Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Comments on Note Taking
Taking notes has a long history in education. At medieval universities students took notes while professors lectured or read from books. There was a good reason for this note taking practice. Books were exorbitantly expensive and rare. Books were hand copied by monks and only the monasteries, universities and the very rich had books. Note taking was a way of securing your own book. You were literally copying your own book to keep. What about note taking today. We are not hurting for books. Google estimates there are 130 million books in the world today. In the US there are over 3 million books in print. That is 3 million individual titles with each title being printed numerous times. So no one needs to write down a lecture to get a book.
As far as I can see there are only three reasons for taking notes. 1) Notes tell you what the teacher thinks is important to know. 2) Notes tell you what you should read in order to learn more. 3) Notes save you the time of looking up and reading lots of material. The teacher has done the reading for you. However, some students have problems with taking notes. I have two suggestions. 1) Read the section or the chapter of the textbook before the lecture. The lecture will then cement the concepts in your mind. Lectures will seem more like a review than something strange and new. 2) You can read an outside book. You can especially read one of those "For Dummies" or "Compete Idiot's Guide To" books. These books are easy to read and again will make lectures seem like a review.
You should develop a system of note taking that makes sense to you. Here are a few of my tips. It is best to use a separate notebook for each class. I also ditched the lettering or numbering of ideas while taking notes. I used an indenting system. Major ideas stayed to the left margin. Less important concepts progressed to the right. New ideas are identified by placing a dash (-) in front of them. A star is placed in front of a concept reserved for the "this will be on the test" remarks. If there is a long word which repeates itself, I make up an abbreviation for the word. Be sure to note what the abbreviation stands for, so you can decipher your notes later. Today there are also lots of additional resources on the internet. If your lecture covers a new topic go to Wikipedia and read an article on the topic. I often read Wikipedia when running into new topics. If you are really lost, see if the topic is covered on YouTube.
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