By Isla Wright
In our digital world, when almost every student has a phone, tablet or laptop, it’s still hard to beat pen and paper. Writing by hand might seem outdated to some students, but taking notes “the old-fashioned way” is a two-part action that can be beneficial.
The first part of this important action is taking the notes and the second is reviewing and storing them later. Both of these processes help students understand and retain information.
Unfortunately, hand-written notes aren’t always as accessible, sharable or easy to refer to during collaboration. That’s where digital note taking comes in.
Some educators are against digital note taking, and for good reason: many studies have found that students who hand-write notes, as opposed to typing them, are more engaged, as they select only the most important information to include write down. This is key for remembering conceptual information for longer periods of time.
Similar studies have also found that students who type their notes on a laptop tend to transcribe lectures verbatim rather than processing the information and writing notes based on how they interpret it.
However, this doesn’t have be the end-all-be-all for digital note taking in your classroom. The benefits of this note-taking format are many—as you’ll see below—so simply remind your students that you don’t want stenographers in your class.
Encourage them to use their own words and select only the most important information, as opposed to typing everything.
Once you do that, you and your students can reap these three benefits of digitizing the note-taking process.
When taking notes digitally, students can exchange and collaborate in a simple and efficient manner. For example, students who do well in chemistry can pass on their chemistry notes, and in return, get notes from a student who excels in a subject that they’re struggling with. This allows students to easily refer to their peers for explanations and questions, rather than going right to the teacher.
Collaboration features are built into the many apps and tools used for digital note taking, making it easy for students to swap and share whenever necessary.
2. Productivity and Flexibility
Digitzed notes are available anywhere there’s an internet connection—if they’re saved on a platform like Google Docs or Evernote. This gives your students the freedom to access this information anytime, anywhere. No more carrying stacks of papers and forgetting what is or isn’t needed for class.
Digitizing notes makes it easier to index information based on subject, lesson, quarter, etc. In many cases, students will also be able to add illustrations and diagrams, and find examples online to help put ideas into context.
Teach students how to use these features to improve their notes.
3. Easy Teacher Review (Teacher and Student Benefit)
During this on-going process, you can participate by reviewing notes to be sure your students understood the information. This also provides you with great feedback. By looking at student notes, you can detect which areas are the most problematic and where you can make changes to ensure students understand better.
Have The Best of Both Worlds
Luckily, students can choose to type or hand-write their notes and digitize them after. There are a variety of apps available that offer this feature, including:
Ultimately, the greatest benefit of digital note taking is that students can reap the benefits of collaboration and sharing, empowering them to learn from and work with their peers.