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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Collaborative Note Taking Tools and Methods?

Any suggestions on the best tools and techniques to use for attendees at upcoming sessions to take notes collaboratively? Has anyone done this successfully?

I'm wondering about this both for 75-90 minute presentations and day long courses.

14 comments:

Michelle said...

I've never tried this, although I would think a wiki would work wonderfully - just make sure a lot of people can log on at once. (That's bitten me before.)
Also, I'm not sure how collaborative it is, but you can share things, I think, using EverNote. I've taken to using EverNote for everything. If you need a beta invite, let me know.

Richard Sheehy said...

I agree with Michelle that a wiki would work. Also PageFlakes has a message board flake or if you want collaboration on the same document where they can edit previous entries I suggest Google Docs or Google notebook.

B.J. Schone said...

You could open up a Google Doc and allow people to work on it simultaneously. Or depending on the situation, you could use something like Microsoft's OneNote. I've never used it, but I know several people that swear by it (and not at it).

Kevin Jones said...

I haven't seen many products which would let more than one user log in at a time. The exception is Google Docs.

But then there comes the questions of how that is done. Everyone takes a section of the document and adds their own notes/thoughts? The issue then is how to integrate everyone's information.

Janet Clarey said...

I use wikispaces for the 1/2 day workshops I lead. everyone gets their own page but can also work on a main page. I also put all my material on page. I found this works best for a mixed audience. Generally, I've found that when I try to get people to work all on the same page, something inevitably goes wrong with updating, people get a little freaked out, and the whole point is lost. I think people feel better when they have the options. I actually have had a contest at the end of the workshop w/ people volunteering to show their wiki.

Sue Waters said...

Maybe I'm not visualising exactly how and why you want to do this however my gut feeling is its not a good way to go for several reasons. Off course this depends on if you plan to get them to collaborate within your presentation as part of your presentation as an activity or you expect them to be able to do this will people are presenting.

Let me assume you are expecting them to collaborate while people are presenting.

So here is my reasons:
1)I'm really good at multitasking but there is no way I could concentrate to collaborate to prepare a document with others and concentrate on the presentation.

2) If we are talking about creating a document unfortunately my experience has shown that you need to throughly lay down ground rules of how collaboration works and what is expected from each individual. Unfortunately we assume people know how to collaborate but mostly they don't so what you get it different people working together with various ideas on what collaboration means and if you aren't careful a document created that isn't collaboration by individuals doing their own stuff. Also I would restrict numbers of people per collaboration to two or three per group.

My recommendation would be instead of getting them to collaboratively take notes is to collaboratively share ideas during the presentations. That way they call all reflect on the information that is being covered and debate the issues. At the end of the day I would then encourage them each to write they own notes (using their preferred tools) based on their reflections. Ideally blogs would be good because you can bring together the posts using common tags.

For collaboration you could use tools like Ustream or use CoverIT Live as both have chat archive ability. I also use twitter. For example when I was at BarCamp on the weekend as was shown Tiddlywiki I sent messages out by twitter asking if any of my followers were using it and how were they using it. Which I then can add to what I learn.

If you want them to combine their thoughts at the end of the day I would use Google Documents.

Tony Karrer said...

Michelle - isn't EverNote a downloaded application? If so, that likely will cause problems.

I think that's an issue for Gobby or OneNote as well.

The Wiki idea is likely a good one, but would need to be separate pages or would get edit conflicts.

Google Doc sounds like a good one. I've used Google Spreadsheet for simultaneous editing and it's wonderful because it shows what cell each person is on. I've not used Google Doc for it - so not sure what exactly happens - I think edits just appear. May be a weird user experience.

Also - I just read in Google Help "Only 10 people can edit a document or presentation at the same time. However, you can share a document or presentation with 200 people (whether you add collaborators or viewers, the total cannot exceed 200 people)."

I believe all the Google Doc types have chat features - but I'm pretty sure the chat is not saved. Maybe just copy and paste it once it's done. But, that's basically just a back-channel at that point.

Cool - I didn't realize that new comments appear while I'm typing my answer in here. Sue's just arrived.

Sue - those are excellent points. Definitely would be hard to truly collaborate - but I'd like folks to be able to take advantage of the note taking going on. Maybe that's just a collection of notes at the end? No real collaboration. What do you envision when you say "collaboratively share ideas" - is that Chat style? Separate live blogging style? Not sure I get how you used Twitter.

I think people chat differently than they note-take, differently from how they "share ideas".

Note: part of the reason that I wanted to do something like this is for people to have that aha moment I had when I was collaboratively editing a Google Spreadsheet that had a project plan. Part of the reason is that I would like them to get value from the effort of other note takers. Part of it is to have that sense of part of a group beyond just sitting in the session.
And finally, part of it is that I'm talking about Remember / PIM skills and note-taking is part of that.

Adam said...

I participated in a conference during which we tried to use both Google docs and an instance of MediaWiki (Intellipedia). While Google Docs seemed to be the logical solution, it was clear after less than a half hour that the application wasn't robust enough to handle more than 2-3 editors at the same time.

On the other hand, setting up a wiki page with an initial structure, then assigning different sections for individuals to edit worked great. Not all wiki platforms allow this, but MediaWiki does.

Alternatively, you could encourage participants to set up blogs (on blogger or Wordpress) and "live blog" - publish and save an initial draft, then continue editing and saving iterative versions throughout the session.

Kate Olson said...

I think a really interesting way of doing this would be using a chat platform that allows you to save a log of the chat. This would allow multiple users and simultaneous posting. We've used this during Elluminate sessions and the chat log was a great way to go back and read notes of the session.

Sue Waters said...

Most people at the moment are using CoverIt Live or Ustream at conferences to enable f2f and global participants to reflect and interact while the session is happening.

I'm not sure how robust CoverIT live is during a live session so I suggest you talk with Vicki Davis as she used it recently. I'm personally thinking it could be an issue as each comment by a viewer appears to have to be approved by the moderated so you end up with a disjointed conversation. Which if you are talking 200 people isn't a good way to go.

Ustream is my preferred option provided you have good bandwidth as the chat function is really good (provided the conference firewall doesn't block). Have seen Meebo in action (I think) but had lots of issues with interlopers trying to pick up dates which isn't a good way to go.

If I was doing it I would encourage all participants to record their notes on the session using their preferred option (even if that is pen and paper). I like to set up my own Google Documents or desktop application and write as I listen. When I'm pondering what the speaker says I ask the question in Ustream or Twitter -- then record in my notes.

I would then ask the participants to take the time to share their notes online - if you want in one location then use a wiki - separate page per person.

If you want them to interact and exchange their thoughts on their learning and how reading each others thoughts influenced their learning then I would use blogs with a common tag. But you need to set up guidelines and instructions well in advance of the session (including claiming blog with technorati and pinging).

All of this is dependent on their multitasking skills. Somehow you need to keep as simple as possible -- maybe Ning would make it simpler? So they upload their notes as blog posts within Ning and can each comment on each others easily.

I suggest to encourage their desire to be involved I would offer prizes (I think this may cause some debate :) ).

Looks like I have to apologise for another long comment :)

Twitter -- when I listen to a presentation if I'm not necessarily getting it I will ask my followers to tell me if they are using, why and how they use. Normally this means they give me more reasons why they do/don't use and examples of how they use. Which helps me consider if it is worth considering.

Javed Alam said...

I just finished teaching a course about the use of internet in communication/collaboration at

http://infotechtools.ning.com free open registration

We compared Google docs writer, Zoho writer and Wetpaint wiki by writing a paper collaboratively. We used Google docs with the text chat capability from Yugma to edit the document in real time with around 10 people working on it. The process of writing was coordinated through the text based chat. It worked just fine. Even simple features like auto save in google doc become life saver when it comes to every body editing the document at the same time.

Student tried the same approach with wetpaint wiki and it did not work as well as it did with Google doc.

My conclusion is that Ning is doing a good job of creating a social space and google doc will become the program to do the collaborative writing because it allows 3 ways to share the documents and one of the mode is live editing of the document by all the participants.

Wikis were nice when we had wordprocessor but with things like Google doc I am not sure. The other day I went on a well known wiki typed one whole page then I had to go to some other web page to get some additional information. In the process I lost the wiki page and all the one page write up because I forgot to save it. I do not have to worry about that when I use Google doc.

Also, wiki markup is different than html and it needs to be translated into html while Google doc provides automatic viewing and saving in many differenet doc formats including html.

Google docs allowed us to do live editing. We found wiki program to be slow for live editing. The changes have to be saved first and then it takes a while before they show up within the document.

I know wiki are popular for collaborative writing but with Google doc becoming popular with more and more improvements every day. Now users can embed youtube videos, forms etc.

My own experience in using Google docs and the amount of flexibility they offer I am not so sure about the wikis as the future collaborative writing tool.

I sound like a salesperson for Google here but I have no affiliation with them except a user who is trying different writing tools to come up with one that can do the job.

They still do not have tools to edit Math equations.

http://brainandlearning.blogspot.com/

V Yonkers said...

My students had trouble with google doc in that they were saving over each other's writing. I agree that wikis require some preparation.

I would suggest individuals either blog or upload their notes on to a separate page of a wiki. You will need to explain on the wiki how to format the notes (for example, session name, note-taking author, author's background, etc...). You could also have a chat discussion going on, but I think it depends on the participant. Some find chat distracting and want some time to process (so the blog and wiki would work for them), while others like the spontaneity of chat (and can type and listen at the same time).

Then I would have a link of all of the blogs and wiki pages (like a directory) on the front page of a blog or wiki. From there, you could create questions that could be answered after the conference to continue the conversation, with links to notes/impressions set out by the bloggers or wiki note takers. You might want to do this in google docs.

NoteScribe said...

I saw in one of your above comments that you aren't exactly looking for a downloaded program, but I'd like to recommend NoteScribe. It has a great import and export function on it, which would allow everyone to take their notes, save their notes, and then exchange them rather easily. This way all of the notes would be in one spot, and be pre-organized by their name, or however else they choose.

Give it a look at the NoteScribe website if you would like. I hope that it helps, and if it doesn't, I hope you're able to find a good solution. Best of luck to you!

Jake
www.NoteScribe.net

Anonymous said...

Try this: etherpad.com