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

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Introduction

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.

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