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 fantastic tools back then!

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

  •  Paper and pencil Note-taking

    • Assistive technology isn’t always high-tech. Sometimes, individuals need some good old-fashioned paper and pen/pencil note-taking lessons.
    • In graduate school for my communication disorders program, I sat next to a woman who had an excellent strategy for note-taking. This woman used multiple colors as well as designs in her notes. She was also an artist, so her notes were way prettier than mine. Her preference was to use blank paper, whereas I used lined paper. She used rainbows of colors, while I used more boring blue and black, with a dash of highlighting color.
    • An essential component of note-taking is helping individuals create a system of meaning for their notes. For example, you may use numbers for significant points and letters for sub-points. This basic design may also use color-coding, stars, underlining, or other marks to distinguish different components of importance. For me, I like to use underlining and circling. The essentials might be boxed or surrounded by a squiggly line.
  • App Note-taking (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 on the format)
    • Evernote – I have the free iPad version. It was 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 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 linked to a note, picture, PDF, or doodle. The program is available for an iPad/tablet or a PC/Mac.
  • Livescribe Smart Pens – This is a smartpen that uses a special paper that allows individuals to take notes and record at the same time.    The cost is about $130-$300.

One of the most important takeaways 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 practical 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!