Important Tangents - II
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.