Technology in education has allowed us so many advantages: the opportunity to stay connected on platforms like Zoom, Google Classroom, and ManageBac, and the ability to get real-time feedback on Google Docs, Slides, and even Screencastify.

But there are also some pretty big disadvantages—one of the biggest being the lack of note-taking.

It has been scientifically proven that when writing things down by hand the human brain is able to process information better, resulting in stronger conceptual understanding. What many of us do not realize is that when we type our notes, the speed at which the information is processed is far faster than when writing it down by hand. This allows less time for the information to be obtained, resulting in a lack of memorization and understanding. 

What are some note taking methods I can use?

Since we are all different types of learners, note taking should look different for each one of us. Based on the type of learner you are, whether you’re visual, auditory, etc., there are specific types of note taking strategies that will suit you best.

The Flow Method:

The flow method is recommended for the more visual learners. It is a way for you to express the “flow” of your thinking with the use of arrows to show the learning process. With this method, you are able to create something like a mind map which can help tie together all the information you jotted down on the page. In addition, this method allows a lot of freedom and makes it easy to incorporate things like diagrams and charts.

The Outline Method:

The outline method is recommended for the read/write type of learners. For those of you who prefer obtaining information by reading and writing a lot, this might be the best option. The outline method is very straightforward and simple to follow. It is based on the use of headings and bullet points. Every time a new idea or topic is introduced, you add another heading and create bullet points under it to go into detail. 

The Cornell Method:

The Cornell method is generally effective with most types of learners since it makes it very easy to go back and revise for tests. It allows you to write as little or as much as you would like in either bullet points or complete sentences. The layout is very organized and easy to follow. Before you begin to take notes, section your page like shown in the image above. Start by filling in the note section, then identify the keywords, and finally write a short summary to conclude what you took notes on. In the standard Cornell outline, the last section (diagrams and tables) is not included, but feel free to make it part of your template if you feel it’s necessary. 

“As opposed to writing down everything the teacher says, students should focus on writing more of a synthesis at the end.” —AISB Science Teacher Jennifer Sutton

How can I keep my notes more organized?

Keeping your notes organized is key. Labeling each page with the date in the top right-hand corner makes it super simple to recall when and in what order you learned things. A great trick students are encouraged to use is to create a table of contents in the first few pages of their notebooks. This is beneficial since it transforms your notes into a sort of textbook.

To do this, open your notebook to the first page and write down “Table of Contents,” leaving the next two to three pages blank. Every time you write something in your notebook, label the page number on the bottom right. At the end of each writing session, add the page number and title to your table of contents. Use the image below as a guiding example. 

What are ways I can make my notes more appealing?

Making your notes more appealing and having certain aspects stand out will make your note revision process far more effective. This can be achieved with a few simple tricks. First, using different colors helps section out the writing into different purposes. You can write your headings in one color, the vocabulary in another, and so on.

“Try to color code things. Put certain points in certain colors, and other points in other colors.” —AISB English Teacher Ian Edwards

Another trick would be using arrows in your notes to track your thinking like in the Flow method. Drawing simple arrows from one section to another will help you recall the way things were taught during the lesson and jog back your memory. Lastly, one of the easier ways to make the key information on your page stand out is by simply underlining or circling it.

Take a moment to think about your own note taking habits and your personal learning style. What works for you? Comment below to start a conversation.