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Collection: Organizing Tools

purple arrow (1137 bytes)Electronic Studying: Information Organizers To Help Students Study "Better" Not "Harder

REFERENCE: Anderson-Inman, L., & Tenny, J. (1989). Electronic studying: Information organizers to help students study "Better," not "Harder." The Computing Teacher , 16(8), 33-36.

Description of article

CONTEXT: The authors contend that students are rarely taught how to study and that even when the teacher gives explicit instructions to study a particular chapter or topic, students are not given the tools necessary to facilitate this process. Studying is often a passive activity and rarely do students recognize how to apply new information and concepts to both prior work and real world situations. The authors maintain that with the help of "information organizers," such as word processors, databases, outliners, and hypertext systems, the process of studying can be made easier. The focus of this article is on outliners as an electronic studying tool; regardless of the students' grade or skill level, the authors contend that outining tools have the potential to promote effective studying and improve comprehension and retention of text. As an example, the authors use the process of studying a chapter to illustrate the benefits of using electronic outliners. They describe the steps as follows:

Students first survey the chapter in order to develop a "heading-subheading outline of the content." Students then write a very brief summary under each heading and sub-heading. Finally, students use the hide and reveal function of the electronic outliner to cover up specific information in order to do a self-test.

This three-step process was created as part of a research study which examined "the efficacy of outliners as study aids for high school social studies textbooks." Twelve average to below average high school students were provided a computer-based outlining program and were taught the three step process mentioned above. Each student read 16 passages -- eight using the outliner tool and eight using a "traditional read and reread study procedure." Students were then given two types of comprehension tests. Results showed that every student learned more when using the outliner as an aid to studying the textbook. Moreover, students' perceptions of studying changed; they engaged in their reading materials more, searched the text for valuable information, used their computers for entering and rearranging their notes, and used their outliners for self-testing. Students also felt a sense of ownership over their studying and felt confident that their studying would pay off in the end.

The authors also describe two very good outlining programs, MORE (Symantec) and The Learning Tool (Arborworks). Specific graphic examples of these strategies are provided. Provided at the end of the article is a  list of computer based outlining programs and contact information (Note this list was published in 1989, therefore some information may no longer be accurate and some newer programs may not be represented):

Dr. Lynne Anderson-Inman, College of Education, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97402.
Dr. John Tenny, Department of Education, Willamette University, Salem, OR 97301

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This material was developed by the National Center to Improve Practice (NCIP), located at Education Development Center, Inc. in Newton, Massachusetts.  NCIP was funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs from October 1, 1992 - September 30, 1998, Grant #H180N20013.  Permission is granted to copy and disseminate this information.  If you do so, please cite NCIP.   Contents do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by NCIP, EDC, or the U.S. Government.  This site was last updated in September 1998. 

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