.

I decided to represent some of the exploratory background research I was doing regarding PLT teachers’ engagement with scholarship of teaching. Australian PLT Teachers’ Formal Teaching Qualifications attracted about 52 views, which is miniscule by YouTube standards, but surprisingly high to me given there are only about 145 publicly listed PLT teachers in Australia. The partner presentation, Australian PLT Teachers’ Scholarship of Teaching Publications only attracted 30 views. I am not sure what conclusion you might draw from this, but over the last year my experience leads me to speculate that people are tangling with what ‘scholarship of teaching’ in PLT might actually be. A 2-part presentation scholarship of teaching in PLT was the least viewed over the group (see below).

The most ‘theoretical’ of my presentations, Bourdieu, PLT + Me Part I and Part II, attracted 36 and 27 views, respectively. This work represented a fairly early struggle in my coming to grips with Bourdieu’s conceptions of field, habitus, categories of capital, and the juridical field. With the benefit of further subsequent study of the literature I may well re-do these videos in the future.

Part 1 of a video version of my ALTA conference paper presentation concerning scholarship of teaching in PLT attracted 33 views, whereas Part II attracted 26 views.

There are so many aspects to producing these videos, running time, graphics, camera work, voice over, background music, editing, subject matter and the symbolic representation of the topic. It would take much more space to pull the above works apart and analyse them. I have decided that I really like working with the YouTube setup as a medium and I will spend more time on it. Also, it is worth bearing in mind that many of these videos were produced on a Macbook Pro in a hotel room in some remote locations – and as a 53 year old that grew up in the world of snail mail and carbon paper, I marvel at what we can do with information and communications tech now.