Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The World in Color

In his presentation last week, Matt made a point about the use of color in notes. In Software Design last semester, he also made a point to use different chalk colors to more effectively illustrate points. I recall being frustrated at how poorly these multi-color diagrams translated into my notebook in boring old black. Somehow, the idea of using more than one color to copy down a picture containing more than one color never struck me.

Since last week, I have been using two or three different colors of pens when taking notes. I find it tremendously useful to be able to draw a graph's axes in one color, the plot of a function or two, and comment on various aspects within the graph without having to worry about losing clarity to "too much black ink." Small tangential notes, or comments on math steps are perfect to do in another color. They don't interfere with the flow of the notes, but add additional information.

This combines with another observation about note-taking that I made recently. For a long while, I unconsciously took notes as densely as possible. I tried to write on every line and only really skipped lines between sections. This meant that all of the information I might need was all in one place, but it made it veryr difficult to access again later. Frequently I will remember where on a page I wrote something, but not on which page, and will have to hunt around my dense notes to find the bit of information I am looking for.

What I am doing now is leaving much more white space and intentionally making my notes more logically organized on the page. I'd rather that I spread things out in a way that makes sense to me and is easy to go back to later and reference. This seems somewhat obvious, but it still feels weird to have some pages in my notebook that contain only a few individual pieces of information. However, they contain the information in a way that is very easy for me go back to and quickly understand, rather than being mushed up with everything else.

Rather than use flat words to illustrate how I've changed my note-taking style to use color and organization, it seems like pictures might be a better option. (copy color diagram, use color. easier to understand, spread notes out. show concept, use photos. Maybe I'm improving?)

An Illustration

Here I was able to plot several difference graphs without getting them mixed up, as well as include comments without "ink overload"

Again, I was able to write something and mark it up with comments without interfering with the readability or flow of the "non-comment" notes.

I drew the base circuit in one color, comments in another color, and a formula for impedence in another.

For me, this is a pretty low note content for a page. I normally draw much smaller graphs and don't spread things out this much, but by arranging my notes and using color I am able to more easily understand them, which is good, because they are my notes.

A Wrap
I am a big fan of this new style of note-taking I am using. I suspect I will get better at it, since I've only even started to think hard about how I organize notes a week ago. Note-taking had become so second nature that I just did it on autopilot. This new "structure and semantics" thing is such a great idea.

Why didn't they teach me this in 6th grade study skills?

P.S. - I'm probably going to keep posting all of my deliverable photos into my Vital Ideation Flickr Pool, because it's rather easy to do.

1 comment:

ap said...

So, I'd like to hear an update sometime on how your note taking has changed since this post? still the same? I feel my notes change a lot dependent upon the pens I have, as well as the medium...Have you kept up your multi-colorness? Either way it would be interesting to see what's the same/what isn't.