On Note Taking

My notebook from Block 1

Since the last block, I have changed my note taking habits dramatically.

During the last block, I wrote everything down in lecture in a little notebook. I found it useful to take notes because in order to write a summary of the main points, I had to integrate and truly understand the information in my brain. Writing everything down onto paper was also convenient in that I carried my notes with me in my man purse wherever I went.

The downside was that I can never write fast enough to catch up to the lecture, or jot down enough information to refer back to as my primary source of study. I still had to refer back and forth between my notes and the powerpoint slides to get a full account of what I learned, and this “matching” took up a lot of time. All in all, I wasted way too much time on the mechanical process of writing about information that I could have easily learned by reading with a focused mind.

This block, I said good bye to my little notebook and pencil and hello to my laptop computer. I carry it everywhere I go now. I open the slideshow during lecture and highlight major points and keywords as well as type notes directly onto the slide. This way I get the best of both worlds as I have convenient access to all the information I need to know as well as emphasized points that I have synthesized from the lecture. I type much faster than I write and I could always go back to previous slides during the lecture if the professor rushed through a slide too quickly. I can also use the search function to information on the slides, rather than flipping pell-mell through a notebook to find information.

In addition, my computer provides easy access to all the textbooks I downloaded, my Virtual Human Dissector as well as my Netter’s Interactive Atlas, to reference back to during my studies.

Although the computer may be heavier than my little notebook in my man purse, I told myself there was a reason why I started working out, and I figured shrugging a 5-pound laptop is much easier than the usual 110 pounds I shrug on each shoulder at the gym.

I also stopped taking notes whenever I go to the tutoring review sessions. I figured I should already know the information by the time I go to them. Afterall, they are reviews, not lectures. Writing all the information down in the review prevents me from truly making an effort to retain it in my  brain. Instead, I put all my attention on listening, rather than writing.

I also discovered I learn extremely well through talking, whether it is to other people or to myself. Now, on top of typing, paying attention, and shrugging computers, I now find myself explaining things to myself through vocalized words as I study.  I use hand gestures to spatially help my mind compartmentalize the information.

The more inputs I have for learning, the better I learn. My goal is to create a meshwork of interlinking information in my mind, rather than a serial linkage of information that I would from simply learning everything from reading slides sequentially. By learning anastomotically, all information is co-dependent on each other, providing my mind multiple pathways to access each piece of information. It is this reason that I now have a favorable view of mnemonics. It doesn’t hurt to learn extra information.. it just reinforces the information you already have.

So far I feel very good in my new approach, but of course there is always room for improvement. We’ll see how it is reflected in the next block!

Meshwork of Information vs. Serially-Linked Information