Tag Archives: Categorizing

E-Courseware Design: Issues

Let me list some of the topical issues that keep emerging and need to be addressed asap.

  • usability – what I mean here is all the extra clicks that either my students or I make, which takes time. Distributing courseware in space often results in learners’ having to spend more time online than they would otherwise have, and that should be avoided.
  • feedback – it is not enough to provide feedback, it also has to be easy to locate your comments and respond to them, i.e. there is a need for greater interactivity in this respect
  • note-taking – I’ve recently described an ideal e-notebook, now I have to put my ideas into practice
  • archiving – this is an issue with longer courses, because your online learning space tends to get really crowded and something needs to be done with older materials: it is unwise to delete them, but it is very inconvenient to keep them up front, because they slow you down when you want to read the latest course news. Scrolling down to the most recently added worksheets and other materials also starts taking more time than you can possibly afford.

An Ideal E-Notebook

‘Spent the day contemplating Clarke’s e-note-taking advice.

Isn’t it amazing? They’ve got it all online but for proper note-taking tools.  I mean Moodle doesn’t have such a module or activity as a notebook. Nor does Blackboard Vista. Well, they do have blogs and notes sections, but they’re so-o badly designed that I do not want to comment.

What would one want to take notes for? According to Clarke (p. 25), there are 4 major reasons

to record the contents of a lecture, seminar or other learning activity so that you can later use the notes to help you revise (1.1) or aid your efforts in completing assignments (1.2)

to help you concentrate during a lecture. Undertaking an activity such as talking-notes during listening can assist you to focus on the content (2), while simply listening is often less effective.

to assist you to understand the content of the learning activity (3), since note-taking encourages you to analyse what you are hearing.

to convert the content of the learning activity into your own words. (4)

Ways of taking notes are also worth listing. You could write (Clarke, p. 26):

  • a comprehensive record of the content
  • an outline of the key points
  • a chart or a spidergram of the content
  • the references to other documents, sources and websites

Now where do we go from here? As it is necessary to take notes, we need a tool for that. If there is no such ready-made tool, we need to explore the affordances of the tools at our disposal for one of them might well serve the purpose.

Let’s see. I am using this blog to take notes and keep my thought organized. I should say it is efficient. But I do not need anyone to correct any mistakes I might have made. I would appreciate that, but that’s about it.

When it comes to language learning, the situation is more complex, because notebooks are frequently handed in for correction, and that means that blogs are not likely to make ideal e-notebooks unless both the teacher ans the student have equal access rights (A). Another thing is that you would not normally want to make your e-notebook publicly accessible if you were to hand it in for correction. There is a greater need for privacy (B).  In addition,  e-notebook entries need to be editable 24/7 (C) and should allow you to embed media (D) as well as add comments (E).  In terms of recording vocabulary, being able to insert a table (F) is critical.  The quality of notes depends on memory-boosting techniques that you use, such as tagging (G),  categorizing (H) and sorting (I) in addition to visuals. It is great to be able to sort your notes by alphabet, by date, by keyword or phrase, and some other criteria. Lastly, it never hurts to have a searchable (J) e-notebook.

Blogs tend to lack the sorting feature, but they allow you you to tag and categorize content.  Adding graphs and charts can also be a problem. I for one really like all sorts of spidergrams and flow-charts  –   they help me think. There is no technology out there that would allow that – none I would know of, at least.  The Moodle Glossary Module is a great notebook alternative, but it does not have a drawing toolbar, either. A possible workaround would be to combine regular and web-based  note-taking: whatever it is that’s easier to do the regular way such as drawing mindmaps can be done the usual way. Later,  you can scan and upload the respective pages for future reference attributing them to the right category and tagging them as you see fit.

At present I use both web-based and regular tools to take notes:

  • this blog (I might need one more  to blog in another language)
  • a private forum where I am all alone and happy and where I post all sorts of paragraphs and hyperlinks I encounter on the web – it functions as a kind of in-tray
  • I use the Moodle notes feature to make post-it notes – it is rather convenient, for I know which note goes with which course
  • I also have a size B5 160-sheet notebook where I scribble this and that when I am in an onsite lesson or teaching online
  • I also make use of traditional bright yellow post-it notes

That’s rather disorganized, eh? :)

Pet Peeves

I guess everyone has got a few pet peeves. Mine are marking creative writing assignments submitted by my students and having to take a smelly tram home (the latter can only be avoided if I choose to walk or take a taxi instead, both of which I quite often do, especially the latter when it’s freezing cold outside). Another thing that drives me up the wall is that I can’t make myself throw away all those thousands of leftover handouts – I am a terrible hoarder.  Some of those date back to the mid 1990s. It’s time I really did something about them – now it looks like I have to buy a few bookshelves to accommodate a dozen ring-binders and about as many cardboard boxes that are scattered all over my place.  I seems I have to catalogue everything, too:( – I feel like hiring a PA at times.  Lastly, I absolutely hate plastic carrier bags. Can’t say why for sure, though. They just annoy me ever so much.