Sunday, November 27, 2016

100% Protected against Plagiarism?

Anyone who has recently searched the net for something to do with note-taking has probably come across Web sites that offer students (and others) the service of papers written to order.

One Website claims: "We only provide unique papers written entirely by the writers from scratch. You are 100% protected against plagiarism." This is really galling, as they are offering a service that amounts to 100% plagiarism. What they actually offer their customers is 100% protection against getting caught.

I am glad I don't have to deal with this any longer? What would I do? I would make students write a short (one-page) summary of their paper in class after having handed it in. Not a 100% guarantee, but a beginning.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Cognitive Effort during Note-taking

I recently came across an interesting paper by Annie Piolat, Thierry Olive, and Ronald T. Kellogg, called ("Cognitive Effort during Note Taking". I found it highly interesting. Three points especially caught my attention: (i) "studies suggest that nearly all non-linear note-taking strategies (e.g. with an outline or a matrix framework) benefit learning outcomes more than does the linear recording of information, with graphs and concept maps especially fostering the selection and organization of information. As a consequence, the remembering of information is most effective with non-linear strategies" (295), and (ii) "Retrieving and organizing ideas during a text composition are still more effortful than selecting the information that will be recorded. Searching a new and ‘creative’ solution (i.e. the text written down) requires more resources than taking notes, even if the notes often present content characteristics different from what has been heard or read" (303). And (iii) " Using computer technology to manage information through the click of a mouse can actually increase cognitive effort, judging from these results. It may be that the use of these technologies is less practised than reading and handwriting. Similar results were obtained by Kellogg and Mueller (1993), however, who found that writing by longhand was less effortful than using a word processor even for skilled typists" (304).

On the other hand, I did not find the conclusion of the paper surprising;
The observations reviewed here indicate that, from a cognitive perspective, note taking cannot be conceived of as only a simple abbreviated transcription of information that is heard or read. Rather, on the contrary, it is an activity that strongly depends on the central executive functions of working memory to manage comprehension, selection, and production processes concurrently. Indeed, the severe time pressure of note taking requires that information is both quickly comprehended and recorded in written form. It is a unique kind of written activity that cumulates both the inherent difficulties of comprehending a message and of producing a new written product. Yet, it differs in many of its characteristics from the usual linear and conventionally presented written texts.
In my judgment, the paper is well worth reading carefully, even if your interests are more practical than theoretical.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Hermann Burger, Lokalbericht

Hermann Burger (1942–1989) wrote a novel in 1970 called Lokalbericht (1970). It appeared in October 2016. I will buy it and read it. The protagonist of the novel Günter Frischknecht (a composite name made up of Günter Grass and Max Frisch) is writing somewhere in the county of Ticino at the same time a dissertation and a novel by means of two different Zettelkästen.[1] They get mixed up and the slips intermingle. What to do in this situation? Reality and irreality apparently can no longer be distinguished. The novels conceit reminds me of Sterne's Tristram Shandy (and apparently similar situations abound).

I must read it! Ordered it already!


1. "Knecht" in the name may refer to the magister ludi in Hesse's Glass Bead Game.

"Zettelkasten" in Grimm's Wörterbuch

Grimm's Wörterbuch is one of the most interesting early dictionaries of German. Its origins go back to the first half of the nineteenth century and gives a good indication of how German words were used in the eighteenth's century. Here is the entry for "Zettelkasten:"
Zettelkasten, m., kasten zur aufnahme von zetteln, z. b. von theaterzetteln: S. Hensel familie Mendelssohn 3, 22, zumeist aber von alphabetisch geordneten zetteln mit notierungen oder auszügen aus literar. oder wissenschaftl. werken od. ä.: leben des Quintus Fixlein, aus funfzehn -kästen gezogen Jean Paul w. 3, 3 H.; die hier angedeutete schaffensart wird vielfach getadelt, so von Immermann 20, 36 B., von Fr. Th. Vischer altes u. neues 3, 388; Hebbel III 7, 397 W.
Meaning:
box for keeping of slips, like playbills, see Hensel, The Mendelssohn Family 3, 22; but usually [it means] alphabetically ordered slips with notes or excerpts from literary, scientific, or similar works. The Life of Quintus Fixlein, Drawn from fifteen Zettelkästen. The way of working here indicated is often criticized, like in Immermann 29, 36, in Fischer's Old and New 3, 388, in Hebbel, iii, 7 397 W
So "Zettelkasten" already has negative connotations in the early nineteenth century.

What can we learn from Grimm about "Zettel"? They were originally called "Zeddel" which simply meant small pieces of paper (slips). The word derives from the Italian "cedola," which came from the Middle Latin "cedula" and ultimately from the older "schedula." The Latin "scheda" or "scida" means torn off strips of paper [must mean "papyrus, I think}. It all originally come from the Greek "σχίδη."

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Nottingham, Again

Nottingham 3 is an update of a clone of Notational Velocity. It's explicit about its debt: "In the spirit of Notational Velocity, Nottingham is an elegant notepad for macOS. Designed to be lightweight and easy to use, it's a breath of fresh air perfect for storing whatever is on your mind." But the claim is that "Version 3.0 is completely rewritten from the ground up in Swift 3 to take full advantage of macOS's newest features and to lay a solid foundation for future improvements." And it promises to be fast: "Lightning-fast search across even the largest library of notes." I wonder what the "largest library" is. 100,000 notes, 1,000,000? It would be nice to know.

It now also claims to be able to do "wikilinks." But this is at best a half-truth. It can link to existing notes, and it seem to be able to keep track of the name-changes of those notes, but it cannot create new notes from a typed link.[1] Notational Velocity and nvALT can't do that either (and in addition they cannot keep track of name-changes), but they are free.[2] Nottingham costs $14.95 (though you can try it out for free).

I dislike the name. Searching for "Nottingham" gets you a lot about a city in in the East Midlands of England, getting to the application is harder. It's a complaint about some applications I have for a long time. Try "Brainstorm," for instance!


1. It does not do so reliably, however. There seems to be a problem with the program. I have deleted it again from my machine!
2. Actually nVALT can create a new link from an expression enclosed in double square backets. Clicking on an expression enclosed in double brackets, puts it into the search window, pressing enter creates the topic. nvALT does not, however, keep track of name changes.