I recently got hold of a fantastic tool that allows me to take notes (“annotate”) video lectures. It’s called VideoNotes. With this tool I can see my notes and the video in one screen, I can use my notes as an “index” to take me back to a particular spot in the video, and I can share my notes.
VideoNotes is a web app that works with Coursera, Udacity, EdX, Khan Academy, YouTube and Ted videos. It saves notes to your Google Drive, so you need to be logged in to your Google account in the Chrome browser.
Just a few years ago, I would not have conceived of myself as a person who who want or need such a tool. Nor would I have thought of myself as someone who would have discovered this on my own, or gotten access to it without help, or begun using it without difficulty.
I’m interested in how people who are not tech savvy begin to develop the skills and intuitions that allow them to flourish in this crazy world of rapidly evolving tools and technologies.
The story I’m about to tell about myself speaks to that question.
Step One – I become a Twitterer
A couple years ago, I didn’t quite “get” twitter – who needs yet another stream of incoming information when we’re already overloaded? Observing a very smart colleague who avidly used twitter, I began to realize what he was doing, how it was making him smarter.* So I started using it and discovered how easy it can be to learn things by networking in the right way with twitter, a very different picture than frantically reading every tweet and following every link.
Step Two – Might as well try
I saw a tweet about a tool for taking notes on video lectures, called VideoNotes. Given my enrollment in a couple MOOCs, I thought “Might as well try it!”
But wait, it required using a Chrome browser! I didn’t have Chrome on my laptop, in fact I had only used it maybe once or twice. But I was pretty motivated to try VideoNotes, so I overcame my trepidation and downloaded and installed Chrome. Then it asks me, do I want my bookmarks? Oh, well, I did but….this is how you go down a rabbit hole, right, and end up taking 3 hours on something you thought would take 30 minutes! But, I might as well try it! So I clicked the Yes button and swooooosh. All my bookmarks were there! For a person who carries the emotional scars from the bad old days of computers, when so many things could–and did–constantly go wrong, this was pretty smooth!
Next, I’m grabbing Video Notes, pointing it to a MOOC lecture, and within minutes, I am taking notes and indexing a lecture. This product had virtually no learning curve.
Step Three – The new interface in 5 easy steps
There’s one other thing about VideoNotes that should be a lesson to tool designers everywhere. I wasn’t confronted with a tutorial — either text or video — and I didn’t need the help section. Instead, they had some pop-up balloons, not more than 6, which sequentially showed me in about 1 minute all the key features of the screen I was looking at. I could click “End Tour” if I didn’t even want to walk through this tiny orientation.
What does this all mean?
Clearly, things have gotten so much easier, that’s a given. But something else happened too — it’s partly a sense of confidence for me. Affect matters when you’re trying to learn new things, so feeling confident may very well help with persistence in getting the hang of a new tool. But intuition is a big part too — it’s the same kind of tacit knowledge that you have when you suddenly know you’re lost and have to find your way back. It comes from some general understanding of the landscape, some kind of familiarity.
I suppose I believe that my ability to take on new productivity tools and incorporate them into my workflow has to do with both affect and intuition. The question for me as an educator is – what helps foster intuition and confidence?
*The celebrated white paper (Jenkins et al, 2009) Confronting the Challenges of a Participatory Culture would perhaps describe this competency as either distributed cognition or collective intelligence.