There are many ways to take notes, some more effective than others. One of the worst ways is to copy out word for word what has been said or what you are reading. I have seen students that I have taught spend hours doing this but it has little benefit. To learn from notes, the brain needs to be engaged on a deeper level than just copying.
The different techniques that I have come across are:
- The outline method
- Cornell method
- Feynman method
The outline method can be useful. It is a way of summarising what has been said and organising it into a hierarchy where you can start linking ideas together. This forming of connections between ideas and the ability to summarise can lead to deeper learning. I often use this when I am jotting down ideas from a lecture or book or going through sections of a book I have highlighted.
Mind-mapping can be useful for forming connections between ideas and for brainstorming all that you know about a topic. I don’t tend to do this when I’m taking initial notes from another source. Instead, I will use it as a way of either brainstorming what I know about a topic before I start working on it. One example I have already done in this course was when I was thinking about my time reflection.
Here I used it to build up a picture of what I wanted to talk about in the reflection and doing this before I started writing allowed me to think about those connections between the topics. The other time I will use mind-maps is when it comes to revising any topic as a test of what I can recall.
The Cornell Method is one I have heard about before but as I’m not too familiar with it, I did some more research into it. I found this great video from Cornell University to explain it.
The Cornell method is active learning, as it makes you question what you write which helps recall and memory. It makes you think about what is being said in a lecture or a book in terms of the meaning, rather than just the content. By summarising at the end, it makes you link this piece of learning to the big picture which we know from educational research is important for deep learning.
The Feynman method is a new one to me, and so again I did some initial research and found this video to explain it:
In essence that the Feynman technique does is make you question how deeply you understand something as you write notes on it. People often cover up their weak understanding by using technical jargon that they have copied or heard from someone else. The theory is that if you can’t explain something simply so that a child can understand it then you don’t truly understand it yourself. Although I haven’t used this technique in terms of it being called the Feynman method, it is something I used a lot whilst teaching. It is obviously true that you can’t teach something if you don’t understand it fully yourself. So I would test my understanding by the level to which I could explain it. This is what the Feynman method of notes does too.
You start with your chosen topic and study it. You then write notes as if you were explaining it to someone like a child who knows nothing about the topic. The idea is to use very simple language and diagrams. By doing this, you identify your own gaps in understanding which you can then do more reading into until you feel like you understand it well enough to explain it.
Generally, I use a combination of both analogue and digital to take notes. My system tends to be that if I’m reading a book online or on kindle then I highlight digitally as I go through, I can then review these notes online and transfer them to notion which I use for digital notes. On notion I have set up templates for recording what I have read, artists I have looked at, course notes, my calendar and notebooks for random ideas. This way I can keep everything organised and linked together. There are times however when I’m reading a physical book or am brainstorming that I use paper. I seem to think better on paper, so will use this when I want to do deep learning.
For this course, I intend on keeping using my combination of analogue and digital. I have my notion pages set up, including a new Cornell notes template to try out. I will also make use of my learning log for project work, research, assignments and notes. When I am wanting to create or do something on paper, I have an A3 sketchbook which I have set aside just for this course.
I am aiming to try and use the Cornell system for making notes on any lectures or readings. When it comes to reviewing any work, I am going to try formally using the Feynman method to test my understanding.