Communities Resolving Our Problems: the basic idea
[SUP: Sharing Problems] [THINK: Guidance] [LEAP: Solving Problems]

Questioning Your Notes

Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.
--Greek Proverb

To learn is to wonder. It is not sufficient to merely read the works and complete required and/or suggested activities of those you choose to guide your learning. Deeper learning requires reflection. Reflection is another word for study. To study can mean to keep a carefully maintained notebook of information as you find it, to keep your written notes in it, and to especially to reflect on your notes in writing and to share reflections with others. To reflect means to contemplate and think more deeply about how the fact or idea links or interacts with other facts or ideas. Your facility in interacting with the questions in your notebook becomes tangible evidence of your degree of reflectivity.

To facilitate writing your reflections, take your notes in wide-left-margin fashion. That is, leave a three to four inch left margin on your note paper. First put your running notes (observations, ideas) down the right side. Then, put your reflections, that is, your keywords, special terms and higher order thinking questions, and organizational or outlining marks down the left hand side. Of all the possibilities for the left-hand column, your questions are generally the most significant acts of reflectivity, sparks for later fanning.

Though any sheet of paper can be set up in this fashion in seconds with a couple of penciled lines, other more ready-made resources are available. Legal notepads are sold with the lines already in place or you can use a ruler to make strong even lines. Instead of paper, the table command features of word processors and web page editors also can be used to create two column tables for computerized notetaking in this fashion. Computerized tables are unique in their ability to expand their rows to hold any amount of text or image. Examples from an early and later week (Sutton, 1998) in a course provide further example of this concept.

Given the rapid pace of change in our culture, your capacity to generate questions, to select more valuable ones and pursue them, and to bring others into this process will have have far higher value in the twenty-first century than facts which have decaying half lives. It will be the only way to keep relevant and true facts at your side. We have always valued the "good answer" in education. Good answers are still valuable. But an increasing number of answers do not have a long "shelf-life" or currency. Our evolving culture now requires of us to be connoisseurs of the "good question" as well. Who is responsible for answering these "good questions" that are generated? If you have come to learn, you are. You may find the answer to your question or given your ability to act as ambassador to your own questions, others may take an interest in your work and may bring you an answer. There is no guarantee that the world will find you an answer, but once you have clearly articulated the question, you will know the good answer when you see it. Further, that answer will have a place and context in which to link and to remain in long term memory.

Take the questions and keywords that emerge from your reflectivenss and use those words to hunt in the world's information systems for people and works that are relevant to your questions. Create questions which further your creative, critical and ethical development.

Two-column notetaking and reflection is but one of many methods for supporting the problem solving process and integrating this process with the power tools of the twenty-first century. Tools can only magnify. You and those you lead and teach must create the spark. Cherish the questions. Look for answers.

In action this means:

Bibliography: Sutton, P. (July, 1998) Course participant's Online Notebook.

[Page Author: Houghton ]