More or less notes: e-Pens impact on note taking

van der Sluis, Hendrik and Loughlin, Colin (2013) More or less notes: e-Pens impact on note taking. In: PELeCON 2013: Digital Learnscapes: Meeting Future Challenges; 10-12 Apr 2013, Plymouth, U.K.. (Unpublished)


Note-taking and subsequent review are viewed as important study skills for students participating in Higher Education. Literature shows that students develop individual note-taking strategies that require a broad range of cognitive abilities. These note-taking skills (or lack of them) can have a significant impact on academic progression and performance, even affecting the level of active engagement during lectures. Various technologies, such as passive audio recordings of lectures, have been shown to be of benefit; however, there is often a disjunct with the written notes. Notes taken during lectures with e-pens that synchronously capture handwriting and audio are expected to enhance students’ note-taking practices (Van Schaack, 2009). This paper reports on a case study whereby students trialled an e-pen to assess its ability to enhance their note-taking practices. Semi-structured interviews were used to capture current and previous note-taking techniques and, their personal, contextual, experiences during and after the trial. The results indicate an apparent divide between those who found the e-pen a useful addition in their note-taking strategy and those who did not. While most thought the e-pen an excellent idea in principle, in practice, existing habits and routines proved hard to break with some surprisingly strong emotional attachments to specific pens or notepads. Also, although participants perceived note-taking and revision as an important skill, for some, the lecturing and disciplinary context created a passive environment, without a clear need for note-taking. For others however, the e-pens clearly triggered a change and, although anecdotal, a few students reported enhanced academic grades and even improved concentration levels during lectures as a result. For these participants, their note-taking became more structured and, together with the integrated audio, more accessible and meaningful. This presentation explores the twofold reaction in more detail and, how current practices of delivering information to students contribute to passive learners.

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