Thursday, October 02, 2008

LD Podcast#96: Dr. Andy Van Schaack- Part II

In this second part of my interview with Dr. Van Schaack, we talk about how technology can help students, and what it can't do. One of the most important things we need to remember is that the tech might make some things easier, but it doesn't replace real learning.

The crux of this new "computer in a pen" is that while you are taking notes in a regular spiral notebook (on special paper with a watermark...), it is recording the audio in the classroom, at a meeting- wherever, at the same time. The pen stores your handwriting, diagrams, and notes exactly how you write them, and this will get transferred to your PC as a PDF file- just like you took a picture of your notes. It also syncs the audio to exactly when you wrote those words, so whenever you go back to your notes and tap on the word, online or offline, you can hear the audio recorded at that moment. Moreover, your notes also become searchable, so you can find exactly when the professor was talking about the effects of inflation in the economy, or what would be on the midterm.

So you are saying, "Cool, but is it worth the cost?"

Research into how people learn best shows that notetaking is important in the learning process- but when they looked deeper into why, they found that the value is in having this external storage system for information. And if you know that capture of information is worthless without having meaningful access to it, making all of your notes searchable takes on greater meaning, even if there is no accompanying audio!

Now, good note taking is a skill in and of itself. People talk at 40 -50 phonemes a second, much faster than people can read or write. Studies also show the cognitive load of listening to a lecture and taking notes is as strenuous as playing grandmaster-level chess. So assuming even the best notetakers can't keep up with the lecturer, word for word, maybe we need to alter how notes are taken in class, and add the ability to rehear and fill in details later as a better strategy.

For me, I became intrigued with this "gadget" because I could finally get a handle on what my kids were taking for notes during class, and afterwards, be able to compare what the teacher was saying to what my child was writing- and in the process, we're trying to hep him build a more effective note taking and studying strategy, that he will surely need for high school and college. Factor in his poor handwriting, and this tool can really help make up for a cognitive and fine motor task that is very difficult for him.

This is not really an infomercial for this product, but a show where you can hear about how something like this product might really make a difference in the classroom- also as a tool for teachers to provide meaningful audio feedback to students, that students are more likely to use to change their future performance, as well as understand the time and effort the teacher is putting into reviewing their work- critique becomes more meaningful, even if the student and teacher are not in the same place at the same time.

I'm excited about this product and how it's working so far for us, and I hope you'll find the science behind the learning process as exciting as I do.

Oh, and someone posted on the blog that if you use this code, SCRIBE5A20 on the Livescribe site, you can receive a 5% discount on the purchase of the pen, which is great!
Click here to listen to Dr. Andy Van Schaack and the Livescribe Pen- Part II

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