Software Tools to Improve Note-Taking in the Classroom
Daniel PILON, Jacques RAYMOND, and Patricia RAYMOND

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The Fill-the-Slide Tool

Twining [10] indicates that some instructors believe that most students' time in class should be spent listening and thinking, with note-taking used only to highlight ideas for later consideration. He also cites researchers who believe that students might just as well write down everything they can or others who suggest a middle ground between these two extremes. Normally, students are not trained to isolate what is important in a lecture, in a teaching objective or in a transparency. Consequently, students write down the contents of entire transparencies, irrelevant information or simply nothing. Jensen [6] indicates that in order to take notes well, students must be proficient at sorting information at distinguishing main ideas from supporting details. He suggests looking for phrases such as "most important", "first of all", "it must be emphasized that..." or any similar phrase that indicates the professor's way of telling the students that something important will follow.

Furthermore, Walko and Dwyer [11] indicate that many educators have formalized the process of note-taking by providing students with study guides, teaching activity guides, content guides, individualized guides, etc. to facilitate their interaction with the content. Other educators do not provide anything to the students. While students are busy copying the transparencies, they are usually unable to understand quickly what it is written on them or to think about the professor's explanation. As a result, students from many educational institutions, as reported by Collison [4], purchase their class notes from private note-taking services.

Our software tools help students to take better notes because they free them to concentrate on the content of the lecture. The Fill-the-Slide tool allows a professor to display an entire electronic transparency on the main projection screen in front of the classroom while only partial information is transmitted to the students' pen-based computers. In this way, a professor may allow transmission of complementary information found in a transparency while "forcing" students to write the main point of such a transparency themselves.

For example, imagine a professor explaining the Galileo gravitational acceleration constant "g" using the formula v=v0-gt. The professor points out that at any position in the air when an object falls, the variable "g" remains the same and is equal to the function's slope. As illustrated in figure 14, the professor's transparency displayed on the classroom main projection screen shows the graph of this function with a note stating that "g" is equal to the slope. The main point of this transparency, as decided by the professor, is that such a function is linear, and not the domain of the function nor the type of line used in the plotting.

Fill-the-slide tool
Fig 14. The fill-the-slide tool

In this example, the entire graph plotting would be transmitted to the students, as illustrated in figure 14, but the annotation mentioning that the slope is equal to the gravitational constant would be displayed only on the professor's screen and on the classroom projection screen. To indicate the activation of the tool, a note is displayed on the notepad status line. Students would have to write the annotation themselves, helping them thus to focus on this point and to retain information for a longer period of time as well as to sharpen their listening skills. Students must look at the front of the classroom and listen to the professor as extra notes may appear on the projection screen or be stated by the professor; in this way, students are dissuaded from constantly looking only at their computer screens and ignoring the professor. With the Fill-the-Slide tool, we provide another strategy for active learning, which could enhance a student's potential for success.

This tool is initiated internally when the software detects the Fill-the-Slide projection parameter connected to a pedagogical point; it is represented by the parameter "Fill Slide" in figure 15. In Student mode, the graphics elements underlying such a point are ignored and are not displayed on the student's computer screen .

LęProf outliner
Fig 15. Example of a lesson plan in LæProf's outliner

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