Mechanics of Fieldnotes

The form your field notes take will vary as you choose. Each person should organize their own inquiry journal in a format that suits his or her personality, interests, resources, and needs. For example, I write most of my field notes on a laptop computer, which allows me to insert later reflections directly into files that contain the original descriptions and reflections I took while participating in particular events. However, I have also used note cards, small notebooks, video and audio tape, paper napkins, and even the back of my hand. Marn' keeps her journal with her at all times and writes in it during class breaks, while students are writing or reading, right after school, at home in the evenings, etc. She occasionally expands her notes onto computer files but usually sticks with paper and pen. Sid and Cheryl are beginning to use a laptop computer and have also used a written journal but the majority of their record is kept in their heads! Whatever the means of recording you choose, a few suggestions on mechanics should help you keep track of and improve the quality of your notes:

Taking all these notes probably sounds impossible or at least like very hard work for people who are already busy teaching or administering a school. In fact, it is hard work; but so is thinking. And taking field notes is really just a way to help educator-inquirers be more thoughtful about what they are doing and learning. Take heart in knowing that the more you work at keeping a good record of your inquiry experiences, the better you will get at doing so and the more rewarding it will be so you will eventually get hooked, like Marn' did, and not want to stop.

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