This Is How Modern Students Take Notes

While perusing Pinterest over holiday break, I came across a Tumblr image post that I just had to share. The phrase ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ rings true right now as I contemplate how times have changed since I was a student many moons ago. Okay, not many, just more than a few moons.

In any case, the photo shows students taking pictures with their smartphones of a projection screen. It doesn’t get much more ‘connected’ than that to be sure. Do your students use their camera phone to snap photos for note-taking purposes? Would you encourage or discourage this type of behavior?

modern note taking


  1. Brad Ovenell-Carter

    December 28, 2012 at 8:40 am

    Absolutely endorse and encourage the practice.

    We use this and share the notes/pictures on Twitter using hashtags to organize conversations (#tokafe11 and #tokafe12 are the class hashtags)

    Please see The Return to Analog:

    And A Student’s Take on Twitter as a Note Taking Tool (with more links on our practice after the jump)

  2. Stephanie Conklin

    December 28, 2012 at 12:11 pm

    My students often get the directions for their homework or projects this way…is this that different from writing it down? Which is more important…process or product?

  3. EKSwitaj

    December 28, 2012 at 3:45 pm

    I would just send them a screenshot (or the relevant file) since photos of screens tend not to turn out very well.

    The only issue I have with this kind of note-taking is that it doesn’t require students to process the information in the same way and so does not contribute to retention.

  4. Chris Bewley

    December 28, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    Taking it to the next step, a social entrepreneurship company that partners with the top universities in the world to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free.check it out and please share.

  5. debbiefuco

    December 29, 2012 at 10:42 am

    Interesting that what they are capturing is something that could easily be shared. Would make more sense if it was something they created together during class (which actually could be shared electronically, also).

  6. Kathy Boyd

    December 29, 2012 at 11:26 am

    Or for those students who have difficulty listening, processing, and taking notes, this allows them to truly listen and process without the stress of taking notes. My ADHD son would have loved this. He is an auditory learner.

  7. Noeleen

    December 29, 2012 at 12:01 pm

    I often do this for my students. We brainstorm or make spider diagrams on the board and I take the photo and share on the class blog. This way they can participate in the session fully without worrying about missing the ‘notes’!

  8. Artwitholiveri

    December 29, 2012 at 1:36 pm

    Why not make the notes available to the students via an Evernote page, a wiki, a class website?

    I encourage cell phone use in my classroom whether it be for taking photos of their work, an activity, or of directions or note. I also let them use their phone to look up information and reference material. Teaching and modelling responsible use of technology is part of my everyday curriculum.

  9. Fizzycyst

    December 29, 2012 at 8:56 pm

    I would love to do more of this, but it must be ensured that the students store it in a readily accessible, organised folder or program.
    Its kind of hard to make this happen when some schools (such as mine) is very ‘off and out of sight’ regarding mobile phone use in class.

  10. John Allison

    December 31, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    In the Uk students can no longer walk, or talk, so presumably they will soon no longer be able to write, if this takes off here as it no doubt will. Seriously the process of taking notes, aids memory or understanding. Saving something for later is inherent with dangers.

    We may be very backward here, but our policemen are nice.

  11. Michelle

    January 4, 2013 at 8:16 am

    I applaud the teacher! You actually have to teach this to the kids (and what program to use that converts those pictures to searchable text-Evernote). Students don’t automatically understand how to use tech to learn. They must be taught.

  12. Robin

    January 6, 2013 at 9:45 pm

    I would discourage this kind of behavior. Students need to learn to take notes and to write. I recently completed a Business English and Grammar course at a local Junior College and found that very few of my fellow students, most of whom were much younger than my 54 years, could not write a complete sentence and those that could wrote at a fifth grade level.

    Out of 40 students, five passed the class. It is shocking to me that most junior colleges allow students to retake classes 3 times in an effort to pass them. It is no surprise that it takes so long for students to complete a degree.

    We are failing miserably at teaching our young people how to learn.

    • Margo's Math & More

      January 7, 2013 at 4:45 pm

      I agree with EKS–processing information and retaining the informatiion are key. I worry about future human brain function. If we don’t use it, are we about to lose it?

    • Jon

      January 10, 2013 at 11:27 pm

      My taking a photo of the notes the teacher could use the extra time to actually teach writing rather than teach how to take notes.

      • Jon

        January 10, 2013 at 11:27 pm

        By taking … Sorry

  13. Margo's Math & More

    January 7, 2013 at 4:41 pm

    I agree with EKS…process and retention are very important.

  14. George

    January 7, 2013 at 7:24 pm

    MIT now offers free classes on the iTunes store. I recently started teaching myself Python on Linux, following the MIT Freshman 101 Computer Science course. It is literally taped (video) live from the MIT classroom.

    People have different learning styles, some are visual, some are auditory, some learn by doing things, such as note taking. Why make your students pick one method over another? A good teacher adapts to the student.

    This is the Harkness table at a school like Exeter, not Junior College… “an education like no other”.
    – Class of ’84

  15. Nan Jay Barchowsky

    January 8, 2013 at 9:13 am

    Smart phones are great for the great majority who have them. Some of the ways they are used are a fad, only to be discovered as such when retention of information declines without the help of taking notes by hand. It’s proved! We learn best by implanting knowledge into the brain by use of the hand. Ignore it, and we slide down the slippery slope of poorer education!

  16. Sara

    January 15, 2013 at 7:54 pm

    That might save time but it doesn’t help unless the student goes back and actually reads it. I definitely prefer writing or typing my notes. That way there is at least a little bit of an imprint of the material.