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Software Tools to Improve Note-Taking in the Classroom

Daniel Pilon, Jacques Raymond and Patricia Raymond

Abstract - This paper describes the functionalities and some implementation details of software tools to assist and to improve the process of note taking by students during a traditional lecture. The software tools allow professors to interact effectively with the students during lectures and help students to take relevant notes. They are based on a previously described software, and use a network of pen-based computers as well as a large screen projection system.


The implementation of LæProf and EOP [8,9], illustrates that a computer lecturing system can effectively structure concepts, present topics, explain difficulties, emphasize details and illustrate content. LæProf creates an environment at the desktop level for use in the classroom. It provides tools for the professor who has to prepare and present lectures to a class. This is achieved by integrating an outliner to structure and organize ideas using a hierarchy of objectives, slides, points and elements; an object-oriented graphics editor to create, modify and enhance slides; and a projector to present ideas using effective presentation tools inherited from the traditional chalkboard, overhead projector, slide carousel, computer and textbook. The software could also use a multitude of cliparts and character sets including formula symbols.

However, LæProf was designed to provide tools for professors. It was not intended to bring new tools to students. In fact, when prepared slides were used, professors tended to switch to the next one faster than when using a traditional blackboard, causing students to take inaccurate notes. The purpose of the tools presented here is to provide help to the student for taking notes, while following a LæProf lecture.The learning curve for the lecturer is quite steep, however the students have a very easy system to use. The system has its own slide design tools although ready made documents can be imported.

Knapper stated [7] that next to instructors and other students, the most frequently mentioned dimension to assist students in learning includes such instructional materials as "a good textbook", "review" or "study guide sheets", "visual aids on overhead projectors", and "slides and films". The most frequently mentioned instructional aid, however, is lecture notes. Similarly, Frederick [5] stated that in classes of any size, visual reinforcements are vital in order to focus attention and to clarify the context of verbal presentations.

From the results of these studies, it seems obvious that computers can help either the professor, the students or both in their classroom functions, whether it be in one classroom or in a distance learning set-up. However, computers in education have been used mostly in an individualized fashion, or have been limited to monitoring and transmitting video screen content, and in remote learning, used as only a gateway to receive electronic slides and to display them on a large projection screen. Computers have been used to achieve some of the professor's tasks (such as drilling and reinforcing) rather than to provide help in performing the day-to-day functions of a professor. Moreover, the effort to bring new technology into education without first analyzing and defining its role and impact has irritated many educators. For example, a bulky stand- alone computer can obstruct the student's view of the front of the class, where the professor is usually standing. Keyboards are used when we know that most students have limited keyboard skills, and existing systems have not been designed for mobility. For these reasons it is not difficult to see why computers are still not prevalent in lecture halls. It is not because professors have not tried to explore new strategies and technologies; the abundance of different types of computers in schools and the variety of courseware in libraries and in audio-visual departments is proof of this.

System Overview

Ethernet Frame Format
The Log-In Tool
The Clipboard
Overlay Electronic Chalkboard
The Note-Taking Tool
The Fill-the-Slide Tool

System Implementation



Contact Information

Daniel Pilon
Vice Chief of the Defence Staff Group
MICA Office
National Defence Headquarters
101 Colonel By
Ottawa, Ontario
Canada, K1A 0K2
Phone: (613) 995-0757
Fax: (613) 995-5021

Jacques Raymond
Computer Science Department
University of Ottawa
Ottawa, Ontario
Phone: (613) 562-5800-6712
Fax: (613) -562-5187

Patricia Raymond
Second Language Institute
University of Ottawa
Ottawa, Ontario
Phone: (613) 562-5800-3406
Fax: (613) 562-5796


Daniel Pilon holds a Master in Computer Science from the University of Ottawa. He is a superior officer of the Canadian Armed Forces. Throughout his career, Major Pilon has worked in every aspect of the automatic data processing field. Since his work in a computer-assisted learning project in 1983, he has been involved in enhancing, integrating, and using new technologies in education. He was the last Director of Computing Services at Collège militaire royal de St-Jean. After the College's closure in August 1995, Major Pilon was assigned as the Assistant Manager of the Information Control Agency for the Canadian Forces Vice Chief of the Defence Staff.

Jacques Raymond is a telecommunications engineer (ENST 67) and holds a PhD in Computer Science (Paris 70). He is a professor at the University of Ottawa in the Computer Science Department. His research interests include Computer Aided Lecturing, Software Quality. He is a also a member of the Telecommunication Software Engineering Research Group at Ottawa U. He is the author of LæProf (a courseware creation system), and moniCA (an OO lecturing system).

Patricia Raymond is an associate professor at the Second Language Institute at the University of Ottawa. Her research interests include mental models, theories of reading and writing L1/L2 Testing in reading, strategic competence, strategic instruction and Computer Assisted Lecturing. Her most recent work is a reader for ESL students. It incorporates reader response theory into reading instruction. She holds a PhD from the université de Montréal.