August 17, 2011

Note Taking: Two Reasons I Still Use Pen And Paper

This post was originally going to be "Five Reasons I Still Use Pen and Paper", but as it turns out, all those reasons boiled down to two facts about why I hate computers and tablets to take notes.  You see, at the college level, note-taking becomes an art: your teacher no longer gives a shit about how well you understand the material, so its up to you to make sure that your notes are sufficient.

Eventually, you'll figure out what style of note-taking works best for you; and for me, that means pen and paper.  And here are the two main reasons why:

#2. Formatting Sucks

When I write my notes, the page usually ends up with writing in the header, writing in the margin, bullet lists, numbered lists, bubble maps (or what ever your kindergarten teacher called them), interconnecting lines, and doodles.  Mainly doodles.

This isn't because I'm scrambling to fit as much content onto one page as possible. No, this is just my natural process by which I take notes.  It's also the way I think about topics.

My style of note taking usually gets me into awkward situations with classmates when they ask if they can see my notes.  I'll usually say: "Uh... how about I just dictate to you what the teacher said."  At which point they'll say, "It's ok, I'll just read your notes." "Uhhhh if you can read them."  "I'm pretty good at deciphering handwriting." "Fine."  Three seconds later. "Yeah, I can't read this shit."

And you know what, I'm okay with this.  I've never been in the situation where I needed someone to tell me what my notes were.  But, I digress.

The point of all that garbage I just wrote is to make the following statement: formatting shit on a computer is difficult.  Sure, you get all the fancy things like consistent bulleted lists, or numbered lists.  And you get the upshot of legible typed characters which can be exported to the internet (however, that last point doesn't really apply to me since I'm a selfish asshole who keeps his notes to himself.  Fuck you guys, I took the time to write my notes, so can you).

However, you lose the ability to easily reference notes with lines or reinforce concepts with doodles.  Hell, you'll loose a huge amount of time just trying to create a quick table to copy down some chart your professor wrote on the board.

Now, I know what you're thinking: get a tablet or something with a touch screen.  Okay, sounds like a good idea, I'll just write my notes down as if I was writing on paper.  Problem: you suddenly lose all those other features I was boasting about having with a standard computer: consistent bulleted lists, tables, legible handwriting, etc.

So I hardly see the point, especially when:

#1. I Illustrate My Notes

Now, I know what you're thinking: "We just said get a fucking tablet so you can draw dipshit, so why is this a reason you won't get a tablet?"

I doubt my drawings would be as proficient (Source).
The reason is because I am never JUST drawing.  I'm also writing, drawing diagrams, interconnected related materials, and writing.  Did I mention writing?

I don't think I can stress that enough.  I'm writing.  Writing on a tablet is fucking annoying. I might as well type.


Who the fuck said that?  Have you ever used a touch screen laptop?  You look ridiculous, because you are ridiculous.  It's like having the awkwardness of a touchscreen tablet and a laptop with the functionality of neither.

Now... where was I going with this article...?

Oh, yeah.  I use pen and paper for note taking.  And if the professor has an awesome voice, I use my Livescribe Echo Smartpen so I can record as I take notes like some sort of student from the future.

And to all you pretentious students out there that scoff at the expensive pen I use, I have to say, it's pretty fucking perfect.


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