Note Taking in a Thinking Classroom

I came across a thread on twitter a month or so ago.  It was about a professor who discovered that her students had spent all semester collaborating on one large google doc.  They took notes together, asked and answered questions of each other.  It was a great example of collaboration.

And I thought to myself, “I wonder if my students would be willing to try something like that”.  I knew I’d be running a classroom where students were up at the whiteboards daily, working on problems together.  I also realized that this might impact their ability to take coherent notes.

So, at the start of this semester, I created a mostly blank google doc and shared it with my students.  I provided the first few lesson titles and suggested that they use this space to collect their thoughts about the days activities.

What they created in two short weeks has surpassed all of my expectations.  Over half of my students contribute to making this document, something I hope to improve upon in our second unit.  It was interesting watching how the document evolved and when I made suggestions for improvement I was shocked at how quickly the students addressed that feedback.

I wonder why some students opted to not contribute.  Perhaps the students were not confident in their abilities, so were worried about contributing something that was “wrong”.  Maybe they were more comfortable being consumers, rather than producers.  It will be easy enough to check in with them at the start of Unit 2 and hopefully I can convince them to move out of their comfort zones.