Math Study Skills – Sharing Class Notes

November 17, 2010 at 10:20 am 2 comments

Today’s study skill blog is a spin-off of an idea that was discussed in my AMATYC workshop. It came from a group of 4 participants from Valencia CC (FL), Johnson & Wales (NC), Collin College (TX), and St. Charles CC (MO).

The suggestion was to use LiveScribe in class to “PenCast” notes. LiveScribe is a pen that captures notes as you take them in a fashion that can easily be uploaded to the web. Not only does it capture notes – it also captures audio as well. (For more information, check out their website

The instructor selects a student that takes good notes, and asks that student to be the note taker for the day. The instructor then gives the student the LiveScribe pen and the special note paper, and the student takes notes as they normally would. At the end of class, the instructor gets the LiveScribe pen back from the student and uploads the notes and classroom audio to their web page.

This allows other students to view the notes with the real-time classroom audio for a review of what happened in class. It also allows students to spend more time concentrating on the lecture itself, rather than blindly copying down notes. This gives a student a chance to think and reflect during class, and to focus on truly understanding. 

I recently had a discussion with a colleague who lamented that his students spent so much of their mental energy in just copying what was on the board that he has considered a 15-minute “no pencil zone” in his class. This would help students to think and increase understanding. I think that this LiveScribe strategy could be just as effective.

My Spin

This idea can be used (without the classroom audio) without the LiveScribe pen. I can select a student as a note taker, collect the student’s notes, scan them, and post a pdf file. (You could also print them out for the class, although I’d rather post them online.)

This approach of a class note taker can have a positive impact on other students and their note taking. By seeing a set of high quality notes, students can learn better note taking skills. They can also use the online notes to supplement their own notes. Finally, this will help students to focus on the math during class, not on just copying everything down.


Do you have any experience with using the LiveScribe pen? Have you ever used a class note taker? Please share by leaving a comment, or reaching me through the contact page at my web site –


I am a math instructor at College of the Sequoias in Visalia, CA. Each Tuesday I post an article related to Math Study Skills on my blog. If there’s a particular study skill you’d like me to address, or if you have a question or a comment, please let me know. You can reach me through the contact page on my website –


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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Fred Feldon  |  November 17, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    Hi, George — If you have a Tablet PC like I do, the class notes become digital and can be posted to the course website. Like you I find about half the class has stopped taking notes and focusing more on understanding the material.

    More than pixels from a pen, with the Tablet PC I can add graphing calculator screen shots, Internet pages, images, etc. You name it. I can use colors, markers, highlighters, etc. I’ve found an added benefit: They can be used to create consensus. Every few minutes I’ll ask, “How do the notes look? Anything I should change or add? If you look at these in a few days from now will you understand everything?” And they say add this, or change that. They are always wonderful ideas and DO improve the class notes. It’s like we’re ALL taking notes for each other. How cool is that?

  • 2. georgewoodbury  |  November 23, 2010 at 6:35 am

    Thanks Fred! That is very cool! I have some friends from Reedley College that use the tablet PC and swear by them! It seems like a great way to get your students thinking during class while they really are learning how to take better notes. Win – Win.


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