Hart to Heart 10/11/12
We all know the feeling: It’s the night before your midterm and you’re staring blankly at your impeccable notes, seeing words but reading nothing. It all made so much sense at the time, right?
Note-taking is a habit that has been instilled in all of us since the beginning of our respective educations. From overhead projectors to PowerPoint presentations, we’ve been studiously scribbling vital information into our notebooks for years. And why wouldn’t we? We pay a lot of money for the education we receive. It would be a shame to waste any of that.
That being said, I think note-taking is something that many people take far too seriously, to the point where it negatively affects the education they’re receiving.
Personally, I like to approach note-taking as an accessory for my education rather than a path to it. In a typical 50-minute lecture, a professor can cover a lot of information. To take all of it down on paper requires a substantial amount of effort that results in an insubstantial amount of useful information. By writing everything down word-for-word, a person is merely transposing the information from the source to his or her notebook.
The problem with transposing information is you can hear it but you can’t actually listen to it. What good are the notes if you have nothing to associate them with?
I’m not saying that taking notes is bad; I’m saying there are more effective ways to do it. Personally, I like to sit with my back against the chair during lectures. That way, I’m listening to what my professor is saying and applying the information to my own life.
I’m hearing the way they talk and taking a real, personal interest in what they’re saying. Sure, some classes can be a drag, but the professor is teaching it because he or she has developed some sort of passion for the material. Why not humor them by playing along? It’s what we’re paying for.
As far as notes go, I try my best to avoid word-for-word copying. Even if my professor says it eloquently, I come up with a different way to write it down because it forces me to process the information before I put it on paper.
If I already know the information, I include it as just a few key words. Given the choice between getting the last few words of a PowerPoint down on paper or hearing what my professor is saying, I always set down my pen and listen to the information being given.
Think about the things you know well and learn fast. For me, it’s song lyrics and funny things I see online. We don’t learn these seemingly useless bits of information by scribbling them down and reviewing them later; we know them because we process them and apply them to our lives.
Next time you’re feeling lost or behind in a class, try to sit back and treat the lesson like it’s a semi-interesting Discovery Channel show. By letting the material become a part of your life, you’ll be able to use it much better than your notebook ever could.