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Digital Teaching and Learning @PCHS │ March 6, 2017

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Note-taking in a Digital World

We have access to amazing digital tools in our building. Those tools are here to support learning, to support the instruction that is happening throughout the building, not to replace it. These tools can streamline workflows, organize materials, ease communication, allow for more one-on-one time, differentiate product and instruction, and more. Translating our instruction into those tools, what that looks like for some skills, can be confusing. Note-taking is one of those skills.


Note-taking is essential in many of our classes, but research seems to say that digital note-taking doesn’t lead to retention of material. So what does a digital school do?


A closer look at the research shows that when notes are taken with a keyboard, students tend to retain less than when notes are handwritten (Baer). Students tend to be more concerned with getting material recorded than engaging with the material. Still, there are those that argue that typing frees us and provides us more time to think (Chemin), but we’re assuming that the receiver is actively engaged with the material.


What can we do, as a digital school, to ensure that our students are really interacting with the material they’re noting? There are strategies that can maximize the tools available as well as note-taking skills, engagement and retention (Dougherty).


  • Students can write their notes using a stylus in a program like Notability.
  • Perhaps you have a template that you want your students to use. Have them import that and write directly on the template.
  • PowerPoints or Keynotes can be downloaded into Notability so that students can take notes directly on the presentation.
  • Try leaving blank places in your presentation slides to indicate main ideas that students should note. When they download the presentations into Notability, they can fill in those points.
  • Do your students take picture of notes? Have them import the pictures into Notability and explain the pictures.
  • For notebook checks, create an open-ended assignment in Showbie and have students upload their notes to the Showbie assignment.


Benefits of digital notes:


  • Uses handwriting, that part of body movement associated with improved spelling (Chemin) and retention (Baer).
  • Notes tend to be more precise (May)
  • Adds digital tools like picture and voice for different learners.
  • Notes are backed-up and available from multiple locations.
  • Students are interacting with the material in multiple ways.


Visit our Digital Teaching and Learning Resources Google Drive Folder for more information and this post.

What can your Digital Learning Coach do for you?

  • Share with you what tools we have available to you and your students
  • Show you how to use the tools we have
  • Push out course-specific apps to you and your students
  • Co-teach with you so that you can focus on the content and I can focus on the tool and any digital issues
  • Trouble-shoot issues, iPad and Desktop
  • Share our Vision and what it means as we travel down the road towards making that it real
  • Help you plan and reflect on lessons using digital tools
  • Provide Digital Citizenship tips and resources


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