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On Note Taking

When I was working on my degree Microsoft Onenote and Google Docs were pretty popular with my classmates in a lot of technical classes. I on the other hand was using a Mead Five Star notebook. More than a few times I overheard said classmates complaining that they needed to budget time to review their notes in order to understand the material. This perplexed me because I never had to review my notes. (Just to skip to the point, I’m not suggesting I was smarter or better at these subjects. Only that (if we had similar learning styles) I was gaining a benefit from using pencil and paper instead of some digital means.)

Research on learning cursive suggests a handful of foundational benefits, largely associated with the physical act of drawing the letters. Essentially the movements to produce letters incurs a certain amount of unified activity in the brain, the advantages of which spread to reading and thinking, such that we become more agile and expansive when expressing ourselves. We experience this when writing print, but the advantages are intensified when writing cursive
due to the complexity of the letters and the combination of motor control and concentration to produce them. Conversely we do not experience this activity when typing. Additionally this seems to also affect recall and recognition. Lifehacker has a similar survey of note-taking/handwriting research.

I am not suggesting digital note-taking is not without it’s merits, certainly it’s convenient (convenience that I take advantage of). Only that convenient does not mean better and similarly digital alternatives to manual processes are not necessarily superior. When I got to meetings or presentations (etc etc) I watch people go through the rote rituals of turning on their iPads and laptops. I take a notebook out of my pocket.

For an excuse to take notes:

My note taking EDC:

For digital housekeeping: