Wednesday, July 26, 2017

On Killing Trees

While I admire those who can deliver brilliant lectures or lead class discussion without any written aids, I don't aspire to their example. The presence or absence of notes is, in my view, no sure sign of teaching effectiveness. Notes are not an instructor's training wheels to be abandoned when a teacher can ride without them. Nor need they be a constraint.
Depending on how many times I have taught the course, the notes become more of a prop than a constant reference, a security blanket, if you will, that gives me freedom to innovate and be present in class, focused on reaching and engaging my students without being distracted by the fear of losing my place or missing something crucial.

My usual practice has been to print off a new set of notes before each class, and to mark them up lightly as part of my final class prep. If I have taught the course before, I glance at my marginal annotations from the previous iteration before finalizing the latest version.

Inevitably, end-of-term haste means that the new binder of notes gets added to the old. Over time the paper adds up. As I cleaned my office this summer, the detritus of more than a decade's worth of teaching filled a recycle bin and led to a glut of empty binders.

The experience was motivation enough to look around for alternatives. If I had $700 USD to spare, I would be inclined to abandon paper altogether and switch over to Sony's newest Digital Paper solution, where "writing and drawing feel as natural as on real paper":

The only downside to the Sony DPT-RP1 is the price tag. Since money does not grow on trees, I expect to stick with real paper for the time being.


Travis Johnston said...

While I am still very much a noob in the whole teaching world. I would like to head towards using notes less in class, as things stick in my brain better. But I doubt I will ever fully rid myself of class notes. I am far too easily distracted and need some kind of outline to return to. Also, I have found that having the class note resource on hand for those questions that come up every year that are important rabbit trails to go down. Though I may not find it essential if the class does not go there, I am finding it important to have that resource at hand.

As for the Sony thing. I tried having some resources in the ppt notes, but last year, I scrapped that whole idea in favour of a printed set for myself like you have outlined in your blog. I find that paper is far more advantageous. I can write on it as I prep, and add handwritten notes from last year into the new iteration. I can't see myself ever going to an electronic version, as I find the straightforward usefulness of paper, pen, and highlighter far superior.

d. miller said...

Thanks for the comment, Travis. With you on the advanced-prep-for-rabbit-trails idea.

I do think the Sony Digital Paper could work great as a replacement for my printed notes: I would print my notes to the Sony device as PDF's, and then mark them up before class with the stylus (unfortunately, only in black and white). Because the RP1 is the same size as an 8.5 x 11 piece of paper it would look like my regular notes.

Other selling features include a dedicated e-ink PDF reader and, presumably, a handy way to grade digital assignments from students.

Karen said...

That looks really cool!