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Ask Slashdot: Best Way To Take Notes In the Modern Classroom? 364

Krau Ming writes "After about eight years spent in research, I've made the decision to go back to school — medical school. When I last spent the bulk of my days sitting in lectures, I took notes with paper, and if the professor wasn't technologically impaired, he/she would have posted powerpoint slides as a PDF online for us to print and make our notes on. Since it has been so long, I am looking for some options other than the ol' pen and paper. Is there an effective way of taking notes with a laptop? What about tablet options? Are there note-taking programs that can handle a variety of file types (eg: electronic textbooks, powerpoint slides, PDFs)? Or should I just sleep in and get the lectures posted online and delay learning the course material until the exam (kidding)?"
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Ask Slashdot: Best Way To Take Notes In the Modern Classroom?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 03, 2012 @03:41PM (#40871821)

    Such a long time, did they already have pen and paper?
    I can't remember, so much has changed.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by crazyjj ( 2598719 ) *

      My grandpa used to tell me there was once a time when the most you could hope was for the professor to post a pdf. But I always thought he was joking. Guess he was telling the truth after all.

    • Re:8 years ago... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by quantumghost ( 1052586 ) on Friday August 03, 2012 @05:00PM (#40872851) Journal

      Such a long time, did they already have pen and paper? I can't remember, so much has changed.

      Hmmmm....Actually went to medical school > 8 years ago....let me detail somethings that most may not know about it....

      1st year for a "traditional" medical school, fall semester is usually biochem and anatomy....both usually involve a lot of diagrams and less note taking. Your prof may or may not have handouts....ours used slides and were just transitioning to joke...but think about it...not much of that information has changed over the years....esp for anatomy. Biochem, they add on for a (very) few new disease processed, and recently added the HMGCoA pathway.

      Spring is usually histology and physiology....again histo is a lot of drawing of cells. Physio is less so, but more flow chart like diagrams. Micro...some note taking some diagrams....Neuro science...._lots_ of diagrams....

      2nd year....hardly anyone goes to class....our second year class room was ~1/3 the size of the first small that the entire 2nd year class could not fit into the lecture hall at the same time. I am neither joking nor exaggerating. Fall is pharm...good for is path....spring is a continuation of path and intro clinical medicine....again both are ok for note-taking.

      The problem here is also that most schools still have a note-service....this is where someone is responsible for taping the lectures and distributing them out for people to review and type out the notes....the original crowd-sourcing. This is usually why most realize that going to class is rarely helpful.

      3rd year....clinicals...ha - forget about note're on the move constantly, and scribbling furiously on a scrap of paper, and mostly reading out of a pocket sized book when you have those rare moments of down time....that or you're sleeping. The few lectures you have, you'll be too busy eating, or catching up on sleep. No...not kidding here either.

      4th pick easy electives, finish your core classes.....the fall you're off interviewing for residency, you hardly ever take notes..."'cause you know it all" already. You're just killing time til you match and then killing more time til you graduate.

      Intern realize you know squat -- just like 3rd year of med school, but now you actually have responsibility! You never get a chance to sit through a lecture cause you're damn pager is going off...during rounds the orders are barked out so quickly, you'll only be able to jot 1/2 of it down on any available scrap of'll devise your own system of how to handle this....and I assure will not be electronically.

      2nd actually find that you did learn something the previous year (must have been via diffusion)....but now you're the one barking orders, or you have a much better idea of what's coming so you rarely have to write much down.

      Just my $0.02....YMMV

      Source: Spent the last 9 years as a resident/fellow and the 4 years prior to that as a med student....and saw everyone else doing the _same_exact_thing_.

  • by CanHasDIY ( 1672858 ) on Friday August 03, 2012 @03:41PM (#40871823) Homepage Journal
    If it were me, I'd stick to good ol' fashioned carbon on paper. I find my ability to retain information increases greatly if I write it down myself, manually.

    Of course, YMMV, not everybody learns the same way.
    • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Friday August 03, 2012 @03:52PM (#40872007) Journal

      I find my ability to retain information increases greatly if I pay attention. If I'm writing, I'm not paying attention, I'm just a passive conduit for words going in my ears and out my fingers. If I do take notes, I generally find myself wondering what the hell I meant. Better to just pay attention in class and read the text. Notes are worthless.

      • I find my ability to retain information increases greatly if I pay attention. If I'm writing, I'm not paying attention, I'm just a passive conduit for words going in my ears and out my fingers. If I do take notes, I generally find myself wondering what the hell I meant. Better to just pay attention in class and read the text. Notes are worthless.

        As I said,

        Of course, YMMV, not everybody learns the same way.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Ziekheid ( 1427027 )
        No offense but maybe your brain just fails to multitask.
        • by Baloroth ( 2370816 ) on Friday August 03, 2012 @04:16PM (#40872301)

          No offense but maybe your brain just fails to multitask.

          Assuming he is a human, of course [] his brain does. As does yours, mine, and Stephen Hawking's. No human brain can actually multitask. Some people are just faster at switching between one task and another than others.

          • And most single-core CPU's don't either, but that doesn't mean we haven't had "multi-tasking" in Windows for over a decade and a half.

        • No offense but maybe your brain just fails to multitask.

          And maybe that is why he is able to perceive that pretending to multitask is inferior to concentrating on the most important task at hand, and organizing one's effort around the reality of the human brain.

          E.g. During class, focus on absorbing the material being presented. Later, with recording of class if necessary, make effective notes with the leisure of being able to pause in order to record notes on whatever media is best suited to writing things down to confirm comprehension (no more "WTF was I writi

        • No offense but maybe your brain just fails to multitask.

          No offense, but maybe you're a narcissistic, egotistical ignoramus who thinks he's some kind of ubermensch because he can walk and chew gum at the same time.

          No offense.

      • I used to be puzzled by the fact that I often fell asleep during lectures at conferences, but I never fell asleep in class as a student. I eventually realized that I didn't fall asleep in class because I was taking notes instead of just sitting there. Of course, YMMV if you aren't as perpetually sleep-deprived as I am.

      • by hawguy ( 1600213 )

        I find my ability to retain information increases greatly if I pay attention. If I'm writing, I'm not paying attention, I'm just a passive conduit for words going in my ears and out my fingers. If I do take notes, I generally find myself wondering what the hell I meant. Better to just pay attention in class and read the text. Notes are worthless.

        For me it's the opposite - when I'm in a meeting, I write down anything that I feel is important and I find that I retain it better after the meeting. I almost never refer to my meeting notes after a meeting (and I have no real organization system that would let me easily find the notes a few weeks after the meeting aside from flipping through my notepad), but I tend to retain information much more after I write it down.

        Or maybe I've trained myself to work that way so it's just the fact that I'm writing it

      • >>>I find my ability to retain information increases greatly if I pay attention. If I'm writing, I'm not paying attention

        I find my ability to retain information increases greatly if I ignore the professor mumbling who-knows-what into the blackboard, and just read the book and the homework problems.

        Oh and last time I visited Penn State, about three years ago, everyone was still using pencil-and-paper. A few had laptops but even they were taking notes on paper. It's faster. And often easier especi

      • Paying attention is definitely a requirement, but I find that by taking notes I retain stuff longer, even if I never look at the notes. The reason is that you have to process the information to convert it from aural to written. Without that step, information "goes in one ear and out the other".
      • by Genda ( 560240 ) <> on Friday August 03, 2012 @04:30PM (#40872475) Journal
        Bring a point and shoot with a 12 MP res or higher, and video the course. Take high res snap shots of chalkboard or displays depending on presentation. That evening, edit video to just the stuff that matters. pump what you want through "Dragon; Naturally Speaking". edit, and highlight the text, imbed snap shots. Date the seminar with the video highlights and place in a neatly marked folder. Reread/View notes over the weekend, you remember more. If you can take you textbooks in digital form, you have a perfect way of making your class a part of a larger digital library. Better yet, break the content into smaller bits, store chucks in a database and add metadata for search. The act of managing the data will demand that you understand it so you can parse its nature and properly store it. Each section of each class will have its notes, classroom video, images, book information, scanned handouts, chapter questions, pop quizzes. In short, everything you need for the mid term and final, to pass with flying colors.
      • You must write very quickly if the words are going in your ears and out your fingers. I'm a slower writer than you so I'm forced to listen, understand, and think of a way to summarize what the professor is lecturing about so I can record it in my notes quickly enough to keep up. I find that the process forces me to pay attention instead of becoming distracted, and helps tremendously with learning and retention. In fact I'm frequently able to recall exactly how I wrote something in my notes years or even
      • I find my ability to retain information increases greatly if I pay attention. If I'm writing, I'm not paying attention,

        I'm not sure what you think "attention" means, but transcribing the words and ideas of a lecturer requires a very high level of attention.

        As someone who lectured for more than 25 years, I can absolutely tell the difference between someone who took good notes and someone who "paid attention". The few students who had perfect memories were very rare.

        If I tell you something and you write it

      • Some people are the exact opposite: taking notes allows them to pay more attention. I fall somewhere inbetween, personally. Some light notes enhance my understanding and retention.

        But regardless of how you take notes, the most important thing is to not let the note-taking waste your CPU cycles, so to speak. What the submitter is looking for would most likely detract from his learning. I've seen people use the stylus-on-tablet method, and they're constantly fighting the device while taking notes (changin

    • I second the pen and paper note-taking suggestion. I've found that if I type my notes in class, I spend more time transcribing every word the lecturer says instead of paying attention to the lecture and noting down the points that are important. Of course, you can always ask the lecturer if you can record the class if you need the crutch.

      • I second the pen and paper note-taking suggestion. I've found that if I type my notes in class, I spend more time transcribing every word the lecturer says instead of paying attention to the lecture and noting down the points that are important. Of course, you can always ask the lecturer if you can record the class if you need the crutch.

        My problem with typing notes (as opposed to hand writing them) is that I spend far too much time spell/grammar checking my notes, and end up completely missing large chunks of the lecture.

        Not to diss the idea completey - It would probably be a far more viable method for someone who's not an O.C.D. Grammar Nazi like I am.

        • I second the pen and paper note-taking suggestion. I've found that if I type my notes in class, I spend more time transcribing every word the lecturer says instead of paying attention to the lecture and noting down the points that are important. Of course, you can always ask the lecturer if you can record the class if you need the crutch.

          My problem with typing notes (as opposed to hand writing them) is that I spend far too much time spell/grammar checking my notes, and end up completely missing large chunks of the lecture. Not to diss the idea completey - It would probably be a far more viable method for someone who's not an O.C.D. Grammar Nazi like I am.

          The *point* of the pencil-and-paper not taking is that you ingest the information and analyze it to decide which points in the lecture are worth writing down because either

          • you won't easily remember them
          • they're likely to be needed for tests or homework
          • or you don't understand them and you will need to do further research or ask the professor

          This is a greatly more active role in learning than you will achieve by either sitting in class without taking notes or by recording the entire lecture or grabbing the

    • I go with ink on paper. I discovered (much to my dismay) one semester that after 3 months of hauling around my notebooks packed into my backpack, the first 100 pages of my pencil written notes had basically been smudged off by the pages rubbing together and where nearly invisible. The pages where just sort of grey, with very faint text on them. After that, I switched to pens, and a 'Day Binder' system. red binder for M,W,F classes, and Black for Tues Thurs classes. less to carry, and less chance for things
    • Pen and paper. Nothing beats it.

      It forces you to paraphrase what the instructor is saying.

      The whole point of a lecture is that you run the ideas through your brain. (Pen and paper forces this.) No electronic device will ever replace forcing your brain to process what you are hearing and seeing during a lecture.
  • Livescribe (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 03, 2012 @03:42PM (#40871835)

    I use Livescribe pens at work and I love it. I wish that the pens were available when I was in university because they are ideal for taking lecture notes.

    • Seconded. LiveScribe. If tablets hadn't given up on the stylus and excellent handwriting recognition, I'd say that route too.
      • I took notes on a Windows Mobile PDA for a few classes. The handwriting worked really well. I have horrible handwriting and sometimes ran into the edge of the screen and started piling letters on top of each other and it still worked. I just wish I had a bigger screen.

    • by ethanms ( 319039 )

      I was given one as an expensive gift... I feel very badly for not using it, but the pen was just too large and bulky.

      In addition, I'm much faster finding notes in an old notebook than I am flipping through virtual pages on a screen. Because I work in an office, having access to the old notebooks is not an issue, and frankly if it's not in my current or last notebook, then it's probably something I don't really need to find anyway.

      So in the end it just wasn't worth it.

      It just so happens that I also attend n

    • by kat_skan ( 5219 ) on Friday August 03, 2012 @04:06PM (#40872181)

      I bought a hundred-dollar pen because I always lose pens and I was sick of not caring.

    • Re:Livescribe (Score:5, Interesting)

      by mark_reh ( 2015546 ) on Friday August 03, 2012 @04:21PM (#40872361) Journal

      I went through a year of my didactic classes in dental school using a livescribe pen exclusively. Almost all lectures were done with power point so my notes mostly consisted of writing down slide numbers whenever a slide was changed. The pen links the text to the audio so when i review the ppts if I wanted to know what was being said while a particular slide was on-screen I could just tap the slide number int he notes and get the info straight from the horse's mouth. Whenever the work test was mentioned in the context of "this is going to be on the test", I wrote the word "test". If someone asked a good question and/or received a good answer I wrote "listen". The other thing that is great is the software on the computer searches your handwritten text and highlights wherever you wrote the searched-for text. When I want to find all those instances of the word "test" in my notes, the desktop software finds them for me and I can click and hear all the relevant info without having to listen to two hours of lecture.

      It really made studying and note taking easy and was completely reliable. My 1 GB pen held about 3 weeks worth of all-day, every-day lectures.

      I still use the pen for my "engineering" notebook so I'll have copies of whatever I write on ym computer.

  • by dehole ( 1577363 ) on Friday August 03, 2012 @03:43PM (#40871841)

    Sorry to discourage you, but I have found that using pen and paper is the best way to take notes. Why? Maybe it helps your brain process what your trying to learn. It could be that it is distraction free. I know that it is the simplest way to take notes, and often times, the simplest is the best.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Plus it allows you to practice crappy physician handwriting.

    • My main problem is that when I'm writing something down, I miss what is being said next. Always had that issue. But I can type and listen at the same time, no problem. Maybe learning shorthand would help though.

    • by ethanms ( 319039 )

      I find that paper and pen is preferable over anything else by a WIDE margin for me as well.

      To the person who noted pencil... a couple of things--
      - How often are you erasing? If it's quite often then you're not doing "note taking" you're doing something else...
      - Pencil fades in a notebook, I will often use pencil when doing engineering work because it IS erasable and I've found that a few months later the writing is very difficult to use because it's fading and smudging

    • I liked my Palm Pilot for a long time - it was more legible than my handwriting, easier to carry, and I could take notes as fast and as easy as I could by hand. (And the notes could be easily archived for reference once I was done with the course.)

      Now that it's died and I can't replace it, I've gone back to paper. Laptop is too bulky and puts a wall between you and the teacher (it makes a difference), and the current tables/phones take too much concentration to take notes on - I find myself missing what's

  • by colin_faber ( 1083673 ) on Friday August 03, 2012 @03:44PM (#40871871)
    Just wait until your buddy finishes taking notes, then take them.
  • by DarthVain ( 724186 ) on Friday August 03, 2012 @03:45PM (#40871881)

    So apparently the technology of the time of personal tape recorders. Not sure if this was his undergrad or law school, but I guess a lot of students rather than attending a long lecure would come in, drop off a tape recorder, press record, and then leave. Apparerently it got so bad that then one day he was late for class or something, and when he got there, the entire classroom was just a bunch of tape recorders recording, and at the front (I can only assume in protest) the prof had brought his own taped lecture and was simply playing it out of his own device!

    A sort of analog information transfer...

  • by Tridus ( 79566 ) on Friday August 03, 2012 @03:45PM (#40871887) Homepage

    The act of actually writing helps me to remember the information, particularly since I can't write fast enough to just copy down what's said verbatim and have to think about what to record. In addition, pens are cheap, easily replaced if lost or broken, and don't give you a very tempting distraction in the form of the Internet.

    YMMV of course, but that's what works for me.

  • I used to write notes by hand (even when I was carrying a laptop) and that was usually enough to allow me to memorize the material. (Take the test, recycle the notes.)

  • by logicassasin ( 318009 ) on Friday August 03, 2012 @03:45PM (#40871895)

    I have a child about to attend college in the fall. I've already told her to take more notes on paper than with the laptop she's going to get soon. Why? I pulled out my chemistry, calc, and Pascal notes from college courses taken over 20 years ago and showed them to her. One look at them and she understood what I was talking about.

    Drawings for chem experiments, flowcharts with notation for my programs, and clear notes with plenty of examples from calc made her understand. The stuff I did with paper and pencil back then would not be easy to replicate as quickly with a laptop. She understands now.

    • The stuff I did with paper and pencil back then would not be easy to replicate as quickly with a laptop.

      But it is easy to replicate with a stylus. I have over 7 years of notes cataloged in One Note, completely searchable along with power points, hand outs, and audio transcriptions/files. Now... I don't know how these notes are going to hold up over 20 years, especially with Microsoft's track record with file formats, but when I was taking the course quickly searching for keywords and getting results spanning all my course materials was an incredible boost to productivity.

    • by bsDaemon ( 87307 )

      Not to mention the fact that 20 years later you could still access the information in its original format without having to hunt down expensive converters for out-dated technology. There's a reason paper has been around for thousands of years and is still in use.

  • Livescribe (Score:5, Informative)

    by Jabes ( 238775 ) on Friday August 03, 2012 @03:45PM (#40871897) Homepage

    I find the livescribe system brilliant. It is pen and paper, but it records audio and you can transfer your scribblings to computer. The audio and your writing are synced up so you can touch on any part of your writing either on the paper or on the computer and jump to the audio at the time you wrote it.

  • As long as you can read your own letter afterwards this may be the best option. You can, at a later time, transcribe to a digital form for easy storage and search.

    You may remember better writing than typing and you only need to write the highlights, strong points or references.

  • You know how you learn best. You know what you'll remember and what you won't. Just take notes like you always have. Use a laptop if you want, but that doesn't work for diagrams/graphs/etc (unless it's one of the laptops that you write on a touch-screen, and then why aren't you just using paper?). If it goes too quickly to take effective notes, record it - modern recorders are a lot better than the old bulky tape recorders - and go over it later.

    I just got out of college recently, I grew up with modern

  • by DeeEff ( 2370332 ) on Friday August 03, 2012 @03:49PM (#40871965)

    What, you don't use butterflies to write your notes? Get off my lawn, you petulant n00b!

  • Use the lecture as a way to get an introduction to a topic — you'll be doing reading on the subjects anyway, in more depth than you hear about them in lectures, so focus on taking effective notes from reading instead.

    (I'm just finishing a distance learning masters, and have done just this; listen to the podcasts, and then focus on taking notes from the reading.)

  • I like gadgets as much as the next geek, but look: in the West, paper came into the classroom in the early fourteenth century. Sure, you see it earlier; but once it becomes available in bulk, its first use is class notes (also because the quality was not exactly archival). Paper replaced (wax) tablets. Why do you want to revert to a tablet?

    Yeah, the new ones are super-cool, and they do a lot of things really well. But handling tachygraphy ain't one of them. Those photocopiers you remember from 8 years ago?
  • MS OneNote (Score:5, Interesting)

    by foeclan ( 47088 ) on Friday August 03, 2012 @03:54PM (#40872027)

    If you're on Windows, Microsoft OneNote is fantastic. You can drag in other files as printouts, then write on them. The text of the printouts is searchable. The individual note pages can be organized in numerous ways (I have tab groups for semester, tabs for classes, then subtabs for each lecture). It can record and transcribe notes, does handwriting conversion, allows writing using a mouse or tablet pen (I use it on a ThinkPad Tablet PC, which makes it even handier).

    With a tablet PC, I've used it to write mathematical and chemical formulas directly in my notes, or highlight parts of diagrams from lecture notes or even just dragged from websites (or cut with the snipping tool; with OneNote installed, you can use windows-S as a shortcut key to the snipping tool and past things into your document). You can also export your notes as PDFs.

    OneNote has been remarkably useful in undergrad and now in grad school. I highly recommend it. I'm always kind of boggled that MS doesn't market it better; it just sort of 'comes with' Office and they don't really advertise that well.

  • by Conception ( 212279 ) on Friday August 03, 2012 @03:57PM (#40872071)

    Evernote is pretty fantastic for organizing notes and then, unlike with pen and paper, you have the ability to attach pdfs, websites, etc etc and search through all of them.

  • by c0d3r ( 156687 ) on Friday August 03, 2012 @03:57PM (#40872075) Homepage Journal

    At Cal, they used to give us the notes to the class so you spend your time thinking, not taking notes.

  • Hands down if you're wanting a technological solution, an XP or Windows 7 convertable tablet (you want a real keyboard, and a proper digitizing pen) with OneNote. Yes it's proprietary and evil, but it's the best new thing that MS has release in 10 years.

    You can record the lecture, while taking notes, and the notes get linked to the time durng the lecture. You can search the audio recording!

    You can import all sorts of file formats and annotate them as you go. Those you can't directly import you can prin

    • The last three use fuzzy algorithms - when it OCR's an image, it doesn't OCR it to an exact text, but rather to a set of possible texts, all of which are searched. Likewise for audio and handwriting.

      Huh, I never knew this... I just wrote a novel in a post below about how I used one note through college and grad school. The searching was by far the best aspect, and today I still use some of the notes I took because they were so thorough, thanks to one note's ability to combine different sources of notes. Usually, each lecture consisted of power point slides, handouts, recorded audio, and my own handwritten notes (which I never bothered to convert to editable text since it was unnecessary). This also mad

  • Tablet PC (Score:5, Informative)

    by Missing.Matter ( 1845576 ) on Friday August 03, 2012 @04:03PM (#40872145)
    I know Slashdot loves to hate the Tablet PC, but I went through college with it (physics + computer engineering) and graduate school now doing by (PhD computer engineering). I've also tried the iPad in my graduate work, since those didn't exist when I did my undergrad. So let me give you an idea of how I used both and how they worked out for me.

    Tablet PC was a Dell Latitude XT. It has a capacitive multi-touch screen and an inductive stylus digitizer. It used Windows 7 as the OS, and my primary method of taking notes was Microsoft One Note. I digitized all my books, and bought digital copies where I could. During class, I had my books open, and when the prof. would reference diagrams or specific sections, I would clip them and paste them into my notes, annotating them there. When the professor had powerpoints available before hand, I would load them into one note and annotate there. The benefit was I could after the fact scan and recognize my handwriting (which I could train the computer to learn to a very high accuracy). Also, with one note you can put tags on specific sections or notes. These tags can be compiled into a summary, so I would typically tag equations or definitions and create quick reference study guides this way. This computer doubled as my work computer so I also installed word, excel, powerpoint, and matlab for homework and presentations. For presentations, powerpoint was especially useful with presenter view and inking capability.

    The iPad was much less useful than the Tablet PC for me. I couldn't have two windows open side by side, so clipping segments from PDF to notes was not feasible. Also, the iPad doesn't have a digitizer, so it uses capacitive input for writing. The styluses are huge, and inaccurate, and your palm often causes inaccurate marks. Further, the handwriting recognition in most apps is either nonexistent or terrible. Finally working with fellow students was a pain with the iPad, since the file manager is completely closed off. We couldn't just pass around a USB drive or network our computer together, everything had to be done via drop box, and even then I couldn't open most of the formats they were trying to send me. Printing was also impossible on my campus with the iPad, and connecting to a projector can be problematic. You can't just screen share the iPad with an external display like you can a Windows computer; the particular app has to support that feature.

    Now, I think if I were to do it all again I would get a Windows 8 device with a stylus like the Surface Pro. It will run all my windows apps like Office and Matlab, connect to all my devices, network with all the same computers, but have all the touch niceties and touch based apps when it's in tablet mode. The Surface Pro is pretty much what I was hoping the iPad would be, only 3 years later, and honestly if I were doing it all over again, that's where I would start (or a device like it from one of the OEMs). Price and battery life are still up in the air, but they're both most assuredly better than what I paid for my Latitude XT, which I have never regretted buying due to its usefulness.
    • You can't just screen share the iPad with an external display

      This is only true for the iPad1. iPad2 and later support full video mirroring.

      • I only had an iPad 1, so my comments and experience are ignorant of the changes made after it. However as far as I know, it still does not have an active digitizer, still does not have the ability to use multiple apps side by side, still does not have an open file system, still does not have wide peripheral and software compatibility, which was the bulk of the usefulness of the tablet. Please correct me again if I am wrong on these points.
    • Re:Tablet PC (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Pigeon451 ( 958201 ) on Friday August 03, 2012 @04:20PM (#40872349)

      +1, totally agree. Typical tablets aren't great for taking notes. Maybe for annotating PDFs, but beyond that, not much use. If Onenote was ported to Android or Apple then it might be OK, but still limited by the OS.

      A tablet PC is much better, as it's a real computer with a touch screen. Combine that with Microsoft Onenote and you have a very powerful (albeit expensive) note taking machine. Onenote is excellent at digitizing your scribbles so you can search for it later. It even has audio transcription, but I've never tried it. You can have Onenote documents open over multiple computers (via Dropbox or Microsoft's own service) and they all update seamlessly.

      I'm not a big fan of Microsoft's bloated products, but Onenote is a wonderful program.

      • I know iOS at least has a version of One Note that is very trimmed down. It's more like a content aggregator than a full notebook solution. Audio transcription works pretty well as long as you're in the front of the class. I used my computer's built in mics, which worked okay sometimes but not others. I had better luck using a stand alone recorder and loading the files from that after lecture. An extra step but better results dues to the improved hardware.
  • So many people spend so much of time furiously scribbling away and not paying attention to what the lecturer is saying. Just jot down the URLs, journal article ref numbers, anything that is a pointer to an resource you need to look up later. Otherwise listen carefully. Try not to get distracted no matter how boring the material is. Always review take 15 minutes to summarize what you have listened as soon as the class is over or as soon as possible. Then read this summary before the next class. Look up the U
    • That's great advice for whatever percentage of the population are auditory learners. For other people, writing down what you hear enhances your recall of it, especially if you copy it into a more legible format after class (akin to your taking 15 mins to summarize). I had friends in college who could have been deaf for all they got out of listening, but they learned everything they needed from the blackboard and the online notes. I had other friends (most of them, actually, since a large majority of engi

    • The key to note taking is to recognize what is noteworthy and make note of it. Like you say, don't write everything down. Listen, and jot down the salient points.
  • That only works if (1) the lecture contains lots of visual material and (2) the professor is not annoyed.
    Often in the case of powerpoint, the professor posts them on a website.
  • by gman003 ( 1693318 ) on Friday August 03, 2012 @04:10PM (#40872227)

    This is a bit high-tech, but I've had good results with it.

    You're going to need a cylinder of compressed graphite, roughly .5mm in diameter and 5cm in length. Encapsulate it in some ablative material (preferably a renewable organic material) for better grip and structural integrity.

    Use this implement to store data on a flexible two-dimensional lattice. The graphite will slowly be worn down as it is deposited on the surface - you will need to continually ablate more of the cover.

    Data removal is handled either by disposing of the lattice itself (for bulk erase), or by use of a specialized tool (often attached to one end of the data write implement) for small deletes - although I will note that, after sufficient rewrite cycles, data may be unreadable.

    This offers many advantages over traditional computer-based storage. It is far lower-power, functioning off a few milliwatts of energy. It allows for highly flexible unstructured data storage (sort of like NoSQL), and can be improved rapidly by agile development, as no data standards are enforced. I often use a system of my own design to encrypt data by use of an alternative character set (the Unicode committee has, unfortunately, declined to add it to the standard). It also allows more rapid and accurate entry of non-textual or rich-text data.

    The only drawbacks are a rather inefficient system for video storage, and it can become rather bulky (while not as dense as the old computer systems, they often have similar or even higher mass). But those are rather minor drawbacks given all the advantages.

    • This is awesome.
    • I prefer a device consisting of four plastic tubules within an outer housing. At the egress end of the inner tubes is a sphere, which rolls along the flexible two dimensional lattice, and transfers a chromatic fluid contained within the tube to the aforementioned surface. At the opposite end of these tubules there is a metal spring and a plastic cap possessing specially shaped projections. It is not coincidental that the color of the plastic cap matches the chromatic characteristics of the fluid containe
    • Another great thing about this system that wasn't mentioned is it's got full support for internationalization. Any language you want, it's supported - even ones not invented yet! I'm studying Japanese, and a lot of the techno solutions presented here won't work as well. *sigh* Part of studying Japanese also involves learning to write those weird-looking characters, so you HAVE to practice the writing, anyway. The sooner your start reading and writing it in the native characters, the faster you'll be acqui
  • I find that the best way to take notes depends very much on the specific nature of the class you are taking. For math courses, programming courses, (some) science courses, or anything else where you need to be able to draw or use numbers, pen (or mechanical pencil) and regular old notebook work best.

    For classes that are mostly text based, such as social sciences, history, or English courses, I find that typing my notes out in outline format (on a laptop) to be preferable.

  • ... on vellum. With a quill pen.

  • Using Onenote with Thinkpad X series tablet PCs myself at the moment... and it's awesome. Syncs with Skydrive absolutely seamlessly (open the same document on as many devices as you want at the same time, and they all update each other - reliably and without errors), and provides great pen input. Sorry for sounding like a shilll, but it's the only adequate replacement I've found for pen and paper so far. My productivity has gone through the roof since I switched to OneNote instead of pen+paper, and my back

  • I've found that the best way for me to take notes is to find the medium that has the least friction and then to process the information before I put it down. What the latter means is that, rather than merely treating my notes as a form of dictation from the lecturer, I need to actually listen to what is being said and rephrase it in my own words before I put it down. By doing so, I've found that my recollection later is significantly better.

    Regarding friction and the medium, were it my choice, I'd go with a

  • I find it depends on the class. If the notes comprise of tables, diagrams, flowcharts and images then pencil & paper are probably best. If it's more of a text & speech only class (philosophy, history, programming, languages, etc) then I go for a pure-text application (vim being my personal preference). My personal way of taking electronic notes is to use vim for writing, then save everything in sub-folders of "~/notes/" which is git controlled so I can transfer everything around and even share them
  • by boristdog ( 133725 ) on Friday August 03, 2012 @04:23PM (#40872389)

    Generally, you only need to know about 10% of what comes out of the profs mouth. The rest is just extra examples and fluff.

    Back in school I had friends who would write down EVERYTHING the prof would say without thinking. (Seriously, one girl I knew would write down what the professor said when greeting the class. I saw "Happy Wednesday, gang! Anyone seen my pointer?" atop one page.) These people took REAMS of notes and studied them for hours and hours. I took minimal notes and studied them quickly. I usually made much better grades. Not because I am a genius, but because I know WHEN something is important. THAT is the skill you need.

    Also, sit in the front, you are forced to pay attention.

  • This was my job (Score:5, Insightful)

    by supercrisp ( 936036 ) on Friday August 03, 2012 @04:24PM (#40872399)
    In the past my job was teaching students about note-taking. I haven't read the current research in a while, at least more than for fun, but here's the upshot as I know it. Take notes. Pencil and paper is probably best because it's the least prone to break and because it can be the most free-form. But the tool is not as important as what you do with it. Don't be slavish. Just take down the high points. Use the recto and the verso. The recto is for in-class, the "note-taking"; the verso is for after class, the "note-taking" most students don't do. This is for notes in which you interpret, summarize, and clarify. Basically it's for reprocessing and setting-up for further review. Then review material frequently at irregular intervals. In a given study session, work on the verso for that day, then review material from the same day a week ago and the same day from one month ago. Also, the best time to study is just prior to some sleep, either the night's sleep or a nap of at least 15-20 minutes. Now, in my experience, many students will respond: Oh no Dr. C____, I'm special/different/exceptional. I'll be more blunt here, in the interest of space: no you're not. At least there are no studies suggesting that any other methods than I've described are more effective. Feel free to supplement with tape-recordings, etc. But remember the main ideas of limited recording, reinterpretation, and frequent review at irregular interviews. (An added brief note: the research is building that, with very, very few exceptions, no one is a "visual" or "verbal" learner; that's mostly 70s touch-feely bullshit. But most people do learn well if they use multiple media for information storage and retrieval. This could be as simple as notes with words and diagrams. And that brings me back to the pencil and the paper.)
    • Oh, and feel free to lie to yourself or your parents to justify the purchase of a maxipod or what-have-you, but more often than not that gadget will just distract you. Heck, I love boring crap, and I've been in lectures by Prof. Famous Dude I Admire speaking on "Topic that Give Me a Hard-on," and I'll find myself checking Twitter or something. And I'm older and have greater impulse control than I did when I was 19-21. So I'd strongly suggest to sticking to the paper and pencil for actual real use. (I write
  • by ace37 ( 2302468 ) on Friday August 03, 2012 @04:25PM (#40872419) Homepage

    Usually my classes are taught by an instructor with a whiteboard.

    I pay attention to and interact on the discussion, then periodically snap a photo of the whiteboard now and then with my cameraphone. With an 8MP or so typical smartphone, I can pretty much always crop the photo and read the board easily. The date and time are embedded in the image, so I can easily filter them by lecture (and cross check syllabus for topics) without doing any work. I usually review the image notes before an exam and that's about it. And I never have paper notes to file or dump at the end of the semester.

    I find this enables me to pay more attention and interact more during the lecture, which is where I learn the best. Others learn well from transcribing the information; I don't and never have. YMMV.

  • You take a laptop into class, and aside from being a social pariah, you're going to be annoying the hell out of everyone else in class with the typing. That may not bother you, though.

    A tablet at least wouldn't bother others, but you'd still look like a dork.

  • Everyone learns different but for me it was best to pay attention to the class (professor and/or discussions). I'd write a few keywords for topics I need to pay extra attentions to - either I didn't feel I fully understood or thought the professor put greater importance in them. As long as the professor follows the book or hands out notes this works. I knew some people who wrote pages of notes that parroted the book and yet couldn't tell you what the last class was about because they paid attention to w

  • Don't take notes (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Intropy ( 2009018 ) on Friday August 03, 2012 @04:32PM (#40872501)

    Focus on trying to understand what is being said rather than distracting yourself with trying to record a summary or the highlights. If there's something you need clarified or that doesn't seem to fit to you, ask about it. You'll be solidifying your own understanding of the material and probably helping about a few other students in the same position as you. Other reference resources such as passed out notes or a textbook will be available to you that you can peruse in your own time.

  • Well laugh all you can, but stylus might be the only computer-like noting tool I can accept. Else I choose paper.

  • by TheSkepticalOptimist ( 898384 ) on Friday August 03, 2012 @04:53PM (#40872759)

    Anyone suggesting using a laptop should be shot. Transcribing your professors words into verbatim text is NOT learning. The laptop fails in the lecture hall for many reasons. It is difficult to inject your own thoughts about the subject matter when you are too busy trying to get every last word the professor is saying, and it is far to tempting to do so. You cannot easily switch to a "drawing" function to draw down diagrams or annotate your notes. Also they are loud, large and annoying hearing the clicking of keys everywhere. If you are taking notes using a laptop, you are not taking good notes, period.

    Anyone suggesting using an iPad with stylus should be shot. Steve Job's made it very clear that Apple tablets are not supposed to use pen input, and so pen input on the iPad is a shitty experience. The input resolution of the iPad is way too low, so you can't take anything better then grade school looking chalk lines and Fisher Price looking diagrams. iPad's on screen keyboard is horrible for any kind of note taking.

    Most "other" tablets have failed to include decent handwriting tools. Pen input on tablets is too slow and inaccurate to match pen/paper experience. Electronic Pen input forces you to compromise, either due to the lousiness of the hardware or the shiftiness of the software.

    Best experience is to use good ol' fashioned pen and paper. Why:

    Slows you down, makes you think about what is being said rather then madly transcribing words. Using pen and paper you should be putting your OWN thoughts and words down about the subject matter, not someone else's.

    Easy to draw/diagram/annotate. In a math/science course, you will dump using a laptop or tablet simply because the subject matter is just not easy to transcribe to text.

    Easy to annotate after the fact. If the professor linked a point previously made it is very easy to go back with pen and paper to add additional notes at the point they where taken.

    I have lousy hand writing so I always took notes twice, once in the lecture hall and then would spend a little bit of time after class cleaning up the notes. Forced me to think twice about the lecture and so could add/update the notes.

    When I took hand written notes, I actually could remember when points where made and easily find them, even weeks or months later. Using a laptop I found one page looked exactly like another so trying to find some point made during a lecture 3 months ago was impossible.

    While their is a certain appeal of using technology to take lecture notes, realize that the lecture process has not changed in hundreds of years. A boring old fart droning on about largely irrelevant information doesn't require 21st century note taking tech.

  • by sapgau ( 413511 ) on Friday August 03, 2012 @10:28PM (#40875113) Journal

    If you are in Medicine, you will be wasting your time taking more than a page of notes.
    There is such an incredible amount of information in all things medical that you just have to decide what material to read that will match your Teacher's theme and topics. You can probably download somebody else's notes that highlights the important points, pharma doses, lab figures, etc.

    You have to read, review, listen to videos and then read some more. Take a look at what Kaplan offers for example.

Things equal to nothing else are equal to each other.