I also only take notes on paper, but more importantly, I throw all my notes out as soon as I finish writing them.
For me studying is the act of writing the notes. The purpose of notes was never to read them later. That's why writing on paper is important to me. It's not about the qualities and convenience of the storage medium. It's about the experience of writing itself that makes me dislike digital notes.
When it's time for exams I go back to the primary source, whether it's a text book, lectures, or handouts, and I write a new set of notes. I throw those out when I'm done also.
You might think it's inefficient, which it is only in terms of ink and paper. In terms of time and effort, at least for me personally, the act of putting pen on sheet is 10x as effective as reading in building comprehension and retention. From anecdotal observation, I get done in a few hours of taking new notes what my classmates do in days of binge reading.
I've got all of the final renditions of each sheet I've ever done filed away. It's always quite entertaining showing people my notes, because they're a completely indecipherable mess of words, numbers, cryptograms, symbols, scribbles and colours. Imagine a sort of Chthonian cult literature. It makes me look insane - but I can still go back to ones from years ago and know what it all means.
The second set was always much cleaner, much better organized, and much more deeply ingrained in my brain.
As an aside, when I went to college, my first semester Computer Science teacher was vehemently anti-notetaking in class. He would chastise people who were taking notes either on their laptops, or in notebooks, saying "The slides will be online!" I really struggled that first semester, and found it hard to pay attention, hard to retain the information, hard to even understand what he was talking about, and it took me awhile to realize just how powerful the act of taking notes was.
I used the new notes as a kind of optimized cheat sheet during test preparation - rapidly reviewing theory in my head and cross checking. I would do this for some strategically chosen homework assignments as well - and explore slight modifications to these assignments to see how answers might change.
Many years later - I sometimes refer to the notes to refresh my mind on theory I feel I'm rusty on.
My recall of things I got wrong on the tests is almost visceral, like it was traumatic that I was wrong. I figured this out pretty young and my studying habit was very similar to the methods employed for learning foreign language vocabulary or typing; progressively focus on the things the person still gets wrong.
So I'd read my notes and highlight or copy out only the facts that I found myself being surprised or flummoxed by. I'd go over those a few times, do one more scan of my entire notes, and sit before the test just going over the hard ones again until the instructor started handing out the test.
This is essentially what I always did, but instead of "as soon as I finish" replace "at some long-overdue future time". But the notion of write-only notes was largely identical, with very rare exceptions.
Hilariously, I only kept my notes so long out of poorly surfaced guilt that I was "doing it wrong", compared to some students who seemed to come out of lecture with fancy notes practically ready for prepress...
In high school we had a nice big bonfire and burned our notes at the end of the year. Making smores was probably the best use of old notes!
While I wouldn't use that material directly ever again, I noticed that I would often paraphrase a paraphrase, so to speak, because I would remember some of the material.
Tangentially, this thread shows that people prefer different ways of taking (or not taking notes) usually due to a habit itselfc as opposed to superiority of one method over the other. It reminds me of Dvorak vs qwerty, while technically superior for typing in English, the cost of switching is not worth it for most people out there.
Learning is a function of production or reproduction of knowledge, not consumption. I stand by this regardless of "learning style".
Discussing with classmates, solving problems, reciting out loud, and taking notes are how you learn.
For example see Krashen's ideas on language acquisition https://www.sk.com.br/sk-krash.html
Now this makes me feel like I hold a contradiction because the way I think about learning a language and learning math are opposite in this way.
Do you or others have any thoughts on this matter? Is it because we evolved some tailored machinery for acquiring language naturally as children, or because they are learnt the same "way", it's just that language is generally just a tremendous amount of associating stuff that it requires 100x more consumption. I guess one could naturally acquire the times tables over time if all combinations of a*b up to 10 come up in conversation enough times, but a general procedure for doing multiplication wouldn't be acquired magically.
In some sense though, I imagine that when you hear something in a foreign language, you are actively making links to sounds or words that you think it may relate to (so in some sense, taking a mental note).
Growing up, I found that listening attentively in class and asking questions had me retain the most. Overly focusing on note-taking actually distracted me and those would usually be my worse day. I still took notes, however, most of the learning happened in the classroom and my notebook was the "textbook" that acted as my reference later.
However for taking notes I still prefer paper. It's really small aesthetic things like the texture of the paper and the no-latency ink. For some reason although taking notes with the digital pen results in better notes the experience of taking the notes is less pleasing to me.
Like I said I optimize for the best note-taking rather than taking the best notes. Once or twice when I was bored, I intentionally created illegible notes by writing in scribbles, or writing over a full sheet as if it was a new sheet.
Even creating illegible notes produced a learning outcome, and in some cases I felt the information stuck more because those notes were different and stimulating.
The only time I use paper is when I don't have the iPad on me and for personal journaling (for which I have a dedicated notebook anyway).
I did consider the Boyue Likebook Muses , but figured for longevity the iPad may be the better buy. I did try the reMarkable and was very disappointed in it's price to performance/usability, at least for me. Little things like no backlight at that price point was hard to get over.
I do the exact same thing, and haven't met anyone else that did it. I thought I was a weirdo all this time! My learning process is (as theorized by me):
1. Hear/see instructor say something
2. Mentally digest and understand it
3. Write down the product of understanding it
I think #2 is the most important step, and the big purpose of step #3 is validating that I actually performed step #2.
I've done the exact same thing for the last 25 years, it took me 10 years of frustration before I found out that I learn & memorize best while writing things down.
Somehow the slowness of writing works 10x better for memorizing then typing.
Children often have a 'photographic memory' until around puberty but in my case it lasted well into my late teens. I recall on a number of tests knowing that I had written the answer down, and even where on the page of notes the answer was. Several times I managed to wrestle the answer out of my brain by finishing the rest of the test and then running the clock down trying to picture the page of notes.
But today I am pretty close to functionally aphantasic. My dominant mental model is that I 'think in shapes'. I don't see the shapes, its more like I feel them. And that suffices for many things like getting replacement parts at the hardware store, or reassembling something I've taken apart. It's only with some difficulty that I can 'picture' an item. It's like I have a mind castle but wear a blindfold.
Anyway, in college I discovered that my recall of things I wrote down was starting to fail. If I wrote down something and lost the notes I was screwed. Todo lists were the first thing I cut out. My odds of remembering to do something by willing myself to remember were far better than having notes getting covered by a book.
Now I have electronic notes and some reminders, but if I lost my phone and my backups, my life would unravel.
incidentally, it drove me nuts using so much paper that only gets used once. I recently got a rocketbook and its prolly saved a couple of trees by now. Its the paper experience and I can wipe it clean with a damp cloth.
On the other hand, I once had a physics professor in college who spent each lecture rigorously proving the theorems and formulas we'd be using in the homework/tests. Only about 5 minutes (at the beginning) were dedicated to solving problems like what we'd be tested on, and then only in response to specific questions from students. We were pretty much on our own, since most were commuter students (this was Cal Poly Pomona) and couldn't easily come to office hours.
At this point you should just use spaced repetition. It's what I did, it has the same effects for a lot less work.
When I was in college laptops were becoming popular and after trying to takes notes on them I found I didn't remember things as well, was getting distracted by chat and emails, and simply couldn't draw quick diagrams (and I usually do a lot of diagrams).
I still think digging through the notes is a waste of time. Mastery of the source material trumps all and has gotten me great grades.
Is it more common for the lecturer to mention something critical that's not in the textbook, or just pass over something more important in the textbook? I think the latter is more common.
But you are correct, writing things down helps commit things to memory, plus there were always some funny doodles to look back on. Too bad I can't doodle anymore in work meetings, it isn't too professional :(
I think this is actually a pretty similar strategy to yours, and definitely one that I've found to be effective.
My completely unresearched theory as to why it's better: since your hands map to so much of your brain and it's function. I think the texture of the paper and the dexterity required to write stimulates your brain more allowing for deeper memories.
I have a customised Cornell Notes* Word doc template, and I run off batches of 5-10 sheets to take to meetings and training sessions. My colleagues typically turn up with their tablets, surfaces, laptops, phones and 'multitask', however a few have started to adopt my method - it's been particularly useful for client meetings where I have been able to later confirm sub-points or asides mentioned by customers - sometimes months later. It's also very easy to drill down through Quarterly reviews and link chains of historic comments 'on the fly' - for example, being able to confirm that so-and-so first mentioned something about a similar technical issue on a different system 12 months ago.
My 'Cornell' style has developed an element of mindmapping on the pages, which makes it easy to track conversations or sections of meetings that break off into side discussions/brainstorming.
The biggest benefit is that the structure of all notes is consistent, so not only can I find things very quickly, but others can interpret them too - this is a particularly powerful way to allow teams to share, compare and understand someone else's notes, even months after the meeting or training took place.
Edit: I also believe it looks very professional in customer meetings when everyone from the same business is taking notes in a similar way, using identical stationery.
I've been working this way since the mid 1990s and find it beats all forms of tech.
It's my definitive memory, and has been worth it to answer the months later questions of why we did or didn't include some feature, or designed something as we did. It's also where I think by pencil, so there's lots of plans, hierarchies, thoughts too. Those rough scribbles go at the back.
The few times I've tried to improve on this either by tech or organisers like filofax etc, it's quickly proved much worse or slower. The old Psion 5 got closest! Simply happy to stay old world now. It works, it's quick, and never needs charging.
It's too easy to look at us old farts and draw the conclusion that we're just too stuck in our ways and unable to cope with this new-fangled stuff, but I've spent periods (maybe perhaps a few months at a time) taking notes in other ways to see if I can 'evolve' - off the top of my head I've tried: Mind mapping meetings (on paper and electronically), netbooks (I still have a Samsung NC10 running Mint which is great as a portable terminal when a physical keyboard is a 'must' and the company HP laptop or home T420 is just too bulky for the situation), tablets and phones with styluses. (I used to have a Note 1 phone and still use a Galaxy Note 10.1 daily for research at home).
Some things 'just work'.
Then there's the software. Evernote was something a previous boss swore by - until some change he really couldn't get on with forced him to migrate, with much muttering, everything to something else. Evernote, wikis and most of the rest are best if you do proper categorisation of notes and indexing. Indexing always feels must be a second pass after, as categories and choices from before never quite do it. So it's always ended up slower than simply writing in an index at the front at the end of the day or week.
Six months later I often don't know quite what I'm searching, haven't a clue of keywords needed, but it's more archaeological, going back through layers of time, then re-following choices and paths. Grab a handful of pages that is about six months... Skim, find the follow-up. Oh, yeah this, that, who and why. Job done.
I have never heard about Cornell Notes, it seems like the missing piece I was looking for to convince myself to move back to pen and paper since I too feel that handwriting makes you remember and understand better.
But there are two things I am missing over OneNote
- Search capabilities, how do you drill down and find the one small items you don't exactly remember which category it belongs to ?
- Non language items like URLs, code snippets or command line parameters- in one note I simply copy paste them, how do you write them ?
If a URL is mentioned, it's likely either because someone knows it (make a note to ask them for it), it's in their notes (ask for them), or it's been put on a whiteboard (take a photo if needed). Ditto for code, if it's that kind of meeting (and, yes, I do have those kinds of meetings).
Typically I don't write this kind of information down ; I reference them from the original document.
The top of the page has headings for: meeting subject, date, room/location (can help jog memory), attendees, 'page x of y' and a 'confidential' tick box so I can keep corporate strategy or personnel discussions separate and secure.
The bottom section is marked 'Notes / Actions' where I highlight things that need follow-up (by me or others) - this is far better that having, say, 12 pages of notes from a 3 hr meeting with a few bits of underlined, ringed or asterisked text somewhere therein. Later I can visually scan the bottom of each page and quickly see all meeting actions - and I will have drawn a manual tick box by all mine so I can mark them off when completed.
Searching also led to a few suppliers of pre-printed notebooks or paper with a similar grid.
I would throw Flyeralarm in the ring (not connected to them), looks like you can get a Wire-O notebook with 50 pages, and cover artwork as you like, for around 3 Euro (at 50 pieces) with prices dropping from there on.
Or what price do you think of?
I checked Amazon (yeah, OK) and a few commercial printers that specifically mentioned Cornell notebooks.
I may have to revisit this matter.
I think a lot of people whose roles are client facing would benefit from this even though 90% of them would have no idea of what properly run meetings look like.
I'm not always hosting/minuting the meeting so it'll be done by whoever is.
Much of human memory evolved to remember locations, and almost all of the top memory competitors use locality association ("Memory Palace"/loci) as their primary method.
Yes, that's pretty much what it explains. The title "don't take notes with a laptop" is rather misleading. It's a well known fact that summarizing requires the learner's brain to actively process the information, as opposed to passively receiving information and copying. It wouldn't surprise me if summarizing on a laptop leads to better outcomes than using handwriting, as more cognitive resources would be available to process the information (rather than frantically writing).
As I recall, all the evidence shows that handwriting rather than typing - even when using similar strategies - has better recall. When writing, you can more easily draw diagrams, do very quick sketches, add arrows and links back to other parts of the text, etc. In short, you have more ways of contexualizing the notes and representing them in a spatial way, giving your brain another 'hook' to help remember them.
In this context, I disagree. If the act of writing is using most of my attention, I will miss large amounts of what is being said.
> As I recall, all the evidence shows that handwriting rather than typing - even when using similar strategies - has better recall.
I believe this is a highly nuanced issue and it's hard to make blanket statements. For example, I can't see how it would apply to people with various degrees of dyslexia - which could be up to 20% of the population. Having said that, I'd be interested to see evidence that proves otherwise.
Learning is very much a multi-sensory process. The act of writing is part of the learning - the two-dimensional shapes your fingers trace actually help cement the memory in your brain. (And no, simply clacking away on the keyboard is not the same.) As these authors  say: "the additional context provided by the complex task of writing results in better memory."
It's also notable that the participants are 72% percent female (females as a population are better at writing than males ), and that 72% of participants admit that they prefer pen and paper.
Having said that, I agree with the study in that the kinesthetic aspect of writing will generally lead to better retention of words - I believe this is well established.
Q: Why should "frantically writing" be worse than - say - frantically typing?
I've taken notes on paper during many, many talks. I don't write down every word that's spoken.
Isn't the cognitive load likely due to to deciding what content to record, not due to controlling the brain-hand-pencil-paper interface / brain-hands-keyboard interface (as it were)?
In any case, that's not the point: regardless of what text you decide to record in your notes, it's faster to do so by typing it than writing it for most people. That means that if you switch from writing to typing your notes but continue taking notes in the same style, you should in theory have more time to figure out what to write without falling behind the speaker or needing to rush your typing.
A disadvantage over writing is not having multiple columns if you are using plain text. Tools like onenote solve this, but I find it too distracting to use in general.
All of that would be entirely possible with a computer, but it would result in an inconvenient interface, where you can’t just search for a word or tag.
I have tried many ways to take notes but I’ve found myself always to come back to simple text/markdown files and paper based notebooks.
I manually type the relevant paper notes into the computer to make them searchable and link back to the notebook (e.g. like 2019/01 P.92) if I like to revisit the full note with drawings and all.
This means your notebook should get a name and a date and you should use notebooks with pagination..
Now I think about it, I seem to recall Evernote doing something like that a while back. Mind you, I don't know how easy it is to get the meta-data back out.
Most lectures cover material that is presented very clearly in accompanying materials, books or the internet. The idea I could do a better job than those authors while listening to the stuff for the first time is ludicrous. And at least for me it doesn't help recollection or focus to write notes while listening, and many students report they can take notes without the information passing through their brains. Other people swear they have to take notes to focus.
There are exceptions of course, for example if the information is new and any other available material is worthless.
I get regular remarks from people who don't know me asking why I'm throwing away the page of notes I wrote down in a meeting - it's because I'll never look at them again. But now the important parts of that meeting will be crystal clear in my head for the next couple months instead of the next couple days.
But if it works well enough, why not? The act of writing notes may involve mental processing or not. If it's just a matter of concentration and focus, there might be better remedies.
The writing is semi-automatic and does not merely involve verbatim quotes from others. If today I were to attend a lecture or talk and something the speaker said prompted some visual insight I would immediately draw it as part of my note-taking process. The whole reason I began taking such copious notes, in fact, was the realization that if I didn't write these things down I often needed to have an insight two to three times for it to become a permanent part of my mental model of a problem space, rather than the once.
That's a very strong statement that I guess is based on your own personal experience?
If I can provide my own subjective opinion and educated guess, I do agree that taking notes verbatim feels close to pointless. You need to take in what you're hearing and grok it before you jot down your summary. Then you can go revisit your notes later to practice, or even better try to recall without looking at them first, and then check to corroborate.
>The idea I could do a better job than those authors while listening to the stuff for the first time is ludicrous.
I don't think anyone has suggested this to be the case. Even though it doesn't work that way for you, the point of note-taking even when the information is available from other materials is to facilitate retention and understanding, not to produce superior source material. I do believe it is effective for this purpose, for most people.
All through my education, I never really bothered to listen to teachers and lecturers and basically never took notes. I just read course literature and tried to grok the main concepts, and it worked wonders for getting me through tests and exams. Longer term retention of what I learned was atrocious though. Now as an adult I take notes and study in a much more disciplined way, and it's so much more effective long term that it leaves me with a sense of regret that I didn't know or realize all this as a kid.
Just my two cents.
You seem to conflate taking no notes with not listening. If the only point of the note-taking is to ensure the listening and mental engagement, then I doubt that's the most effective way.
>You seem to conflate taking no notes with not listening. If the only point of the note-taking is to ensure the listening and mental engagement, then I doubt that's the most effective way.
I honestly can't see how you get this from my comment.
Expecting them to prepare the theory beforehand has not proven to be that practical. Lecturers who try this quickly learn to adjust their expectations downward, in my experience. And even then a lot of the "class" will be quite underprepared.
I don't believe the onus is on the educational institute to ensure that students learn anything when it comes to higher education.
The student is paying tuition or taking a student loan to be there, I think it should be reasonable to expect them to exercise their own responsibility and learn the source-material.
The fact that they do not might be indicative that they should be studying something else, and catering to them only exascerbates the issue rather than leading to a Darwinian solution.
The rest of the time I just sat in class and paid close attention, rarely noting down to look up some lemma or the other. Way better results. Instant recollection. I can still remember the Nullstellensatz vaguely and the room in which I first encountered it and where I was in it and that's almost a decade ago.
Because of the way well-done math courses are structured, with topics building on each other, I was able to do this about half the time. Most importantly, any mistakes I made would be almost immediately corrected, so I never learned the material wrong, like if I'd waited until the homework.
Note taking massively helps me on both remembering and the level of attention I pay to the lecture itself. Without notes, my attention drifts and I might as well just be passively watching TV.
Like Hermitian909, I don't particularly care about the notes afterwards. They're sometimes handy for skimming over when prepping for an exam or reworking through an example of a half-understood concept, but for the most part I don't use them.
Agree. I remember that I had one course that the prof couldn't really explain nicely and it seemed really hard. Then while preparing for the exam I actually read the book, and everything made sense and was quite easy.
An ounce of analysis is worth a pound of law.
- iPad Pro with (Gen 1 :sadface:) Apple Pencil.
- Screen protector that gives a significant amount of friction to the screen so that it feels closer to paper. 
- Goodnotes 5 or Notability (I use both--depends on the circumstances). 
- A rule: iPad is solely a reading/studying/note-taking device. No keyboard, no social media apps.
- Bonus: Twelve South BookBook case.
 ClearView Paper-Like Screen Protecter for Apple iPad Pro 12.9-inch (2015/2017) [Made in Japan]
 I generally prefer GoodNotes over Notability, however, Notability has side-by-side notes and recording. These features are supposedly in the pipeline for GoodNotes, but have yet to materialize. GoodNotes handles large PDFs better (Notability crashes). They both have passable desktop clients for quick cmd+F searching of handwritten notes.
- Surface Go using stylus.
- OneNote for note taking
- ColdTurkey app (completely locks you out of blacklisted apps for a set amount of time [I've tried to crack it - I couldn't])
The #2 pencil is so much better, I almost wished they would have skipped v.1...
This article aligns with most of why I thought note taking was good. It definitely has a mechanical nature that typing just doesn't match. Also you don't want notes that are just transcription, you want your own thoughts recorded on the page. Something I think they missed though was diagrams. Typing may result in a perfect transcription, but most lectures contain a visual component. Being able to quickly copy a graph or diagram is extremely useful. When taking notes via typing, there is no good way to do that without a touch screen and some skill. I'm much more likely to remember a diagram I drew than one I looked at.
I love how they gloss over the internet connectivity portion, but I also find that to be a huge component in reality. Sometimes I need to "space off" for a few seconds to digest an idea. When taking paper notes, I end up doodling boxes or lines. When typing, I inevitably get distracted by some shiny thing designed to steal my attention.
I do note in the workplace who brings paper and who brings a laptop to a meeting. Sometimes you need a laptop to present or look up information. But if you are solely there to listen, people who bring paper pay the most attention.
I actually never learned or benefited from note taking, so I’m pretty clueless. I still got through university and grad school with good grades, but I wonder if I was missing something. Professionally I draw a blank whenever someone at a meeting asks me to take notes, kind of embarrassing.
To me, written note-taking was useful because it forced me to internalize the information in some way, even if it's only verbatim copying. My hand has to move to the shape of the letters, and I'd usually mouth out what I was writing; this forced me to experience the information in more ways than just listening to it. I can make my own annotations to a hand-drawn graph. Taking a photo doesn't challenge my senses in the same ways.
 showed that taking a photo improves visual recall at the expense of auditory recall, but I'd argue that lecture information more often emphasizes the latter.
Because the learning effect is zero. (Also, not every professor allows it, and you don't always sit in a location from which you can take a decent picture. But that's beside the point.)
The best teacher I ever had in school never got tired of reminding us that we learn in four different ways: hearing, writing, speaking, drawing. Taken individually, hearing is the worst, drawing the best. The more you combine, the better your rate of recall will be.
Drawing is fantastic because it engages your kinesthetic learning, your spatial learning, and your analytical learning (because you really have to look at a picture in detail before you can copy it).
I personally learn the best from listening intently to what the lecturer is saying. That is why in college I would always sit at the front with an audio recorder, and then listen to that until I memorized most of the content.
Most good profs had a script with the important knowledge in it. Or at least printed out a miniature view of the powerpoint, to take notes next to each slide.
I _never_ understood this argument that "note taking helps you remember" since I never felt this was the case for me. I may just be lazy, or it might be the fact that I have a horrendously hideous handwriting.
Also, as a lefty, note taking is a bit more challenging (even when I could snag the proper desk) and I probably just compensated in other ways.
Longhand notes (which I do frequently for the RPGs I run, so practice isnt the issue) are nigh unreadable. I literally have dozens of notebooks (not full, but at least 30 - 50 pages each is pretty common ) of notes I struggle to read and organize.
Being able to write with speed and br able to read them is why an elementary school teacher recommended that I try using a computer to write on back before laptops were a thing, and it remains a big reason I rely on them for work notes now.
I bought a nice fountain pen (well, a $14 pilot) and overhauled my cursive writing. It took about 6 weeks and I write pretty legibly in cursive. I'm more legible in various print scripts (that I have also worked on as an adult), but cursive is faster.
Admittedly, that is just an anecdote. But if you're curious, try and get better... you'll likely improve if you actively practice.
I never liked pure cursive and do a mix, it's more of a print-sive where some letters are always print (F, J, G, Q, a couple others) and others are cursive depending on flow, speed, etc.
I have a bit more practice because I also sketchnote.
Have you tested? I recall - maybe a decade ago - seeing a study suggesting that in fact printing individual letters could be faster; I still write in cursive when I need to handwrite though (basically never).
Edit: http://nautil.us/issue/40/learning/cursive-handwriting-and-o... is a good summary; first 2 paras of last section are the TL;DR.
Ideally, I suppose I'd have an accurate transcript and I could just take time-stamped notes that could key to that transcript but that's not the reality. (I know I can record audio but, in practice, going back to audio after the fact is just too much work for most purposes.)
I'd summarise the relevant sections for the exams in LaTeX documents as well. The pain of having to put it into LaTeX made me absorb it better I think...
Additionally, when reviewing shortly after a meeting, I find that I can better suss out the truly important action items. Especially if things need to be delegated.
This isn’t to say I never take notes on my computer.
(Notepad++ is wonderful for this), but I find the physical note taking to be incredibly beneficial for organization of information.
Additionally, there may still be a certain social impact where people feel that you’re “paying attention” when taking notes on a physical pad, vs they feel they’ve “lost your attention” the second you start to type away on a device.
Never mind what people feel - I care more about the fact that I do actually start to lose attention when I'm working on a laptop! (And I don't even need Internet for that, there's enough other things to distract me.)
Additionally, I like that I can hit new and have quick new tabs of notes (instead of new windows ) and that when I close it it gracefully saves them as “new” rather then promoting me to have to save them. (Of course I have the option to save them, but it doesn’t have a prompt like word and defaults to making sure they’re saved somewhere ).
Paper vs Computer
- Ability to spread things out, to take stock of a big project, simultaneous refer back, draw between two pages etc.
- Faster draw diagrams etc, partially fixed, see article about thing student who used latex/inkscape to draw.
- Faster to connect up different ideas.
- Search: When I need to go back to find that idea ('keyword'), when you have hundreds of sheets is super easy.
- Faster to type.
- Easier to organize, I just copy paste and create folders etc. I use Latex and org-mode.
1. Cornell'esque techniques definitely help when revising and organizing.
2. Taking some notes actually helps you to focus better. Reduces random day dreaming, skipping crucial info (which leads to rest of lecture/meeting being harder to understand) etc.
3. Take condensed notes gives me time to listen and makes short notes.
4. But especially in Math related areas, there is no way to assimilate information in one sitting. I often used to hear a random English sentence, only to later realize that some word there had a specific mathematical meaning and it had much deeper meaning than I initially understood. Over-simplified example, xyz is a group. Group here being group theoretic group.
5. Video Recordings of classes and reviewing them and then scribing watching the videos helps a lot, esp for the likes of Advanced CS/EE courses.
6. Writing is learning, verification and long term information storage at the same time. One of my advisors once told me, when I asked him how do you store so much information about various papers etc, "Thats why I wrote that book".
Now I fully admit that if I had taken notes, I may have been an A student instead of a B student. But I just found the note-taking process to be a distraction from listening.
My intuition is that I would have been an A student if I took time to write notes after the class while the memories were still fresh.
Long story short, I was in a "dual-enrollment" program which allowed me to take classes at a local college at night while going to high school during the day. I was able to graduate high school with over 30 college credits. One of the courses I took was psychology 101. I didn't particularly like this course (just wasn't interested compared to other subjects) and I ended up goofing off most of the time taking some notes on my laptop/iPad.
Needless to say, this affected my grades and I was at risk of failing the course. In order to study for the final, I ended up going through the book and taking notes of key terms and concepts - writing them down. I was able to get a real understanding of the content and ended up getting 100% on the exam and passing the course.
My lesson; my personal comprehension goes way up when I physically write things down. Now I keep a notebook that I use every day (a bullet journal). In many cases, I duplicate what I'm doing in my project management systems, but I am able to visualize what I need to do much more efficiently.
I tried writing my notes by hand but I found it too distracting. I write decently fast but I find myself missing the points of the lecture because I am trying to remember them in order to write them.
For me typing my notes is more convenient and not distracting at all since I'm a fast typist and the act of typing is instinctive for me. I find typing allows me to concentrate on the lecture by listening and yet being able to put the lecture points in writing fast enough.
I tested both methods prior to one of my midterm exams, I get a much higher grade on the subjects where I listen to the lectures while typing my notes than on the ones I listen to while writing by hand. Most of my exams are 2-3 hr handwritten essays.
Just my personal experience, but taking notes was always horrible for me -- as my brain was busy trying to think "how do I write this down in a way that will make sense" as the article suggests, I was missing the next few sentences from the lecturer and getting progressively more lost.
And when the lecturer is making a point, it's not always clear until later whether it was an irrelevant tangent or a main element that will be on the test later.
Taking notes in class distracts from effort that could be better spent learning and comprehending.
On the other hand, taking slides from classes and transforming them into your personal notes and study guide at your own pace -- that's immensely valuable.
Anytime I took notes by typing, I'd forget it seconds after finishing. But writing by hand forced me to think about what I was writing. The only thing that trumped that in cementing my understanding was actually having to explain what I learned to my classmates/peers.
I wonder how recall from writing compares to typing out flashcards (e.g. Anki) and then using spaced repetition techniques to memorize concepts.
But I think I wouldn't make flashcards for something if I understood it. I've found practicing recall with flashcards highlights what I don't understand. e.g. sometimes I've been confused between similar cards, and it's not obvious when looking at the cards the similarities/differences.
I think this complements rather than replaces things like the manually writing notes or explaining concepts.
isn't that what well typed/formatted notes should. unless your explanation always involve a bunch of bak-and-forth?
Past my school life into employment life, the situation is much different. I take digital notes on many tasks, I search through them like in a database when I need to recall something. I don't get distracted for note taking in environments that sitting through long lectures encourage. I still take notes on paper sometimes, but write a lot less down.
Usually my workflow is: take notes, if I can avoid things I know are in the book, I will, then a week or so before exams I'll read everything (book+notes_ and make flashcards in Anki. I know I can do 25 pages (of a book) a day comfortably so I'll time it appropriately. Then I proceed to cram for a day or two until I can realiably do the whole deck with ease. This usually takes me less time (1/2 usually) than the reading/making hence why I want to switch to digital notes, to avoid a step. Most of the material that's tested for usually doesn't need to be memorized, which irritates me to know end, but what can I do. So I cram so I can promptly forget.
I find concepts are either understood or not understood, they do not need to be memorized. Things that are usually tested for (at least where I live / for what I'm studying) tend to be facts/procedures. At the end of the year I extract these from my notes / anki cards for future reference.
One other thing I do is the flashcards are written exactly how I will answer the question 90% of the time, sometimes in my own words, sometimes extracted right from the book. Before when I studied in English I didn't do this because I'm comfortable with the language, but because I'm studying in another language now, often the wording is the hardest part (also in part why reading takes me so long). This way I don't have to worry about that. Also this makes exams go lightning fast. I'm always first to leave.
So far I've managed to get usually the top score or very close to the top on all my exams across 5 classes. In my most recent class I got the top score of 96 on an exam where the median was in the 60s.
All I do is take hand written notes (albeit digitally on an ipad) during lectures. Then before the exam, I review my notes. That's it! My recall with this approach has been great.
I admit though, having the lecture videos online is a massive help for this method. I watch at 1.5x and frequently pause it if I miss something, or re-watch a section if I didn't understand it the first time - then take my notes. I always had trouble with real-time lectures in my undergrad.
I used color for headings. Added bullets and numbers even when it wasn't dictated that way. Added acronyms - mnemonics to the headings. Marked out filler content while writing or immediately after class. Summarized, rewrote important parts in my own words. Marked areas where I'd have to reproduce verbatim.
Finally, for exams, I read using my Nook eBook reader instead of the laptop because: The glossy screen is tiring. And there are many distractions on my laptop - browser, games, movies...
Finally, while reading, I actively set questions and answered them after reading. This question method's far better than re-reading multiple times.
With all these, five hours was all I needed for a semester's worth of work.
Getting copies of notes or reading the actual book can easily replace any note taking. Being distracted from the actual explanation because I'm using my attention to write, is a net loss.
Yet, when we discuss things the next week (weekly meetings are common where I work), some people seem to not remember anything about the prior week's meeting.
I use my laptop to quickly look up last week's notes and reference those while discussing weekly progress. Others do OK with one or two subjects (from memory), but lack detail or flat out do not recall other discussion points.
In addition, I work in secure labs and electronics are a big NO, notebook on the other hand it simply works.
My 2c. Pen and paper it is still relevant and it always will be.
When the lecture, presentation or meeting starts a have a macro that creates a new Evernote note prepended with the date and starts recording into QuickTime. Throughout the exchange, I am typing up quick and dirty first draft notes using a macro to screenshot the portion of the QuickTime window displaying the time elapsed. I also employ symbols/emojis to flag points in the notes that are important‼️, should be returned to and reviewed later , are confusing, raise a question ect...
Whenever there is downtime (e.g. interruption or lull in the presentation) I work my way back and start improving the notes: Organizing them into a hierarchy with headings, indentation and boldation. Also, I Hyperlink useful, relevant or referenced URLs.
At the bottom of the document I have a separated section called TAKEAWAY containing a bulleted list of questions to ask, things to follow up on, and key points. I can always ⌘↓ > ↩ to add an item line to this section.
At the end of the exchange, I check my TAKEWAY section and clarify any questions. I stop recording and add the audio file to the top of the document. This leaves me with a reference document I can revisit, clean up, and reference later.
The process of making the note visually appealing and easy to read by cleaning up, formatting, and adding hyperlinks accomplishes a lot of the internalization handwriting does because it forces you to try to convey the kernel of the information being consumed in as well few formatted, organized words as possible.
Furthermore, I'm the type that really values immediately looking up unfamiliar referenced concepts/ideas so I don't misunderstand what/why something is said. As for diagrams, they can usually be incorporated by adding slides of the presentation, taking a picture of the whiteboard at the end, or just googling whatever the diagram was.
With the wonderful world of macros and automation I can change color, size, formatting, add lists; add hyperlinks, multi-media images, timestamps ect... and keep everything in an easy to read, search and share document.
Most importantly my handwriting is bogus. I really couldn't do it any other way.
I don’t think the average person understands > cares > is negatively impacted by that concern.
Any knowledge or experiences?
My experience has been, as someone that observes the law, I've been denied the opportunity to audio-record a lecture. In this instance, the person in question did not object but the professor did - stating that there was an individual that could be affected. Granted, it doesn't really make a difference if I use it for my own personal use but since everything is hosted in the cloud these days...
Specifically, I'm reading a very detailed textbook on databases. I feel that if I don't take notes I will forget most of the content in the textbook because the textbook is so information dense, but at the same time, whenever I take notes they end up being word-for-word copies of the text because the textbook is already so concise/word-efficient.
Everyone learns differently. You just have to find what works for you. But no internet is key.
I usually use Emacs Org-mode for my note taking and then refactor my notes once class is over.
Even then I would only take notes of equations to memorise them and things that the lecturers said that were even not explained properly or absent in the handouts/slides. At my university there were recordings of the lectures but I was too lazy/didn't want to waste my time looking up exactly what they said.
How about if you take notes on laptop put that into spaced repetition software like Anki & Supermemo compared to hand written notes memory retention?
It is the best of both worlds. You basically have a zero latency touchscreen that can save your notes to PDF.
Even the best Tablets today have latency, most are designed more as touchscreen. Writing gets tiring and distracting really quick.
I wonder why the Boogie Board Sync was discontinued.
According to one of their support agents, their sales numbers were low. Personally I think their marketing sucked - they seemed to be targeting kids rather than students/business users. Their styling reflected this identity crisis too.
They have a product coming later in the year which will "address some of the same needs", TBD though how thoroughly it'll be a fill-in for it. In the meantime I bought a protective folio case for mine and am babying it.
Now, this isn't without issues, as being on a computer allows for easier distractions. But as long as one stays focused on the class, it can work quite well.
Then I either scan them directly to PDF or take to effort to re-write them, if the information is to be better structured or shared with others.
Besides all the benefits mentioned by others, it is also a good way to rest my wrists from just typing.
Always best to write good, efficient, consistently-styled notes once, and annotate changes/corrections on them if they are needed. It saves time too!
Isn't this a fairly crucial part of "learning"?
If that's true, then there's no point holding on to "the originals", because on the day of the test/exam/whatever, you won't have access to them anyway.
In essence, transferring knowledge from the original lecture via the written notes to ones memory?
The study sort of assumes that taking notes at all is necessary, but I think the conceptual understanding vs. rote memorization idea suggests that taking notes should be questionable also.
Jordan Peterson has 3 minutes of advice for taking notes conceptually rather than verbatim: https://youtu.be/lMvvdz7YJ-Q
I take notes in text files every day. I do it for work, I do it for exercise, I do it for cooking and grocery shopping, I do it for planning my day, I do it for self improvement.
Writing it out is the simplest form of explanation - I'm explaining the concept to myself. I'm analyzing it to make sure I don't have any logical holes in my thinking, and then I can refer back to it. If I try to explain the concept to another person, and they point out a logical hole or they otherwise can't grasp the point, I go back to my text file and try to find the missing pieces and add them in.
I like this because I always have the concept at the ready. Maybe I don't encounter the topic for a few months or years, and I go back and read the text file on the topic and it's like the neurons organized around the topic all come to life again - but the best part is that there are all these new neurons that I've picked up that apply to it, and the text file gets a little bigger.
It also helps me compartmentalize. Once I've written something into digital stone, I can switch contexts knowing I've pushed the concept as far as my mind can take it for the moment. Later, I can come back and pick up where I left off after my subconscious has had time to chew on it.
You are only presented the information once. There is a reason stenographers record court and lectures. I prefer to handwrite notes on my own time, sometimes twice or three times, for my final copy I study from. If you are smarter than me, you can get away with less notes (or get them from me).
In business meetings if you frantically record every detail, people think you might be a lawyer so this may not apply.
It might because writing makes you slow down a bit. But would be interesting to see.
There's nothing wrong or inferior about taking notes with a computer vs a notepad so long as you're not transcribing.
But, "Don't take notes with a laptop" is punchier.
There's some extrapolation here. I've tried multiple models of taking notes with digital tools. They all come with this assumption that our brains are thinking in a single mode at any given time which is not practically true. I can be understanding what a person is saying and in my head categorising the information (table) while picturing what connections that info might have to something else (drawings?). And then I remember that Ellie from the other team/class had done something similar and I note down to set up a meeting (todo/calendar). All this while noting down questions of my own (free form text).
The point is, analog allows us to take notes and organise on the go. Digital tools, especially laptops (and typing in general), assume our thoughts are organised before we digitise them.
So unless using a pen on a tablet nothing comes even close in the digital world to recording notes the way our brain actually wants to.
Therefore don't take notes with a laptop is valid advice. It's not a tool made for taking on the fly notes and you'd have to be really really special at what you do to bend it to actually be useful in this scenario.
That said, I would be highly skeptical that an ipad + pencil is more eco-friendly to produce than however much paper you use during its lifetime.
The people using paper probably also have the iPad, so it's probably whether the pencil used is more eco-friendly than the extra disposable plastic pens (which it might be)? Then you'd need to look at product lifetime, which is probably more limited by time-passed for Apple users and products than by actual hours of use??
I think these things are always more complex to analyse than it first appears.
But I guess you could get a used iPad with the Apple Pencil or something similar.