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

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the video-record-with-your-tablet dept.

Education 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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364 comments

8 years ago... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40871821)

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

Re:8 years ago... (1)

Desler (1608317) | about 2 years ago | (#40871867)

I hear they also had wheels and fire, too. Those ancients from 8 years ago were amazing.

Re:8 years ago... (1, Funny)

crazyjj (2598719) | about 2 years ago | (#40872103)

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.

Stick With What Works (5, Insightful)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 2 years ago | (#40871823)

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.

Re:Stick With What Works (5, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | about 2 years ago | (#40872007)

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.

Re:Stick With What Works (2)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 2 years ago | (#40872085)

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:Stick With What Works (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40872271)

you're taking too detailed notes. Hence, not notes. Don't copy verbatim, copy down things that the prof wants you to remember, little bullet points of pure knowledge. Then read the text. It'll make loads more sense.

Re:Stick With What Works (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40872185)

Many research articles have shown that this is the best method for lectures.

Re:Stick With What Works (1, Insightful)

Ziekheid (1427027) | about 2 years ago | (#40872255)

No offense but maybe your brain just fails to multitask.

Re:Stick With What Works (4, Insightful)

Baloroth (2370816) | about 2 years ago | (#40872301)

No offense but maybe your brain just fails to multitask.

Assuming he is a human, of course [wikipedia.org] 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.

Re:Stick With What Works (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40872287)

I'm with you on this one, but I would add that if it's allowed, I would record the lecture, and then listen to it again and make notes at that point (because for me, making notes reinforces the lecture, but if I try to take notes during the lecture, I end up missing a lot of it).

Re:Stick With What Works (2)

Bill Dimm (463823) | about 2 years ago | (#40872309)

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.

Re:Stick With What Works (2)

Sonny Yatsen (603655) | about 2 years ago | (#40872015)

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.

Re:Stick With What Works (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 2 years ago | (#40872129)

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.

Re:Stick With What Works (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40872017)

If you have a laptop (get a thin light one) I would say onenote. In addition to writing stuff down then transcribe later. Sometimes those dudes move pretty quick and you will not be able to get it all into your computer... Especially if you start dealing with domain specific symbols which means it doesnt work across all classes, paper does...

The idea is to get you to come in and talk about things. Not just pick up the curriculum when it is convenient. Also some profs are graded on the attendance of their class. If you wanted to learn that way there are tons of 'online' schools (quality varies).

Also you will have a computer in front of you. Stick to the class. Pay attention! You are paying for it. Why slack off? You can do that after class. Take a note of the interesting thing you want to mess with and put your attention back on the class.

A srouce to back up parent (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40872121)

Why We Remember What We Write [lifehack.org] .

I find this to be true - somewhat. But when I have to memorize things, I have to write it down and have written drills to remember it for a test.

Then I forget it all after the test.

I still don't know why some instructors insist on having their students memorize shit that's only going to be forgotten right after.

Livescribe (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#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. http://www.livescribe.com/en-us/

Re:Livescribe (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 2 years ago | (#40871941)

Seconded. LiveScribe. If tablets hadn't given up on the stylus and excellent handwriting recognition, I'd say that route too.

Re:Livescribe (1)

T-Bone-T (1048702) | about 2 years ago | (#40872265)

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.

Re:Livescribe (1)

ethanms (319039) | about 2 years ago | (#40872033)

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 night school, I did try the Livescribe there too, and while I really liked the audio recording feature, I just didn't find enough value in it combined w/ the note taking for it to be worth it vs. just using my older digital audio recorder and noting the time index in the margin.

Re:Livescribe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40872247)

In addition, I'm much faster finding notes in an old notebook than I am flipping through virtual pages on a screen.

Flip through the notebook, when you find what you are looking for touch the pen to the note, it starts playing the audio from when you took that note. I can understand the pen issue, it is big and pens are somewhat personal item (I'm fine with the size, the weight feels off to me). But being able to pull up what was said when I took the note is key, I often have trouble interpreting my own notes. If you have an awesome system, stick with it it, but clearly the OP is looking for something better...

Re:Livescribe (1)

voodoo cheesecake (1071228) | about 2 years ago | (#40872175)

Livesribe is cool, just make sure your professor doesn't ban recording devices.

My favorite feature is being able to play back what I was writing while listening to a lecture. This reignites the creativity I had in class and gives me pause to pose questions.

However, don't rely on it alone. Have a scanner on hand also, not everything will get posted online. Just be sure to keep all your material for each class, chapter or section in a convenient location so study time will be easier. If your school uses a blackboard system, it will go offline when you need it most, so keep your stuff local.

To paraphrase Mitch Hedberg (5, Funny)

kat_skan (5219) | about 2 years ago | (#40872181)

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

Pen and paper is the best (3, Insightful)

dehole (1577363) | about 2 years ago | (#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:Pen and paper is the best (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40871909)

Pencil. I can't cope with unerasable ink.

Re:Pen and paper is the best (3, Informative)

LionKimbro (200000) | about 2 years ago | (#40871983)

Me neither, until I discovered (ta-dah!) "Correction Tape" ..!

It's fantastic, and I swear by it.

Re:Pen and paper is the best (3, Funny)

alphax45 (675119) | about 2 years ago | (#40872097)

Plus it's tasty! :P

Re:Pen and paper is the best (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40872233)

Staedtler Mars 780 with a 2H lead. I can't cope with sloppy HB or blunt tips.

Re:Pen and paper is the best (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40871981)

Plus it allows you to practice crappy physician handwriting.

Re:Pen and paper is the best (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40871987)

Agreed. As with other responder however, I think that pencil is better.

The only potential high-tech 'improvement' I might consider would be to streamline a system to scan your notes into a program like Evernote, and tag it with keywords so you can find stuff quickly (unless your handwriting is so awesome that OCR can pick it up). I'm still suspect as to whether this actually provides any real benefit.

Re:Pen and paper is the best (1)

tchuladdiass (174342) | about 2 years ago | (#40872031)

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.

Re:Pen and paper is the best (1)

ethanms (319039) | about 2 years ago | (#40872079)

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

Re:Pen and paper is the best (1)

Daniel_Staal (609844) | about 2 years ago | (#40872191)

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 going on because I'm thinking to hard about how to make a note.

microsoft tablet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40871855)

you may want to wait for microsoft's tablet, although I have no idea about its real battery life.

USE A FUCKING PEN AND PAPER! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40871863)

There is a reason for taking notes manually, and that is because it helps commit things to memory.

My idiot brother takes notes during meetings by typing AND IT DRIVES ME FUCKING NUTS.

Then later we'll be discussing what we need to do and he has ZERO recollection of what our meeting was about. Whereas I actually listened, had to instantly think about how to convey the meaning of what I heard to paper, and write that out in the shortest way possible.

With force? =) (5, Funny)

colin_faber (1083673) | about 2 years ago | (#40871871)

Just wait until your buddy finishes taking notes, then take them.

OneNote (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40871873)

OneNote from Microsoft Office does pretty much everything you just described. You can divide your notes into notebooks, integrate other office pieces and files, powerpoints, excel sheets, pdfs, video, pictures and basically write anywhere on them and all. Try it out, once you get used to it, it's gret

Re:OneNote (1)

ThunderBird89 (1293256) | about 2 years ago | (#40872005)

That would work, yes, but usually, typing is a distraction. The way I'd use OneNote is by typing up all my analog notes from class at the end of the day (going over it once more and thinking about it while typing helps the brain encode it to long-term storage, and lets you review it and spot mistakes/unclear parts), and only then integrate powerpoints, recordings, etc, then file it into a notebook to use later.

Until tablets can reliably and instantly recognize my abysmal handwriting and understand my on-the-spot abbreviations, digital note-taking will be slower and more error-prone (for me).

Ask Slashdot (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40871879)

If Jesus was still here, how would he spread the good word? Youtube? Would he be a blogger? Tweets? Would we all be his followers?

Re:Ask Slashdot (0)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 2 years ago | (#40871961)

If Jesus was still here, how would he spread the good word? Youtube? Would he be a blogger? Tweets? Would we all be his followers?

I know it's OT, but what the hell, I'll bite -

Assuming that Jesus was, as the Christian Bible proclaims, the earthly incarnation of an omnipotent, omniscient being, why wouldn't he just beam his message directly into our brains?

Technology is cool, but not as cool as omnipotence ...

Re:Ask Slashdot (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40872067)

I think the original comment was a commentary on the quality of Ask Slashdot questions.

Re:Ask Slashdot (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40872165)

why wouldn't he just beam his message directly into our brains?

Wow! Jesus is way cool. I bet he can turn water into wine...

Reminds me a story my dad told me... (4, Funny)

DarthVain (724186) | about 2 years ago | (#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...

Re:Reminds me a story my dad told me... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40871933)

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...

It was a scene in "Real Genius."

Re:Reminds me a story my dad told me... (4, Informative)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 years ago | (#40871957)

the prof had brought his own taped lecture and was simply playing it out of his own device!

Or maybe your dad just saw Real Genius.

Re:Reminds me a story my dad told me... (1)

ethanms (319039) | about 2 years ago | (#40872111)

Yep... funny scene.

Re:Reminds me a story my dad told me... (1)

DarthVain (724186) | about 2 years ago | (#40872115)

Yeah could be he was just telling a story from a movie, my memory sucks.

Re:Reminds me a story my dad told me... (4, Funny)

kat_skan (5219) | about 2 years ago | (#40872251)

Have you considered the possibility that your dad is Val Kilmer?

Re:Reminds me a story my dad told me... (1)

crazyjj (2598719) | about 2 years ago | (#40872173)

Some of the stuff in Real Genius was based on old college legends. The "weirdo who lives in the steam tunnels," "prof who brought his own taped lecture in," "car in the dorm room prank," etc. are all old college legends that predate that movie.

Re:Reminds me a story my dad told me... (1)

emag (4640) | about 2 years ago | (#40872047)

This is a scene in a montage from 1985's Real Genius. Third screencap down on some random blog [blogspot.com] . Not saying your dad didn't actually experience this, too, but as soon as I read it, I recognized the scene...

Re:Reminds me a story my dad told me... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40872091)

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...

Was your father Val Kilmer in the movie Real Genius?

I still prefer pen & paper (2)

Tridus (79566) | about 2 years ago | (#40871887)

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.

Really depends if you'll ever use the notes (1)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | about 2 years ago | (#40871891)

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.)

Re:Really depends if you'll ever use the notes (2)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 2 years ago | (#40871997)

(Take the test, recycle the notes.)

.. and by 'recycle,' he of course means 'sell on the internet'

Re:Really depends if you'll ever use the notes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40872053)

When I handwrite notes I remember the material better.
I often wrote them out, then threw them out afterwards, it really was just to get the info into my brain.

I type and transcribe them if I want to keep them for reference.

Paper and pencil still trumps all others. (4, Insightful)

logicassasin (318009) | about 2 years ago | (#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.

Livescribe (4, Informative)

Jabes (238775) | about 2 years ago | (#40871897)

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.

iOS has a note taking app with that ability (2)

0x537461746943 (781157) | about 2 years ago | (#40872269)

http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/audionote-notepad-voice-recorder/id369820957?mt=8 [apple.com] "...Each note acts as a link directly to the point at which it was recorded, taking you instantly to what you want to hear! Didn't take any notes during the meeting? No problem, you can add them later!"

Paper and pencil (1)

edesio (93726) | about 2 years ago | (#40871899)

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.

Pen and paper (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40871901)

Unless you primarily work with textual data, taking notes on an electronic device is going to be very painful. e.g. sketches, block diagrams, flowcharts. Tablets do help if the s/w manages to recognize your handwriting. I think you can annotate PPT slides and PDFs using "ink" markings. The main advantage I see with electronic aides is the ease of organization.

Nothing beats pen(cil) and paper (1)

Antipater (2053064) | about 2 years ago | (#40871915)

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 tech, and even I realized how much better paper notes were. Sometimes the old way really is the best way.

Opportunity to test new learning methods (1)

butabozuhi (1036396) | about 2 years ago | (#40871927)

Been following this for a few years - there's research going on to study "digital learning" (that's probably not the official academic term) versus old school pen/paper. Some studies suggest the physical act of writing helps us remember things (we have a general "page 5, top right corner I wrote..." that helps us recall) that we don't experience virtually. Things like eReaders don't have 'page numbers' like we used to so it's challenging to have additional memory cues. With the new students not ever having physical cues, I wonder if they simply adapt new learning mechanisms? That remains to be seen. You have an opportunity to learn about the new but should keep in mind that the paradigm in which you learned might make it difficult to transition to the "new" one.

Tablet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40871929)

And a chisel

pen and paper (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40871935)

stupid

Maybe LiveScribe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40871937)

I just returned to school after a 10-year hiatus recently, and while most of the students used laptops to take notes, I still really preferred paper and pen/pencil. One hybrid high/low tech possibility is the LiveScribe pen. I've had the chance to play with them and was suitably impressed. It serves as a voice recorder as you make your written notes. Later, when reviewing, you can touch the pen to a part of your notes, and will play the corresponding part of the recorded lecture. It's compatible with EverNote as well.

Using a Butterfly (2)

DeeEff (2370332) | about 2 years ago | (#40871965)

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

Paper and pencil (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40871973)

In my personal experience I tend to absorb the material better when hand writing notes. Plus it's easier to scratch out mistakes and continue than to inevitably be sucked into the temptation to "edit" on the fly which would cause me to fall behind. Also, it's much easier to sketch and annotate diagrams on paper.

OneNote (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40871975)

I 3 OneNote + my tablet (Fujitsu with touch and pen digitizers). OneNote + the upcoming MS Surface has my mouth watering :-)

Don't take notes — sit and listen (1)

Neil_Brown (1568845) | about 2 years ago | (#40871979)

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.)

Is it broke? (1)

DingerX (847589) | about 2 years ago | (#40871989)

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? Now they scan too. So drop the notes in the hopper, scan to PDF and load them on the tablet afterwards.

Typewriter (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40871995)

Manual Typewriter

MS OneNote (5, Interesting)

foeclan (47088) | about 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:MS OneNote (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40872113)

I'm currently in college and I use Microsoft OneNote to take notes on with a tablet PC.

Shame they don't make them in the form factor I like anymore (twisty screen with stylus).

Re:MS OneNote (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40872141)

I second OneNote if you are going to have something pre-distributed that you want to take notes over. Instead of printing out and carbon on top you can just take notes and annotate on a tablet.

If you don't have something pre-done like that, use basic paper/pen or something like livescribe. Don't type. It's distracting and you don't pay as much attention.

I can barely read my own writing, and I'm slow at writing - but fast at typing. However, if I type I find I'm just transcribing essentially. I get to the end of the page and I don't really know anything that I've typed down, even though I have a lot more on the page than when I write. When I have to write it and it has to be readable, I find myself taking more helpful/meaningful notes that I then remember better when I go back and review them.

LiveScribe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40872039)

I think this is a covert slashvertisement for LiveScribe - too many comments that sound like they came straight from the mouths of a marketer. :)

onenote (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40872055)

I'm a part time prof. I got a laptop with touchscreen specifically for this purpose. Here was my rationale:
a) real computer runs real apps & I'll need those too, during the day.
b) the pen resolution is very good (on other tools, eg iPad, it's NOT: unacceptable IMO.)
c) synchronization, portability, character recognition, incorporation of pics & so forth: all pretty good.

I'm pleased with onenote.

Some kids in class used iPads & I thought they suffered.
Best thing ever was Sony Clie, but that's long long gone.

Evernote and it's ilk (2)

Conception (212279) | about 2 years ago | (#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.

Brother GX-6750 Portable Electronic Typewriter (1)

trevc (1471197) | about 2 years ago | (#40872073)

Only $85 at Walmart.com

No Note Taking (2)

c0d3r (156687) | about 2 years ago | (#40872075)

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

Pencil and paper and camera (1)

ninjackn (1424235) | about 2 years ago | (#40872083)

Pencil and paper is unbeatable as the main medium for recording notes. Pencil on paper feels nice and I like to think that writing things down helps me process the information better later on. I like using plain white paper (or engineering pads but those are expensive) since I like to take notes on notes and have blocks of notes all over the page with arrows pointing every which way.

I tried other things and the most useful companion to pencil and paper is a decent camera for taking pictures of diagrams or poor handwriting to be deciphered later. I guess you can just use a smart phone for that now. I also recorded lecture audio but almost never listened to them again. There are the rare occasions where typing on a laptop is better and emacs + org-mode would be my note taker of choice. But yeah, in general, pencil + paper.

OneNote (1)

adonoman (624929) | about 2 years ago | (#40872095)

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 print into Onenote and then annotate. Imported images are OCR'd behind the scenes so you can search them.

Typing and handwriting work together. You can either convert your handwriting to text, or leave it as is, but still search it.

Note the emphasis on searching - you can in one shot search text, handwriting, audio, and images for a keyword. 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.

Re:OneNote (1)

Missing.Matter (1845576) | about 2 years ago | (#40872223)

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 made studying very easy, as any question I had could be referenced in the notes with keywords.

Paper is not always the best. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40872119)

I used Win XP tablets through much of my Uni career (first a Toshiba Portege 3505 and then an Asus R1F) I generally typed and used markup when needed, and even did math assignments.

Typing beats the crap out of paper for liberal arts electives where you just have to take a lot of notes. It's also less wasteful - once I made the change I went from a big box of notes every term to a tiny folder of returned assignments.

It's also great for sharing and organizing without damaging actual paper. Just be sure to make backups - I stored everything in several places daily.

Software I've used:
GoBinder from Agilix, which doesn't exist anymore and everything from Agilix is now crap.
A free Infinotes demo from Agilix, which was superior to MS Journal because you could type on it as well as write.
PDF Annotator - very very useful, almost too useful.
Other students with tablets used OneNote, but I never really liked it.

In the end, I loved it for math and anything which required typing notes. Paper may be convenient, but there's no reason to say it's inherently superior to tablets - that's just old fuddy dinosaur thinking. Everyone's work habits are different.

4th year med student here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40872133)

Posting as AC since it has been a looong while since I posted and now I'm too lazy to search for login info.

Anyways. Taking notes in class can be a daunting task. First of all, not all profs will teach at the same rate, so you'll have to adapt your technique to each class. In my class, the most common way of taking notes is NOT TAKING NOTES. We do several other things:

1. In class, we take brief notes on the subject headings/slide titles and/or information on where in the textbook the prof is taking his info from. Usually there is too much info anyways to take effective notes. Read up on the subjects afterwards, and if you wish, make study notes directly from the primary (and secondary) sources.
2. If applicable in lecture, we take brief notes on journal article titles, mnemonics, etc, shown by the prof.
3. Some of us copy diagrams/charts from the PPT, if you wish.

4. Do everything possible to find the original presentation/lecture and review it later at one's leisure.
5. The gunners bring their laptops and transcribe some lectures, word for word. This however prevents them from copying diagrams or actually listening to all the stuff in between. It is also extremely annoying to have people bang away at their laptops all the time.
6. Tablets are used to play games, surf the 'net or check email. Nobody uses them to take notes. They're also used to read e-books for other subjects and other tests that are coming up.
7. Sleeping in and getting lecture slides from other sources is the best option, unless the lecture is mandatory (few are).
8. Carrying any sort of books to class is pointless, b/c they're way too big and heavy. So making notes "on the margin" is out of the question.
9. Clinical sessions are usually with a small notepad and pen. Here smart phones and tablets come into play b/c you can check drug references, etc. Big 10 inch tablets get in the way and usually one has to have special pockets to carry them. Lots and lots of people tend to leave these suckers around, and some even get stolen. There is nothing more annoying than hearing "have you seen my iPad?" or "Shit, I've lost my iPhone again", and then running around the hospital trying to find it. With big tablets, due to the fact that you're usually carrying lots of other things in your pockets/hands, they look as an extra unnecessary item. However, I DO have the 7.7 inch samsung galaxy and it is perfect for checking references, labs, and many PDF textbooks - my friends do the same on their smart phone, but I find the 7 inch tablets perfect for reading (big enough screen), light enough so my hand doesn't fall off, and for fitting into your scrub pockets when not in use.

So it comes down to personal preference. Also try to get as many electronic books as possible, as cheaply as possible. There is nothing more annoying than having a shelf full of books that looks impressive, but that you don't use. I photocopy most of my books (cheap), but there are plenty on my shelf that I have barely cracked open...

Finally, you'll be still doing tonnes of paper notes, especially when interviewing patients. Pen and paper is still the best and fastest way of doing it, and cheapest too, considering you'll have bodily fluids all over your precious electronics in no time! Get a small shredder, in order to shred your confidential notes. You won't want to have personal info in the garbage - if anyone finds out, you'll get disciplined.

Good luck!

Tablet PC (5, Informative)

Missing.Matter (1845576) | about 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:Tablet PC (1)

Wraithlyn (133796) | about 2 years ago | (#40872221)

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.

Dont take notes. Listen. (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 2 years ago | (#40872159)

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 URL, read the journal papers and do some work before coming to the next class. Do not confuse the time spent on project work, or home work with prep work for the class. Whether or not you do the home work, whether or not you procrastinate about the project work, preparing for the class is urgent and important.

I was bad in undergrad, furious notes scribbler I was. I got better in Masters, and listened more. By the time I learnt all these l lessons in Grad School, my diagnostics exam was over, and I did not have to take classes anymore :-)

Don't bother (1)

davidannis (939047) | about 2 years ago | (#40872161)

When my wife went to medical school twenty years ago every lecture was transcribed and a copy distributed to each student which obviated the need to take notes. My understanding was that was pretty much universally true in medical schools. I doubt that has changed and now that she is teaching in a medical school I know that all of the lectures are also videotaped and posted online.

Ive seen students photograph bbaords and powerpoin (1)

peter303 (12292) | about 2 years ago | (#40872171)

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.

Go high-tech (5, Funny)

gman003 (1693318) | about 2 years ago | (#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.

LiveScribe Smartpen (1)

AlienSexist (686923) | about 2 years ago | (#40872237)

Combine old fashioned pen & paper combined with a digital copy that binds audio into a timeline for playback. You can tap on your paper and playback the audio from when you were writing something. Great for capturing surrounding context. The digital form also features text search where you can enter words and the software will find that word, in your handwriting, on the page. You can print your own dot-paper too! Gobs of storage capacity and fairly long battery life. Should be more than adequate for classroom settings. I tend to use it for business meetings nowadays. I first saw this device at a JavaOne conference.

Dude, taking notes is so 90ies (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40872239)

... ask your lecturers to tweet their every sentence. Since most of his students are glued to their smartphones anyway, that's his best bet to reach anyone.

Not another one, geesh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40872241)

Look at this:http://news.slashdot.org/story/12/04/01/2146200/ask-slashdot-what-is-the-best-note-taking-device-for-conferences

and
http://slashdot.org/story/11/11/15/1558229/ask-slashdot-whats-a-good-tabletapp-combination-for-note-taking

and

http://ask.slashdot.org/story/10/02/07/1842206/pen-still-mightier-than-the-laptop-for-notetaking

now can we get back to it!

It depends. (1)

tycoex (1832784) | about 2 years ago | (#40872273)

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.

Note taking methods, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40872281)

Like the previous posts have said, the best way to learn is the good old fashioned pen & paper approach. Nevertheless, you don't have to invent any method, you can simply go and check out the different note taking options that have proven to be very successful and helpful to students across the world. Some of them are: Cornell note taking method, PQRST method, Black-Red-Green method, SQ3R method. I personally prefer the Cornell note taking method, there is a book (http://goo.gl/ccvik) that explains everything you need to know to succeed in the lecture hall. Here is a nice review about the topic: http://goo.gl/ClyG3.

Onenote (1)

DuroSoft (1009945) | about 2 years ago | (#40872285)

Not an MS fanboy at all but I have to say Microsoft OneNote is actually quite good I used to use it all the time to take notes on my laptop. Now I've gotten into the sort of stupid habit of just having a giant text file for each CS class I take that I edit using gedit on ubuntu. It's really sort of stupid but it's made me pretty damn good at doing on the fly ASCII art... When I did use OneNote though it was extremely organized and easy to use. I love how you can have different tabs and stuff for classes / topics. You can go really nuts with the organization if you want. It also saves the second you type something, and the automatic formatting and fonts it uses are very aesthetically pleasing. Although, I haven't used it in 4 years but I can only assume that if anything it's gotten better.

Iron gall ink ... (1)

PPH (736903) | about 2 years ago | (#40872303)

... on vellum. With a quill pen.

Trello (1)

wagonlips (306377) | about 2 years ago | (#40872305)

https://trello.com/ [trello.com]
Its interface is great for tracking all manner of tasks. Totally customizable. Works on Android phones, probably iPhones too, or any modern browser so you can manage your notes from whatever connected device is convenient. Free.

OneNote with pen input - hands down. (1)

bemymonkey (1244086) | about 2 years ago | (#40872307)

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 pain from dragging around huge piles of dead tree has pretty much disappeared. Hell, I carry a 15" Thinkpad in addition to my tablet PC (each with AC adapters and a 9 cell slice for the T520) and it's still completely painless compared to all the books and binders full of paper I used to carry around :)

At the moment, I'm hoping I'll be able to replace my X Series tablets with a Surface Pro - 6+ hours of usable battery life in a much thinner package.

I tried a Netbook. (1)

briancox2 (2417470) | about 2 years ago | (#40872313)

I recently went back to school to get a degree in Mechanical Engineering. Paper + Pencil were indispensable. I tried a netbook and I really liked it for its own sake. Because it was so useful for many other activities other than taking notes, I always carried it. But for notes, my subject at least, required that I make corresponding diagrams when taking notes. That was the deal killer. For non-technical, non-visual courses and for courses on programming languages, I always found the netbook perfect.
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