Data Zen – notes in a digital age

I like to write things on paper. It feels strangely nostalgic. A faint air of rebellion takes me as if making an affront on the paperless society. Then, a barrage of SMS arrive, one of a dozen open chats windows chime, three emails signal their arrival in my inbox, and the phone on my desk rings. OK, I lied about the phone. In this hybrid world of paper and digital, new forms of information continually assault us with little regard for how to track it.

Taking notes will always remain a vital skill. It is part of the learning process. Do not be lulled by those offering presentation slides or annotated hand outs. First and foremost, note taking focuses us on the task at hand. Pay attention now, multitask less later. Just because you can, does not mean you should. Two, it helps us identify important data. Be it a theory, a question, or a deep thought to reflect upon later, note it! We are all too busy and insights can easily be lost. Three, taking notes gives us something portable that we can fall back on later. Yes, nearly everything is searchable online these days, but with information doubling every couple of years, you need notes to stay engaged.

Although pencil and paper are not my go to note taking tool these days, I do take copious notes. Be it through email, digital pictures, virtual post its, actual note taking software like Evernote, Google Docs, creating help desk tickets for me to track, or digital scribbles on my iPad, I record the most import pieces of data to recall and reference. If anything, I have too many notes. I can never find them all to review in time. I find myself at times making notes on how to keep track of notes.

Last week, a colleague was talking about students having too many different types of information to study. The ensuing discussion revolved around the idea of building a content management system to help students track all their data. More on that in future posts. My question, who is building your content management system to help you through this data rich world?

Old School Note


2 thoughts on “Data Zen – notes in a digital age

  1. Noted!

    Alright, I’ll bite. I must admit, up until very recently, I had a decidedly organic way of tracking all of the things I was required to do, to compile, to organize, to collate, or to synthesize:

    I remembered it.

    Well, either I’m getting old or I’ve finally caught on to the fact that I’ve been neglecting roughly 37% of the items on my neurological to-do list. I’ve since started using a fantastic little program called Wunderlist ( It’s a free To-Do List program that has an accompanying iPhone app (also free). It’s made me more productive and I’d say that 37% neglect is down to a healthy 7% now.

    (On a side note, I actually wrote on paper for a significant amount of time the other day, and the feeling was very unfamiliar! I really have no idea how long it’s been since I had to do that!).

  2. I agree with you and I think I mentioned it when we spoke at the meeting you mentioned, keeping track of information is the #1 21st century skill. I am not sure a CSM is the answer. It is one way for some people, but learning how to juggle data, find it, retrieve a it and use when we need is what we need to be teaching kids.

    So glad you are blogging. Love your writing voice and the relevant data.

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