Friday, April 15, 2005

Note Taking, Da Vinci, and the Cornell Method

Note taking is a complicated process that requires listening, seeing, writing, and abstraction. When a lot of information is being presented, it's impossible to take everything down, so you must select and prioritize - and that is the essence of good note taking.

Some prefer words and some prefer pictures, but Da Vinci and inventors prefer both. The first link below compares Da Vinci's sketchbooks to the 'Cornell method' of taking notes in two columns - with key words on one side and explanations and drawings on the other.

Some people naturally know how to extract the most essential details in a lecture, but many need to be taught. If you know a student who is falling behind in a class, take a look at their notes. Do they know what to select? Are they identify the essential information?

Taking notes with words and pictures is not only for remembering what others have told you. Many people use Cornell approaches for think their way through problems, reviewing the data 'in hand' and then generating alternative perspectives.

Drawing to help you think through your own problems and drawing to communicate with others are two different skills. We should encourage children to think with their writing or drawing early on as it could help them their whole lives long. Check out the last paper below which investigated the ways new ideas were 'hidden' in
an architect's sketches. By doodling and turning around the pictures on paper, he became more aware of different visual characteristics, visual spatial relationships, and perceptual assumptions.

Da Vinci and Cornell Notes
The Cornell Note Taking System
Hidden Discoveries in Design Sketches

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