Paper or Digital Notes?

At the core of every blog post or article I have read about note-taking, it’s often a persuasive pitch for using paper or technology. What should be discussed is where and how students are being taught to take notes effectively, regardless of the tool they choose. For example, if students are writing down everything they hear, instead of summarizing key points, it doesn’t matter if they’re doing it digitally or on paper; they shouldn’t be doing it period. Programs such as AVID that teach students how to properly take notes are a great place to start for great guidance.

Having said that, when notes are taken digitally, there are distinct advantages that paper can’t compete with. Digital notes can easily be shared with classmates and teachers if done within a platform such as Google docs, they can be searched to quickly access information, and they can easily be refined as students begin to learn more about whatever they are studying. I can’t tell you how many times my daughter had to re-do all of her notes because she wanted to reorganize and refine them; this was a highly debated subject in our household šŸ™‚ I always told her it would be so much easier had she not used paper.

I also hear about research that says writing notes on paper makes the information stick better in our brains, but I am skeptical about the research I have seen to date; it’s certainly biased in my opinion.Ā I’d love to get some feedback on this topic, as I’ll admit, I am also biased in this area because I can’t stand paper clutter. If anyone has any research that seems reasonably objective about note taking, I’d love to hear about it.

If anyone has any research that seems reasonably objective about note taking, I’d love to hear about it.


Questions districts should be asking, from an MTSS and implementation perspective

This spring I was introduced to Clay Cook’s work at the U of M, which you can check out here. Several things he presented on interested me. First, he is a strong proponent of school-based mental health for students. This last legislative session, thanks to our superintendent and the other intermediate superintendents, the Legislature passed a bill with funding so that intermediate districts (and other cooperatives) in Minnesota could pilot new and innovative school-linked mental health models. This legislation may open the door to the “adjacent possible” that we’ve been trying open for quite a while!

The second thing that really got my attention was Dr. Cook’s perspective on how often school districts don’t comprehensively examine what initiatives or practices are implemented in their districts, many of which are not evidence-based or that have been implemented with fidelity. It’s not to say that districts can’t try new things that may not be very well researched, but that must be intentionally thought through and then properly evaluated over time.

One of the resources shared in his presentation was the National Implementation Research Network, and as I perused their many resources, I stumbled upon the Hexagon Tool, which we have been using for a few weeks now to evaluateĀ and select which initiatives or projects we should invest our time in. So far this tool has really helped our leadership team to comprehensively think through the many factors that must be considered when making “go-no go” decisions on initiatives that impact students and staff district-wide.

The third thing Dr. Cook touched on was the science of implementation, which many districts fail at. I believe these failures have to do with federal, state and local constraints in addition to a lack of funding. I also think we have suffered from the chasing of the next shiny thing in education. Regardless of the cause, implementation science can certainly help districts to 1) Determine what practices and supports to choose 2) Provide frameworks to significantly increase the odds of successful implementation 3) Provide evaluation frameworks to ensure that the implemented practices are having positive outcomes for students.

Here is what I believe to be a great set of questions that I feel every district could benefit from. I look forward to all feedback and other ideas!Ā Here they are:

  • What systems of support are in place for your students?
  • How do you know you they’re the right supports for your students, and are they evidence based?
  • Has your district successfully disseminated the practices and supports to instructional and operational staff? How do you know?
  • How are you evaluating your initiatives to ensure they’re positively impacting student outcomes?
  • What’s preventing you from successfully implementing supports your students need?


What is the True Cost of Email?

How much does email contribute to your stress levels at work and home? Is Email helping us be more effective? I’m guessing most of us haven’t spent much time pondering its effects on our lives. The research I’ve found confirmsĀ that we should be very concerned about the effects email has on us personally, professionally, as well as the total impact on the organizations we work within.

So what does the research I found say?

  • Email does, in fact, increase our stress levels.
  • The average person spends over 25% of their workweek reading and responding to email.
  • Less than 50% of emails deserve our attention.
  • Many employee hours are wasted checking email, which disrupts our ability to stay focused on the tasks that matter most.

So what can we do about email and its impact on ourĀ personal and professional well-being? Possible considerations for employees and organizations to proactively address email overload are:

  • Schedule daily time slots to check emails, rather than constantly or sporadically throughout the day; this will help you to stay focused and remain present for things that matter.
  • Ensure your organization has clear employee expectations about how often voicemail and email should be checked.
  • Promote email best practices and provide training for an organization’s leadership team, and then all employees. Many things shouldn’t be done via email, and training and accountability areĀ how you change email culture.
  • Adopt a staff newsletter approach to be more strategic about what needs to be communicated, rather than flurries of emails that pile up quickly and probably don’t even get read.
  • If more than a couple of emails a required to effectively address an issue or it’s a touchy subject, schedule a meeting and take the time to build an agenda with meaningful outcomes beforehand.

These are my initial ideas on how to address the email epidemic. I’d love to hear from anyone that has ideas about how we can reduce the clutter in our inboxes and become more effective, efficient, and healthy. Next time you start composing an email,Ā remember that it is a one-way communication tool, so if you’re hoping to fully engage with someone or a team, you might consider a different way to communicate.