Note-taking with CALL
.. many skills and areas of language learning use computers to facilitate study. The mainstream approach of teaching is to integrate language skills, however, a more specific focus is also beneficial especially when learners want to improve or practice a particular skill or an area (Levy and Stockwell,2006). Therefore, this website is designed to focus the specific skill – note-taking in a lecture setting. That is to say, the website integrates computers into the learning and practice of note-taking skill. There are several advantages.
Note-taking is an important listening skill, especially in a lecture setting, because there are two mainfunctions, encoding and external storage (Vesta and Gray, 1972).Encoding refers to the cognitive process during taking notes, for example, interpreting and integrating the received information. It can facilitate the cognitive process and help audience understand the lecture better. On the other hand, external storage focuses on the result of the note taking which could be used to review at a later time.
The purpose of the listening to a lecture is usually to comprehend the facts and ideas (Lynch, 2004). As lecture is a very common format of teaching in college, note-taking skill is especially necessary for English L2 learners who are going to study in English-speaking countries (Harmer, 2008). With notes, students may have a better understanding of the lecture and review the knowledge by the written records of the speech. However, note taking is not as simple as writing words down. More effective note takers tend to master related skills and own rich experience (Fairfax & Trzeciak, 1999). In this case, learning the general strategies of note taking is necessary.
The style of taking notes is a very personal thing, varying among individuals. There is no fixed and best model. However, some basic principles are generally employed by experienced note-takers: be selective, be brief and be clear.
Being selective refers to the selection of the received information. It is impossible to write everything down. Therefore, it is necessary to recognize the important information, then note it down or summarise it (Espeseth, 2004). Signal words, sometimes also called signpost markers, can help audience to identify main points. Try to be selective is the first step of learning note-taking skills. Being brief focuses on the speed and efficiency of note-taking. Although the information has been selected, there may be still a lot. In order to write quickly, employing symbols and abbreviation is a good way (Espeseth, 2004). Less experienced note takers need to adopt some common ones or invent their own symbols and get used to using them. Being clear refers to the clear reflection of the lecture’s structure in the notes. In order to understand the lecture better, listeners need to know the relationships among ideas, for example, cause and effect, main ideas and details. As the written records for the future review, notes need to be organizational, giving visual representation of these relationships. At this point, signal words are helpful for recognizing these relationships. This is because signal words are used by speakers to indicate what is going on next (Lynch, 2004), which could serve as structural cues, allowing listeners to hear how the ideas and facts relate to each other.
The general goal of the website is to improve note-taking skills in the lecture setting. Specifically, it to teach some basic strategies of note-taking step by step and provides related practice. The target users are Chinese college students who need to be successful note takers in lectures given in English. The suitable English proficiency level is from lower intermediate to upper intermediate.
The website is divided into four sections, learning basic strategies of note-taking, integrated practice, sharing the experience, and useful links.
Through the links, “start from beginning” and “choose a specific strategy”, users can learn note-taking strategies step by step from beginning or choose one to practice. There are four strategies focused on in this website: select the information or summarize, pay attention to signal words, use symbols and abbreviations, and use organizational structure. Each strategy consists of instructions and related exercises. “Integrated practice” serves for general note-taking training. “Share the experience” links to a platform that allows interaction and discussion. Users may make comments, share the notes they take, and exchange ideas. The last section provides two useful links. The first one leads to online Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary for the purpose of looking up vocabularies. The second one links to Ted Talk, which include a number of authentic lectures. Users who want to do extended note-taking practice may need it.