1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Note taking in College

  1. May 24, 2009 #1
    I'm heading off to college as a freshman in August and I am considering getting a graphics tablet to help with taking notes. Would anyone recommend this? Has anyone ever even tried this before? How well would this work with OneNote?

    My main issues are whether I would have enough desk space to accommodate both the tablet and my laptop, whether it be more convenient than pencil and paper, and whether it would simply be just a big hassle.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 24, 2009 #2


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Pen and paper has never failed me yet. What is your degree? I don't see why one would even need a tablet pc unless you lose your notebooks easily.

    And IMO lugging around a tablet and a laptop all day isn't how I'd like to spend my days.
  4. May 24, 2009 #3
    Paper and Pencil is the best.
  5. May 24, 2009 #4


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper

  6. May 24, 2009 #5
    You always have to be careful getting advice on a subject like this. Most people here have never actually used a tablet in a note-taking scenario (or even at all). There is also a tendency for people to romanticize the way they did it back in the day, and be averse to new ways of doing things, even if they might be better.

    If you can afford a tablet pc where you can flip the screen down and write on it (so it doesnt take up any extra space), then I'd say go for it. I know several people who did this and think its great. I don't have one so I can't say from personal experience. On the other hand I do have a standalone tablet which I use for graphics work on my desktop. Its great but I wouldn't bother lugging it around to take notes. I never was much of a note-taker anyways though so take that for what its worth.
  7. May 25, 2009 #6
    I'm assuming you mean somthing like an etch a sketch with a stylus instead of knobs where you could capture a page of notes at a time and store them in a memory for recall later.

    If say, you had to refer back to to the notes during the coures of the class period, would it be difficult? What are the risks associated with losing the data stored in the device? For instance in the process of reverting back to the 'previous page of notes', you inadvertentaly erased the page, is it gone forever??

    Can you back the device up on a pc or laptop so that, if the entire device crashed or somthing you still had all the notes. What would happen if your battery ran out druing the class? So I assume that you would stull have to carry around paper and pencil in the event of an emergency...Will it withstand the normal wear and tear inside a bookbag on a crowded bus? Will it withstand a walk acros campus in the rain?? Finally are their any real advantages realized with the device to warrant any or all inconvieniences.

    It has been myexperience that in some classes, taking notes is an everyman for himself situation where you either keep up or lose out...Given this scenerio, I would expect the notetaker to be an expert with any device he/she uses to record notes in order to capture all the necessary information. I'm guessing that for every one page of paper notes the e-book would require at least two. Note format issues may arise as you find it hard to predict how to arrange the information on the screen. I expect you would spend more time with those issues than you would actually writing the notes down...

    Therfore, in class, keep in simple. if the e-notepad is somthing you are very familiar with, go for it. If you like the idea of taking notes with pencil and paper and then re-arranging your notes on the e-notebook as a study aide go for it. But to be honest, desk space, power supply issues, speed and ease of note taking are all complications that are likely to arise with unconventional means of note taking in a college classroom.
  8. May 25, 2009 #7


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    Tablets are a little more sophisticated than that! It's basically like electronic paper: you write on the screen, and scroll down for a new page in a similar way to with a word processor.

    Still, I'm not entirely sure why the OP is worried as to whether there will be room for him to use both a laptop and a tablet in class. That seems like overkill: you're not really expecting to pay attention in class when you're sat in front of a computer, are you?
  9. May 25, 2009 #8


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    I think the OP is talking about a graphics tablet like
    to use with a notebook that the OP already has.

    As someone who has both a tablet like that and a tabletPC, I'd say that it is difficult to take notes with a graphics tablet. I tried to lecture with it... and it's not very intuitive, in my opinion, because you can't see the ink under your stylus... You have to look at your screen for that. Admittedly, it is a low-cost alternative to getting a TabletPC.

    In place of your laptop, a tabletPC (in a "convertible" rather than "slate" form-factor) might be better for you.

    Since I haven't taken a class in a while, I don't use my tabletPC for notetaking... although I do use it for my own private notes and for long derivations, as well as lecturing in all of my classes. In seminars, I might use it if I want to refer to a related article on the topic.

    While pen and paper is often more efficient, there are advantages to having ink that can be edited (moved, recolored, rescaled) and searched (as handwriting-recognized text). In addition, there's less paper to carry around.

    OneNote has a feature that might be useful.... you can record audio, which (I believe) can be somehow synchronized (with automatically generated timestamps?) with the ink you write. So, there's more context for your handwritten notes.

    Some tabletPCs are not as expensive [compared to similarly-featured laptops] as they used to be. For example, the HP tx2z is an example [with deals going on now for under $900: http://www.shopping.hp.com/series/category/notebooks/tx2z_series/3/computer_store.
  10. May 25, 2009 #9
    Yes, I was talking about a graphics tablet like that one.

    I think I'm going to stick with the trusty pencil and paper for the first semester or so and see how it works for me. After that, if I think I'd benefit from a graphics tablet, I'll get one but I don't want to over-complicate things my very first semester of college.
  11. May 25, 2009 #10


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Oh, I have a tablet like that, and I agree, it's really hard to write anything legible on it. I use it for a completely different purpose. If that's what you're thinking about, a tablet to go with a laptop, just stick with pen and paper...afterall, you want to be focused on the lecture, not fiddling with gadgets when in class.

    If you meant a tablet PC, I haven't played with those. I'd recommend finding a place that has them available for demonstration before buying and see how easy they are to work with before making a decision.

    By the way, what Cristo cautions about is a downfall of many students...a lot of material for class is provided online now, and a lot of students just bring their laptops to class and follow along on slides on the laptop. On the plus side, if they are stuck in a bad seat and can't see the screen clearly, they can view the slides on their own desks. On the downside, they sometimes spend too much time looking at their own screen, or trying to type notes in Powerpoint without any pointers to what the notes refer to. I had a few students struggling in my course who came to me for study tips. For one, we determined that it wasn't so much her studying as her notetaking...she had switched to using a computer for her notetaking, and it simply wasn't working for her. I suggested she not feel pressured to take notes the same as the other students and just bring in old-fashioned pen and paper. When she did, her grades started improving...it was just the right style of note taking for her.

    So, if you think taking notes on a computer will work for you, great, but if you're just trying to find a fancy gadget that works like pen and paper, because that's what's comfortable for you, consider sticking with pen and paper.
  12. May 25, 2009 #11
    Pen, paper, ears and eyes. That's all you'll ever need for note taking.

    Laptops and all the gadgetry rubbish is far too distracting.
  13. May 26, 2009 #12
    Three words, read them carefully: Learn to type.

    If you get your speed up to about 100wpm then you will never be able to write faster than you can type.

    Side Note:Saying laptops are nothing but distracting is nonsense.
  14. May 26, 2009 #13
    Normally i'd just leave this as different people have different advice and some work for some popele other for others, but Bourbaki's is so utterly dire that I just have to say this.

    Ok, so you suggest essentially that he becomes a typist to take notes (as 100 wpm is secretary/ typing pool territory).

    Firstly, recording every single word the lecturer says is very very bad technique for note taking. You should need nowhere near 100 words per min.

    Secondly, i'd love you see you type out a graph, or a sketch something quickly.

    "Lets see..... swich to drawing mode.... lines.... OH SNAP HE'S RUBBED IT OFF THE BOARD. Yes brilliant idea."

    Also the sound of 'tap tap tap' at the back of a lecture hall is the most irritating sound ever.


    On a side note, I am not an old man who has technology issues. I just belive in the best tool for the job. In lectures this really is listening and paying as much attentiaon as you can. If you are retyping the dead sea scrolls at the same time you arent paying full attention to the lecture.

    On the other hand, with a laptop, if you get bored there is always minesweeper.
  15. May 26, 2009 #14
    100wpm is average comp sci major speed, its not that difficult to achieve, I have many friends who type much more quickly.


    1) I said nothing about being a stenographer, you don't need to type everything the professor says verbatim, but finding the most useful recording technique is up to you.

    2) There is a nice program called Mathematica, it is relatively easy to use and extremely useful(graphs are cake to program in it). If you object to buying it or pirating it, there is open source software like Sage that can accomplish pretty much the same thing. So you can word format in the program and switch to programming a graph instantly.

    So your critique is ill informed.

    I suppose I should have issued a caveat: I have never found it useful or necessary to take notes, and I rarely forget what I learned in class when I simply sit and pay close attention. I do know how to take effective notes, but I rarely need to so my advice might not be good for everyone.
  16. May 26, 2009 #15
    As a proponent of the kiss principle I'll stick with a biro and a pad ta.

    Faithful and cheap to boot. (I sound like a technophobe but I dont care :P)
  17. May 26, 2009 #16


    User Avatar

    This was so close to being prophetical for this thread
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook