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Pen Still Mightier Than the Laptop For Notetaking?

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the highly-evolved-metaphor dept.

Education 569

theodp writes "While waiting to see if the iPad is a game-changer, this CS student continues to take class notes with pen and paper while her fellow students embrace netbooks and notebooks. Why? In addition to finding the act of writing helps cement the lecture material in her mind, there's also the problem of keeping up with the professor: '[While taking notes on a laptop] every five minutes I found myself cursing at not being able to copy the diagram on the board.' So, when it comes to education or business, do you take notes on a notepad/netbook, or stick with good old-fashioned handwriting? Got any tips for making the transition, or arguments for staying the course?"

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Notes (5, Insightful)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054462)

Taking notes on notepad/netbook is an extremely good idea, and now with WiFi's and 3G's everywhere, you can also chat, email, post insightful posts to slashdot, and go raid in World of Warcraft all at the same time. It also lets you work on your latest coding project or post updates to facebook and twitter. If you're getting hungry towards end of the class, you can just use Google Maps to search for some good pizza joint nearby.

Oh notes.. "what notes? I was a little bit busy online..."

But what does iPad have to do with this? Even if we ignore the fact that iPad doesn't even have a stylus, writing with such is laggy and just messes up the text. You write a lot better on paper. The technology isn't there just yet.

And then theres the thing that with your written notes you're more likely to actually read them again. Write them on computer and you just shove them to some obscure location and never read them again.

Re:Notes (3, Insightful)

clang_jangle (975789) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054488)

I actually like my old Palm PDA for taking notes in handwriting with the stylus. Takes up almost no room at all, and quick sketches are as easy as writing.

Re:Notes (4, Interesting)

dark404 (714846) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054548)

Actually I just picked up the HP TM2 tablet. That with one note is awesome for note taking. Being a CS grad student myself, diagrams and more importantly equations drove me nuts trying to take notes before so I relied on my trusty fountain pen and a tablet of paper, but the hand writing recognition is really there _now_ for tablets, and the hp gets great battery life.

Re:Notes (3, Funny)

brusk (135896) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054700)

I've never met a fountain pen that was trusty.

Re:Notes (4, Insightful)

dark404 (714846) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054706)

Then you've been using shitty fountain pens.

Re:Notes (2, Insightful)

nicknamenotavailable (1730990) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054772)

I don't want to seem like a troll, but while you did mention HP twice in your post you also said that previously you used a Fountain pen for note-taking.
If you know how to use a fountain pen, chances are your writing is far better than the majority of the (younger)population out there, many of whom have never even seen a fountain pen. Therefore your experience with hand writing recognition software will be different than most.
But can you elaborate on what software you use?

Re:Notes (2, Interesting)

MikeFM (12491) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054648)

I can type on my iTouch as fast as most people type on a computer (which is faster than most people write) so I'll be surprised if i cant do the same on an iPad. Get a stylus for your iPad (yeah it's a little annoying it isn't included but whatever) and draw diagrams and stuff and you're probably set. If you just can't type by muscle memory without having a touch keyboard then maybe add a bluetooth keyboard. Add in the ability to record the audio and you can probably get some pretty good notes. I don't buy the handwriting being better for memory. It's probably just whatever you're used to. I always type my notes on my laptop and I find it less distracting than writing. The diagram thing is a point but having a screen you can draw on would take care of it.

Re:Notes (2, Informative)

iamhassi (659463) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054748)

"I don't buy the handwriting being better for memory. "

You don't have to "buy" it, it's true []

Re:Notes (1)

mangastudent (718064) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054852)

I know it's true for me; after I commit a lecture to paper (with a fountain pen, mostly for low friction with the paper) I only have to go back to my notes for a few items. This doesn't seem to be true for things that I type (granted, I didn't formally learn to touch type although I of course do nowadays).

Re:Notes (1)

takowl (905807) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054898)

That article says nothing about the differences between typing and handwriting, it's just about the fact that writing notes in itself is good for memory.

In fact, when asked about it in the comments, the author says "I didn’t come across anything on typing, but I would guess it would have the same effect. Here’s why..."

At Law School... (5, Insightful)

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054696)

At law school, everyone uses laptops. It's a different world than the world of pen and paper. There are a very few students who still take notes the old-fashioned way, and they do remarkably well sometimes, but the simple fact is that when you have a particularly intense class you can get down a lot more information typing than you can with pen and paper.

You still have to be disciplined--turning off your network devices can be helpful, and you also have to avoid taking notes just because everyone else is. (There are times when one person starts typing, then another, and it snowballs, even when there's nothing noteworthy being discussed.) But if you use the laptop as a tool, it's a very effective one. It also lets you learn a bit more, because you can actually do some outside research during class which enriches it for everyone.

Re:At Law School... (4, Insightful)

ameoba (173803) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054762)

I could see this working in law school; you probably don't have the sorts of complex equations and diagrams that students are likely to see in science, math & engineering.

Re:At Law School... (1)

IICV (652597) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054778)

I would imagine that in law school, there are very few diagrams. Most things are conveyed in text, right?

Just try taking notes on a free body diagram or a server/client state flowchart with your laptop. Unless you've got a Wacom or something, it just can't be done.

Re:At Law School... (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054840)

"when you have a particularly intense class you can get down a lot more information typing than you can with pen and paper."

Unless you learn the ancient versatile art of shorthand, that is.

Re:Notes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31054756)

Truth is I've always wished that Wacom would make a writing pad specifically for writing, so you could combine the speed and efficiency of typing with the ability to add handwritten notes and diagrams to digital documents. The software also needs to catchup somewhat.

The problem is that the feel of the pens is awkward and the pens slide, the writing doesn't feel natural because of the texture of the surface, if they could get a fairly durable/roughish surface that doesn't make the feeling of writing awkward I would pick it up in a flash.

iLiad (1)

Weezul (52464) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054822)

I'd agree that any device without a stylus seems pretty silly for note taking, or any business like applications. In particular, the iPad has clearly been designed for consuming visual media like movies or books, not creating documents, not creating media, not note taking, etc.

An ebook reader with a stylus for markup like the iLiad might provide a reasonable note taking system however. In fact, I feel that students are often too busy writing when I'd rather they were listening and/or thinking. It might help if they were merely marking up the text instead.

Re:Notes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31054850)

Lord I was born a rambling man... Are you for or against notepads/netbooks (or pen and paper)?

Are you guys mad? (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054862)

Copying diagrams by hand?

Don't your mobile phones take videos? Record the lecture. Take photos of the diagrams. Narrate your own thoughts and comments.


Both (1)

meatmanek (1062562) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054508)

I do both; I'll usually take notes with pen and paper, but if there's a lot of math and I feel like my handwriting isn't going to be legible enough, I'll do them in LaTeX. If I can't remember the syntax for something, I make some up, comment it, and come back to it later.

Re:Both (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31054810)

"I do both; I'll usually take notes with pen and paper, but if there's a lot of math and I feel like my handwriting isn't going to be legible enough, I'll do them in LaTeX"

Math turns you on so much that you have to be in latex to be in class?

And I thought that I was the only one...

Re:Both (1)

Guido von Guido (548827) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054824)

I'm also in the both camp.

However, one thing I find very helpful is to recopy and reorganize my notes. I used to do this in another notebook, but nowadays I do it in my laptop. I find that after having recopied my notes I often don't need to look at them again.

There are pens for the iPad and iPhone (1)

bradword (806343) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054514)

With the use of tablets, you can do the best of both worlds. You can type, and draw with your finder of stylus. Since when does one person's blog post = news?

Re:There are pens for the iPad and iPhone (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31054870)

Apple fanboy. You probably don't use any device in an efficient or impressive manor. Eat shit and die.

So do I (4, Informative)

Xamusk (702162) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054522)

I've tried to do it on the laptop, but graphs, tables, annotations, colors, mathematical formalae (sometimes many of those together) are all too difficult to handle in a timely fashion when using a laptop.

Another data point... (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31054528)

I teach math at a university. In the last 10 years, I've only had one student who tried to take all her notes with a computer. This is her third time taking the course. Coincidence?

Re:Another data point... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31054702)

Yeah, you suck at teaching...

Only if she uses Linux or BSD... (1)

viraltus (1102365) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054722)

Otherwise no.

Mic and camera (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31054530)

What century is this? Stop wasting time trying to capture information manually. Jot down just the most important stuff.

Taking notes is still much more effective. (1)

Tamran (1424955) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054540)

I personally type faster than I hand-write, but those darn diagrams mess me right up and stops me cold. I doubt using any word processing will ever replace pen and paper for note taking or brainstorming.

When a good tablet (cost effective that is) comes out that let's you "sketch" and "diagram" as well as type easily, then it could happen. In that sense, we'll just be talking about electronic paper.

Well. . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31054542)

I'm not in a science major so there are few times when diagrams are important. If they where, I would probably take my PnS camera with me to class and just take pictures. I do still cary paper and pen because there is written work that is done in class sometimes so about the only other thing I can say is, learn to paraphrase and to only write what is important(not everything the prof. says or presents).

Pencil. (4, Insightful)

ThrowAwaySociety (1351793) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054546)

Because it's erasable. Use a hard (light) pencil to avoid smearing, or recopy later.

Also, not having a laptop discourages you from checking email, facebook, or playing games.

Depends on the class. (1)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054550)

I've found some teachers provide the slides(Powerpoint), so taking notes on those documents is much easier with the majority of the content already on the page

In courses that are more graphic oriented, I do tend to have a pen and paper handy, but still take the majority of the notes on the laptop.

Then there are those teachers who feel that they should be the only one in the room using any sort of electronics, so you don't really have a choice. And yes, these professors still exist.

I'm slightly biased towards e-notes because I can type far faster than I can write. I also use Dropbox, which gives me peace of mind that those critical notes for next weeks exam are synced instantly in the cloud. A misplaced paper or crashed hard drive sucks during final exam week.

Re:Depends on the class. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31054794)

You say "these professors still exist" like its a bad thing. As someone who teaches undergraduates, I find that somewhat offensive. Aside from the fact that hearing someone type is somewhat annoying and distracting if they have heavy fingers, the reality is that most students can type much faster than they can write. As a result, many tend to type up whatever is on the board and then go back to surfing the web, playing games, etc. Their expectation is that whatever is up on the board is all they need to know, and the class becomes reduced to whatever is projected up on the screen because they quit paying attention. This is compounded by the fact that the typists have to wait for the writers to finish, increasing the length of time available to give in to temptation. While I am certainly aware that students goofed off and did not pay attention long before the invention of the laptop (I was frequently one of those students doodling and such), the technology certainly makes it a lot easier and a lot more probable for those with low self control.

The reality is that before we embrace new technologies whole heartedly, we need to ask seriously whether or not the technology actually adds anything beneficial to our lives. Although laptops are incredibly useful for a variety of reasons, their value in a class if often very limited, if there at all. I don't restrict the value of laptops because I want complete control of the classroom (such a thing is not possible), I restrict the use of laptops because I want limit the kinds of distractions which take away from the learning process.

Mix them (2, Interesting)

mysidia (191772) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054552)

Pen and paper for diagrams.

Notebook/netbook for plain text.

Convert your hand-drawn diagrams later, using a scanner or re-draw using a graphics tablet after class.

Tablet PC's ? (1)

SpoonDog_SVT (691767) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054554)

Best combination of being able to freehand notes/diagrams while still keeping the abilities of a laptop. I used a IBM/Lenovo Thinkpad X41t in my recent foray back to school (several years ago) loved it!

Re:Tablet PC's ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31054598)

This is the way to go. I used a little convertible laptop with OneNote installed to take notes for most of my classes. Most of it was typed, but if I needed to do a diagram or something I'd pop the pen out and draw right on the screen.

Notebooks + paper are the key (4, Interesting)

frying_fish (804277) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054556)

During my undergraduate physics degree I started by taking notes on paper, however I started to notice I was struggling to read my handwriting. I soon moved onto typing notes, in openoffice, using its built in equation editor, and attempting to draw diagrams with a stylus on a graphics tablet. After a year of doing this I realised it was a bit of a struggle to keep up, but in the mean time had learnt LaTeX. Then I stumbled upon an even better solution, type the notes (and equations - managing to keep up with the lecturer), and leave a space in the notes for the diagrams (i.e. setup the environment and name them in ascending order fig1, fig2 etc), but draw the diagrams manually on paper. Then I could copy the diagram at a later point into the LaTeX document using the graphics package of my choice (and for the particle physics module, feynmf for LaTeX proved particularly helpful). It is actually possible to keep up with the lecturer, so long as you reach the point that when typing you don't have to think about what your typing for things such as \alpha and so on. You also have to be fairly accurate with your typing, and be able to visualise how the notes are going to look without compiling them. Overall, if you don't think yourself capable of that, stick to pen and paper, if you do and you have troubles reading your own handwriting when trying to scribble quickly (I can type much faster than I can write legibly), then it is worth looking into.

Game changer? (0, Troll)

vvaduva (859950) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054560)

The teaser text is nonsensical; how would the iPad be a "game changer" since it doesn't support a stylus due to its capacitive screen? What do you think people will do, write cursive with their index finger? Or middle finger would be more appropriate?

Re:Game changer? (1)

DesScorp (410532) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054656)

More to the point, even if it was a "game changer", it still wouldn't eliminate pen and paper. Just as the word processor didn't. Just as the typewriter didn't.

After centuries, the ax and the shovel and the knife are still used everyday. They didn't disappear just because the chainsaw and the bulldozer and the laser were invented. Not all tasks require elaborate technological solutions. If you want to just dig a small hole, a shovel is the best way to go about it. Same with taking a few pages of notes. In any work, the task calls for the appropriate tool, not necessarily the most modern one.

Notes? (2, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054562)

Professors should post their slides on the web, and students should spend their time listening, thinking, and asking questions instead of writing. Anything less and students become mere stenographers, only retaining long enough to commit to paper.

Re:Notes? (4, Insightful)

DesScorp (410532) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054672)

Professors should post their slides on the web, and students should spend their time listening, thinking, and asking questions instead of writing. Anything less and students become mere stenographers, only retaining long enough to commit to paper.

In my case, my understanding and retention of the material was always aided in taking notes during the lectures. And what if he's covering stuff not in the book? Without notes, you'd better have a photographic memory.

Re:Notes? (1)

viraltus (1102365) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054846)

No one stops you to rewrite the notes you already have while others students listen. If it works for you fine. And if the stuff is not covered by the book then the teacher should create slides and notes about it and hand them to you... and again... you can rewrite them in class if for some reason it helps you.

Re:Notes? (0)

inKubus (199753) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054732)

Right, you shouldn't need to take notes if you have an effective instructor. Tests shouldn't be on "trick questions" to make sure you were listening in class. But you see a lot of students who don't take college life professionally and therefore the instructors had to respond and now here we are.

I think lecture is best spent listening intently to every word your instructor says. Note taking means you are not understanding, only listening for the next word to copy down. This means it's much more likely to miss something. Why do you need notes anyway? Unless you're talking about some insane 500 level class at MIT you aren't probably learning anything that A.) hasn't been tought for several years B.) is in the text book C.) is on the internet somewhere.

Anyway, learning is really all about repetition and it takes repeating something for approximately 21 days (not every day but repetition dispersed along that time period) to cement something in your brain. So here's the most effective strategy I know of:

1. Read the text book, even if it's boring and even if you don't understand it, read it. You can read without understanding. This is just building a foundation for later when you have the a-ha moment.

2. Go to lecure and don't take notes. Instead keep your eyes on the professor's face the entire lecture. You will be amazed how much more you remember.

3. Do the homework, even if it's repetitive and easy. It will save you study time later. Most courses use a spiral method where they reprise certain things throughout the course. If you didn't get it enough the first time you'll just fall deeper and deeper into a pit of dispair.

4. Figure out the pattern your instructor uses to make test questions. Do they come from the book? Do they come from other materials? Usually you'll see some patterns and know what to study.

Re:Notes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31054940)

Oh please. This will work for some classes and for some it won't. Like in math it is very important that you don't just use some definition of a word, but you use the exact same definition the instructor gave.

Like natural numbers can be defined by starting at 1 or starting at 0. Which one is used depends on what fits the class better. Like in some topics it is very handy to have the natural element of addition included. In other topics the 0 is just distracting because you constantly say something like "let a != 0 be a natural number".

I Totally Agree (1)

viraltus (1102365) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054768)

I believe only boring teachers do that to avoid their students to fall asleep. Unfortunately, instead trying to stop being boring they just add to the boredom a bit of torture so that they can feel good about themselves. They should check the definition of "note" anyway.

Re:Notes? (1, Insightful)

djconrad (1413667) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054816)

The problem with putting slides online is it encourages students to skip lectures. Unless the instructor is posting a written version of his lecture, students only reviewing slides online will not benefit from any comments the instructor makes. Anyway slides should be a supplement and illustration of the lecture, rather than the lecture expounding the slides.

Re:Notes? (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054848)

The problem with putting slides online is it encourages students to skip lectures.

Let's look at the benefits and costs. To students who don't care about class, it gives them another excuse to skip class. To students who want to lern and attend all classes, it gives them an extra tool for learning. Your argument caters to students who don't care about the class, at a cost to those who do.

Re:Notes? (1)

bmacs27 (1314285) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054828)

Additionally if you really want to take notes, generally these notes are released as a ppt. You can then type notes in the "notes" section of the slide on your laptop. Doing it this way, there is no need to copy down diagrams for the most part.

Alternatively, you can print out the slides, and scribble with your pencil. Either approach works.

In general, however, I agree. Time taking notes is time not asking questions. Asking about material takes me much further toward retention than reflexively copying it down.

Re:Notes? (2, Insightful)

csokat (547215) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054906)

The best professors I had we're chalk and board - no need for slides.

ipad... huh? (1)

iamhassi (659463) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054564)

"But what does iPad have to do with this? "

I agree: Why was the iPad even mentioned? It's not a tablet PC, there is no stylus to write on the screen with. The closest equivalent to the iPad is the iPod Touch and I can't imagine anyone taking notes with an iPod touch.

Why were Tablet PCs left out? Here's a great video review of how to take notes with graphs on a tablet PC. [hhttp] Here's another example []

Tablets are not expensive either, you can get a nice Pentium M 1.6ghz for under $300 [] , some even sell for $150 [] . I know everyone thinks they need a 3ghz quad core, but the Pentium M is plenty to run office and watch youtube videos.

Using laptops in class is so 2000. Tablet PCs are the only way to go for taking notes.

Netbook, w/ pen & paper handy (1)

ismism (947992) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054568)

Personally, I can type a lot faster than I can write, and my writing skills have deteriorated over the years -my writing is often illegible, even to me. Plus, I can't grep notepads, which also often get lost or tattered. I can keep my notes and papers organized on a USB stick. Still, I do keep a notepad handy in case there are diagrams I want to jot down or if there is an activity that requires paper.

Note-taking style varies with the lecture (1)

rxan (1424721) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054570)

I was in engineering school so I always took notes with pen and paper. With the few arts courses I did take, I found huge advantages to taking notes with a computer. The engineering lectures were mostly linear and had a lot equations and diagrams to copy. The arts lectures were more non-linear. I cursed every time I had to write another point in a section we covered 10 minutes ago.

Then there are the courses which are covered following power point slides. Some students had tablet PCs and were easily able to write notes to each slide. This was optimal for those courses.

Notebook and Webcam/Camera Phone and OneNote (3, Informative)

hadesan (664029) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054572)

I take notes all the time with my laptop. You can use your camera phone or webcam to snap a photo of the diagrams. If you have permission, record the lecture as well if you have a built-in microphone (use Dragon Naturally Speaking or something similar to write the notes automatically.)

Offer to share the information with your prof or student teacher and they will usually give you the green light or become the note taker for the class (some schools have them for hard of hearing/deaf students - R.I.T. [] )...

If you use something like MS OneNote [] you can drop all these separate pieces onto the note pages and keep them better organized. Text, your notes, the sound clips, and the diagrams...

Best of both worlds.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31054574)

I've been using a pen for a while, and it's a fantastic combination of the two worlds: use a pen in the class, then upload and end up with digital notes, complete with diagrams and audio. Wickedly awesome

Re:Best of both worlds.... (1)

LynnwoodRooster (966895) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054894)

I use my Livescribe, too, in the corporate world. Pen and paper, instant sketches, others can quickly annotate my drawings right there. Works anywhere, and being able to sync audio with the writing is beyond belief helpful. Highly recommended for any student or professional who needs to take notes!

At My University (4, Insightful)

dawilcox (1409483) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054576)

At my university, most CS students do not take notes at all. It's kind of foreign to see someone taking notes in a CS course. I assume it is because CS courses are about understanding the concept instead of memorizing information. Because it's not as much memorization, note taking is not as needed.

ISDS to Fortune 500 Infrastructure (notetaking) (1)

ars3n (1276086) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054586)

I'm a recent ISDS major entering the workforce and I use a number of notetaking methods. I'm primarily a Mac user but am forced to use PC at work. Fortunately (or unfortunately) Microsoft's OneNote is one of the best notetaking software I've ever used! I've used my iPhone to capture diagrams drawn in a meeting and later referenced them by going directly to my phone or e-mailing the photo to myself and merging it with my notes. Often, even in technology, our meetings are somewhat linear and the number of variables/connections and necessary diagrams to dissect a topic are minimal. Note, not a developer, but perform some level of development/scripting to interact with OS.

Notes in a ML for CS/CSCI students (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31054590)

As a CS student (or in my case, Maths student), it is very simple to learn a typesetting language like LaTeX. This is how I take my class notes, as it is fast to write and offers versatile formatting abilities.

Pen and Paper (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054596)

In my entirely anecdotal experience, kids^Wpeople tend to goof off or multi-task instead of focusing on the material/teacher when there's a laptop in front of them.
Even Senators and Congressmen have been caught on camera playing solitare or checking sports instead of following along with debates.

And that behavior doesn't begin to compare to the endless amount of texting at inappropriate times/places.

Re:Pen and Paper (1)

DesScorp (410532) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054746)

Back when I was finishing up college in the 90's, laptops were becoming very affordable for average folk to use, and we started getting students that brought them to class to take notes. With the exception of one gal that did it for the whole quarter, all of the others stopped bringing their laptops and reverted to paper and pen notes. It was loud, they couldn't keep up on the keyboard, and they had to sit near an electrical outlet, as their batteries inevitably would get low before the end of a two hour class. Taking notes in Notepad or Word just became too much of a hassle, for them AND for the rest of the class. I always found it much easier just to bring a paper pad and a microcassette recorder to class. I'd play the lecture back while working the next day.

Pulse Pen (2, Interesting)

Screen404-O (1174697) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054600)

I have used pulse pen [] for a few years it records audio and text to be transfered to PC

Re:Pulse Pen (2, Interesting)

folstaff (853243) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054688)

I use the Pulse Pen as well and it flat out works. Not only can you sync audio with your notes (which not all professors allow), but your handwritten notes are searchable after you upload the information and the battery lasts for days.

Re:Pulse Pen (1)

iamhassi (659463) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054920)

The $150 Livescribe Smartpen [] already exceeds the price of a tablet pc [] . Not only that, but the Smartpen requires $5 notebooks to work []

The Livescribe Smartpen would probably make a good alternative if you're in a class that forbids laptops or don't have access to a power outlet since this review claims it'll last over a week between charges [] , but I can't see spending $150 on a pen when you can buy a fully functional Tablet PC for about the same price.

Diagrams? - use Cheese (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054610)

Turn netbook around, click space bar. How hard is that?

And typing? Really? (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054886)

I'd probably use my cell to get the photo, but either way...

From TFA:

I could never type fast enough to keep up with the professor...

WTF? You write faster than you type?

That's bizarre. Learn to touch-type, it'll serve you well.

Note-taking is a life-long skill (1)

managerialslime (739286) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054618)

While no-one cares in college, there are still people in the business world who become annoyed if you take notes on a PC during business meetings. For whatever reasons, pen-and-paper skills are still important at higher levels. (Something about body language, eye contact, and putting others at ease.)

I'm hoping the Apple iPad or the coming HP Slate will not incur this stupid prejudice, but need to be prepared in any environment.

Analogous to your professors' white board diagrams, business white boards also contain knowledge that your re-copying will lose as you struggle to keep up.

To deal with high level meetings, I bring my notebook, but also pen and paper and use that which is appropriate for the audience I am dealing with.

To deal with the whiteboard issue, my laptop case ALWAYS also has my camera. I photograph the white board at various times during the meeting. By definition, my photos are always 100% accurate. Oddly enough, the same people annoyed by computer note taking never seem to take offence at snapping pictures of the white board.

After the meeting, I'll scan any hand-written notes AND my digital images into a single Word document.

Good luck!

I do _everything_ with pen and paper. (3, Funny)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054626)

Why, I wrote up this very comment with a quill pen on foolscap before having my secretary type it in to this new-fangled "analytical engine" thing.

Tablet PC (1)

Fallen Kell (165468) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054634)

I was part of a pilot program using tablet pc's in the classroom back in 2002 or so. Really I have to say that it was a great experience, especially once you were using the right software. For any type of class involving mathematical formulas, diagrams, etc., it was a very useful tool. I could simply draw the image or formula into my notes on the tablet just as if I was using a notebook, with the added benefit of the organizational abilities you have when dealing with a digital document (searching, etc.,) when going back to study for exams or use in projects.

Livescribe.. (1)

bongey (974911) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054636)

Livescribe [] is a pretty good tool/idea.
It records sound as you take your notes syncing up the two, then you are able to click on points in the notes and play back the sound at the time the note was taken.
Only downsides is there isn't a direct way to download to your computer, you have to use their web service , so it is no go at work. And there isn't any linux support.

Re:Livescribe.. (1)

LynnwoodRooster (966895) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054914)

Hmmm... My Livescribe came with a little USB cradle for charging and connecting to my laptop. Makes syncing a "plug and play" operation.

Pen and paper (4, Insightful)

Hazelfield (1557317) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054644)

I use good old pen and paper. It's versatile, it's cheap, it's lightweight and it never suffers from hangups, startup times etc.

Instead of thinking "how could I use a digital device to take notes?" you should ask yourself "why do I want my notes to be digital?". Myself, I rarely feel that need as I mostly take notes to study from (less important) and stay awake at lectures (more important). Neither of these reasons require notes in the form of computer files.

On the other hand, you could easily think of several other uses for digital notes. You can share them with friends. You can upload them to somewhere, letting the whole class benefit from them. You can copy them easily. You can store and arrange them easily. You can send them to people on the other side of the Earth, should you want to. But do you want to? That's the question you should answer before making the switch.

Here's the Secret (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31054650)

People with laptops or netbooks aren't actually taking notes. You can tell how serious a class is by the ratio of computers to people. Something like calculus may have a single laptop in a class of 200. Introduction to business, on the other hand, gets 80%+ laptops.

It just takes one three hour lecture on effective teamwork to sell a student on the virtues of tetris. Bringing a computer to class is just an intermediate step between attending and skipping.

Hell, we've done a full 10 person dota lan during accounting once. Its not like I remember anything from that class, but I at least feel good that I didn't skip it.

Quieter too... (1)

AnswerIs42 (622520) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054652)

Nothing like a large class and hearing all the people typing.

But I always use pen and paper for notes, you can write down everything easier and you has less to carry with a computer and power cords and hoping you are near an outlet.

Then I copy my notes (or scan diagrams) onto the computer.. easier to find and read and organize. I find using something like Mind Map [] or Free mind [] also help to get all the notes in a better flow.

One of these days... (1)

nicknamenotavailable (1730990) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054654)

I'm just going to take an etch-a-sketch to one of my classes and take notes with it.
Think Different(R)

Nothing beats the shy NERD for note taking... (1)

viraltus (1102365) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054664)

They're reliable, accurate and even do your homework if she is pretty... Damn!

short hand + paper/pen notetaking (3, Interesting)

codeonezero (540302) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054668)

I've been out of a college class for a few years, but I simply would and still prefer paper/pen. It's not about being old school, but I am extremely picky about what I want technology doing for me. I tend to be uncompromising and really think out what some input device will do for me. I want technology that works the way I do, not me having to compromise heavily in order to use it. I have yet to see something that fits the flexibility of pen/paper while giving me the advantage of a digital device thought those electronic note taking pens are probably close.

I can tell you me typing for an hour on a netbook would lead to uncomfortable typing, as netbooks have too small a size. I could probably swing a regular sized laptop like my 15" Macbook Pro, or other similar full size key laptop.

I also have my own short hand method of note taking, coupled with identifying things that I don't need to memorize and things that have to be written down. Also I tend to circle important bits of information and tie them together with arrows pointing to what they relate to creating a type of cluster diagram meshed in with regular note taking. I don't see how any laptop software out there can compare there.

I am hopeful that a well thought out, well implemented tablet PC comes along that gives me good flexibility.

That said I can imagine taking my ipod touch or other such small form tablet device and scribble or look up some info on it while I take notes with pen/paper. As I was thinking about this I considered an iPhone or other similar device being indispensable, since you can take a photo of the board if there is a complex diagram, and simply drop a note on paper (see iPhone pict for blah diagram). ;-)

Why do we even take notes? (2, Insightful)

CoolGuySteve (264277) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054676)

I graduated 3 years ago, but it bothered me immensely when professors would write things on the board that weren't duplicated in the course notes. It was just a lazy way to enforce attendance. I always learned better out of books than by listening to someone, so sitting around in class just to transcribe felt like a waste of time.

So this whole issue of not having diagrams or about which device to use seems like a manufactured problem. Putting a PDF on the course website with all the diagrams and text would render it moot.

Rethink the problem (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054682)

At least in my case, taking notes implies that probably noone will be able to read them, maybe not even me. But is too little technology to carry.

But if you dont mind to carry technology, some ideas:
- a notebook/netbook with comfortable enough keyboard and long enough battery is an option, you can use the (builtin?) webcam to copy diagrams.
- Speaking of cameras, you can film the entire class, and write down it later, at your own rythm, same for just the audio. Both alternatives will mean to spend maybe more time that you been in class for saving what is worth of it. Maybe even your phone could do that work (and then you are not carrying extra hardware specially for this), else you have or dedicated hardware (i.e. videocam) or a note/netbook for that.
- You can do a mix, taking audio or video of the class, and take notes, maybe with something that tracks time to compaginate them with the media.
- Not sure about note/netbooks that have touchscreens that let you use pen, how much you win i.e. for drawing diagrams while you use the keyboard (not the pen) to write whats happening, probably depends on the app you use to store all that info.

Sample Size (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31054686)

So an N of 1 now = valid story. Thanks for the opinion piece, however I'll stick with my netbook.

iPad missing feature... (1)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054692)

I was really hoping that the iPad would have come with a stylus and bult-in handwriting/sketching software a-la the Newton. Multi-touch is cool, and the keyboard thing is fine, but really what I'm looking for in that type of device is basically something I can hold in my hand and write directly on rather than with say, a wacom tablet, in an application like Microsoft Journal. If it were powerful enough to run Illustrator on, that'd be a bonus but not really a necessity.

Maybe iPad can work with a third-party stylus device, and perhaps Wacom or someone else will release said stylus with the type of software that I want. But as it stands, I've been able to give away two 15" laptops and a 10" EeePC and consolidate on a 13" MacBook Pro for which I have an external monitor as well and get along just fine. iPad, at least from what I've seen demoed of it, doesn't really fit into the niche I was hoping it would. There is a place in my life for such a device, but only if I can write directly on it with a stylus pen -- and it must be bigger than a Palm Pilot.

Wait... (1)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054704)

It's 2010 and people still have lectures? That's quaint.

faGorz (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31054726)

Gains market share resulted in the Of Jordan Hubbard being GAY NIGGERS. off the play area sux0r status, *BSD Shal0l we? OK!

Depends on the class (2, Insightful)

cetialphav (246516) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054734)

Within the computer science realm, I found there were two major lecture methods being used. The first and most common was a lecture based off of powerpoint slides and the slides are almost always available in advance. Those classes are easy because you can just print the slides (or view them on your notebook) and just take some small notes on the few things not covered in the slides.

The other major method was usually for the more mathematically oriented classes and involved seeing hand-written proofs, equations and diagrams. I think the best method was to use pen and paper to write things down. Then, the next day I transcribe those notes into a LaTeX document. Transcribing makes you go back and follow through all the math and you can take your time to make sure it looks nice. I then study off of the electronic version (which I call my cheatsheet).

As a side note, I always recommend making cheatsheets for every class. It isn't that you actually cheat, but you say if I were going to cheat, what would I want to have with me. It forces you to concisely summarize the class in a small space and is very useful and forces you to go beyond just tryng to memorize things.

Slides have all figures mostly (1)

parallel_prankster (1455313) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054750)

In my college and grad school classes I did not have to draw diagrams a lot since most of them were on the slides. Using my tablet,I was able to draw a few lines on top of the slides for future reference or to make things clearer. Also, it had the option of typing stuff in it below the slide if I was lagging since I can still type faster than I write on my tablet. But I am surprised that you have to draw a lot. In my classrooms ( I have been in college + gradschool for 11 years ) I noticed people switching from pen and paper to laptops for taking notes and then some students started getting tablet PCs. The fraction of people with tablets to total ( regular laptops + tablets ) in classes that I have been to has been mostly around 0.1 though. I think there should be a way to take pics like a camera on a laptop for taking pics of whatever is on the white board and then merging it with my notes. Ofcourse, with flash in it I dont know how much the professor could get annoyed.

Pulse, Tablet PC and OneNote (1)

IsaacD (1376213) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054758)

Another option that may be "in the middle" is Pulse. Far less expensive than a tablet, uses paper, but also records pen strokes and audio for digital archival. Some people at my company use them and the biggest complaint is that the recorded audio is often poor quality. The technology itself is pretty fascinating. I've been using an HP TX2513 (~$900 in 2008) with OneNote for a couple of years now and it is a great experience. The latest verion of OneNote is, to me, really a requirement for tablet usage. I started with Vista and even then it was a good experience. Windows 7 improves in handwriting recognition and general input with the stylus. I have the notebooks synched with SharePoint for convenience and as a backup. Being able to search against my own handwriting across multiple notebooks is a great feature. In class (graduate studies), I'm able to browse for more information on topics and copy content and URLs directly into the notes. It is also installed as a printer driver, which is great for printing slide presentations and marking on them directly. For me, the tablet beats paper hands down. Even my professors, after asking questions and me demonstrating how well it works look into purchasing tablets. Though, I do keep a small amount of paper with me in the inevitable case of technical failure (though none to this point) or for some items that we must turn in to the professor.

The dangers of distraction... (5, Interesting)

ThousandStars (556222) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054776)

I wrote a post on Laptops, students, and distraction [] that explains why I forbid laptops in my classes (and the post grew out of a Slashdot comment like this one). From what I've seen, students are better off doing what can be done outside of class outside of class (like reading--which includes PowerPoint) and doing inside class what can't be done outside of class: spontaneous discussion, group questioning/answering/review, and the like.

This seems like the optimal division of time and one that keeps classroom discussions relevant. It also means that not having laptops and cell phones can actually make for a better overall experience.

Learn LaTeX (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31054782)

Super easy for all matter of equations and even has some functionality for diagrams.

Me experiences (1)

meerling (1487879) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054802)

For me, the laptop was a lifesaver in class, the reasons are below:

I type many times faster than I can write with a wooden stick... And correcting errors is much easier than the ink filled version of the stick... :)
I can always record audio and edit it later.
As to diagrams/drawings, I either reproduced it using a separate drawing program, or the one in the word processor, or took a picture of it with my phone (later transfered to document)

I do agree that sometimes a notepad is better than a computer, especially if you already lug around 30 lbs of books, but for me, it was pretty rare.

As to the ipad, it's not going to be a good choice for class. It's little more than an economy sized ipod touch and it's lack of real keyboard will be a major disadvantage in the classroom. (I don't know what software it will run, so I don't know what kind of word processing, sound editing, or drawing programs will be available for it. Just a note, I haven't seen anything saying it runs the same stuff the Mac does, just things implying it runs what the i-stuff does.)

Old technology (1)

Pentium100 (1240090) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054804)

If I write fast enough to be able to keep up, then it's almost impossible to decipher, if I write so it is legible, I end up writing every second word or so. I type a bit faster than I write (when I try to write legibly) but still not fast enough. So I found a solution: a tape recorder. A reel of tape is good for 3-6 hours (at 2.4cm/s speed) and then I need to turn it over (lectures last only 1.5 hours so I don't have to do it during a lecture, but I cannot use cassettes, since they are 1 hour per side at the most).
If I need to save what is written on the board, I can take a picture with my Nokia N93. 3Mpx resolution and 3x optical zoom makes it easy to do so.
On my paper notebook I write the topics (or sub topics) of the lecture and,.if I can, times when the sub topic started, so I can find it on the tape easier. I also write which tape and track it is (the tape recorder is 4 track) and what the tape counter showed at the beginning of the lecture.

CrossPad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31054806)

About 10 years ago when I was in college, I bought a Crosspad ( ). They never really took off but I have found it indespensible for note-taking. It is essentially a digitizer tablet. What differentiated it from other digitizers is that you put a letter size pad of paper on top of it so you do not need a screen to see your notes - they are on normal paper; the pen has a transmitter in it so you get the best of both worlds - you are not limited to what types of notes you can take (e.g., have to use a clunky equation editor for maths) and you can transfer the notes to your computer after class. It came with a IBM Ink Manager software which does text recognition so you can turn it into actual useable text for organizing and indexing. Ink Manager is fairly decent though it needs to be trained and seems to hover around 90% accuracy depending on how inconsistent my handwriting is. That actually ends up being a good thing as it forced me to review my notes after class in order to transfer them into a useable text format.

I vaguely remember it interfaced with Office 97 in some fashion. For linux (or you do not have the Ink Manager software) try looking here ( ). Cross does not make the Crosspad anymore but you can still get the ink refills for the pen (it is actually a nice pen to write with). I see Crosspad or Crosspad XP up on Ebay occasionally. I bought a second one a couple years ago in case my first one broke but I have never had an issue with them so they are definately reliable. It is rated for 50 pages of letter sized text but I usually hit the limit around 30. It runs on normal AAAA batteries for the Pen and AAA for the digitizer. I usually got about a month of note taking before I had to change the batteries.

The physical device itself is ~.75 in think and about the height of a legal pad and ~10" wide. It is pretty unobtrusive. Startup is ~2 - 3 seconds and there is not alot of complexity to the menu interface. The menu interface is a small lcd at the bottom with a couple of note taking options - bookmarking pages, circling a keyword in the document, turn off beeps, next page, etc... Basically, you can put the device in a normal business-y looking sleeve, switch it on and you are ready to go. With a laptop or tablet, I always end up focusing a bit on the mechanics of taking notes - the Crosspad basically "stays out of the way" so you can focus on the learning from class or listening to whomever is talking rather than constantly puttering about with text size, colors, entry modes, etc...

Sorry if this sounds like a commercial but this is probably one of the most useful things I have every owned. I never understood why it did not take off.

Laptop + digital camera = note taking bliss (1)

waTR (885837) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054826)

During my architecture / engineering classes days, I found the winning combination was Laptop + digital camera.

Towards the end of the year, everyone in class had a camera, and the profs would actually play along and ask if everyone has finished taking a picture before erasing the board.

The above was WAY better than any pen and paper. This is because the professor would often make mistakes as they draw and would erase parts. In addition, they would use multiple colours to make the image communicate more information. Impossible to capture this without a digital camera.

Today: I would do Ipad + digital camera for any class... I would just dump the camera pictures into a folder labeled for that lecture along with my .odf / .doc / what-ever text format.

Works great!

STOP taking notes already ! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31054838)

Audio and Video recorded lectures plus transcripts given in electronic format( pdf, djvu, etc.) = PROBLEM SOLVED.

We dont need thousands of students writing down the exact same thing ... are we training secretaries.
We have computers ... so lets use them. And stop this stupid note taking and start paying more attention to the lecture.

Smart Phone (1)

ryanisflyboy (202507) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054896)

My cell phone is probably the single most important tool I use every day, for such occasions as:
- Using the camera to take a pic of the whiteboard, and sending it to everyone.
- Using the audio recorder to record a conversation or lecture in detail.
- Sending tweets as a to-do list.
- Shared calender functions let me set up meetings with people.
- Video recorder is available if I want to grab a clip off a multi-media presentation or demo.
- Using IM features to quickly touch others for information.
- Using google maps and GPS to see satellite overhead of where I'm at.
- Adding contact information for new people I meet.
- Making phone calls.
- Driving car salesmen crazy.

All in a pocket sized device with about 3-4 days of battery life. Oh, it syncs with the bluetooth in my car. Plays music. Is extendable by adding new apps. Works just about anywhere (wi-fi FTW!). And lots more. Future features look even more useful.

Just be sure to drop it in to silence mode before sitting in a meeting.

One word: Livescribe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31054902)

With Livescribe you get the best of both worlds. I'm using one now after college, but oh how I wish this came out back then!

Getting rid of the pen... (1)

MindPrison (864299) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054908) the best thing that ever happened to the human mind.

Taking notes is distracting, and yes - most of us have some kind of note taking capacity either via our smartphones, mobilphones or pc's. But they are NOT as practical as the pen. The pen - you have - here and now, no need to "boot-up-your-pen" or click on some application deeply hidden in your cellphone somewhere... ...yes - you KNOW you have it, but you'll rather prefer to REMEMBER it rather than bother with all the "clicking", so your brain gets trained to remember things better - and what do you WORKS!

N900 mobile phone/computer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31054926)

I've gone from paper to using my phone for general note taking:
- I type approximately as fast with the builtin keyboard as by hand, but now it is readable :-)
- possible to use pen on the screen for quick sketching
- camera for taking picture of blackboard etc.
and it runs linux, so I can run all my usual software, and browse if the lectures become boring :-)

Pen and paper (1)

Target Practice (79470) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054936)

I tend to use a pen and paper, unless the meeting/lecture is a hands-on course involving software. My reasoning goes like this: I only want a note taker/diagram editor, so given the weight and the probability of failure for the device, I choose a couple of pens and some paper over a computer.

Pen beats keyboard in my experience (1)

WeirdJohn (1170585) | more than 4 years ago | (#31054938)

I was one of those students who used pen and paper in lectures, and I have to agree that it's a more effective way of learning. I did take the time to add additional notes later to "decode" what wasn't legible.

My approach was to get down everything on the board and as much as possible that was said - including student questions and interjections.

This certainly worked for me - I had a GPA of 7, won scholarships, University Medals and Distinguished Scholar awards.

My son (who is in a special school for gifted students) uses a TabletPC. Except for the slippery feel, it seems to be the best of both worlds. Once the handwriting recognition is trained, you have the kinaesthetic sensory input of handwriting, the ability to make diagrams and formulae, and the clarity of formatted text. It will be interesting once the technology matures.

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