The Note-Taking Method You Should Try

If you’re like me, note-taking may be a futile task; no matter how hard you try, you wind up with a jumbled mess. You want to take good notes so that you can use them to study later, but cannot seem to find a system that works for you. The Cornell Note-Taking System (or a variation of it) might be your saving grace. My eighth grade English teacher introduced me to this way of taking notes, and I have adapted it to my own learning style. I have used it ever since, and it has gotten me through high school, college, and my career thus far. It may not be for everyone, but if note-taking is something you struggle with, I highly recommend giving it a shot.

What is it?

The Cornell Note-Taking System, or the Cornell Method, was developed by Walter Pauk who was an education professor at Cornell University. To take Cornell notes, first draw a line down your sheet of paper, a third of the way in. This gives you a skinny column on the left side, known as the Cue-Column, and a thick column on the right, known as the Note-Taking Column. Once your page is set, it is time to run through the five steps of note-taking, as described by the Learning Strategies Center of Cornell University:

  1. Record – Use the Note-Taking Column to record your lecture notes.
  2. Question – Formulate questions or cue words, and write them in the Cue-Column.
  3. Recite – Cover the Note-Taking Column and quiz yourself on the questions or cue words.
  4. Reflect – Reflect on the significance of the material.
  5. Review – Write a brief summary of the notes (about a paragraph) at the bottom of the page.

When you’re finished, you will end up with something like this (hopefully with much better handwriting and more interesting/accurate information):

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A Variation

The way that I actually take notes slightly differs from the Cornell Method. I write key-words, questions, or section headings (if I’m taking notes on a reading) in the Cue-Column as I go. I use the Note-Taking Column to fill in details about each subject. This method works well digitally as well as manually. Below is an example of some notes I typed up using OneNote:

CornellExample

When I’m finished taking notes, I still have a really great Cue-Column and can easily transfer the information over to index cards.

Final Thoughts

The Cornell Note-Taking System makes studying easier. If note-taking is something that you feel you can improve on, I highly recommend giving this method a chance. You can even adapt it like I did, and still wind up with a clean, finished product.

Stop Dancing the Slideshow Browser Mambo

During the summer of 1995, I was hired as an intern at a company that provided training for some of the most popular computer applications of the day. They had several labs filled with Macs and PCs, and I was part of the team that made sure all of these machines were running smoothly and had the appropriate software installed. From time to time, we had an issue with one of the PCs that was so severe, the only way to fix it was to reformat the hard drive and reinstall everything from scratch. These machines were running Windows 3.1, which meant sitting in front of the computer inserting and ejecting whichever of the six floppy disks it needed to install the OS. Wanted Photoshop too? That was nine more floppies. Office? 24 floppies. There were a lot of floppies back then. A lot. In our office, this mind-numbing installation ritual became affectionately known as “The Floppy Disk Mambo.”

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“There were a lot of floppies back then. A lot.” Photo by Saulo Pratti is licensed under CC BY 2.0 and has been modified.

Fast-forward to today, and thankfully no one dances The Floppy Disk Mambo anymore (when was the last time you even installed something from CD?). But there’s a similar dance that has plagued us since the mid-90s, which I’ll call “The Slideshow Browser Mambo.” Anyone who has given a presentation using Keynote or PowerPoint has experienced this: you’re discussing a web page that you want to show to your audience, so you include the URL on a slide and click on it at the appropriate time. What happens? Your slideshow goes out of presentation mode and a browser window appears. After talking about the web page, you go back to your presentation program (which is now in editing mode), reenable presentation mode, figure out if you’re at the right slide in the presentation, and resume your talk. Whether you’re standing in front of an audience or recording a screencast, this is an unwanted interruption that temporarily throws you off track.

Thankfully, the same people who developed the audience polling software Poll Everywhere have given us a reason to put our dancing shoes away (or at least save them for actual dancing). Their free program, LiveSlides, allows you to insert a slide into a Keynote or PowerPoint presentation that is actually a full-screen browser window displaying the URL of your choice. When you’re done with the web page, just press the advance button on your remote control, click the mouse off to the side of the page, or touch the right arrow on your keyboard to move on to the next slide. The web page acts just like any other slide in your deck and you never leave the presentation program.

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I used LiveSlides for the first time back in March at a presentation I gave at the University of Delaware Educational Technology conference. In this presentation, I was able to mix in multiple web pages from seven different sites among my regular Keynote slides without any problems. On my Mac, the LiveSlides application had to be open while I was presenting, but it was happy to stay hidden and out of the way. PC users will discover that the program installs as an add-in for PowerPoint.

Whether you’re presenting at a conference or recording a screencast for your online or blended course, I highly recommend this application. Not only will it save you time, it’ll also improve the flow of your presentation.

Meet SARA

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On December 7, 2016 West Chester University (WCU) became a participant in the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA). If you are an out-of-state online student, this is most likely very good news for you, as SARA allows WCU to offer online programs to students in 48 different states/districts.

A Little Background

Back in 2010, the United States Department of Education tried to pass a regulation that would require institutions to be authorized to operate in any state that students resided, in order to offer federal financial aid. The regulation was canned by a federal court ruling in 2011. Although the federal regulation is unenforceable, institutions must still adhere to state regulations.

The Problem

Each state has its own set of regulations, and not all states regulate the same activities. Common activities that are regulated include:

  • Advertising and recruiting that is targeted to residents outside of the institution’s home state.
  • Internships, Clinical Placements, and Field Experience taking place outside of the institution’s home state.
  • Offering online programs to residents outside of the institution’s home state.
  • Faculty, or staff, working for the university outside of the institution’s home state.

Trying to track regulations state-by-state created a TON of work for institutions. With that in mind, plus the burden of cost associated with obtaining state authorizations, it was clear that a better solution was needed. This is how SARA was born.

What exactly IS SARA?

SARA is an agreement among member states, districts and territories which establishes a uniform set of guidelines and regulations to adhere to. It is intended to make it easier for students to take online courses offered by out-of-state institutions, and it is one-hundred percent voluntary for states AND institutions to join SARA.

The map below shows WCU’s status with State Authorization. The green states are SARA states, which means that WCU can conduct activities in the state so long as they are within SARA regulations. The yellow states are not yet part of SARA, however WCU is currently exempted from obtaining authorization in those states. The red territory is not yet part of SARA, and WCU has not sought out authorization to conduct activities there.

stateauthorizationmap

What is, and is not, covered by SARA?

Any activity conducted in a SARA state that DOES NOT trigger a physical presence is covered by SARA. SARA’s Physical Presence Standard can be found here. The most important things to know are that WCU can offer online programs to out-of-state students, advertise to out-of-state students, operate limited field experiences, and have faculty/academic personnel residing in SARA States.

While SARA does alleviate a lot of the work that goes into tracking state authorizations, it does not cover programs that lead to a professional license. We state on our website that if you are considering an academic program that leads to a professional license in your state, you should first seek guidance from the appropriate licensing agency in your home state BEFORE beginning the academic program located outside of your state.

Three Alternatives to PowerPoint

Whether you’re preparing for your next lecture, or presenting your most recent assignment to your classmates, there is a good chance that you are going to to want to prepare a slideshow. PowerPoint has become a staple in presentation software, and it’s not hard to see why. The program is fairly easy to use, widely available, and has enough tools to make your presentation as simple or complex as you please. There is no doubt that PowerPoint will get the job done, however using the same software over and over again can grow boring. Here are three alternatives to PowerPoint that you can consider the next time you need put together a presentation:

 

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  1. Prezi

Prezi is a webtool that can be used to create dynamic presentations. I like to think of it more as a journey than a slideshow. You create a “big picture” which serves as the first “slide”. This gives the audience a sneak peek of what the presentation will be about, and the progression it will take. You can then zoom into certain spots of the picture to highlight key points. Unlike a traditional slideshow, you can choose to make the presentation linear, circular, or something entirely different. Prezi provides a host of pre-made templates, or you can start with a blank canvas and create something new. Prezis can be shared with other people by providing them with a link. You can also embed Prezi presentations directly into a webpage, blog post, or discussion board. Basic features of Prezi are free, but users have access to more with a monthly subscription. Check out the video (created by the Prezi Team) below to learn the basics of Prezi.

 

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  1. Google Slides

Google Slides is a web-based application available through Google Drive. Although Google Slides has a very similar setup to PowerPoint, I like the fact that it is integrated to Google Drive (Check out this post where I talk about some of the things I like about Google Drive). You can create slideshows utilizing most of the same features found in PowerPoint, and Google Drive makes collaborating and sharing a cinch. Working on a group presentation? You can give editing power to members of your group. Presentations can be shared by providing the audience with a link, or you can embed the presentation in an online medium of your choosing. The Google Slides app can be installed on your computer, tablet, or smartphone for free, making it easy for you to edit on the go. Learn how to get started with Google Slides here.

 

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  1. Haiku Deck

Haiku Deck provides you the essentials needed to create a sleek and simple slideshow. Have you ever sat through a presentation where the presenter just reads a bunch of words verbatim off of their slides? Annoying, right? Haiku Deck discourages their users from doing this by providing layout options that work best with clear, succinct points. One resource available in this tool, which I really enjoy, is access to a library of royalty-free photos that you can incorporate in your presentation. It takes away the hassle of scouring the web for images. Haiku Deck also allows users to create graphs and charts with ease. Like Prezi and Google Slides, Haiku Deck presentations can be shared by providing your audience with a link, or they can be embedded to your blog, course, website, etc. Users can create three presentations for free, or an unlimited number of presentations for a monthly fee. Explore the Haiku Deck Gallery here.

 

UDL and Technology

According to the National Center on Universal Design for Learning, Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a set of principles for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn.

UDL provides a blueprint for creating instructional goals, methods, materials, and assessments that work for everyone–not a single, one-size-fits-all solution but rather flexible approaches that can be customized and adjusted for individual needs.

It is important when designing your curriculum that you meet the needs of all learners, whether you are using technology or not. However, technology is a power tool that has enabled UDL to be a lot easier. You should note that these technologies should not be the only way to implement UDL principles into your curricula.

Effective uses of technologies can play an important role within the instructional outcome. It is important that you successfully use these technologies because some technology can have the same accessibility issues as using a method without technology.

In conclusion, technology is not the same as UDL, but it does play a valuable role in assisting with curriculum design and its implementation and conceptualization.

Five Reasons to Use Google Drive as a Student

You may be familiar with Dropbox or iCloud, but as far as cloud storage goes, Google Drive is by far my favorite provider. Here are five reasons why:

  1. You can create documents right from the drive.

Google Drive is equipped with applications that allow users to create documents directly inside the drive. A few examples of the applications available include Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Slides. Many cloud services require you to create a document using software on your computer before uploading it to the cloud. Google Drive cuts out this extra step. Additionally, if you prefer to create documents using something like MicrosoftGoogleDrive Word or Excel, you have the option to save those documents directly to the drive. All you need to do is install the Google Drive App onto your device. This will create a Google Drive folder on your device, which will automatically sync up with the online version of Google Drive. Any documents that you save into the folder will be automatically sent to the cloud, and any changes that you make to those documents in the folder will be automatically updated in Google Drive.

  1. You can access your files from anywhere.

You might prefer to create your documents using a desktop computer, but use a tablet when you’re on the go. If your files are stored in Google Drive you can transition between devices seamlessly, as it’s available on multiple platforms. This takes the worry out of losing another flash drive or not being able to find that one email that has information you need out of the thousands you receive.

  1. It’s attached to your other Google accounts.

You probably already have a YouTube or Gmail account, which means you already have access to Google Drive. Why not use what you already have? Additionally, if you use Gmail you have the option to save things directly from your email to Google Drive. Your days of hunting through countless email to find the document that your classmate sent you to contribute to your group project are over!

  1. It’s great for collaboration.

Group projects can be daunting if you do not have the correct tools at your disposal, and this is especially true in an online setting. Sending the same PowerPoint presentation back and forth with your groupmates dozens of times can clog up your inbox and cause confusion. Google Drive allows you to share documents with other people and facilitates collaboration. You can create your presentation right in the Drive, and then give editing power to people in your group. It will even show you which part each person contributes or makes changes to. This will allow you to keep your project in one place, and reduce the clutter of your inbox.

  1. It’s FREE!!!!

College is expensive. Between tuition, books, and other day-to-day expenses, having to pay for a service can make or break your decision to use it. Luckily, Google Drive provides users with up to 15GB of storage space for FREE!! If 15GB isn’t enough space for you, there is also an option to upgrade to 100GB for the low cost of $1.99 per month. That’s less expensive than getting one latte at Starbucks!