And then the teacher said… You may take notes. pic.twitter.com/4xYBAKi2jN
— David Truss (@datruss) June 3, 2014
In one of the responses to this tweet, Maurizio Basso (@moba3030) said, “@datruss so true seeing more of this. As long as they digest it and utilize technology effectively I am in support of this in my class.”
This is a great point, to which I added: “@moba3030 if they have devices, I don’t think this is ideal for text, why not share the doc so that text is searchable/easy to use?”
Brian: “does make me wonder why the teacher didn’t share the files online …”
Dave (me): “Agreed, I am tempted to write a post about this, many responses that this is great, really it’s poor use compromise”
Brian: “I accept there may have been some work generated in class but most pupils will end up with poor quality images”
Dave: “…And text in an image isn’t searchable, isn’t clickable, and isn’t practical! Also one-way, unlike a shared doc”
Brian: “very true!”
Steve: “I see a lot of it happening during conferences.” Then, “… and I suppose it’s similar to written notes. They aren’t that searchable either, but people still like to take them.”
Brian: “which is why I listen out for info on where it is posted and sit back smugly whilst everyone else types furiously :-)”
Steve: “Yep. Me too. But I also tweet furiously now and then ;)”
A rich conversation, but still, a lot of important ideas are being glossed over in the attempt to be brief. Here are 4 ideas that come to mind:
1. It’s not the tool, but how you use it that matters. Photos are a great way to ‘take note of an idea’, (such as a quote or an image that tells a story). A photo is a lousy way to ‘take notes’. Google docs, or shared files are searchable, and can be adapted, and added to by the students. If the students had collected data from an experiment, recorded it on the board as a class, and now had to copy that data, the image above makes sense (although a projected shared document would still be better). If this was truly students ‘taking notes’, I’d say that this was actually a poor use of technology.
2. Digital data is fundamentally different! One key idea around this is how shareable the information is. Just yesterday, Heidi Hass Gable wrote a blog post, where she linked to a tweet I wrote… over 5 years ago! Another key idea is how easy it is to adjust and change information, editing digital texts is far different than what we had to do in the past!
3. Take notes or create notes? There are times when copying notes might be a useful thing to do, but for the most part, that is a rather passive way to learn information (unless you use specific strategies to help you take those notes). Students creating the notes, or doing a task whereby the notes are used to help construct a learning experience, is far better than copying words onto a piece of paper, or into a digital document, or for that matter, taking a photo of the information.
4. Photos are great! All that said, we have tools in our students’ pockets that include high quality photography, with video and voice recording, full function calculators and tools and apps to share content anywhere, any time, and for any purpose. Documenting experiences and ‘grabbing a bit of information’ with a photo can be very powerful. My concerns above are about the appropriate use of such images, not that taking a photo is a bad thing. I’ll click a picture of students in action, or of a presentation and share it with parents in my school community, or with peers on Twitter. I’ll keep it to show others, and I’ll even write blog posts about images. The challenge is to recognize when this is an ideal tool to use and when it isn’t.
Thinking about the original photo that inspired this post, it provided me with a good chuckle. I had another good chuckle when my daughter asked me where the delete button was on an old typewriter in an antique store. But in a way these two images are related: They both take a technology and place it in a context that doesn’t fit.
I don’t know the context that framed this photo? I don’t even know if the caption was added with knowledge of the original context? And, I don’t know how appropriate the students actions are in using the technology effectively and in a transformative way? Is this ‘technology’ being used on a level of Substitution, Augmentation, Modification or Redefinition, of a task previously done another way, or of a new task that could not have been done without the use of personal cameras? I’m guessing that other tools might have been more useful than photos of notes.