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September 07 2013

Dans ma classe, on a arrêté les notes. Satisfaisant mais compliqué (Rue89)

Dans ma classe, on a arrêté les notes. Satisfaisant mais compliqué (Rue89)
http://www.rue89.com/2013/09/01/classe-a-arrete-les-notes-satisfaisant-complique-245316

Une nouvelle institution est créée : le conseil. Technique issue de la pédagogie institutionnelle de Fernand Oury, proche de la pédagogie Freinet. Il s’agit d’ouvrir un espace-temps de discussion collective et d’initiative autour de sujets proposés par les élèves dans le respect strict de règles d’écoute, de parole, de posture. Ces règles sont arbitrées par les élèves eux-mêmes qui s’emparent de rôles pour l’occasion : distributeur de parole, maître du temps, responsable gêneur... L’enseignant est président du conseil.

#éducation #collège #témoignage #notes

July 14 2011

Notes that don't break the reading flow

This is part of an ongoing series related to Peter Meyers' project "Breaking the Page, Saving the Reader: A Buyer & Builder's Guide to Digital Books." We'll be featuring additional material in the weeks ahead. (Note: This post originally appeared on A New Kind of Book. It's republished with permission.)


Footnotes have got to be one of the more frustrating aspects of ebooks today. For starters, woe to the fat fingered among us who read on a touchscreen device. Even simply tapping the asterisk takes a couple jabs. Once you hit the tiny target, off you go to Footnote Land, the return from which depends on how well you understand your e-reader's "Back" button system.

Even in print, getting readers to shift their attention from body text to note is a tough sell. Schlepping to the bottom of the page — or worse, the end of the book — takes time, disrupts focus, and offers rewards that appeal mainly to the PhD set.

Now, of course, dedicated readers are perfectly capable of taking these kinds of excursions and preserving their attention. Heck, nursing mothers plow through War and Peace amidst interruptions. But the point is: in an age of ever increasing distractions and info temptations, we need to minimize obstacles to good reading flow — especially those that occur within the document itself.

The flexibility of the digital page offers promise.

The Shakespeare Pro iPad app offers one nice approach:

Embedded glossary in the Shakespeare Pro iPad app
Click to enlarge


The dotted underlines signal which words have available definitions. It's noticeable but unobtrusive; nice. (The same couldn't be said if instead we saw the classic blue web page link; the implicit message there is "I am a path to another document"). Having a touchscreen device is, of course, a key part of this design's success. Assistance is provided, at a tap, at the point of need. Clearing the note requires as little conscious thought as blinking; tap anywhere outside the box and it goes away. And a one-touch icon (the slightly open paged book in the upper-right corner) lets readers toggle the links on and off.

I might quibble with the decision (a business one?) to cite Shakespeare's Words in each pop-up box. Reasonable people might also differ on the positioning of the box (why not scooch it over into the empty margin? Perhaps, but move too far and you risk replicating the print page's attention zagging layout). All in all, though, it's very reader friendly.

Some notes are too long to fit easily in a pop-up window. More than a quick translation, these are brief extras in which an author or editor wants to provide background or commentary. In print, these items have traditionally been relegated to foot- or endnote status. The dynamic nature of a digital page — its ability to temporarily change what appears on its canvas — offers a chance to innovate.

Take a look, for example, at how the University of Virginia Press handles the transcripts of Lyndon Johnson's secretly recorded White House phone calls. (The material is password-protected, but you can sign up for a free trial.) The text of each conversation appears, when you first load the page, just as it might in print:

LBJ transcript, embedded notes not showing
Click to enlarge


Each time the editors wish to add a bit of extra background info — who George Reedy was or why the Gulf of Tonkin was important — they stuff that material into a now-you-see-it, now-you-don't part of the page canvas. The signal that extra info awaits is the universally recognizable plus sign, which morphs into the minus sign when the note text is onscreen.

LBJ transcript, embedded notes showing
Click to enlarge


It's an elegant, efficient, and unobtrusive way to offer this kind of background matter. What's the difference, you might ask, between this presentation method and the more common approach to linking to extra content at the bottom of the page? They both require the same number of clicks or taps: two. But the UVA Press's system offers a number of benefits.

First off: better continuity. Consider the jarring effect of being whisked to a different part of the page or a new page entirely. Whether it's print or digital, when you move away from the passage you're currently reading you lose your connection in a very literal way to the text. The state of immersion we all strive for as readers is both powerful and tenuous. No matter how strong its force field, it can be punctured easily: the phone rings, the baby cries, you realize you just missed your exit (kidding!).

A thoughtfully designed document does everything it can to maximize the reader's focus. Links that whisk people to different parts of a page or some other spot entirely disrupt the reader's focus. This effect is exacerbated when the reader gets dumped onto a new screen containing not just the note she tapped, but also the note's neighbors:

Page packed with lots of endnotes
Click to enlarge

Even if you don't read those other notes, their mere presence distracts. UVA Press' expandable page layout avoids such problems. You stay directly on the page, in the same location. It's even better than a print book's footnote, which requires you to shift your attention from the body text down to the bottom margin and you have to squint in most cases to read the extra info.

It's sweating the little stuff like this that's gonna turn ebook readers into ebook lovers.

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May 16 2011

Marginalia is still alive in the digital world

Openmargin.png The New York Times recently featured an article bemoaning the death of marginalia at the hand of digital publishing. Referencing a post by Joe Wikert, I wrote about how creating a solution to a problem is usually more effective — and difficult — than simply pointing out an issue or assuming there's no recourse.

There are, of course, solutions to the digital marginalia obstacle, and a startup in the Netherlands has brought one to the table. The creators of Openmargin are readying an iPad app for review at Apple's App Store that allows readers to add personal notes to digital text in a communal-type setting. So, book groups can make notes together and readers can discover other like-minded readers.

In an email interview, Joep Kuijper (@joepkuijper), co-founder of Openmargin, talked about their new app and how Openmargin works. Kuijper said they are just finishing up beta testing and expect to submit the app to Apple in the next couple of weeks. Our interview follows, as does a video demo of the application.

How does Openmargin work?

Joep Kuijper: People are already using the margin of a book to add personal notes to the original text. With ebooks, it's possible to make this margin into an open margin, an open space where the readers of the same books share their notes with each other. To this end, we developed the Openmargin app for the iPad, with a reading environment where readers can highlight passages. When readers tap on a passage, they enter the open margin, where they can leave a note and explore those of others.

Through Openmargin, readers also can discover like-minded people. Discovery is based on a thematic match with the specific sentences in the text that have been highlighted. There's also a web platform where all the notes are collected in a profile. Looking through this profile is like looking through another person's bookcase full of marginalia.

What are the roles of authors and publishers on this platform?

Joep Kuijper: An author has a special place on the platform — having written the book, he or she has essentially started the dialogue. We think it would be a good thing if the author also acted as a host. This would give ebooks added value because they're not just text anymore, they're also a place where the reader can be in direct contact with the source — the author.

For this to happen, the tools aren't enough. Authors still need platform and branding support — this is where the publisher comes in. The publisher is also the one with the overview. They might, for example, connect several authors and propose that they annotate each other's books.

Is there an option to notate only for personal use (i.e. notes for a class)?

Joep Kuijper: There are no personal groups. All the readers of one book are the group. Or even more specific: the readers around one sentence are a group. This also means you're not in a dialogue with friends, but with peers you've probably never met before. We think this is the interesting thing about Openmargin. It's an implicit network where the relationships are based on the specifics in a text. And your relationships develop and grow along with your reading habits.

Who owns the marginalia?

Joep Kuijper: The user is the owner. There will be a creative commons license so we're able to present the notes on our platform.

Are your long-term plans for Openmargin more platform-oriented or more software-oriented?

Joep Kuijper: Openmargin will be more platform oriented. We built the iPad app to show the world how this idea works, but we also built an API through which other ereading device developers can plug into our platform. The API can have a big impact because people will be able to share their thoughts and give feedback. That said, we're taking software very seriously at the moment because we want to set the example for the user interface. The software design has to be elegant in order for users to like the platform.


The Openmargin demo video follows:

This interview was edited and condensed.



Related:


May 13 2011

Publishing News: How to improve ebook marginalia

Here are a few highlights from the publishing world. (Note: Some of these stories were published here on Radar throughout the week.)

Pete Meyers on ways to improve ebook note-taking tools

Marginalia by Cat Sidh, on FlickrIs anyone happy with today's ebook note-taking tools? I'm talking about what you get with Kindle, Nook, iBooks, and so on. You can highlight passages and add notes, but that's pretty much where things start and stop.

Think about how limited that is, compared to what you can do in a print book:

  • Jot notes anywhere you like (e.g. blank pages in the back) to keep track of your overall reaction to the book.
  • Highlight non-contiguous phrases on a page, editing out all the boring bits and spotlighting the author's best points.
  • Draw arrows, circles, and all manner of geometric curlicues, reminding you of how this section here relates to that point over there.
  • Construct simple diagrams (e.g. tree-like structures), if you're the type who likes to think about ideas in terms of hierarchies.
  • Easily review all this stuff by flipping through the pages of a book.

None of that's possible on any mainstream ebook reading system today.

So here are some suggestions, which, incidentally, I think would be perfect for an eager-to-experiment underdog (Kobo, are you listening?). Add a beefed up note-taking system similar to what I describe below and soon, I bet, you'll get more business from serious readers.

  • This story continues here.

Ask for data and you'll get it

New Yorker appIt turns out all the publisher hand-wringing of late about Apple not sharing consumer data was largely for naught. In a post on Forbes, Jeff Bercovici pointed out that publisher concerns that consumers wouldn't share their data if given the choice were off base:

As things stand, if you buy a subscription to The New Yorker or Popular Science in the iTunes store, you will get a little dialogue box asking if it's all right if Apple shares some of your personal information with the publisher. Initially, publishers were worried, reasonably enough, that users would overwhelmingly say no. But they don't. In fact, about 50 percent opt in.

And that opt-in statistic isn't the only good news — some magazines also are showing impressive growth in new readers. And it looks like newspapers might be finding common ground as well.

American Booksellers Association partners with On Demand Books

The American Booksellers Association (ABA) announced this week that it would team up with On Demand Books to market On Demand's Espresso Book Machine (EBM) to ABA member bookstores. An announcement post described the machine:

Essentially an ATM for books, the patented EBM and its EspressNet software system links to a vast network of content, enabling the instant distribution of books, on demand, at point of sale. With the push of a button, the technology prints, binds, and trims a bookstore-quality, perfect-bound paperback book, in any language, with a full-color cover, in minutes. It is an environmentally friendly technology since it eliminates shipping, returns, and the pulping of unwanted books.

Big news, but as Mercy Pilkington pointed out in a post for Good eReader, it doesn't come cheap:

The licensing of the software per store is in the neighborhood of $25,000, and although the ten percent discount to ABA member stores will mean a massive savings, it just might not be enough to compete with the other so-called future of publishing, the digital e-reader.

To see exactly how the EBM works, check out this demo video:

Got news?

Suggestions are always welcome, so feel free to send along your news scoops and ideas.


Photo: Marginalia by Cat Sidh, on Flickr


Keep up with Radar's latest publishing news and interviews with our publishing RSS feed.




Related:


May 12 2011

3 ways to improve ebook note taking

This is part of an ongoing series related to Peter Meyers' project "Breaking the Page, Saving the Reader: A Buyer & Builder's Guide to Digital Books." We'll be featuring additional material in the weeks ahead. (Note: This post originally appeared on A New Kind of Book. It's republished with permission.)


Is anyone happy with today's ebook note-taking tools? I'm talking about what you get with Kindle, Nook, iBooks, and so on. You can highlight passages and add notes, but that's pretty much where things start and stop.

Think about how limited that is, compared to what you can do in a print book:

  • Jot notes anywhere you like (e.g. blank pages in the back) to keep track of your overall reaction to the book.
  • Highlight non-contiguous phrases on a page, editing out all the boring bits and spotlighting the author's best points.
  • Draw arrows, circles, and all manner of geometric curlicues, reminding you of how this section here relates to that point over there.
  • Construct simple diagrams (e.g. tree-like structures), if you're the type who likes to think about ideas in terms of hierarchies.
  • Easily review all this stuff by flipping through the pages of a book.

None of that's possible on any mainstream ebook reading system today.

So here are some suggestions, which, incidentally, I think would be perfect for an eager-to-experiment underdog (Kobo, are you listening?). Add a beefed up note-taking system similar to what I describe below and soon, I bet, you'll get more business from serious readers.

Offer pen-like and other rich media markup tools

You'd be able, for example, to draw a big bracket around a chunk of text and then an arrow from there to another spot. (Bonus points if you could write directly on the arrow, as many of us do when scrawling notes by hand.) Highlighting non-contiguous passages would, finally, be possible. Heck, why not let readers also record audio- or video notes? We improve memory and interpretation the more we annotate material in personalized ways. Talk about interactive books.

Offer a way to attach a note at either the chapter- or book-level

This one's a no-brainer. Plus, it's dead-simple to implement and would help note-taking nerds do what they love: keep track of thoughts that relate to large chunks of text (as opposed to the current systems, which limit notes to whatever sentence or passage has been highlighted).

Provide a passage-quoting bulletin board

Think of this as a personalized mash-up tool, one that lets you grab bits as you read, add notes to them, and then assemble the whole shebang on a kind of virtual corkboard. This idea directly addresses why serious note-takers mark up their text: to add personalized commentary in order to make the original text more meaningful, and more memorable to them. That's where the real value in, say, a business book lies: not simply what Malcolm Gladwell has to say, but what he makes you think about your own business and how you might implement his takeaways.

As with so many digital tools, this feature could deliver plenty more value than its analog equivalent. Specifically, this tool would let a reader quickly "grab" chunks (think: something like a header or sub-header within a chapter) and then post them on this virtual notepad. Each of these idea snapshots could be circled, repositioned, enlarged (great for emphasizing relative importance), annotated ... really, whatever you might do to encode these reminders with the sort of personalized info we drum up when taking notes. Here's a quick-and-dirty sketch that gives you the gist of what one of these guys might look like:

Marginalia diagram

Each of these headers (written by the reader, auto-generated by one of those text-summarizing utilities, or pulled from a passage's nearby headers) would, on tap, expand to reveal the full text "beneath" the blurb, as well as any notes you'd made.

What kinds of note-taking tools would you like to see added to your digital books?

Associated photo on home and category pages: Marginalia by Cat Sidh, on Flickr

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