Note-Taking: Handwrite or Type?

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Chung Ho Leung, March 17, 2013, Flickr

The Fall semester has begun, triggering an increasingly consequential question for students given the availability of technological resources for note-taking:

To TYPE or HANDWRITE Academic Notes?

There is no right answer for every person and every context. What works for one person, may not work for another. And what works for one course or assignment, may not work for another. Knowing yourself in each situation and the requirements of each course and assignment is key. However:

Whether you’re working on your dissertation, studying for an exam, or consideration a manual or digital method of note-taking, storage and archiving, we caution you not to reinvent the wheel, if a particular method already works well for you.

That said, if you’re still deciding between handwriting or typing notes, weighing mainly a factor of speed optimization, consider Baer (2014), “By slowing down the process of taking notes, you accelerate learning“.

Source: pxhere.com

Wait a minute! Slow down to accelerate???

Yes, it has to do with the brain! “When we write, a unique neural circuit is automatically activated” (Baer, 2014). You mean… there is something unique about the act of slowing down and writing that automatically activates neural circuits?

Actually, it’s a bit more nuanced than that. In fact, it is what the slowing down of time makes possible. What are the affordances of time? What can you do by stretching out time? Research suggests that the Learner should do something active and stimulating, that is, the opposite of copying, typing, transcribing and rote memorizing, verbatim, new information.

Baer (2014) suggests that by getting off of the keyboard, and note-taking by hand, “you’ll have to look for representative quotes, summarize concepts, and ask questions about what you don’t understand.”

So… What’s the verdict?

Is it Best to TYPE or HANDWRITE Academic Notes?

The answer is to do something new with the information, to APPLY or SYNTHESIZE it. This is an active and actionable method that the slowing down of time by note-taking can accommodate, if not require.

Check out our prior Blog posts about active learning and note-taking:

References:

Baer, D. Here’s why writing things out by hand makes you smarter. Business Insider. December 16, 2014.

By Staff Writer: Min Derry, Learning Fellow

Technology: Rocketbooks and Frixion Pens!

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Looking for an easy way to upload your class notes to your computer or cloud drives? Sick of wasting paper? Want a neat and easy way to stay organized?     

Then check out the Everlast Rocket Notebook and Frixion Pens! These tools were recently introduced to me by a student, and I wanted to make sure Penn students knew about them.

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Photo from getrocketbook.com

This notebook is reusable, syncs easily to your cloud drive, and works with any of the Frixion pens! It’s perfect for someone who prefers to take and save notes electronically, but that is in a class that requires them to take detailed notes on equations, pictures, or diagrams that don’t always format well in a traditional electronic note-taking devices or applications. It’s also great for those classes where your professors do not allow electronics!

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Photo from getrocketbook.com

How does it work?

  • Using one of the Frixion pens, simply write in the notebook like you would with any others.
  • At the bottom of the pages are icons where you can mark which cloud drive you want to send the notes to.
  • Using your phone, open the Rocketbook App and take a picture of your notes.
  • The phone and app will recognize the code at the bottom of your notebook page and will then send your notes to the proper electronic storage device.
  • After you have saved your notes, use a damp cloth to wipe the pages clean.
  • Give the pages a few minutes to dry, and then repeat the cycle!
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Photo from getrocketbook.com

Any drawbacks to using these tools?

  • The cost of the notebook on Amazon is $34, which is a bit hefty for one notebook. However, if this notebook is used properly, you won’t need to buy another notebook for a long time.
  • The notebook only works with Frixion pens. One is included with the first purchase of a notebook, but after that you will need to purchase more. Conveniently, these pens are erasable and not only work with Rocektbooks, but also with traditional paper.

Do you use the Rocketbooks? Let us know what you think!

Do you have any tools you would want to recommend to other Penn students?

Let us know and we can feature your ideas on our blog!

Disclaimer: Our Tech Tuesdays features are not an ad, we just like to highlight tools we think will be useful for Penn students!

By Staff Writer: Kelcey Grogan, Learning Instructor and Research Fellow

Technology: Text Help with Read and Write

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Read and Write is a technology software recently introduced to our office by Amrou Ibrahim, our Assistive Technology Specialist. It’s an amazing application that can assist many students with their reading and writing needs. The tool offers support through various features, including highlighting texts, reading texts aloud, and utilizing talk-to-text features.

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Read and Write can be installed through a Google Chrome or Safari add-ons. Once it is installed, the application installs a toolbar that can be used with any tab in your web browser. Additionally, there is a desktop feature that can be downloaded so that Read and Write can be used offline as well.

This tool includes many different features which can benefit students here at Penn. Here are a few :

  • Text-to-speech features for selected passages or entire documents (works with emails, web browsers, PDFs, and more!)
    • While the text is read aloud, the associated words are highlighted on the screen. (This can help keep the reader focused)
  • Text and picture dictionaries to aid in students’ reading
  • A speech to text feature that can aid in students’ writing
  • A simplifying text features that gets rid of ads and other distracting features from web pages
  • Tools to highlight and underline while you are reading

This is a great tool to try, especially because it is free! If you are interested in learning more about this tool or other technology that can be useful, call the Weingarten Learning Resources Center at (215) 573-9235 to make an appointment with Amrou or with one of our other learning instructors!

By Staff Writer: Kelcey Grogan, Learning Fellow and Learning Instructor

Study Strategies: Making It Stick!

What has Research about the Science of Successful Learning taught us about Making It Stick?
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Brown, Roediger & McDaniel (2014) identified 6 Research-based Principles and Strategies for committing information to long-term memory and increasing the probability of retrieving it as applicable knowledge:

➔  (1) Rereading text and massed practice are ineffective.
➔  (2) Instead, active retrieval interrupts forgetting.
➔  (3) Create a mental model for new knowledge that connects to larger context and prior knowledge:

A conceptual approach to active information processing and retrieval helps interrupt forgetting and deepen your understanding. Conceptual Mapping helps you:

  1. Synthesize the big picture,
  2. Do a deep dive where you need to be more granular,
  3. Establish simple-complex relationships and hierarchies,
  4. Identify gaps, and
  5. Try a variety of Conceptual Mapping tools:
Concept Map Anywhere!

All you need is any blank “canvas”: scrap paper, notebook, white board, etc.

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Concept Map Online: Search for a Variety of Free and Subscription Software Apps
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Try this Free Online Concept Mapping Tool by Google: Coggle
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(Click icon above to watch introductory video)
➔  (4) Space out practice and interleave subjects
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There is a minimum of 3 levels of time management for the semester:

  1. Semester: Major Deadlines
  2. Week: Logistical
  3. Daily: Individual Tasks
Think strategically before, during and after coursework

Include:

  1. Office Hours: Professor and Teaching Assistant
  2. Sleep
  3. Meals and Snacks
  4. Breaks
  5. Self-Care Activities (e.g. exercise, therapy/counseling, health care, etc.)
  6. Extra-curricular, volunteer and social activities
➔  (5) Extract underlying principles that differentiate problem types to prepare for unfamiliar problems/situations

As you prepare weekly problem sets for class, recitation or online submission, OR before you compare your sample prior exam answers, step back and take time to:

  • Evaluate and differentiate types of problem by concept categories: 1) Conceptual Problems or 2) Algorithmic Problems.
  • Try problems before being taught solution
  • Allot an equivalent/appropriate amount of time by rigor/complexity level.
  • Pin point conditional problem scenario terms, such as: ALL, NOT, EXCEPT, BUT, AND, IN ALL CASES, etc.
  • Review ETS’ GRE Problem-Solving Strategies 
  • Review our prior Blog on 6-Hours Per Week for Solving Problem Sets
Make It Stick
By Staff Writer: Min Derry, Learning Fellow & Instructor

Technology: iPad Pro Pencil

If you already have an iPad Pro, the iPad pencil is a must! If you are planning on saving up for an iPad Pro, then make sure to save up for the iPad pencil too. Priced at $99, the pencil is a great addition to the iPad. It makes studying and taking notes so much easier. If you are already using apps like OneNote, EverNote, or Notability to help with your studies, the iPad pencil syncs easily to work with these applications.

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PROS

Annotating: Annotating and writing notes on PDFs is made much easier with the iPad Pencil. It is a much more natural feel, cleaner and easier to read than writing with your finger on the iPad screen.  This is one of my favorite ways to use the iPad pencil. I am someone who needs to write on what I read. Using the iPad Pencil allows me to still take great notes, while keeping all the PDFs organized by class (and saving a lot of paper!).

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Notetaking: With the iPad Pencil, the iPad becomes like a travelling notebook. It is much easier and more natural to take handwritten notes during classes or in other settings. These handwritten notes on your screen can transfer easily to other devices with apps like OneNote and Endnote.

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Drawing: This is one of the wonders of the iPad Pencil. Drawing and making figures on the iPad is taken to a whole new level with the iPad Pencil. This can also be useful for studying. Now you can create mind maps and concept maps right on your iPad.

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CONS
  • The pencil only works with the iPad Pro.
  • It’s $99.
Let us know if you have any other suggestions for tech products to review!

Note: This blogpost is not an ad. In our Tech Tuesday posts, we highlight technology that we think would be useful and helpful for students.

References:

http://www.zdnet.com/article/apple-pencil-proves-itself-as-valuable-tool-for-productivity-and-efficiency/

By Staff Writer: Kelcey Grogan, Learning Instructor

Note-Taking: Take Better Notes, Relationship Between Time and Memory

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Many students come to the Office of Learning Resources (OLR) at Weingarten (WLRC) looking for strategies and tips on how to take better notes.

While the jury is still out on whether handwritten or typed notes are better, what we do know is that what matters more than how you take notes is what you do after with your notes.

Even if you are a student who is prepared for class and takes incredibly detailed notes, within 1 day of class, our minds forget nearly 75% of what we learned:

  • See the graph below for a visual representation of Time vs. Memory:

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  • If we don’t return to our notes until the week before the exam, we have already forgotten much of what we have learned. Instead of actually studying, we are stuck relearning the material.
  • The good news is that there is a simple solution to make sure you retain much of what you have learned during class:
Actively review your notes within 24-36 hours of class!

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  • By taking the time to review notes for just 30 minutes within 24-36 hours of class, you can reinforce what you learned and prevent this memory loss.
  • Make sure you are actively reviewing your notes (don’t just re-read or skim your notes, it’s too easy to just glaze over what you originally wrote).

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Here are some tips for how to actively review your notes:

  • Create an active recall study sheet:
    • On a blank sheet of paper, spend 5 minutes writing down everything you can from class and your readings. Then go back to your notes to fill in the gaps)
  • Annotate your notes in a different colored pen
  • Synthesize your notes into a study guide or summary
  • Use the Cornell method
  • Create a Concept Map
  • In a vocabulary-heavy class, create flashcards or a Quizlet
The hardest part of this strategy is actually fitting this review time into your schedule!
  • I recommend making this a habit by scheduling time to review your notes from the last class before you start your reading for the next class or before you begin your related homework.
  • Making this a routine will go a long way in improving your learning, strengthening your memory, and increasing your grades.

By Staff Writer: Kelcey Grogan, Learning Instructor

Bigger Pictures: Make a Note

“I don’t know what I think until I’ve written about it.” ~  Various Attributions

Of all the things I talk about here at your learning center, the one I always feel a little bit guilty about is notetaking. I always feel like the subject is like a benignly neglected child in a big family, the kid who basically raises herself in a household that is far too stretched and busy to worry about someone who is more or less okay. That’s notetaking.

Lombard_scribeAcademic notetaking has been largely conscribed by one thing:  the lecture. And historically, this makes sense. Back in the mists of time, professors would intone and, well, profess, and students would scratch away, trying to get down every word. It wasn’t uncommon for “serious” students to learn how to take shorthand in order to get down every word.  This technique can be described as truly Mediaeval, with its roots planted firmly in the monastic scriptorium, where sacred text was read aloud while Brother Scribes took down copy. What a gig.

Academia has embraced a few technological advances since the Monastic era, most notably the slide deck. Ah, yes. PowerPoint. Our frenemy. No matter where you come down on the ubiquitous deployment of PowerPoint in the higher ed classroom, there is one undeniable plus: the mad rush to get down every word has been alleviated, at least somewhat. So long as the slides are made available, you don’t have to worry about copying out the entire slide during class. All you really have to worry about is what is said off slide.

But there is another part of notes that gets routinely neglected, and that is the notes you make to yourself, and if you don’t do that now, I’d encourage you to give it a go, especially if you are currently in the type of humanities or social science courses that require you to come up with your own paper topics. These notes capture what you think about the lecture topics or reading material. Think of these kinds of notes as the record of what you think.

And one more thing: these types of notes don’t have to be declarative. Solid questions arising from the reading material count as notes too.

Staff Writer: Pete Kimchuk, Senior Learning Instructor