Note taking iconLaptops obviously have the advantage of being able to access full programs like Adobe Reader or Microsoft Office, each with their own in-built annotation and note-taking tools. Take a look at our pages on Annotation for further suggestions. Similar to annotation, we think that some of you might be interested in using your tablet or laptop for note-taking in class.

Case study

We have put together a case study which includes some approaches to in-class note taking, including a typical workflow with the sorts of tools you could use: Case Studies.

Tablets and Chromebooks

Tablets and Chromebooks however are restricted in the apps they have available, and may also be restricted by the need to have internet connectivity. However, they have much longer battery life and are quicker to load than laptops, whilst having decent screen sizes for working on during lectures.

If you use Google Docs (in offline mode) you can type notes and mark up documents without an internet connection. However, it is recommended that you download all the documents you need and convert to Google Docs format prior to your session in case the wifi connectivity is unreliable. Alternatively, if you have good internet connection you can use the online Google Docs for linear note-taking, or web-based apps such as Padlet or Lino for post-it note type non-linear notes.

Problems with tablets

We’ve found that for tablets, note-taking using a cheap stylus is quite difficult. Cheaper tablets do not have screens with high enough resolution to be able to capture detailed word-based annotations, but they will be adequate for squiggles, circles and the like. Cheap styluses often wear out quickly and do not have the precision for annotation. Therefore, a more worthwhile investment would be a Bluetooth keyboard that you could sync to your tablet in order to type notes quickly. There are many varieties available and even ones for £10 will do the job.

File-management and storing your notes

Cloud-based document tools, such as Google Drive, Microsoft One Drive, Apple iCloud, all offer the ability to synchronise documents between your different computing devices via online storage. It is worth getting a free account and getting used to the different way that some files work in these environments. For example, a Word document can exist as a .docx file that gets stored on the different devices each with their own copy (i.e. synchronisation keeps all those copies in check). Or, you could convert the Word document to a Google Document that exists wholly online and does not place any copies on the devices (i.e. there is only one ‘file’ so it’s always the most up-to-date). A clarification of this is available at: Google Drive: Ne’er Fear The Cloud.

If you have any further suggestions, please add a comment below.

Useful tools

For suggestions for note-taking and file management, see:

Note-taking apps:

  • Software Download: Evernote – note-taking, scrap-booking, document logging.
  • Online Tool: Google Keep – short notes, links through to Google Docs.
  • Online Tool: Padlet – great for group work note taking and brain storming.

Relevant Posts


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