Active Notes

Active Notes

Active Notes

When our students have their heads down (in a laptop or notepad) what are they actually doing… the concept of taking notes, though fundamentally sound, is often found wanting – its adherence to a linear system does not reflect the way in which we process and interpret information. One may ask ‘do traditional notes aid forgetting not memory?’ In effect students attempt to transcribe what is being said and are merely summarising someone else’s thoughts.

In an ideal situation it would be far better if they were ‘making (creating) notes’ rather than ‘taking’ them. The very act of personalising the process means that the individual is organizing their own thoughts, on a topic, in their own way.

The handout has become ubiquitous in teaching and learning; whether it is a series of slides (with or without notes and references), a data sheet, a bibliographic list or an actual activity plan – the issue is how to integrate them into a session to avail of a learning opportunity, rather than have them treated as a mere set of reference points or revision notes.

Use of Handouts Actively
Orientation Invite the learner / participant to write down what they expect the session to cover (ie. Personal learning outcomes) – return to it at the end
Too much information for a slide (data sets, graphs etc)

Provide an opportunity (pose a question, invite a discussion, invite individuals to produce a graphical interpretation etc.) to reflect, analyse and discuss the information presented
Need to elaborate a concept (provision of graphics, further text, references etc)
Add structure / deconstruct a session Invite learners to identify potential ‘issue’ areas in need of further exploration
Guidance for self-study (additional notes, further reading, formative questions, etc) Tie in the resources (by providing a task) to aid reflection and work towards assignments and / or assessment
Activity / task plan (detailed ‘to do’ list e.g. lab practical) Offer a step by step activity guide, making sure to provide ‘space’ to record observations, queries etc
Summary Ask the learners to synthesise the main issues of the session, perhaps as a concept map or graphical interpretation – invite them to share
As a plan for the next session Request the learners to address the key outcomes of a session and how they may prepare to follow them for the next


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