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Metacognition and Evernote Armen J. Chakmakjian Bentley University
METACOGNITION AND EVERNOTE Abstract This paper starts with a brief description of the research into metacognition. The paper
then turns to learning styles and how Evernote is designed with cues that may help it to be learned as a tool. Assuming that the user gains some facility with Evernote, the paper then studies features of Evernote that help with foraging for and refinement of the data that the user has stored in it. The paper is auto-didactic for the writer since Evernote was used to gather and organize the information to write this report. The paper concludes that although Evernote does provide some learning style support for learners that prefer visual and kinesthetic learning styles, it has features on the iPad version that are presented without context. The paper also concludes with the finding that Evernote’s style of notebook and tagging support allows users to sort and find data in their research goals in a metacognitively personal and efficient way.
METACOGNITION AND EVERNOTE Metacognition and Evernote Humans have the ability to monitor their thinking process and this led to Flavell’s 1976 widely accepted definition of the word metacognition of his work Metacognitive aspects of problem solving: ―Metacognition‖ refers to one’s knowledge concerning one’s own cognitive processes...‖ (as cited by Garofalo & Lester, 1985). This paper starts with a brief description of the research into metacognition. The paper discusses learning styles and how Evernote is designed with cues that may help it to be learned by an user. The paper then studies features of Evernote that help with foraging for and refinement of the data that the user has stored in it. The research finds that Evernote does provide some learning style support for learners that prefer visual and kinesthetic learning styles, but it also has features on the iPad version that are presented without any context. The paper also offers that Evernote’s style of notebook and tagging support can allow a student or research user goals to sort and retrieve data to support
information foraging efficiency. The paper is auto-didactic for the author since Evernote was used to gather and organize the information to write this report. Metacognition The concept of metacognition tells us that humans consciously evaluate their thinking processes and performs subsequent regulation of that process. (Shimamura, 2000) An example of this evaluation would be hearing what someone else just said, but then having a feeling that you did not understand the meaning of what they said. Regulation would cause you to ask them to repeat it to make sure that you understand. (Flavell, 1979) The components of metacognition are knowledge and memory about the world around a person and then a person’s knowledge that they have the ability to amend that knowledge and to learn. (Veenman, Van Hout-Wolters & Afflerbach, 2006). Amending knowledge requires a human to select goals, assess their achievement against those goals, adopt new tactics for achieving them and sometimes abandoning a goal. (Hobbs & Gordon, 2006) The research in this area also shows that the ability to think about what a person knows seems to develop, maximize and decline in different areas over time. Flavell cites research that showed that young children were very limited in their ability to think about their thoughts and memories. (Flavell, 1979) Myers and Paris’ research study showed that when second graders were asked about what they had read, they focused on exact recall rather than use strategies to get at the deeper meaning. In fact, the younger children seemed to think that reading aloud was more efficient than silent reading because they equated the task of reading to the assigned task of understanding. That research also showed that by the sixth grade, children had acquired better skills. (Myers & Paris, 1978). A broad age-related study shows that strategy detection in computational problems has low accuracy during adolescence, increases in early adulthood, peaks in middle age and declines
METACOGNITION AND EVERNOTE in the elderly. This same study showed that while computational power declined in folks older
that sixty, their ability to solve human-relations problems was strongest. (Vukman, 2005) It could be inferred here that in the area of human-relations the elderly have the widest level of experiences and strategies to draw on. That being said, there is some question in the research as to whether affective or emotional dimensions are part of metacognition or a separate function of self-regulation and coping that arise during learning. (Vermunt, 1996) Flavell separated metacognitive knowledge from metacognitive experience, the latter corresponding to affective learning. (Flavell, 1979) Emotion can support or sustain learning, but a learner with high metacognitive knowledge but unable to control their emotions, in other words apply selfregulation, might not be able to changes their beliefs and learn. (McCormick, 2003, p. 81) Learning Styles There seems to be ample research that there are categories of learning that are effective for different people. There are possibly 70 competing models of learning styles. (Boström, & Lassen, 2006). The Visual-Auditory-Kinesthetic model (i.e. the VAK model) is not a learning style per se, but is a way of grouping learning categories based on the human observation channels. The VAK model includes visual (verbal and non-verbal), auditory, and kinesthetic. (Kanninen, 2008) Each learner has a preferred style (Kanninen, 2008) and a mature learner will express his or her preferences if asked. (Pashler, McDaniel, Rohrer & Bjork, 2008) However, Pashler et al. point out in their research that providing specific and direct instructions based on that expressed preference has not yet been systematically and experimentally proven. They posit subject preference may not actually conform to actual aptitude in that area. It is notable that in 70 or so frameworks, some add in tactile input as part of metacognition separately, so for instance VAK to call it VAKT (Kanninen, 2008). It is also notable that olfactory learning, such as learning to identify odors without the help of other cognitive cues has been a particularly troubling area for cognitive researchers. (Jönsson, 2005). Learning Styles and Learning Evernote For the purposes of this discussion, this study will assume a modern technology savvy student as a persona who would use an information aggregator tool of some complexity. Evernote is a relatively sophisticated tool that will require mature metacognitive abilities in the user, including an extremely good understanding of their own aptitude in learning. The student will have a mobile device, possibly several, including a pad, phone and laptop. The student is assumed to have a fundamental understanding that information can be stored locally on a device as well as ―in the cloud‖. Jonassen and Reeves point out that an insightful approach to investigating human behavior is to study the kinds of tools that they discover, create or modify. Going beyond simple machines to general purpose computing, the tools of the modern age are powerful without necessarily having a physical presence in the users immediate environment. (Jonassen & Reeves,
METACOGNITION AND EVERNOTE 2000) Storage in the cloud is a metaphor for this and Evernote is a tangible example of this metaphor in action. Evernote is a set of tools that is specifically designed to help the user easily store
information for later retrieval. (Evernote, 2012) The student will initially act as if the information that they have stored in the Evernote product is in the device itself. Figure 1 shows an example of a fully loaded home screen on the application with the information that the student has entered on that device. Using the VAK model, we will analyze how the student may have loaded Evernote with that data while learning how to use it.
Figure 1:Evernote Ipad App Visual learners prefer or may be better at learning through drawings, pictures, and other image-rich cues. (Tanner & Allen 2004) The Evernote iPad app is rich with visual controls such as the buttons with metaphorically familiar pictograms on the top right of Figure 1. On the top is an icon that is an image of a document with a ―+‖ superimposed on it. Just below it, an icon that is a camera is another familiar symbol. Below that is an icon that is unfamiliar and will have to be learned. Whichever the user selects they will invoke functionality that allows them to capture and store information on the device for later retrieval. Tapping the document+ icon opens a familiar, if simple, document editor page. The student may start typing at this point and wish to save that information. When the student hits the close button at the top of the page, they are returned to the main page and in the ―recent notes‖ area of the screen to the right of the document+ icon, they will receive feedback that their new document was successfully saved, a metacognitive event. One thing of note, document editing has a close button at the top which is different than for the next operation – Pictures. If the student taps the photo icon, they will invoke the familiar iPad camera function. In order to snap off the picture, a camera icon at the middle right edge is tapped. At this point the
METACOGNITION AND EVERNOTE user has several choices. They can take more photos or they can press one of two icons at the bottom of the screen. On the bottom left, an ―X‖ is available and assumed to cancel some operation. Pressing this will bring up a modal pop-up letting the user know that they will lose all pictures in the session if they confirm the cancellation. Assuming the user would like to save the
photo, they tap cancel and the user is back to the camera screen. The user will note that there is an icon with a check at the bottom right. This is apparently the save button and oddly, this is blue which may not catch the users attention at first glance. Tapping it will return the user to the main screen. In a second or two, the photos snapped off will appear in the previously mentioned recent list carousel. The next icon down is more problematic. It appears to have a ―g‖ in it in a place where a page rubric letter might appear, indicating a document of some sort. Tapping this choice opens up a camera screen that is similar to the other camera operations except that it has margins superimposed on it. This function turns out to be a special page capture feature developed by Evernote to be used with special physical notebooks and colored tabs to create written page notebooks based on the tab color on the page. There is no way any new user will figure out what this function is without some sort of prompt and none is provided. Since it acts similarly to the functionality behind the camera icon, they will be confused. Evernote has some interesting screen manipulations. For example, the 4 green bars in Figure 1 with the labels All Notes, Notebooks, Tags, and Places open to expose notes that are contained in them. These movements of screen objects somewhat stretch the definition of kinesthetic learning, except to the extent that the people who learn using the kinesthetic learning style tend to learn best through feeling and experimenting with physical manipulation of themselves and objects in their environment. (Kanninen, 2008) After several notes have been entered and the user feels successful, the user may decide to see if older notes might be off the screen in the recent note carousel. The user may attempt a common iPad style movement to swipe the recent notes with a finger and they will see other notes brought to focus. The Evernote iPad app provides some visual and kinesthetic cues that can be used for learning how to use Evernote as a tool. However, Evernote on the iPad does require the user to be a relatively sophisticated iPad user with the willingness to experiment with metaphorically unfamiliar features and provides no local help or cues. Finally, while audio files can be stored in Evernote, it does not use auditory cues to enhance learnability in the iPad app (nor in any of its other device and web apps) consistent with the ―A‖ in the VAK model. The next section will address how a student who has gained facility with Evernote, might use it to collect and organize information in a goal-oriented fashion in conjunction with their existing metacognitive abilities. Journaling, Organization and Searching in Evernote Evernote is presented in the metaphor of a journal of collected information. This
METACOGNITION AND EVERNOTE information is important to the user to achieve specific goals or for general interest. A research study of nurses and learning showed that journaling sessions increased the critical thinking skills of nurses, especially those with experience. The study showed an increase in thinking in referent nouns. (Kuiper, 2002) Using Evernote to create documents that are notes taken while listening in class, reflecting on learning or doing research seems like a goal-oriented task consistent with
metacognition. However, mere editing of information is not a compelling reason to use Evernote. Evernote answers this by giving the student the ability to search through their information. Assuming that the user has now stored a substantial amount of information in Evernote, the student will need to find specific information. They will at first look through note titles and skim thumbnails. This method will prove cumbersome if the student has taken copious notes. Their next attempt at finding a specific piece of information will make them employ the search box at the top right (See Figure 1). The search provided in Evernote is a simple text search that highlights hits of each word in the search context. If the user searched for ―metacognitive search‖ a filtered list of those notes that satisfied the equation –―metacognitive‖ or ―search‖ - would appear on the left side of the iPad app. They would have to now serially go through the articles looking for the entry of interest, a somewhat inefficient process looking to be enhanced. Bowlers 2009 research study of teens looked for ways to support their own knowledge construction even as they searched for information. In that study it was suggested the need for library services that enable open-ended discovery, interactive learning, and personalized knowledge organization services. (Bowler, 2009) Evernote provides a feature called tagging, which is essentially user-defined classification. In a 2007 study of photo tagging on the Internet, it was found that users tagged things for personal reasons in order to add context and for remembering details about the photographs in the future. (Ames & Naaman, 2007). In essence, photo taggers are attempting to use the tags as annotation for efficient contextual search. The student would see that each note header had a ―tag‖ field in which they can type in a word or a series of words that have some meaning to them. When they tap return, the word or phrase that they type in is encircled graphically and they will recognize that have created a tag. Any note can have multiple tags. The user may also have noticed that the tag area in the left panel would be updated with the word(s) that they used as a tag(s) and a number. Over time, if the user used that tag again, that number would increase and would be a signal to the student that they have successfully added a note to a tag. In research by Voss, tagging information requires conceptual analysis, deciding what is relevant, translation, deciding on an appropriate term, and feedback, which allows the user to evaluate how good their tags are. (Voss, 2007) This feedback in the personal arena is the success of subsequent searches using the tags, Voss points out that vocabulary control is important to subsequent success. Evernote assumes nothing in this area, but it can be extrapolated that the user needs to use tags judiciously to enhance their efficiency.
METACOGNITION AND EVERNOTE Finally, the user may employ a different feature of Evernote in order to organize their
collected content. Notebooks in Evernote are a contextual feature by which the user groups sets of notes if they find it desirable to maintain the metaphor of a notebook for each topic. A student taking multiple research classes may create a notebook for each class and this sorting and categorization of gathered information is similar to physical notebooks. This kind of conceptual binning is important for students to develop, and research has been done that shows that when students learn how to bin information into journals using their own categorization, they begin to think independently and at higher levels of cognition. (Edwards, 1991) The ability to sort the information at entry action into notebooks, as in Edwards’ research, is a desirable support of metacognitive function in Evernote. Summary This paper began with a brief definition of metacognition and then described two aspects of metacognition: learning styles and information foraging support. The paper then evaluated Evernote, the cloud based journaling tool against support of learning styles for the user to gain facility in the product suite. The paper then showed how Evernote’s tagging and notebook features enhanced the student users ability to sort and refine information that they have been gathering for a goal based task in a metacognitively personal and efficient way.
METACOGNITION AND EVERNOTE
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Veenman, M. V., Van Hout-Wolters, B. H., & Afflerbach, P. (2006). Metacognition and learning: Conceptual and methodological considerations. Metacognition and learning, 1(1), 3-14. Vermunt, J. D. (1996). Metacognitive, cognitive and affective aspects of learning styles and strategies: A phenomenographic analysis. Higher education, 31(1), 25-50. Voss, J. (2007). Tagging, folksonomy & co-renaissance of manual indexing?. arXiv preprint cs/0701072. Vukman, K. (2005). Developmental Differences in Metacognition and their Connections with Cognitive Development in Adulthood. Journal Of Adult Development, 12(4), 211-221. doi:10.1007/s10804-005-7089-6
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