3 Note Taking Alternatives

Reposted with permission from blog.texthelp.com

I recently visited a college campus and had the opportunity to talk with the Disability Services department about some of the challenges they face. While there are many, one issue that was taking up much more time than they anticipated was finding and pairing note takers with students who needed additional assistance in class.

Turns out this is a common struggle across many campuses, so in this post I will be sharing 3 alternatives to standard note taking along with a few details on each.

There are many reasons students may struggle with note taking. It could be due to a language barrier between the student and instructor, a physical or learning disability, or even lack of instruction on how to effectively take notes. Regardless of the issue, being able to find individuals to take and share notes with students needing assistance is not always an easy task. They must fit several criteria, including being in the same class as the student (in most cases), agreeable to sharing their notes, dependable, have good penmanship, and actually take good notes!

The 3 alternatives listed below can prove useful when finding a note taker fitting these criteria is difficult.

1. Sharing a Google Doc – Many times sharing notes doesn’t work out because the note taker has poor penmanship or never gets around to making a copy of the notes to share with the student needing assistance. A great workaround for this is to have the designated note taker take notes in Google Docs, which can be done via a PC, Mac, Chromebook, iPad, Smartphone, or pretty much any other internet connected device. Once finished taking notes (or even before starting), the note taker can simply share the document with the student needing assistance. The student can then make a copy of the notes in Google Docs and edit away. If more assistance is needed, the student could even use tools such as Read&Write for Google, which can read the notes aloud in addition to providing other supports such as word prediction, highlighting tools, and more.

2. Using Dictation Tools – If the physical act of writing is an issue there are a number of speech-to-text supports available on computers, tablets, and smartphones that can help. While wearing a headset with a mic and speaking into a computer program while sitting in class may be a little distracting, smartphone apps typically prove to be a little less intrusive. For ideas on using a smartphone to dictate into a Google Document, read my post on a workaround for speech-to-text in Google Docs found here.

3. Use a Smart Pen – I had my first experience using a smart pen a few months ago when I was asked to take notes during a meeting. Not wanting to miss anything, I borrowed a Livescribe pen from a colleague and was very impressed with the results. If you aren’t familiar with smart pens, they generally record audio from the room while you take notes as normal. Using special paper, you can touch back to any part of your written notes to hear the recorded audio.

This is great for students who struggle to take adequate notes because they can write a minimal amount of information as a reminder, then listen to the audio from that portion of class. Note: some instructors require you to sign a release form before recording any audio from their class. Be sure to clear this with the instructor ahead of time.

That covers the 3 alternatives to standard note taking that I had in mind. While none are ground breaking ideas, I think that all have the ability to benefit students under the right circumstances.

Do you have other note-taking alternatives that you can share? Please list any ideas or best practices that you have tried in the comments section below!

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About Jason Carroll

Jason first learned of Assistive Technology while working on his undergraduate degree where much of his spare time was spent assisting a regional education centre with basic technology needs. Amazed at how this technology could benefit so many students (particularly those he grew up with) he was hooked and immediately became an expert at the centre. After receiving his Masters, Jason returned to the coop to serve as a full time Assistive Technology Consultant serving over 200 schools in the central Kentucky Region.

Since this time, Jason has trained thousands on Assistive Technology and Universal Design for Learning concepts throughout the United States and beyond. His focus is on integrating research based practices into the work he does and helping others ensure that what they are doing works. He specialises in assisting people to bridge the gap between operation of technology and actual implementation. Jason is a published author, has taught Instructional Technology and Universal Design for Learning at the University level, and spends a significant amount of time on e-Learning and blended learning initiatives. He is a graduate of the Assistive Technology Applications Certificate Program (ATACP) from California State University at Northridge and holds a Masters in Business Administration.

Currently Jason serves as Product Marketing Manager for North America at Texthelp Inc. where he oversees new product launches and speaks nationally on a variety of Assistive Technology topics.

2 Responses to 3 Note Taking Alternatives

  1. Amanda says:

    I also have had some success with my daughter using the audionote app on the ipad to assist with recording school lessons.Permission was sought from the teacher/s to use this.

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