Taking Classroom Notes or Taking Pictures?

There is a new trend in town: snapping pictures of the blackboard or whiteboard and recording classroom lectures instead of taking class notes. So, a debate has emerged. While not even attempting to address the privacy issue brought on by students snapping pictures of each other, the academic question remains:  Is it better to take notes or to take pictures?

Taking pictures has the advantage of being easy and capturing materials in the way the teacher intends. It also has the advantage of overcoming the need to understand one’s own handwriting some hours later. Plus, taking notes is so old fashioned and with technology assisting us every second of every day, why would it not be appropriate to be used in this manner inside the classroom?

The argument in favor on taking notes is more complex.  It has been shown that taking notes, if done randomly and without purpose or intention, does not significantly aid in the memorization of facts any more than mental rehearsal, a technique whereby various facts and figures are brought up as mental images. However, it has also been shown that taking notes in an organized and structured fashion can dramatically improve one’s memory of key facts and techniques, and thus improve performance on tests and quizzes.

At Chyten, we refer to our system of taking classroom notes as Review Integrated Note Taking.  It has the advantage of activating a student’s brain multisensorily, through collaborative use of the regions of the brain that correspond to tactile and visual functioning.   It also has the advantage of requiring students to make decisions about what to write and how to assemble their thoughts – two more terrific tricks to improving memory.  Finally, it has the advantage of becoming a built-in study and self-test guide—thus the name, Review Integrated Note Taking.

So, snapping pictures, while it may be modern and easy, places students at a disadvantage in the same way that highlighting text does; it deceives the brain into thinking you’ll actually go back and learn this later, all the while knowing that life is going to get in the way of actually ever doing that.