Thursday, October 28, 2010

Writing down my thoughts

It seems ironic that in school where all teachers are given laptops the use of them in meetings is still discouraged.  I've thought a lot about this as it seems that taking notes in a meeting is a very good use of the tool we have been provided with, and I'm wondering why speakers or those leading meetings find it off-putting or intimidating that we are using technology in this way, when they don't seem to mind people writing notes with a pen and paper.  I've come from a school where there was a tablet programme, I am very comfortable as a teacher with students using their computers to take notes and I'm wondering if it is perhaps in schools that do not have a 1:1 environment that teachers or administrators are uncomfortable with the use of laptops in meetings.

Here are some advantages I see in using a laptop to write down my thoughts:
Making notes:  I tend to learn best when I take notes.  I'm the sort of person who drifts off if I don't focus on what I am hearing by writing it down.  I like to come back later and reflect on what I have heard.  I think that meetings and presentations are important and I don't want things to go in one ear and out the other.  It's also good to share notes with those who are interested but who could not attend the meeting.
Backchanneling:  A back channel is a very useful way of giving feedback on a presentation or meeting through real-time online conversation alongside the spoken remarks.  Over the past couple of years I've been encouraged to use Twitter to backchannel using hashtags in conferences I've attended.  I like the way that a backchannel helps me feel connected to others in the audience or elsewhere in the world - I feel more like I am a contributing participant, rather than just a passive member of an audience.  I would like to explore the use of backchannelling at school meetings but think that it might be seen in a negative light.
Multi-tasking:  In my last school I made a deliberate effort to multi-task during some meetings as I wanted to experience what the students were doing with their computers during lessons and to see how it impacted on the quality of my work, my attention to the meeting and so on.  This is definitely something you get better at the more you do and it is something that teachers need more practice at - for example I have seen teachers struggle in planning meetings to take minutes, fill out the planner and be involved in discussions simultaneously.
Modelling:  I think as teachers we need to model learning.  When I use my computer to take notes during a meeting I think I am showing that I am trying to learn from the meeting.
Articulating and redefining my thoughts:  When I take notes I don't just write down what is said, I often document my thoughts about what is said.  If I then share my notes, for example in a blog post, I get feedback from others with different perspectives which helps me redefine my thoughts.

Photo Credit:  Fast Fingers by Katie Krueger


  1. I agree with many of your comments. Our meetings are the same, but our leadership team are a bit more liberal with use of laptops and encourage staff to follow along with the meeting wiki and minutes. As always there are a few teachers who are checking the baseball, or eBay and who tune out.

    I am also interested about how students use laptops to take notes, most students struggle with this, and to maintain concentration with the pace of the lesson.

  2. Perhaps those holding the meetings need to examine their cause for concern in using technology during meetings. Are they afraid they are distracting (probably) Maybe they need to come up with a set of norms for meetings. A set of guidelines that are expected of everyone who is in the meetings. If they are worried about distraction, they need to come up with a norm about not allowing anything to act as a distraction during the meeting.
    I like your ideas for using technology to make the meeting more meaningful. I am the same way, I need to take notes and jot down my thoughts as I have them and often blog about or share them with colleagues later. This is much easier when I can use technology during the meeting.