3 Strategies for Digital Note Taking

As another academic year begins, many in higher education are deciding whether to allow or to ban devices.  Many have decided that the verdict is in and that the pen has won over the keyboard.  Students today use devices for just about anything and everything, yet when they come into the classroom the first thing you hear from many professors is that those devices are not allowed.  While many discussions centered on the pen and keyboard focus on which is better and which one to choose, I’d like to propose that we learn how to benefit from the best of both of worlds.

Now I don't know about all of you, but when I was going through school I can't even count how many times I had to turn in my notes, or my notebook for a grade. From handwriting to organization everything was usually checked, so when we switch over to using digital devices, the challenge is that the system we are often used to, doesn’t work the same way.  It is important for students to recognize that ipads, laptops and paper all have functional differences, and while they can replace each other in some areas, we like to view them as complements to one another.

In my role at USC and in visiting a number of other colleges and universities, here are my two observations.  Number one, it’s really rare that professors take the time to teach students digital literacy skills in academic or professional settings vs personal settings.  Investing some time in teaching students these skills can go a long way in helping them be successful

Number two, teaching styles and face to face time do not always change now that students have devices. So essentially what we are seeing are traditional learning environments competing with modern ways of learning, with the two often times being incompatible. At the Keck USC PA Program, the integration of technology into the curriculum to enhance the learning experience is built on a partnership between students and faculty.  

In this video I share three strategies for success used by our faculty and students when using digital devices for note taking.  


As the semester begins and before you decide to pull the plug on using devices in your classroom overwhelmed by the challenges that may arise, consider what opportunities you and your students may be missing out on.  If you are using devices in the classroom, as a teacher or a student, drop us a line in the comments as we would love to hear what strategies and tools that you have had success using.