Note-Taking: Print vs. Digital

As a one to one iPad school, our students are certainly mobile learners and as educators, we are navigating the waters of what is best for our students in terms when should learning use digital tools vs. old school. From my latest dabblings into Twitter blogs such as Jennifer Gonzalez's fabulous post on note-taking where she expounds the virtues of sketch noting but also has a word of caution for us sailing the digital waters in that the research against digital note-taking is young. Her post is definitely worth reading and it has me reflecting on my own practice as a teacher librarian who over the last couple of weeks has taught both sketch note-taking and digital note-taking.

My recent exploration in a Twitter book club which is reading Maryanne Wolf's "Reader Come Home: The Reading Brain in the Digital World" provides an interesting insight in all the different ways as mature learners we are reading the text and taking notes. For myself, I'm using my phone to read and take notes on my laptop since I've found I have shifted in my thinking and struggle to record my thoughts by hand. I wonder how my neural pathways have changed and when this change occurred. It seems the majority of research, including this interesting anatomical account of how our brain actually reads, she compares it to a CirSoleil Soilel performance, reflects poorly on having our students read digitally. A quick google can help you find evidence to corrobate this, such as this article  by a Abby Stephens "The Benefits of Hand-written Versus Digital Notetaking in College Lectures". She found that students who record notes digitally do not put ideas into their own words, which I'm sure Maryanne Wolf would argue then doesn't help support deeper reading and buidling those necessary neural pathways for building knowledge, empathy and understanding.

As a teacher, I have asked teachers to bring notebooks and iPads to our library classes in an effort to go 'old school'. Admittedly, I haven't explained to all my colleagues my pedagogical reason for this, that I believe that students should explore different forms of note taking including by hand, especially when students are only 8 - 12 years old. I believe that many teachers feel they are doing the right thing by teaching our students to use apps such as Notability. In fact, since I have found that many of them do focus on digital note-taking so I've taught lessons to support  this and used iPad tricks to split screens and use CC features to help students with video note-taking using BrainPop videos.

The other form of note-taking I've been focusing on is also highlighted in the Cult of Pedagogy blog post and it's sketch-noting. This slideshow is based on Mike Rohde's "Sketchnote Handbook".  It is a fun way to take notes and from watching some of my 600 students try it I can see it really is a good fit for some of them, but it's definitely not for all.

Maybe it is time to have a conversation with my fellow educators so we may more effectively explore what is best for students? Even though I read and take notes digitally, am I really learning effectively? Maybe digital note taking is best for our students since they will be mobile learners? Or is the reality greyer, and that like most strategies in teaching that digital note-taking is best for some and not others. This is my belief and is why I will continue to teach different forms but with a word of caution to give students an opportunity to explore a range of strategies.


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