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January 22, 2010

On note-taking

Reading this interesting post about taking notes in classes got me thinking.

Firstly, I think oftentimes people don’t practice enough what they had learnt in workshops (here I mean workshops by guest – usually international – instructors) which is a shame really. Part of the reason is precisely due to lack of revision materials/notes/visuals, etc.

However, I have to admit, I have not always been a good student as far as note-taking was concerned. In fact, during the first 4-5 years I relied a lot on videos taken during classes**. My revision, which I still feel was extremely beneficial, consisted of watching over the same videos countless times during the post-workshop editing process (to remove unnecessary parts, adding section screens, etc.), for quick review in future. Sad to say, the “quick reviews in future” seldom took place but it was the first sitting which could take up to 10x the duration of the video clips which helped to jog the memory.

I believe it was not until 2007 that I started seriously taking notes during classes. In the beginning it was with an iPAQ and now the iPhone, which is so much easier to take notes with. These small handhelds are really a god-send because I can easily slip them into my pockets and yet still be able to move freely in class. During the trip in BsAs, I had to resort to traditional pen-paper, which naturally was, at times, very difficult because the class has to go on.

After having tried these two modes, my temporary conclusion is that videos are probably more suited for the beginners to intermediates, where visual cues and forms (including sequences, postures, …) are important. However, once you are past a certain level, I believe that note (text) taking is even more invaluable. The process of putting thoughts and observations to simple words has forced me to articulate thoughts quickly. Here the brain acts as a first filter – unlike the action of videoing which is a very mechanical process and brain seldom has the opportunity to be engaged. However, it goes without saying that paying attention and keeping an open mind (so that you are not biased by what you have already learnt without giving the instructor to say his piece) in class are ultimately the deciding factors in how much you can benefit from the classes.

** That was at a time when the invited teachers permitted video-taping in classes, because they could see that without the videos there would be no other resources available for a fledgling community like ours. This is quite a contrast to the teachers I encounter in recent years.

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