Take Note: The Case For Tech Notetaking
by William Hirsh | published Feb. 19th, 2015
It's amazing that although RIT is touted as a technologically-inclined university, many professors are often at odds with the idea of students using technology for their classes. Professors often cite items like laptops and tablets as "distractions," and in may cases students are forbidden from using them during classes even though we want to use the most advanced and accurate approach to notetaking for ourselves. Static paper notetaking is not as inviting anymore, especially in a time where interactivity and having the most up-to-date information is vital.
Full disclosure: when it comes to physical notetaking, I am a messy student. As a writer, I often take down my notes for things across many types of paper and notebooks, only to be unable to find them later. While some professors argue that using computers for notetaking is only distracting, it is the best way for many students to organize, track and find their notes throughout the semester. Services like Evernote that are able to sync and categorize notes across multiple devices are indispensable in 2015.
While there are studies that point to hand-written notes as being superior to computer notetaking, an interesting trend has recently become apparent. According to an article by Scientific American, written notetaking exceeded the effectiveness of typed notes simply because the former method allowed the notetaker to better process the information in their own words and recall it more easily, creating a deeper connection to the concepts explained. This is the very same process that most people who take notes on their computer try to emulate. While many go for the bare minimum and summarize what was explained or outlined in class, the value of our notes is expanded in the time after class.
With digital notetaking, students can expand on their notes by hyperlinking to other sources so they get a comprehensive understanding of the topics discussed during a class. This is especially helpful when you want to have all resources related to a certain class in one place — especially when professors utilize videos or articles that are pertinent to the comprehension of material in that class. That said, there are certain special cases where we shouldn't be using technology as our primary notetaking method. Lab courses where a student may come in contact with chemicals that are damaging to technology or that require use of heavy machinery are sensible concessions that can be made.
Professors, give this method of notetaking a chance. While sometimes they can be a distraction, computers are fantastic for creating easy-to-find, comprehensive and continuously updating notes.