Literacy Lines

The Keys to Literacy Blog

Note Taking With Technology

by Joan Sedita | 1 | 0 Comments

I recently read two pieces by Beth Holland, writing for Edutopia, about using technology to support note taking that got me thinking about the note taking skills we teach in several of our Keys to Literacy professional development routines:

Holland acknowledges the research findings of Mueller and Oppenheimer who found that when students used laptops in lecture courses, they transcribed notes rather than synthesized information, resulting in lower performance than students who wrote notes by hand. (For more details about this research, see my December, 2015 Literacy Lines post.)

However, she does an excellent job of pointing out that this does not mean using technology to gather notes is not useful. In fact, she provides very specific ways that technology can support note taking. In her 2014 piece, she includes these benefits:

  • Anything that’s text can be heard: by typing content, students have the option of hearing it played back through text-to-speech.
  • Establish visual hierarchy: most word processing tools quickly create bulleted or numbered lists, helping students with visual-spatial challenges by aligning text and creating visual order.
  • Student can search for topics in notes that are taken and saved electronically.

In her 2016 piece, Holland emphasizes that students need to think about note taking as an opportunity to curate and synthesize information so they can make conclusions and build a deeper understanding. She points out that, whether students choose to handwrite, sketch or type their notes, the challenge lies not in choosing, but in creating a system that allows them to curate, synthesize, and reflect. She then presents some specific suggestions related to digital curation.

Of course, before students can use the advanced skills of curation and synthesis, they first have to learn how to identify what is important to take notes about and how to generate notes using paraphrasing and concise language. This is the focus of the note taking instruction in our Key Comprehension Routine and Keys to Content Writing professional development offerings.

See a related Literacy Lines piece by Becky DeSmith, Let the Notes Do the Work.

Joan Sedita

Joan Sedita is the founding partner of Keys to Literacy and author of the Keys to Literacy routines. She is an experienced educator, nationally recognized speaker and teacher trainer. She has worked for over 35 years in the literacy education field and has presented to thousands of teachers and related professionals at schools, colleges, clinics, and professional conferences.

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