Monday, December 2, 2013

Note Taking, Moleskines, and Modeling

I am working with students on note taking skills. (I don't know why I waited so long, but better late than never.

Today we started with watching a couple videos on taking notes and I had some real, personal discoveries.

1) Note taking is a life skill. There is absolutely no reason we need to emphasize note taking in schools as a thing we do in schools. We need to be much more deliberate about teaching it as a positive lifestyle choice. Why should note taking only be done at school?

2) Note taking is an act of learning. Mind blown! While the implication that all things we do in school are directed toward learning, how often do we really think about what we have students do in class as an act of learning? This concept will change both how I teach note taking and how I personally take notes.

3) Note taking should help with big ideas or concepts, not emphasizing facts. I used the analogy of knowing when Columbus 'discovered' the West Indies instead of the cultural implications. The former is an answer on Jeopardy, the latter a way to understand our complicated society. If the students take notes to memorize facts they are doing it wrong. If you model note taking as a way to record facts you are doing it wrong.

4) Note taking is personal. What works well for the person sitting next to you may not (probably won't) work best for you. Of course if you insist on copying notes instead of making your own you probably aren't interested in learning the stuff anyway.

Have you heard the expression 'Do as I say, not as I do'? I may not have coined it, but I sure exemplify it. I need to model note taking keeping in mind the four things I outlined above. Instead of modeling learning, it is about time I model authentic learning.

Here are the two videos we watched today. 

TEDGlobal 2011: Tom Wujec on visual note-taking from TED Blog on Vimeo.


  1. Hello there! My name is Barrett Baker and I am an EDM310 student at the University of South Alabama. I LOVED the first video on note taking. It really showed how poorly I take notes in class lectures. I will start using the question, answer, and evidence system as a new way of taking notes. The second video blew my mind with that man's note taking doodles. He was very impressive! Do you have any recommendations for websites that offer additional help on using short hand notes or anymore tips on note taking? I can use all the help I can get!
    Barrett Baker

    1. I don't have anything specifically because note taking is such a personal thing. I know that I would love to take notes in ways that I simply cannot. There is something there in the journey between what we want and what we can do.

  2. Hey again! My name is Ashley Bigoney from the EDM310 class at the University of South Alabama. Your blog and the videos you put up were so helpful. It really showed me how bad I am at note taking. I am the student like they mentioned in the first video that tries to write down everything the teacher says. I then miss a lot of words and haven't learned a single thing. A teacher I had last year made us write down questions and answers during each lecture and then made us turn them in. This concept really did help in getting the student to really get the basic idea and actually learn the material. I will definitely use your tips.

  3. This was such a beneficial post. Especially at the collegiate level, with predominately lecture held classes and no visuals, note taking is a difficult task. I still have not figured it out, but these tips are very helpful. Understanding the importance and purpose of the notes can help recognize what should be captured.

  4. Hello! I am a student in a graduate educational media class at the University of South Alabama assigned to follow your blog this week. I enjoyed this post on note taking. I learned early in high school that I could not remember anything from class unless I wrote it down while I was listening. I guess I am one of the fortunate students. I was able to hone these skills in college and yes, it is a very personal skill! I invented my own shorthand, but had I used the techniques listed in the first video, it wouldn't have been necessary. This is a very important topic to teach students. It can make their lives so much easier! Thank you for the post. The videos were a great visual.