David Cox recently wrote an interesting post on an internal debate he’s been having: to post his SmartBoard notes or not. He frames the issue as follows:
I have always taken a “students gotta take responsibility for their notes and review them regularly” kind of approach which has prevented my from exporting and posting the chicken-scratch covered slides from class. But if posting them is going to help them learn, should I care about the personal responsibility they take on (or don’t take on) in regards to their own note taking?
I totally identify, and I believe note taking is a valuable skill that has to be taught — not just something we expect students to learn. We model it every day with what we write on the board, and how we write on the board.
But enough of that. I have firmly come down on the side of “post the darn notes every day, if you have SmartBoard!” (Although I had the same reservations before I started posting my notes daily.) Why? Because it helps students learn math and makes my life way easier. Absent students know what they missed and try to work things out on their own. (Just today I met with a student who was absent, and had already looked at the missing day’s material and asked me specific questions!) It provides yet another resource for students to go to if they are stuck, or didn’t have time to copy all the notes from the board. And I’ve noticed that some students really do well watching and processing — instead of furiously scribbling all the time and not really following what’s going on.
How do I know my kids are using our digital notes?
I have the ability to see who has downloaded my notes, and when. You can see some quick data I compiled. Below are two of my classes. The Algebra II class has 17 students in it. The Calculus class has 11 students in it. The dates are the dates I posted the class notes. The number after the semi colon is the number of different students who downloaded the notes.
I found the data surprising.
My Algebra II class uses the electronic notes sparingly. (Probably because a lot of the work we do is on worksheets — so they have those to refer to.) It seems like it is mainly used by students if they are absent. My Calculus class (which is overall incredibly strong) regularly use the notes. To be totally frank, I didn’t think any of my calculus students used them! So I’m really glad I looked at the data. Some downloaded the notes the day we went over them, some waited until before an assessment, and some used them to study for the midterm. But clearly they are being used — a lot! Remember there are only 11 kids in this class.
But the point is: I put it up there, and it is being used. Differently by different people in different classes. But it’s doing some good. So I’m happy.
I’m convinced. It’s only a couple more clicks of the mouse anyway, right? I asked this on Twitter, but will ask here in case others have the same question: how do you post so that you can check stats on who downloads your notes?
My school (a laptop school) has all students and faculty use this program called FirstClass. It’s basically a super glorified email program. Instead of keeping a blog or wiki, I use something called a “Course Conference” which students have on their desktop. And each day I upload an email with my homework, and an email with the Smartboard.
It is ugly, but super functional. Here’s a screenshot of my course conference:
The other thing is anytime you send an email, you can check the email’s history. So to get my data (and see who and how many ppl downloaded the files) I just checked the history of the email that I attached the SmartBoards to. A screenshot of the history is:
I cut off the names of students at the end.
I use Scribd to upload a pdf of the notes (we use activBoards). I post them on a course blog I set up for free from Blogger. The nice thing about the blog is that students can use the comments to ask questions, and I can be notified via text message when a comment is posted.
I have been posting my Smartboard notes for years. I echo many of the things you have said in this blog post. I still expect my students to “take notes” while I am teaching.
This past semester, when my students were preparing for their final exams I had a number of students say to me, “Mr. Kaminski, can I borrow a laptop off of the cart?”. I asked the “Why?”. They told me that they had lost some of their notes and needed to refer to the online notes to help them prepare for their final. They also told me that the notes on my class wiki were organized really well and made it much easier to find the material they were trying to study than in their disorganized binder.
So, Post the notes!!!! It helps your students.
You can check out one of my class wiki’s at http://puremath30.pbworks.com