Taking notes

Yo, can I borrow your notes?

Harkening back to the salad days of college, I seem to remember a free-floating faith in the power of someone else’s notes to fill in cracks of attendance & attention. I doubt that much significant learning took place in power-cramming sessions entirely reliant on someone else’s diligently indented transcription of wisdom. But I’m struck now, thinking back, by the instinct to herd together in such situations.

A study tool named stu.dicio.us has recently made its debut, promising del.icio.us-like value through aggregation of communal effort. Now maybe some stranger from West Virginia Tech will save you from the consequences of having slept through Chemistry. Or maybe that concept your prof seems so fond of has been dropped in another class somewhere, in a context just different enough to fuel your next paper. Or maybe you can meet that hottie on the far side of the lecture hall because you’ve done a search limited to your school and this class and lo & behold here you both are, believing in the power of networking your notes.

Sharing notes is not cheating, insists stu.dicio.us. Everyone should have every advantage possible in increasing individual knowledge. The site rather mysteriously claims to be created for students, by students, and is rather predictably in beta.

There are bugs, and slender participation makes any 2.0 service like this awkward at first, but give it time. After a little tour, I think that stu.dicio.us is actually more useful for its lightweight organizational tools. There’s a sortable todo function – handy even if you aren’t interested in checking peers’ todos. The basic Textile formatting for notes encourages precision (see this testimony), and auto-save is built in. You can use simple brackets for auto-links to Wikipedia, Google, or Google scholar. You can upload files and access them whenever you want –as long as the service remains online. For those times when you can’t get online, stu.dicio.us offers an offline mode.

Here are a couple of screenshots. First, my fake schedule, with grades, notes, files, todos, and (sadly) no friends. This would be useful, I’d say, especially if it were within a course management environment:


… and someone’s notes, which i found by doing a search for history and columbia:


Enlightening? I doubt it – but misery does love company – and if you’re casting around randomly for any mention of history in anyone’s notes, chances are that you’re feeling a bit miserable.

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