Saturday, May 21, 2005

Important Tangents - II

Last time, I wrote about several important skills that need to be taught to our Tablet users, both students and faculty. Those skills mainly dealt with safety, either personal or of the system. All computer users need these skills, of course, but it becomes even more critical when the computer is ultra-portable and always connected as the Tablets are on our campus, and especially so in that they can connect freely off-site and away from any kind of protection.

This time I want to talk about a second set of skills that are important in a different way. These skills get short shrift in most cases in my experience. By giving students Tablets, we are giving them tools to help with their education. We also need to help them to learn the skills to make good use of those tools.

One skill that I don't see taught anywhere, except perhaps in a journalism class and our learning skills group, is how to take good notes. I once asked a returning alumnus (who was class valeditorian) what he wished we had taught him that he hadn't learned here. The thing at the top of his list was good note-taking techniques. He said he struggled in college lectures to get the right information down quickly, concisely, and completely.

Since note-taking is such a natural use of the Tablet, this ties in very nicely with training on Tablet use. My leaning at the moment, in fact, is to focus on this and subsume the Tablet usage specifics under this training at least as far as basic pen use goes. More on this in another post.

There are many techniques for note-taking and many resources on the Internet. Here are a few for starters:

Recovering the Lost Art of Note-Taking.

CalPoly article on notetaking systems.

Notetaking and summarizing skills grid from the University of Leeds.

Information from Dyslexia College-useful for everyone.

Notetaking page from York University.

Allen and Unwin eStudy Centre on notetaking-with some other good information, too.

Another useful skill, that the Tablet can support well with software like GoBinder or PlanPlus, is time and assignment management. Again, outside of learning skills, I don't think high schools do much to focus on this necessary skill. (This is another one I've heard from alums that they wished they had learned here.) Like note-taking, it can be a focus of training that incorporates the Tablet specifically in the skills being taught.

One skill that I think is very important, but might be non-intuitive, is good typing skills. I see so many students pecking out papers with two fingers. Writing papers is a critical component of high school and even more so of college. Even thought Tablets shine with the pen, they also are tools for typing and I think we do our students a disservice by not requiring them to develop this skill to at least a moderate level. I would like to advocate a minimum typing speed, say 30 wpm, as a prerequisite for graduation, or even better as a prerequisite for advancement beyond the freshman year.

Many students these days don't want to crack a book when doing research. While I think this is a sad trend, I do think it is a trend we will have to prepare students for. When all the books you use for a paper are recommended by a teacher or librarian, there is a certain amount of inherent vetting of the material that occurs. When your "librarian" is Google, there is none. We need to teach the skills of analyzing the likely validity of web sites that students consider for sources. A good starting point for thinking about this issue and developing a curriculum is this article by Technology & Learning.

Lastly, given the ease with which a "paper" can be created by cutting and pasting content from the Internet, we need to teach very carefully the skill and habit of proper source citation. Legitimate plagiarism is a big enough problem. We certainly don't want students to become accidental plagiarists.

Where this training happens is a good question. Some of it should be occuring in existing classes. Some of it should be specific to Tablet PC training and might, in fact, be the apparent focus of the training with the Tablet skills being learned as just part of the whole skill set. This is a question that deserves further discussion and thinking. I hope to address it soon for our own purposes and would be interested in hearing what others have to say.

3 Comments:

Blogger billso said...

Regarding your comment about plagiarism, try using TurnItIn.com. The service is a great deterrent to cheating, and it also helps students determine where they should insert citations.

1:19 PM  
Blogger ScottyGu3 said...

Every "skill" listed here is part of a good curriculum -- every class should teach these skills in some way, either explicitly or implicitly. I can't single out any one skill as useless in your list: all are vital!

In my first year of teaching (long ago, *sigh*), I noticed one group of students that was consistently better at many of these items than any other group: students with IEP's. I spent many a prep time sitting in with our special education teachers (and students) on their "life skills" classes to see how they did it. It was great fun and quite an ego boost for both the students and the teachers.

Every teacher should teach these skills as a part of their course: the time it takes to put students on the right path is well spent and I can't say that it "eats into" the time I need for my core curriculum (9-12 science classes) at all.

However:

Where this training happens is a good question. Some of it should be occuring in existing classes. Some of it should be specific to Tablet PC training and might, in fact, be the apparent focus of the training with the Tablet skills being learned as just part of the whole skill set. This is a question that deserves further discussion and thinking. I hope to address it soon for our own purposes and would be interested in hearing what others have to say.
I think you're dead on here: every student should have to take a "Higher Learning Skills" class to develop these skills, maybe as a once-a-week-advisory. I look forward to seeing what you come up with (we're leaning towards the once-a-week idea)

10:11 PM  
Blogger gesticulatively resources said...

I was looking for a place to submit my spanish article and stumbled across your blog. I enjoy reading blogs with my coffe in the morning before work. its fun to see whats up with people around the world.

Anyway, I did find a free blog and article submission site here Site Submit/Article Submission

Anyway, I enjoyed your blog. Have a nice day : )

8:06 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home