Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Take note people!

Well those of you with the eager eye will have notice that my Blog's title has change from Learning Technologist to "Stephen Hodge... the Geek side", this isn't just a lame attempt at rebranding my blog it is in fact due to me leaving my role as a Learning Technologist (more on this later). But for the mean time I'm still employed as an LT so here's a Learning Technologist based blog post...

Taking Notes:
It's not a fact I like to publicise about myself but I actually suffer from dyslexia (apparently I have a reading age of a 12year old) you might have gathered from some of my awesome spelling mistakes! However I personally feel dyslexia is a made up condition it merely being a label people have given me to make me feel happier that I lack in certain skills... all its actually meant to me is that I have to try harder... but surly that means that other people have learning disabilities in their inability to do maths or to programme or have any form of  logic so why aren't we all labelled in such ways.... OOOOR just accept your not going to be great at everything... anyway I digress!

As a result of my "label"... or should I say as a result of the fact my brain returns white noise sometimes when I write/listen/read I've found note taking to be an area I particularly struggle with.... hence technology has come to my aid! Note taking can kind of be split into two forms, the physical taking of notes and the retrieving of the said notes:

A Pen and Paper:
Lets not get bogged down with technology for writing notes when the simplest one is usually the best a Pen and Paper, no batteries required and the cheapest option... lacks a little bit in the security front, can easily be ignited... and can't be easily backed up. Not my prefered option since writing with a pen hurts my hands and  you need the physical media with you at all times to view.

Optical Character Recognition: 
Pretty much the same as above but the paper is scanned into your computer and transformed into computer text through a technology called optical character recognition. Not the tidiest of inputs since your hand writing will need to be on the neater side of things and then needs to be scanned in and processed... but not a technology to be forgotten.

Digital Memo Pad:
The above two technologies combined into a stand alone product... a supped up note pad if you like. The resulting file can be in the form of text or a jpg...

Defiantly the easiest note taking option you simply have to press record and replay it later, if your needing to take exact and accurate notes this is defiantly the best option. However from my time using a Dictaphone as a student I can safely say I didn't reply the recording once, and most defiantly didn't think ooooh I'll waste an hour of my life re-listening to the lecture to make notes.... sooo to summarise unless you genuinely going to invest your time in re-listening to the lectures and making notes from them in your spare time then go ahead, but I know from experience this doesn't work for me.

I remember the first time I saw a laptop used in a seminar to record notes and remember thinking two things.... that guy looks stupid carrying such an expensive bit of gear around just to take notes and also... that's a very good idea... from the looks of it he was defiantly onto something as laptops in lectures, seminars, meetings etc are now pritty much the norm. (however due to the scope of a laptop they can often be more of a distraction than a benefit!).

PDA/Mobile Phone: 
The best option here in my opinion is the very item you have on you at all times, your mobile phone. Since not only is it always on you, its usually only able to do one thing at one time so the distraction a laptop might give (Facebook solitaire etc) is some what minimised... unless your using an advanced mobile operating system like Web OS  of course ;-)

I've probably missed some off the list here but that'll do for now, feel free to add any I've missed out in the comments.

Accessing the notes later:
This section being the main part of this blog post... the bassline if you like... So you've written your notes, admittedly some times I just write notes so I can maintain my attention and stay awake etc. But very often I'll be needing to actually use the notes I've taken. This is all very well if you have the medium you used to take the notes on accessable. But what happens if you left your note pad at home when your needing to read the notes in work... this is where the cloud comes into play!

Microsoft Exchange (depends if your institute has access to it):
With osX and most mobiles supporting exchange out the box and windows offering it with Office and their being online access. Exchange is one of the most widely avaiable options when it comes to cloud storage... as a University of Plymouth member we all have access to Microsoft Exchange (this is what your Email/Calander system is built upon), if your not apart of Plymouth Uni then your works/uni email system will most probably be built upon Exchange... Exchange offers a number of different platforms for writing notes these can be its actual notes section (although not available on mobiles), tasks, and calender notes. Once saved these notes are saved and synced with your exchange account and will be available on any other device/site you have which syncs with your Exchange account.

Google Docs - http://docs.google.com:
One of my favourite on-line inventions is Google Docs... the fact that Google went "we like what Microsoft have done with Office... but we think it should be free and on-line.... BAM - Google Docs! The thing with Google docs being on-line is that they can obviously be accessed wherever there's a web browser and an internet connection, and with Google being pretty open with their API's there are a host of Applications (I hate the term "APP") which you can download for your mobile/desktop which hook into Google's docs... best of all Google Docs is free, and accessible via your Google login which you've probably got already.

Evernote http://evernote.com
I was going to leave it at Google Docs and Exchange but then realised... what that's rubbish! Apparently evernote is the top dog when it comes to cloud note taking! With applications for all platforms both mobile and desktop for online and offline access they do seem to have all bases covered. You get two options of accounts the free version which allows 50mb upload per month (30days), or for $5month or $45year you can upload 500mb (as well as extra file sizes you do get other features). The thing I like about Evernote is that it integrates with all platforms really well allowing photo/audio upload and allows offline mode out the box (no third party application), so you could in theory, go to meeting/lecture write breath notes, then whilst travelling back on a bus or train (we're all green here remember), edit the said notes to make sure they make sense and if you dip out of signal no worries! Then when you get back to your office computer all your notes will have synced and you'll have the most up-to-date info to work on.

SharePoint - MySite (dependant upon institute):
Well I couldn't do a post like this and offer a institutional option, bulive it or not this is one of the things SharePoint was designed to do, although annoyingly they kind of forgot about mobile computing.... so if your only planning on writing your notes using your computer then SharePoint might be a valid option. You could use one per module you teach on, or use your MySite, create a document library specific for word files, and every time you work on a document open and edit it whilst on your SharePoint site. This way you can come back to it later on another computer and edit away at it within your favourite word processing program (I'm assuming Word IS your favourite word processing programme)....

There are many other solutions out there but I guess the point of this post was to show you that there are many options available out there if you don't like taking notes in a lecture/meetings... hope its of some use, please feel free to leave comments if there are any note taking practices I've missed out!

1 comment:

Becki said...

Sad your leaving, brilliant post