Friday, July 24, 2009

Take note!

I stopped taking notes on paper some time ago and now take a laptop (or occasionally my PDA) to meetings, conferences, etc. When I still used paper, I had umpteen pads on the go at any given time and lots of printed agendas with stuff scribbled in the margin. My problem with paper based notes is I'm not organised enough to find them again (assuming I remember I took the notes in the first place!) and even when I find them, I can't always read my own writing.

A laptop
Originally uploaded by DavidDMuir
At the conference last week I took notes on my PDA. I don't think I'm as fast on it as I am on my laptop and I suspect I missed some points as a result. (For example, I missed the first heading in a quadrilogy that ended: the age that matters; the anger that matters; the anchor that matters. From the notes I took, I would have ventured "the problem that matters" but the problem is that problem doesn't begin with an A.) However, I miss stuff when I'm taken written notes and I find taking notes in any form helps me to concentrate better than listening alone.

An advantage of electronic notes is that they are searchable. WIth desktop search technology now looking at the content of files as well as the file names, it is much easier to find old electronic notes than it ever was (for me anyway) to find written notes.

A number of questions occur to me. Are there different skills involved in taking notes electronically (beyond the mechanical typing/writing skills)? I know that some places teach note taking skills to students/pupils - do they teach only written note taking skills? Some people advocate mind mapping as a good way to take notes - does anyone use software to create mind maps during classes?

What do you think? Do any confirmed written or electronic note takers want to share their experience?

P.S. Sorry for the long gap between posts but I was at a conference last week and out of Internet contact and since then I've been too tired or too busy!


Chris said...

I can take quite detailed notes on paper - every second week I have to write up the sermon for the local paper, and end up taking notes on the back of the pew sheet. However, I love using the laptop at meetings, and am irritated by the fact that other people tend to be aggressive about it - either because they think I'm playing games or because they say I'm distracting them and probably the speaker as well. I guess it all comes down to the kind of meeting one attends!

BTW - the verification code today is "nadirpac", which sounds like a handy aid to survive the low points of life. ;-)

Doogie said...

I think I've tried just about everything. At the moment my preferred choice is Evernote. ( With clients for Mac, XP, iPhone/iPod Touch, Windows Mobile and a web interface it's pretty accessible. You can also add pictures to your notes and it will OCR it for you to make the page searchable. So for example take a pic of a flip chart page, upload to evernote and search.
I've also tried Zoho Notebook but you really need a laptop to access that on the go.
I've got to say that sometimes you just can't beat pen and paper. For this I use a deck of 3x5 plain index cards held together with a mini bulldog clip. I can then take a pic and upload to Evernote.

mhawksey said...

I'm a big evernote fan as well and use it too capture all my notes. I many use the ink note option on my windows mobile device. The OCR/search indexing is mind blowing and it is able to recognise even my handwriting. I've done a couple of posts on evernote (in general and as a possible personal e-portfolio tools for students)

Ruby said...

I think the whole idea about taking notes is an interesting one and we don't often stop and consider it. Like many things related to new technology, it forces us to re-think the primary purpose in the first place. When I'm giving a lecture I expect students to take notes, but why? Do I think they might forget the important points? Then why don't I just give that to them on a piece of paper anyway? Or is it something to do with the cognitive processing - I assume that if they're writing while I'm speaking then they'll remember more? But straight after a lecture I've attended myself I know that even if I've taken notes I still can't remember much ... and later do I take time to find my notes again? Hardly!
I'm wondering about giving a different kind of handout for lectures - not notes on the content, but questions. I give 5 minutes at the beginning of the lecture and ask them to answer as many questions as they can, and then give the lecture (and I'll probably change the order just cos I've got an evil streak) and see how many of them make notes for the questions/answers/thoughts (questions would be not basic comprehension but deeper synthesis questions, for example).
What do you think? Would it make a difference? After all, in today's world we are told that information literacy is not so much about just knowing the stuff but knowing where to find the stuff, so why do I expect students to simply write down what I'm saying?

mhawksey said...

why do I expect students to simply write down what I'm saying

There is a great article in the THE from 1997 written by Terry Mayes. He found that if he didn't allow students to take notes, except in dedicated pauses every 10 minutes he found they performed better in tests

Probably the biggest challenge is to manage student expectations.

David said...

Hello Chris I know someone who was given a row at a meeting while taking notes on his PDA because the boss thought he was sending texts. Not sure how taking notes on a computer could distract a speaker but I suppose some people are easily distracted! Hello Doogie Converting handwritten index card notes - interesting. I'll need to have a look at Evernote. Thanks for the tip.

Hello mhawksey

Another Evernote fan. Thanks for the link to your posts. I'll be surprised if it can cope with my handwriting though as even I can't read that sometimes! :-)

Hello Ruby (and mhawksey again)

Interesting! Why take notes at all? I think it helps me concentrate more than if I don't take notes but agree that the review and reflection on a talk/lecture afterwards is probably more important. I like the idea of focus questions and note taking pauses. More thought on this is required methinks!