Thursday, July 31, 2014

Student Note Taking in 1:1 Classrooms

One of the topics I have been pondering this summer is the process of note taking in the 1:1 classroom. The picture on the left is not uncommon in the modern classrooms. Many students choose to capture class notes in this manner. However, many others are diligent about taking notes with devices or with traditional pens and notebooks. My anecdotal experience is that the students who take notes in a more traditional manner show better retention and understanding of content. However, I do know students and parents who argue that the note taking process for their student is such a challenge that they gain more from the process shown on the left in the end. I am sure we all have our ideas and perceptions of this. But what does the research say?

I don't want to pretend that I have compiled comprehensive resources on this topic, but here are a few articles I have identified and find intriguing on this topic:
By the way, many of you probably see me as a teacher who widely uses constructivist approaches and ties them with personalized learning. That would be true. However, with my Theology I classes, I find that I do have to do more to impart ideas and understanding to share clarity about what the Bible says, lest students without a strong faith background are easily led to resources and ideas that don't have strong Biblical foundations. Hence, the question of note taking has a great deal of relevance in my Theology classrooms.

Fellow educators, based on your experiences and the research that you have seen, I am interested in your answers to the following questions to advance this discussion.:

1. Under what circumstances, if any, would you allow students to photograph class notes, and what is the rationale for this approach?

2. What are approaches you use for formative assessments of notes to ensure that students are creating something of value?

3. What are both your understanding of note taking research and your anecdotal observations about the note taking process, how how do those inform your work in the classroom?

Please share any thoughts as a comment to this post. I would love to see a robust discussion and resources sharing to commence on this topic.


  1. Bill Busacker10:44 AM

    As a math teacher, I want students physically taking the notes step by step. This helps them to see the process of solving the problem. Taking a picture of the completed process does not do as much to help them learn the individual steps needed to solve. It seems to me that the focus then is on the solution not the steps needed to reach that solution.

  2. I allow my students to take a picture of the review on the board after we finish reviewing for a test.

    All other notes they write into a graphic organizer and turn in the day of their test.

  3. Katie S.

    What is the reasoning or philosophy behind your approach? Is it based on anecdotal information? Research?

  4. Bill

    Do you expect the same approach from everyone? Or is there room for personalization and deviation? Why or why not?

  5. I just spent several minutes looking for an article I note-taking that I once read on twitter, then I gave up, then I read the articles you linked and turns out I should have done that first. The most interesting one (the same one I was looking for) to me is "learning secret: don't take notes from a laptop", saying that over several studies, students who wrote by hand and had fewer notes outscored the ones who typed and had more notes.

    After reading this article months ago when it came out, I shared the results with my classes with the message of "do what you want, but just so you know...". I'm not sure it changed much, but we also don't take many notes in Spanish class.

    The reason they get at in the article as to "why" it's better is because typing is too easy and there's very little internalizing necessary to be a stenographer (essentially). When you write with your hand you have to take in the information, translate to "your own version", then produce it in the most poignant and effective way for you. Even though they don't specifically mention taking pictures, I'd have to imagine it's not much, if any better than the typing. Does that mean it has no place at all? Probably no. I could think of examples when taking pictures would make a lot of sense but the knowing that "not all methods of recording were created equal" seems to be the valuable lesson here... to me, at least.