Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Taking notes

Less a blog-post and more of a request for a few pointers:

I've been thinking (idly) about how teaching works recently - after hearing the Freakonomics podcast on how collaborative filtering could revolutionise teaching (think commercial radio v Last.FM and swap the monolithic playlists / curriculum for a jigsaw of personalised lessons catering to our preferred way of learning and different aptitudes).

One question particularly intrigues me: has anyone ever conducted a study on how different people collect and organise their thoughts? For me, formal education always felt a bit futile until the Word Processor came along. My illegible handwriting combined with a dislike of passive lecture-attendance made my first degree a joyless chore that earned me an unremarkable 2.2 in the 1980s.

A few years later, having acquired a PC with a Word Processor (they'd practically been invented in the intervening years) I thoroughly enjoyed a part-time Masters degree in the mid-1990s. I found it a great deal easier to organise my thoughts and find out what my conclusions were. As I've said loads of times here before, the main reason that I use the blog is because 'I don't know what I think until I read what I've written.'

I work things out by drafting them into an article for others to read. That's my way of working things out. It helps me even if it does nothing for anyone else.

A few weeks ago, I was at a meeting with a creative agency and watched one of their team do some quite remarkable note taking that involved elaborate doodles. Not only did it help him stay on top of the meeting, he kept showing us his progress and we all could work out what we wanted as well.

On the other hand, I've always found that mind-mapping just leaves me more confused that I was beforehand.

Taking / organising notes is, IMHO, a hugely under-rated skill. It's the essential pre-condition to effective study or decision-making. Like musicians need to know their scales or athletes need core strength and stamina, it seems to me that we should all have spent more time understanding what kind of note-taking works for us. It could either be some kind of training in doing it properly, or some kind of diagnostic to find out what type of note-taking works best for each of us.

Has anyone seen any articles about this? I'd be interested to read them.

Update: This, via Jon Worth. Oddly, the RSA Animate series was one of the things that got me thinking about this in the first place.

No comments: