Note taking is an important skill, but not just for students.  I will admit that my note taking has morphed through the years.  As an individual with ADD, I am easily distracted…  Wow did you see that butterfly…  See what I mean.  Taking notes in class was not always easy!  I taught myself strategies for taking notes,  which got me through my undergrad and two graduate degrees.  Boy, I wish I had known about some of these cool tools back then!

At the CSUN Assistive Technology Conference #CSUN16, I went to multiple lectures on various note taking programs.  These are just a few of my favorites.

  •  Paper and pencil – assistive technology isn’t always high tech.  Sometimes, individuals just need some lessons in good old fashion paper and pen/pencil note taking.
    • In graduate school for my communication disorders’  program, I sat next to a women who had a wonderful strategy for note taking.  She used multiple colors as well as designs in her notes.  She was also an artist, so her notes were way prettier than mine.  She liked to use blank paper, whereas I had to use lined paper.  She used rainbows of colors, while I used more boring blue and black, with a dash of highlighting color.
    • An important component of note taking is helping individuals create a system of meaning for their notes.  For example, you may use numbers for major points and letters for sub points.  This basic design may also use color coding, stars, underlining, or other marks to distinguish different components or importance.  For me I like to use underlining and circling.  Really important stuff might be boxed or even a squiggly circle around it.
  • Apps (iPad/iPhone) 
    • Notability – I have the app for my iPad.  There is an IOS version, but I haven’t tried this one yet.  It doesn’t have quite the functionality of the iPad version.  ($4.99/$5.99 depending the format)
    • Evernote – I have the free iPad version.  It was actually my first note taking application.  I haven’t signed up for the Plus or Premium($29.99/$49.99), as I wanted to see if AudioNote or Notability had the same functionality at a lower price.  The jury is still out.
    • AudioNote – I love that it has lines like a piece of notebook paper.  Call me old school, but I really like the lines.  One of my coworkers uses this for her evaluations.  She loves that she can record and take notes, but doesn’t have to make sure to get everything down at once.
    • Many more…
  • Audio Notetaker by Sonocent is a program that records audio in chunks.  It allows users to color code parts of a discussion/lecture that can be linked to a note, picture, PDF, or a doodle.  The program is available for an iPad/tablet or a PC/Mac.
  • Livescribe Smart Pens – Is a smart pen that uses a special paper that allow individuals to take notes and record at the same time.    The cost is about $130-$300.

One of the most important take aways about note taking, is that the “program” will only be effective if the person knows how to take notes.  A $300 Livescribe pen or an iPad application will only be effective if we teach the individual how to actually take notes!  So whether you are using pen and paper or a smartpen and paper, note taking training should be the priority!