Old school note–taking habits may do more harm than good. I’ve probably killed a hundred trees this semester by printing out readings to highlight. My posture is gradually contorting as notebooks accumulate in my backpack. A fountain pen exploded on me the other day. And while I could just type on my laptop, the ease with which I could toggle between my notes and Facebook during lecture is dangerous for my fragile attention span. I used be a firm traditionalist, but it seems that a new note–taking trend around campus may offer an alternative to my luddite ways.

Enter the iPad: the notebook turned tech–y. Many students have been trading a pen and paper for a stylus and tablet. “It’s just more convenient and it’s easier,” said Amanda Jank (C’19). “I upload all my PDFs, and I write straight on the PDFs. I upload all my textbooks and I write straight on the textbooks.” 

Amanda recommends downloading the app Good Notes 4, available for $7.99. “It writes exactly how I would write.” It could also be the answer to my heavy backpack problems. She told me, “I can have like 5,000 notebooks in one app. I can have my notes and then subdivide those notes into categories, like practice tests, problems, notes. Everything is really organized.” Good Notes lets you insert charts and images, and recognizes your handwriting, allowing you to search for terms in your notes.

Notability, available for $3.99, is a cheaper alternative to Good Notes, with almost all of the same features except for the search function. If your handwriting resembles that of a first grader, consider Notes Plus, available for $6.99, which will convert your handwriting into text. If you’d rather not pay for apps, you can stick to the iPad’s default Notes program—it's just been updated with the new iOS. 

The iPad’s apps and internet access allow for easy integration of handwritten notes, graphs, PDFs, and textbook problems into one cohesive document. So will the iPad replace the laptop as well as the notebook? Grace Mock (C’21) still depends on her laptop. She explains, “If I’m taking an open–note take–home test or quiz, I’ll need to have the test up online [on the laptop] and then my notes open on my iPad.” 

iPad note–taking seems like a no–brainer, but it might not be worth spending at least $300 dollars on a tablet with limited functionality. While the machines may offer a perfect medium between modern and old–school note taking styles, sometimes it’s best to stick to what we know best. 


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