Thanks for the answer! I’m glad you connected the note-taking part of the question with the learning part.
Good topic. College studies are arguably the best time to start “taking smart notes.” I certainly wish I had these ideas when I started my undergraduate!
It’s always too late! I’d be grateful to have these ideas before I even joined the college; now I’ve “lost” two years and must make up for them retroactively. However, it’s the college that inspired me to look for better ways to learn and take notes — I suddenly realised that even from classes I straight-A’d I don’t remember much of the stuff, and that my notes aren’t very useful for relearning it.
Speaking of college, I sincerely believe that stuff like this should be taught; there should be a two/three week class on learning methodologies and note taking.
It may be worth looking at other resources on how to study. I found Barbara Oakley’s A Mind For Numbers a fantastic read, and I only read it just before writing my PhD comprehensive exams a couple of years ago. I’m sure there’s others out there.
I didn’t read the book, but I went through the famous course Learning how to learn (from Oakley as well). I learned much, but I must confess I fail to apply most of it in practice.
I really valued the creation and study of good flash cards in my PhD. If I redid my education, one thing I’d do is funnel all of my notes into something like Anki and study with spaced repetition.
Even without flashcards, I barely manage to keep up with the coursework now. Do you think it feasible to make flashcards for all the classes, in such quality that you can then use them for exam preparation?
I like the idea of flashcards (they’re like a hack for our brains), but I don’t like the disconnectedness of them; I’d still need to have some underlying interlinked material that I could read through to understand the facts I’d learn from flashcards.
Given that writing good notes is very time consuming in and of itself, and so is making flashcards, I opted for “notes” instead of “notes + cards”. I’d love to hear a different perspective on this matter, though.
The time dimension isn’t all there’s to it, however. I think that flashcards are great for stuff that you’d like to remember, long-term. There’s one more way to remember something long-term: using it (either applying the knowledge, or learning something new that build upon the old thing).
So, I chose the strategy of writing good notes on everything and preparing for the exams, after which the knowledge falls into two categories:
Knowledge I need for my job or for further studies. This will automatically stay in my head, because I’m using it.
Knowledge that is good to have, but not critical to anything I’m doing at the moment. Once I need to use it, I can get a refresher from my notes, provided they’re good.
I think for PhD flashcards are more appropriate, because you need to have a lot of knowledge in the working memory at once — and you know you’ll need it all. In bachelors (which is where I’m at, now) there’s a wide spectrum of classes, most of which are only remotely related to what I’m doing at my job at the moment. Nevertheless, I’d love to hear more about your flashcard framework and about the ways you think it could help me.
[speaking of past notes] none of those are in a useful form.
Do you mind sharing why? Maybe there’s a lesson I could learn, some problems I could dodge.