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Class Notes Assignment

Page history last edited by Mark Sample 14 years, 2 months ago

Collaboratively written notes can reflect the collective experience of the class in a way that individual notes cannot. The notes your group writes for ENGL 493 should capture what happens in the classroom -- synthesizing the discussion, referencing the visuals, highlighting times of confusion and understanding -- and then archive it and make it available for the entire class. I even encourage students to document appropriate moments with their cell cameras and to incorporate annotated versions of this “evidence” into the wiki. The note-taking students can also use the Twitter backchannel as another source for their notes.


General Workflow


  1. During class, the students in that week's note-taking group should attend to the discussion with extra care. As long as it is not disruptive to me or the other students, you may use any means necessary to document what goes on in the classroom: traditional outlining, audio recording, transcribing on a laptop, taking photographs with a camera or smart phone, Twittering during class, and so. Because graphic novels are such a visual medium, it makes sense to incorporate as many visual elements as possible into your notes (following Fair Use copyright allowances).
  2. The students in the group will use this wiki to collaboratively compose notes for the day. The notes for Tuesday’s class are due by Thursday morning, and Thursday’s notes are due by Saturday night.
  3. Notes will be shared by posting a link to them from the class blog.


The Details


There are several key elements that make up a useful set of notes. At the very minimum, each day's note's should include the following:


  1. A 250-word overview of the day's activities, calling attention to the main ideas of the day -- what you might think of as "the theme" for the day.
  2. A more in-depth look at the highlights of the class. These would be the three or four moments when there is a dispute over meaning, confusion over an idea, a sudden understanding, or anything else that strikes individuals in the group as especially noteworthy. You should cover each of these highlights using a modified D.I.E. technique: describe the moment (just the facts about what the group saw or heard), interpret the meaning of the moment (a synthesis of what members in the group thought about the moment), and evaluate the moment (assess the moment's significance). Another way to think of this triad is: (1) What happened? (2) Why did it happen? (3) How was it important? (This last question could have -- and probably should have -- more than one answer.) The highlight section is where you'll probably want to incorporate any media you gather during class.
  3. Key terms and concepts that came up in class, along with definitions (which you may research after class in order to flesh out).


The group notes should be clearly written and easy to read. Also be sure that the notes are well-edited and formatted before you share them with the class by the deadline.


A Note on Collaboration


It is misleading to think that a simple division of labor equals collaboration. The beauty of a wiki is that everyone contributes to all aspects of it. Through a process of give-and-take, a kind of consensus is reached that takes into account multiple points of view. You have the power to build on, revise, or completely rethink the material added by your classmates. Every page has a comment section, which you should use freely. It is good wiki etiquette, in fact, to discuss things in the comments before any substantial changes are made to other people's edits.




Note-taking is worth 20% of your final grade. I'll evaluate each day's notes according to how well they cover the summary, highlights and key terms described above. In addition to a group grade, a portion of each student's individual grade will come from my and the rest of your group's assessment of your individual contributions to the wiki. 

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