Note-Taking in the Digital Age

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Note-Taking in the Digital Age
Jack Hollingsworth/Photodisc/Getty Images

Back to school is right around the corner. Whether you're a seasoned college senior or a high school freshmen, using digital tools to help take notes will make your life easier. Don't be the last holdout in class as the only student still using pencil and paper.

Evernote
Image Courtesy of Evernote

Evernote

Evernote is arguably the leader in digital note taking. The free app and service spans across multiple platforms including Android, iOS, BlackBerry, Windows and Mac (with more platforms supported). Your notes are kept in sync across all of your devices automatically. You can quickly enter notes, clips and a portion of a web page -- or snap a photo of any diagrams to reference later. Organizing notes in Evernote is done through notebooks and tags, making it easy to quickly find notes when you need them most.

Visit Evernote for more information.

Dropbox-Based Apps
Photo courtesy Dropbox

Dropbox-Based Apps

If managing photos, notebooks and tags seems like a confusing jumble, use an app or service integrated with Dropbox. iOS and Mac OS X users can find a long list of such apps in the App Store. One of the better apps available is called iA Writer. It's a no-frills text editor that offers support for both iCloud and Dropbox syncing. Android and Windows users can also find a sufficient amount of apps to sync notes with Dropbox or the like just by searching the respective app stores.

Visit Dropbox for more information.

Google Drive
Image courtesy Google

Google Drive

Google provides a free service called Google Drive, which allows you to create text documents, spreadsheets and presentations (as well as store any file type you'd like in your account). You can use any Google account to access Drive, organize notes and files in folders, and share documents with classmates -- all through the Google Drive website or apps. Best of all, by using Google's Chrome browser and enabling offline access, you won't have to rely on an Internet connection to access your documents.

Visit Google Drive for more information.

Digital Textbooks
Mario Tama/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Digital Textbooks

Using a digital textbook can potentially save you a lot of money. Most digital textbook services, such as Amazon and CourseSmart, allow you to rent a book for anywhere from 30 to 180 days (on average). Amazon has a Kindle app for almost every platform, while CourseSmart has an app for iPad, iPhone and Android. Both services offer a web-based version of the service as well. Check with your instructor to see if she'll allow you to use a digital textbook on your tablet or computer.

Amazon Textbook Rental

Lecture Recording
Photo Courtesy Tape-a-Talk

Lecture Recording

Sometimes using a smart phone to type notes in class isn't practical. Instead, use an audio recording app to capture every word. When using the app you won't need to be on your phone the entire class; simply press record, set your device down and let it record. The iPhone has a built-in Voice Memo app that syncs with iTunes to help you keep your recordings organized. For Android users, there's a free app called Tape-a-Talk Voice Recorder. This app will record lectures, save audio files and automatically email recordings.

Visit Tape-a-Talk in the Play Store for more information.

Putting Your Notes to Use
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Putting Your Notes to Use

One benefit of using digital notes over paper notes is the ability to efficiently organize them. When using a note app be sure to take advantage of any tagging or folder features offered. Doing so will make it easy to quickly find notes on a specific topic. Searching for terms and keywords will also help you find exactly what you're looking for. Some apps, such as Evernote, have this ability built in. Other services will require you to use the Find command (Command-F on a Mac, Ctrl-F on Windows).

Evernote Peek
Image Courtesy of Evernote

Evernote Peek

If you find yourself using Evernote as your note-taking app of choice, you'll be happy to know the same company also offers a companion app to help iPad users study. The app, called Peek, works in conjunction with an Apple Smart Cover. Using your notes, it creates flashcards that you can then view by lifting up the edge of the cover. It's a simple and effective way of studying without wasting time or paper on real flashcards.

Visit Evernote for more information.

Don't Get Distracted
Getty Images/Stock4B Creative

Don't Get Distracted

One benefit of using paper notes over digital is that they aren't tied to the Internet. With digital tools it's extremely easy to get distracted and look at Twitter or check email instead of actually studying. The first thing you should do when studying on a device is to disconnect from the Internet. If you take notes on a smart phone, enable airplane mode so incoming alerts are delayed until after class.

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