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Posts Tagged ‘notes

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I leave some quick notes on a possible framework, an e-pedagogy compass, for my future reference and improvement.

So far, I have these clumsy labels for the cardinal directions of the compass:

  • Expectations (setting them for teachers and students)
  • Extending existing efforts (shifting pedagogy)
  • Empathy (for learners and learning)
  • Exploring experiences (of learners and learning)

I am selecting a compass even though we have GPS and Google Maps now. Why? A compass is not precise in that it provides a clear but rough direction. It requires effort and perseverance to explore and arrive. A compass is an apt metaphor for the journey of online teaching and learning.

After I updated my iPhone to iOS 14, I discovered that my Notes app slowed down.

How slow? I could try to type a short sentence, but the words would only start to appear when I was done with that sentence. At times it got so bad that I had to wait a few seconds before each tap resulted in a character appearing on screen.

I had not experienced this on my phone before, but I had noticed slowdowns on my iPad mini on a much earlier version of iOS and occasionally in a few notes on my MacBook Pro. The slowdowns were not too bad then, so I ignored them.

Slow Notes.

But since I record quick thoughts in my phone all the time, I wanted a solution to the problem. I did a quick search for the issue and discovered that others had the same issue since 2016!

Thankfully one of the suggestions in the user forums worked for me: Create a brand new note and copy the content of the old note into the new one. The solution was easy enough and my notes are as speedy as can be. But no one seems to know for sure why there are random slowdowns in the first place.

I have spent much of August transforming (not just converting) modules that I normally facilitate for an evening class. I am redesigning them to be asynchronous and synchronous online experiences.

Some in-person activities do not transfer easily online. For example, it is easy to create homogeneous and heterogenous groups in a classroom. After determining what the similarities and interests of my learners are, I can group them, move them to different parts of the room, and scaffold the learning tasks.

Current video conferencing tools like Zoom can only create small random groups automatically. Creating stratified or strategic groups is tedious and manual work. This is why I dreamt up a concept video conferencing app for education.

Around and About: Strategic grouping mode, e.g., heterogenous groups.

That wishful thinking aside, I have returned to three reliable tools to transform the modules. (Note: This is not a sponsored post. I have not been compensated in any way to share how I use the following tools.)

Notes app.

I spent about three weeks reviewing new resources and planning the changes I wanted to make. As I did so, I took notes in (surprise!) the Apple Notes app. This app is basic in that I only have text formatting, simple lists and tables, and imported images. But these accordances served me well in externalising my thoughts and outlining the lessons.

I also like the fact that the app works seamlessly by synchronising between my iMac, MacBook Pro, iPhone, and iPad. This allowed me to start on one device at home and continue on another someplace else, e.g., a train or bus.

Google Sites.

My modus operandi is to house resources in a Google Site. As some of my previous in-person activities are already blended by design, I am copying those to my new Site. I am doing this by duplicating the old Site and removing the old pages that are not relevant.


I plan on reusing a word cloud tool — AnswerGarden (AG) — that has not seen action for several semesters. It is free and does not require signups from teachers or students.

I will use the word cloud tool as a bridge between two modules. At the end of the first module, my learners will share what seems like divergent experiences. As they conceptualise these in AG, they should see common ideas emerge. These ideas will inevitably overlap with and feed the next module where we explore conceptual frameworks.

My reflection on the process so far: It takes relatively simple tools to create complex resources. What matters is a combination of imagination and experience.

A while ago, I shared how I abandoned Evernote [1] [2] for the default Notes app on iOS and macOS. The latter has served me well since then.

That is, until last week. My notes stopped updating on my iMac even though they synchronised on my other devices.

I looked online for solutions, but I found none that worked. So I had to figure out my own simple workaround.

Deactivate iCloud synchronisation of Notes in macOS.

First, deactivate the iCloud synchronisation of Notes in macOS settings. If you restart Notes now, all your notes might disappear. But do not worry about this.

Second, restart the Mac, reactivate the iCloud synchronisation of Notes, and restart Notes.

The notes stored online should start populating the local app. The synchronisation might take a while depending on how many notes you have and how media-rich they are.

It is easy to watch this video and walk away assuming that taking handwritten notes is better than typing them.

Video source

If you do, you probably did not watch the video all the way though or pay attention to what matters in note-taking.

The important message of research on note-taking it this: It’s not WHAT you use, it’s HOW you use it.

It does not matter if you prefer to take notes by handwriting or by typing. It is how you attempt to quickly process what you see and hear before you record it. It is about your ability to analyse and summarise.

I appreciate the efforts of the Greens and one of their YouTube shows, Mental Floss. The latest episode was about schooling in the USA.

Video source

Part of the video was a segment on whether students tested better if they hand-wrote notes or if they typed them.

The research they cited revealed that students who hand-wrote notes did better on a test. I recall this research making its way around the Twitterverse and the blogosphere, so it was not news.

However, you should not take the results at face value.

First there is the question of what medium the test was taken on, and if it was paper whether that favoured writers over typers. There was also no mention of the quality and design of the questions to determine if they favoured one strategy over another.

Next is the issue of pitting one medium over another without considering learner preferences and strategies. Consider what might happen if you forced a typer to write or a writer to type.

The video also highlighted how writers might process what they hear more deeply and summarise by note-taking, while typers might resort to recording or transcribing. What was not clear was whether there were typers who summarised and writers who just recorded.


Writers Typers
Recorders   X
Summarisers X  

In the 2×2 matrix of note-taking method and note medium, only two options were mentioned in the video. How is this rigorous?

If you think about it, the matrix is far more complicated. There are more contributing and influencing factors on note-writing and test-taking. Over simplifying provides easy answers. Easy answers are not nuanced and not always right. Take note of that!

This is a continuation of my reflections on a talk on gamification by A/P Tan Wee Hoe (WH). As with my notes yesterday, I share WH’s thoughts in plain text and mine in italics.

WH concluded his talk by summing up his main points and mentioning new ones.

To the absolute novice to gamification, he reiterated that it was about making activities fun.

I would add that the activities should be relatively mundane or tedious, and not already addressed by some other equally (or more effective) strategy.

There are two approaches in gamification: Game playing and game making, the latter of which is more powerful.

I fully agree that getting learners to create is more powerful than stopping to consume. However, I object to gamification indiscriminately swallowing up everything that seems to have “game” in it. There certainly are overlaps — game mechanics and challenges come to mind — but there are also distinctions. For example, game creation can also be part of the design thinking and maker movements.

WH repeated the three designs of strategic, tactical, and narrative immersions.

I have no arguments here. In my opinion, narratives are the most powerful and applicable in the realms of schooling and education. We are drawn to good stories because of the emotions they generate.

WH then shared four levels of assessment:

  1. Did they like it?
  2. Did they learn it?
  3. Did they use it?
  4. Did it impact bottom line?

These are borrowed from Kirkpatrick’s levels of evaluation. The questions are easier to understand than Kirkpatrick’s statements, but there are a few things to note. KH’s did not distinguish between assessment (keyword: measurement) and evaluation (keyword: value). He also combined the revised Kirkpatrick’s levels 4 and 5 into one about the bottom line.

So far it might be obvious that WH’s ideas on gamification borrow from many other concepts. It is important to acknowledge these and represent them accurately. This prevents the muddling of gamification with other related and not-so-related concepts like game-based learning and Kirkpatrick’s levels of evaluation respectively.

Finally, KH outlined some practical steps for gamification:

  1. Set game goals and rules
  2. Describe game play
  3. Prepare feedback for interaction
  4. Set up game space (the environment or context: online, offline, mixed reality, haptic experiences)
  5. Create the narrative

I think the narrative should be an overarching process in educational contexts. It is not a final step, it is a constant presence like evaluation should be in the ADDIE instructional design process. Mentioning it last does not make it the final step.

I conclude with one last and critical point. During the session, a participant answered KH with a correct answer to an idea for gamification. In his bid to provide encouragement, WH declared, “You’re an expert in gamification!”

I can understand his positivity. No one enjoys a speaker who shoots down ideas, even if the ideas are wrong or questionable. That said, I doubt that attending a talk makes anyone an expert in gamification.

Think of it this way: Being a student and attending classes for 16 to 20 years does not make you a teaching expert. As a student, you have a one-sided perspective and very limited pedagogical experience. Likewise, playing a game does not make you a game designer, a gamification expert, or facilitator of game-based learning experiences.

I am grateful to WH for sharing openly, plainly, and bravely. I do not think that WH intended for his comment to be critiqued this way. My comments do not come from a nasty place or an overinflated ego.

As an educator, I seek to address mindsets first. One mindset is to always balance creativity with criticality. Another is that the words we use have meanings intended, unintended, and negotiated. This is rarely acknowledged and explained. If we do neither, we run the risk of perpetuating wrong messages. I am sure that neither WH nor I want that.

Tan Wee Hoe sharing this thoughts on and examples of gamification.

Two days ago, I had the privilege of attending a talk on gamification at SUTD by A/P Tan Wee Hoe. Wee Hoe (WH) was there as a visiting scholar and I was there for a meeting. My host mentioned the talk at the end of our meeting and I was game.

Here are some notes I took about gamification and I share some thoughts in italics.

WH did not distinguish gamification from game-based learning or serious gaming. He stirred all three in one pot. In his opinion, gamification:

  • was for making a task fun
  • had to be planned and organised around rules
  • be based on a contrived situation, competition, or experience

I liked WH’s illustration of fun. He described how one could shoot ducks for food (a survival tactic) or for a challenge (a sport). The former was a necessity while the latter was for fun.

Was the message then that gamification helps learners do the same thing but for different purposes or in different contexts?

WH offered three main gamification designs:

  1. Strategic immersion (provokes deeper thinking and requires more time)
  2. Tactical immersion (depends on fast reactions)
  3. Narrative immersion (based on storytelling)

These are game designs and gamified activities might borrow from them. If gamification is the act of borrowing elements from games but not actually playing those games, then gamification designers need to know where the elements come from.

The overall purpose of gamification is to turn a formal non-gaming activity to a gaming activity. The process should be iterative to encourage involvement and participation.

One might return to examples like incentivising physical therapy or returning your food tray or showing up to work on time. This is why gamification is sometimes described as offering chocolate-covered broccoli.

WH made the distinction between playing and gaming. He gave the example of playing with a bottle by tossing it vs creating a challenge around bottle-tossing complete with rules, scores, timing, etc.

This most basic distinction was one of my bigger takeaways. It addresses the criticism that gamification and game-based learning are peripheral to task or pandering to learners. They are not just about playing (oh, the fun and games!); they are structures for learning as participants game.

Over the last two days, I have been reflecting on my son’s journeys during his school’s week-long end of term programme and his vacation homework.

He and his school mates enjoyed a week of adventure in the form of rope course challenges, a farm visit, and preparing simple meals. Other events like geo-caching or boat racing either did not happen or were cancelled due to the weather.

Depending on the activity, the rule was either no phones or its use was not encouraged. I thought this was a shame because it was a lost learning opportunity.

If you think like most adults, you might argue that you want students to live in and enjoy the moments. Who would not? But if you think only like that, then you are missing the opportunity to teach them how to manage themselves.

Teachers need to reconsider the balance between being in the moment and capturing meaningful moments. A phone ban is tilted all the way to the left; ill-disciplined use to the right.

Phones today are the equivalent of notebooks and pencils. They are an important way, perhaps the only way, for students to first capture what is happening and what they are experiencing, and then to think about it.

We do not learn from experiences. We learn from reflecting on experiences. -- John Dewey.

When students are in the moment, they are not necessarily thinking about the experience, considering what they are learning, making connections with prior knowledge, and so on. Furthermore, if they are not given the opportunity to record their thoughts and feelings, there is little, if anything, to reflect on.

There is another lost opportunity if students cannot take notes. They are not able to share their experiences with another set of important people in their lives — their parents.

Thankfully kids who could not participate could capture one particular moment on the last day of son’s series of experiences. The original photos were a bit blurry, but I created a simple montage with the mobile app, Layout [iOS] [Android], anyway.

Ropes course.

My wife and I enjoyed seeing our son have fun. Thanks to these and other photos, we could share in his experiences and discuss what challenges he faced and how he felt. We could observe his growth and shape his learning.

My son and his friends take photos and videos all the time and they do not realise that they are doing the equivalent of “taking notes”. They also share and comment on these artefacts in WhatsApp shortly after. The immediacy is important because moments are fleeting. But with WhatsApp they have both the evidence and their thoughts recorded for as long as they want.

Banning or discouraging phones (and any other technology for that matter) is a net loss for capturing moments and reflecting on them. They are the modern equivalent of taking notes and referring to them later. We would not prevent students from taking paper notes then, so why prevent them from taking moderns notes now?

I leave today for the Philippines to deliver a keynote address for De La Salle University.

I have been offering sneak peeks at a few of my slides on Twitter. I share all the sneaks here in this blog entry along with one other slide that did not make the cut.

The slide I decided not to use was the alternate cover below.

Alternate cover slide.

I referenced MOE’s 21CC “Swiss roll” in my slide deck and thought this cover might have been a cheeky nod (or not) to it. I decided against using it as my audience might not relate.

The frustration of being confused by a variety of 21CCs and models was a more likely concern. So rather than invite them to bite into a model designed for our context, I share some directions (instead of destinations) they can take.

How Do We (Re)Define 21st Century Learning

I opted to do this to illustrate the frustration and biting into something.

Some 21CCs are not unique to the 21C. Most competencies are moving targets.

My critique of most 21C models and frameworks.

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. — Alvin Toffler

A famous quote to lead up to a simpler, more dynamic 21C model.

Lectures then and now.

Lectures: One of several things to unlearn in the 21C.

Learn with technology the way students live with technology.

My call to relearn what it is like to learn today.


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