We spend a lot of time, you know, writing down their words. That is, our teachers’ and professors’ words. The words of conference speakers and presenters. My history professor in college had a gift that I often wished others had–He would speak, we would write. And, the way he spoke, it was perfectly imagined and crafted for student note-taking. That was important because the questions on the essay exams all came from his lectures. Not surprisingly, after listening in class, writing down notes, I made an A in that class.

Note: This continues my series on Evernote and Postach.io to impact teaching, learning and leading. If you decide to get an Evernote Premium account, I hope you use this referral link.

The history of writing their words down has been long and rich in my life. I began taking notes in composition notebooks when in 6th grade, my first memory of becoming self-aware as a note-taker. What clued me in was watching another student write in perfect penmanship, as my printed letters dribbled out, one at a time.
When keyboards and digital audio recorders found their way into my arsenal, the thrill of being able to quickly capture ideas verbatim excited me. No longer would I plod in print, lagging and cursing at my slowness behind the masters of the cursive word. Those smug artisans. I would seldom share my hastily scribbled, illegible notes with others.
“How do you share everything so quickly?” asked a colleague at a conference. The answer was simple—“I type everything the presenter said, record audio, snap pictures when the speaker pauses, then share it via my Evernote notebook.” In the past, I had used a wiki but it was difficult to add audio and images. With Evernote, I can quickly capture and share great content (e.g. eRate presentation for K-12 school district leaders) immediately.
With the advent of technology, everyone is a note-taker and journalist. It’s so easy to capture live events, as they happen with video and audio, that it makes writing by hand so out-dated. Still, that’s like saying our brains are behind the times. We have no control over those to change them, except to not have offspring.
Diane Ravitch points out an article published earlier this year in Scientific American, saying:
An article in Scientific American warns, “Don’t Take Notes with a laptop.” Why? Students using a laptop tend to transcribe the teacher or professor’s remarks verbatim.
The problem with digital note-taking is that you turn your brain off when typing. The words flow through the ears to your fingertips, but the typist doesn’t necessarily engage the brain. Your brain can actually get in the way. I know this firsthand because, well, this is how I take notes. I’ve noticed after years of taking notes that if I want to reflect and think about content, I first have to write it or type it, then reflect. The act of “keeping up” with the presenter, the professor, requires all my limited cognitive resources:
Across three experiments, Mueller and Oppenheimer had students take notes in a classroom setting and then tested students on their memory for factual detail, their conceptual understanding of the material, and their ability to synthesize and generalize the information. In each study, however, those who wrote out their notes by hand had a stronger conceptual understanding and were more successful in applying and integrating the material than those who used took notes with their laptops

Diane Ravitch’s citation of Scientific American article

Why not make the best of the situation? Evernote and Postach.io can make a significant difference. Here are 3 easy steps that will transform note-taking experience. But let’s be honest, it’s not just the note-taking that will change. Your learning through reflection, and the ability to connect with others when you share that information, how your brain chose to organize information will be powerful. 
Step 1 – Improve your conceptual understanding
Take notes by hand to improve your ability to develop a conceptual understanding of the material. Don’t be afraid to draw concept maps, semantic webs, or diagrams to better grasp the flow of an idea. A piece of advice: Take your time with this kind of note-taking. There’s no reason to rush. Savor the information as it is shared, practice oppositional thinking. This slow reflection and pushback can make a difference.
When you’re done, snap a picture of your hand-written notes using the Evernote app and save it to your Evernote Notebook. Now, if you lose the paper copy, you will still have the digital.
Step 2 – Record the presentation or meeting.
Just because you’re taking notes by hand and digitizing them does not mean you need to miss out on content. Record the audio of the presentation into an Evernote Notebook note (you can later insert the pictures of your hand-written notes so that it’s all together). I’ve often recorded the audio of a meeting or presentation, then listened to it. You can use your mobile phone, tablet or laptop to record.
If you are in a long lecture situation, break the recordings into multiple chunks so that it’s not so overwhelming when you’re listening to it again later. For example, when recording directly to Evernote, I like to chunk the audio recordings I make into 10 minute segments, then I can always go back and, underneath each recording, add my notes.
Looking for transcription service? Consider Voice2Note—comes in a Free “Basic” version and a “Pro” version—that enables you to transcribe audio notes. Success of transcription will depend on the quality of the audio recording, of course.
Step 3 – Share your notes.
If we all shared our notes more often, we’d all be a lot smarter. When you’re taking notes with the purpose of sharing, you take more complete notes, are more explicit in your thinking. Although you could easily share your Evernote Notebook, another approach you can take is to share the pictures of your handwritten notes.
You can connect your Evernote Notebook to a Postach.io blog that you’ve created. This makes it easy to “publish” your handwritten notes and audio recordings for others to access. Or, you can just share your handwritten or typed notes if there’s a concern that an audio recording of a professor’s lecture shouldn’t be shared.
If you are a high school, university student or a person in situations where taking notes is essential, then you definitely need to take advantage of Postach.io and Evernote!
About the Author

As a lead learner of learners in K-12 public schools, Miguel Guhlin (Twitter: @mguhlin) encourages others to engage in reflection on teaching, learning and leading in educational settings. He is most happy when helping others cross the digital divide via transformative, technology-based experiences. You can read more about those experiences at his blog, Around the Corner-MGuhlin.org – www.mguhlin.org

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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