Why I don't take notes on computer

Why I don't take notes on computer.

These days in law school, it's kind of an oddity not to take notes on laptop. Every classroom is filled with the clicking of keys; more desks than not have computers on them.

No, I'm not a technophile, dammit–I run Linux. I compile my own kernel. I compile every darned piece of code on my computer, except the nVidia driver and a few plugins. I built my own computer from parts. (None of these things are hard–don't let me fool you into thinking that–but I'm certainly not scared of computers).

I don't take notes on computer for two reasons. One of them is habit. I've spent the last seven years doing math and chemistry and physics coursework. And it's really really difficult to take notes in mathematical notation on a computer. Quickly. I mean, really difficult as in not possible. Particularly if you have many terms and integrals and sums and you're dividing by a bunch of things and is that h or h-bar and where's the phi and shit, was that phi or psi right there and dear God now it's Feynman diagrams.

Having not taken computerized notes in the past, I find that I'm used enough to my old method that I'm going to retain it.

That being said, I also write things by hand because it enhances my memory. I have a reasonably quirky memory. It's either very good or very bad, and it's more consistently good if I do certain things. One of those things is have a piece of information attached to a strict spatial place. So if I can “see” where something is on a page, I'm more likely to remember it. If I remember writing something on a place on a page, I'm even more likely to remember it. And if I spend some time thinking about where to put it on a page, I can usually keep it in the forefront of my mind for a good four or five months (longer than the timespan of an average class). This is also why I color-code.

But–ta da–if you're just taking notes on a computer, you only have the vaguely imposed pagination of the word processing software. For whatever reason, it just doesn't work in my head. Things don't stick together.

I also don't feel like I give up all that much. The two big things are speed–you can write down essentially everything the professor says if you type. Not convinced this is a bonus–part of the joy of not getting everything is that you have to paraphrase, and to paraphrase well means you have to listen and understand. The downside is that it's more damaging if you get sidetracked; the upside is that you have more motivation not to get sidetracked.

The other downside is that you can't cut and paste course notes into your outline. I also don't think this is a downside, but that's because I can't imagine cutting and pasting notes into what I think of as my “outline” either. This is another idiosyncracy of mine–my outlines are completely different from what other people call outlines. I don't organize things by case. I don't have a statement of facts, issues, and holdings.

It works, in my head. It might not work in yours. I'm not trying to put down anyone else's method; learning is an idiosyncratic individual process, and I'm not going to tell you how to do it. But this is why I'm the freak using the blue pen in class.  [Letters of Marque]

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