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Public digital note-taking in lectures


Note-taking during lectures is a predominant activity among students. An analysis of current technologies in the classroom using cultural-historical activity theory and social constructivism yields pedagogical opportunities and design challenges. Digital notes provide for low-cost, networked notes that are embedded in lecture materials and extend beyond the classroom. Making notes public allows all students to benefit from individual, selfish actions with minimal cost of sharing. We hypothesize that public digital notes do not disrupt existing classroom dynamics and ingrained note-taking practices and enable active learning, peer learning, and inquiry learning, while sustaining attention, maintaining interest, and minimizing distraction. Public digital notes are democratic in nature and motivating to students. The design space of public digital note-taking includes several dimensions: (1) the form factor can vary based on available technologies, (2) the time of sharing can either be during or after lecture, (3) the percentage of students generating content can vary, and (4) the direction of information flow relative to lecture can also vary. The scope of sharing always includes all of the students in the class. We explore the breadth of this design space with three different projects. (1) NoteBlogs are notes taken by a few self- selected students using Tablet PCs on top of instructor prepared slides. These notes are shared instantaneously during lecture. (2) Collaborative SearchNotes bring outside resources into the lecture. All students can search for lecture terms on the Web and view their peers' findings. (3) Integrative Notes are written with a digital pen on digital paper and imitate traditional student note- taking as closely as possible. This project explores the benefits of superimposed versus juxtaposed notes shared publicly after lecture. These projects support the traditional flow of information from inside the classroom to outside. Also, NoteBlogs supports information flow within lecture and SearchNotes supports the reverse flow from outside to during lecture. User studies of each of these projects suggest that some students will produce content, while the majority will consume the content. Yet, we find that the process of sharing is beneficial to both producers and consumers, whether as a means of explanation, self-expression, or reassurance.

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