I actually started college using paper notebooks. I know, me, the computer guy, choosing paper. But I figured my computer was too heavy to carry around, to valuable to misplace or damage, and too distracting to keep me focused on lecture. And so, for about a month, I hand-wrote everything.
Then, I joined Mock Trial, for which we have close to 150 page of case materials through which to sort. Not only would that cost me $15 to print, but it would be a real pain to flip through during practice. And so, mimicking the strategies of those around me, I began bringing my laptop, complete with the case PDF, to our meetings. It was easy to CTRL+F to any part I needed.
Around the same time that this was happening, I was studying for a Psychology exam. To do so, I began to type up my class notes, as I used to do in high school, mostly to reinforce the knowledge but also to create a comprehensive study guide. I found this was taking far too long; I would never finish. But I also found that Microsoft OneNote is an awesome program. With I, I was able to easily organize my notes, label and sort through everything, and even create quick flashcard-style self-exams.
Soon enough, I needed to email notes to a friend; this was easy, I had them typed. Not long after that, I needed to study at the library; easy, it was all in the computer.
And thus, I began using my laptop more and more for coursework.
With the exception of Calculus, for which it is much to difficult to input mathematical formulae (despite my having downloaded applicable add-ons, which, although useful, are still inconvenient to operate), and Spanish, which is mostly conversational, much of my note-taking can be done on the computer. I now take lecture notes in Psychology, Politics, and Mock Trial on my laptop, track my schedule and homework there, and even re-type Spanish and Calculus highlights into OneNote in preparation for future studying.
The new note-taking method allows me, most importantly, to find what I am looking for easily, and also reorganize my notes effortlessly, two things difficult with paper notes. Plus, I type faster than I write.
The moral of the story? As was the case in high school, use technology to your advantage! Do you have to use a computer for everything? Certainly not! But it can be helpful, even fun, sometimes, to save the paper and bring your studies to life with links, images, and color.
Other uses for technology?
- An online calendar lets you check your schedule from anywhere: The library, your laptop, even your phone. I get text messages half an hour before my appointments.
- Proper email redirecting means checking one inbox rather than having to log in to school mail, personal mail, etc.
- Proper use of online translation tools can teach you more about the language and meanings of words. Word Reference is a great online inter-lingual dictionary.
- Classical music on iTunes can help you study. It's all about brain waves; ask a Psych major.
- Downloading course documents, PowerPoints, and PDFs to a computer with an enabled search-indexing program allows you to start typing "Charles Darwin" in the Start bar and end up with everything from class that mentions him - instantly. It's like having a lightening fast personal librarian.