I was working in a class the other day, and asked students to get out their copy of the assignment handout, which I'd given out several days before. Most of them opened up a binder of some sort, or a folder thing, and started flipping through loose sheets, trying to find the paper, with varying degrees of success.
And suddenly it struck me, in one of those "holy cow, how can I not have seen this before" ways, that their binders looked pretty much exactly like my junior high binder had looked, with no organization, just piles of loose papers through which I'd flip and try to find whatever it was I'd lost and forgotten about until I was in trouble for not turning in homework. (Yes, I was that student.)
At some point, though, I switched to an organizational system which basically included a light cardboard folder for each class that had bendable metal pieces to form basically a two ring booklet to which I could add stuff easily (or take it out less easily). And that system pretty much got me through college. It wasn't perfect, or at least my use of it wasn't, but I used a hole punch to punch holes in handouts, and dated them, and every few days would put things in order, with handouts, my notes, and so on in the folder. And at the end of the term, I had a little booklet that included my notes and such for the whole term.
My students, though, even the most prepared students, have no organizational method for handouts beyond just putting them loose in the pockets of a binder or something.
One of my students was in my office this morning, just a few minutes ago, digging through her binder for her class stuff, and I thought to ask if she would put things in the binder if I gave them to her already punched. And she thought she would. And then I asked her why she didn't punch them herself. And she looked at me like I was a total idiot, and said she didn't have a three hole punch, and didn't have a car to go get one. Which, of course, I said was a poor excuse, since she could get one cheaply at the campus store, which is between my office and the dorms, and so not something she'd need a car for. And she looked at me like I am a total idiot.
Now I'm wondering: should I start doing the three hole punch for handouts in hopes that students will actually keep them in some sort of minimally meaningful order in their binders? Can they really not manage this minimal effort themselves?
Should someone (me?) tell my students that actually keeping notes in some sort of minimally meaningful order might be useful, and give them some hints on how to do so? Have they never been told this before?