| LEARNING CONNECTIONS
Sharing Notes in the Classroom
One of the primary challenges
teachers face is to structure
learning in the classroom
so that the material and process is
meaningful and engaging for every
student. Although we advocate small
group work and project-based learning, there are times when whole class
instruction is appropriate.
Yet discourse in a classroom during whole class instruction o en goes
something like this: teacher questioning, a student responding, and the
teacher commenting on the quality
of the response. is process has natural limits on participation. However,
new tools allow teachers to support a
very di erent process. ese tools allow students to simultaneously share
notes, images, and documents and to
communicate with each other while
in a whole class context.
Our goal is to use these tools to
create a dynamic classroom in which
all students are continually engaged
and collaboratively constructing understanding. e tools that best meet our
needs are SubEthaEdit (codingmonkeys.
de) and Google Docs (docs.google.
com). Each of these programs provides
a space in which all students can concurrently write on a single document.
also take place online based on students’ interests. e virtual document
makes it possible for students who
need more time to consider ideas to
contribute to the conversation at their
own pace. It also allows students who
are out sick to participate from their
Sharing of linked resources and graphics.
During whole group instruction, we
encourage students to seek additional
online resources pertinent to the conversation and to share them virtually
Collaborative Software Tools
In our college classrooms, we provide students with SubEthaEdit to
take notes. is program allows an
instructor to create a document on
a computer, and, through the use of
wireless connectivity, it enables a large
number of users to access and edit the
document simultaneously. Each user’s
cursor and text can be a di erent color,
allowing some organizational clarity
and identi cation of di erent authors.
All users can see text in real time, so
st udents save and disseminate notes
all at once. Two drawbacks to this program are that it runs only on the Apple
platform and that constantly moving
text could be visually distracting.
We also use Google Docs. is is a
free, multiplatform, Web-based application that allows users to access a shared
document and to type simultaneously.
All new text is displayed to the group
either when a user saves or when the
document automatically refreshes every
15 seconds. Users can access the site
from any location and from any computer, but some older browsers may not
be able to access the program.
Here are four ways we use these tools
in our classroom:
Collaborative note taking. During
whole group instruction, students take
notes and discuss key concepts on a
single document in SubEthaEdit and
is allows students to compare
their thinking during class as they
work together to construct an understanding of the content. Students’
virtual conversations take place simultaneous to verbal conversations,
with most weaving in and out of either
discussion. Small group discussions
Supporting small-group discussions.
Small groups can take notes on a
single document. Each group monitors what other groups are covering to
ensure there is no overlap of e orts.
en, when the class reconvenes, all
information can be viewed without
the need for transfer and projection.
By Mark Bailey and Steve Rhine
Assessing comprehension. One of the
best aspects of this tool is that the
instructor monitors what is being
typed in real time, and the tool creates
a permanent record that can serve as
an assessment tool to determine if the
ideas are understood and what questions might be le unresolved.