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Note on taking notes in CSC 207

In my many years of teaching this course, I’ve seen many student approaches to taking notes. Some students have clearly developed careful note-taking habits, and continue to use them in this course. Others see that I write a lot on the eboards, and don’t take any notes. And some others are somewhere in between. In this document, I suggest some approaches to note-taking in CSC 207.

Some general principles

First, you should know that there is good evidence that taking notes helps you learn the material. Hence, even though there is a written record of most of what I say in class, you should still take some notes on your own. My written record is not intended to replace your notes. Rather, it is intended to be a supplement so that you don’t feel that you have to write down everything.

Second, you should know that the best learning happens when you reflect on the most important points, and take notes on those. It is, of course, sometimes difficult to identify the most important points, particularly when lots of ideas are being raised during class. I recommend that you review materials (the reading, the lab, your quick notes, and my notes/eboards) after class, and see if you can pick out a few most important points, which you record

Third, you need to consider how to organize your notes for efficient access. While taking notes will help you remember things, at some point you will need to look things up. How can you organize your material to make that easier?

Multiple modes of note taking

As suggested above, I recommend that you take notes during class. You may just want to scribble down a few high points (or low points). But you should record enough that you can look at your notes to start to recall what happened.

I also recommend that you regularly create summaries. A summary will draw upon your notes, my notes, your answers to labs or homework assignments, and so on and so forth. At times, I may incentivize summaries, such as by allowing you to bring a page of summary notes to a quiz or test.

Many students find it useful to take notes while reading. I will admit that I have never been good at marking up the texts I read, even though I do “read actively”. But I see many very successful students printing out readings and taking notes as they go. It’s also helpful to try code while reading. Most of our readings introduce new ways of expressing ideas in code. You understand the code much better when you try it (and then take notes on what you observe). Taking notes on readings also allows you to develop questions that you can ask in class.

You’ll be learning a new programming langauge in this course. As you may know, I recommend using flash cards to help you remember key aspects of the language. I will likely provide free blank flash cards at the back of the room. Although I require flash cards in some other classes, I will not require you to create flash cards for this course

Final thoughts

Take notes. Realize that there are different ways to take notes. Explore options, and see what works best for you. But take notes.