The Note-Taking Method You Should Try

If you’re like me, note-taking may be a futile task; no matter how hard you try, you wind up with a jumbled mess. You want to take good notes so that you can use them to study later, but cannot seem to find a system that works for you. The Cornell Note-Taking System (or a variation of it) might be your saving grace. My eighth grade English teacher introduced me to this way of taking notes, and I have adapted it to my own learning style. I have used it ever since, and it has gotten me through high school, college, and my career thus far. It may not be for everyone, but if note-taking is something you struggle with, I highly recommend giving it a shot.

What is it?

The Cornell Note-Taking System, or the Cornell Method, was developed by Walter Pauk who was an education professor at Cornell University. To take Cornell notes, first draw a line down your sheet of paper, a third of the way in. This gives you a skinny column on the left side, known as the Cue-Column, and a thick column on the right, known as the Note-Taking Column. Once your page is set, it is time to run through the five steps of note-taking, as described by the Learning Strategies Center of Cornell University:

  1. Record – Use the Note-Taking Column to record your lecture notes.
  2. Question – Formulate questions or cue words, and write them in the Cue-Column.
  3. Recite – Cover the Note-Taking Column and quiz yourself on the questions or cue words.
  4. Reflect – Reflect on the significance of the material.
  5. Review – Write a brief summary of the notes (about a paragraph) at the bottom of the page.

When you’re finished, you will end up with something like this (hopefully with much better handwriting and more interesting/accurate information):

Cornell2

A Variation

The way that I actually take notes slightly differs from the Cornell Method. I write key-words, questions, or section headings (if I’m taking notes on a reading) in the Cue-Column as I go. I use the Note-Taking Column to fill in details about each subject. This method works well digitally as well as manually. Below is an example of some notes I typed up using OneNote:

CornellExample

When I’m finished taking notes, I still have a really great Cue-Column and can easily transfer the information over to index cards.

Final Thoughts

The Cornell Note-Taking System makes studying easier. If note-taking is something that you feel you can improve on, I highly recommend giving this method a chance. You can even adapt it like I did, and still wind up with a clean, finished product.

Stop Dancing the Slideshow Browser Mambo

During the summer of 1995, I was hired as an intern at a company that provided training for some of the most popular computer applications of the day. They had several labs filled with Macs and PCs, and I was part of the team that made sure all of these machines were running smoothly and had the appropriate software installed. From time to time, we had an issue with one of the PCs that was so severe, the only way to fix it was to reformat the hard drive and reinstall everything from scratch. These machines were running Windows 3.1, which meant sitting in front of the computer inserting and ejecting whichever of the six floppy disks it needed to install the OS. Wanted Photoshop too? That was nine more floppies. Office? 24 floppies. There were a lot of floppies back then. A lot. In our office, this mind-numbing installation ritual became affectionately known as “The Floppy Disk Mambo.”

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“There were a lot of floppies back then. A lot.” Photo by Saulo Pratti is licensed under CC BY 2.0 and has been modified.

Fast-forward to today, and thankfully no one dances The Floppy Disk Mambo anymore (when was the last time you even installed something from CD?). But there’s a similar dance that has plagued us since the mid-90s, which I’ll call “The Slideshow Browser Mambo.” Anyone who has given a presentation using Keynote or PowerPoint has experienced this: you’re discussing a web page that you want to show to your audience, so you include the URL on a slide and click on it at the appropriate time. What happens? Your slideshow goes out of presentation mode and a browser window appears. After talking about the web page, you go back to your presentation program (which is now in editing mode), reenable presentation mode, figure out if you’re at the right slide in the presentation, and resume your talk. Whether you’re standing in front of an audience or recording a screencast, this is an unwanted interruption that temporarily throws you off track.

Thankfully, the same people who developed the audience polling software Poll Everywhere have given us a reason to put our dancing shoes away (or at least save them for actual dancing). Their free program, LiveSlides, allows you to insert a slide into a Keynote or PowerPoint presentation that is actually a full-screen browser window displaying the URL of your choice. When you’re done with the web page, just press the advance button on your remote control, click the mouse off to the side of the page, or touch the right arrow on your keyboard to move on to the next slide. The web page acts just like any other slide in your deck and you never leave the presentation program.

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I used LiveSlides for the first time back in March at a presentation I gave at the University of Delaware Educational Technology conference. In this presentation, I was able to mix in multiple web pages from seven different sites among my regular Keynote slides without any problems. On my Mac, the LiveSlides application had to be open while I was presenting, but it was happy to stay hidden and out of the way. PC users will discover that the program installs as an add-in for PowerPoint.

Whether you’re presenting at a conference or recording a screencast for your online or blended course, I highly recommend this application. Not only will it save you time, it’ll also improve the flow of your presentation.