I was once quite interested to the role of technology and study behavior. So many of the topics that have interested me over the years seemed to fall into the category of “technology can make it better because it can make it practical”. I still think this is a good way for researchers interested in application to identify topics to pursue. It has always seemed to me that some productive research topics fizzle out because they failed the test of commercialization. “Commercialization” – is that the word in other fields that describes the effort to take a research finding and make it practical? I think education can have this problem (and it has nothing to do with making money). As an old guy who became interested in the potential of technology when technology became available, I felt I had some advantages because I had experienced a previous life and had some ideas to draw on.
Anyway, I happened to come across a blog post (ProfHacker) describing ideas for digital note taking. In his post, he pointed to the work of another professor and to his own past efforts. Note taking is part of the formal academic experience and many of us continue to take notes as a professional skill. Seldom are strategies for this important skill taught.
My own related interests related to student use of notes were a combination of idealistic notions associated with online technology (group intelligence) and some more classic ideas from note taking research (expert notes). It appears my ideas were quite similar to those of ProfHacker’s ideas. Why note share notes?
At the time I was interested in more formal research, collecting data and generating publication partly because this was what was expected of my academic position. I kind of now see why being sidelined by that pressure was not a good thing. What I ended up publishing were mostly articles about who would involve themselves in voluntary technology-facilitated study activities and who would not. The focus that was rewarded was a shift toward using the data collection features of technology to investigate issues in learner motivation. If you offer learners export notes to enhance their own notes will the student continue to come to class? What are the characteristics of those who will use a digital learning resource as an alternative to class attendance? Why are proficient learners more likely to take advantage of technology-facilitated study tools than students who really need the help? Looking back, the process seemed to drift back toward more basic questions.
Conducting research on student learning in the wild is far more challenging than studying learning in the lab. Anyway, I got off track. Do check out the links I provided at the beginning of this post. I do hope many of these very practical ideas have a second life because of online technology.