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#24: Getting Smarter

#24: Getting Smarter

There's a great Aussie band from the Eighties called "Not Drowning, Waving." I feel like that is me, but the waving could stop any minute and then I submerge below the water, never to be seen again.

Last year, during my sabbatical, I spent a lot of time figuring out how to take better notes, so that when I read non-fiction, I have a chance of recalling the information. Too often I flick through a book I've already read and am amazed to reread something that I've underlined. That quote is both 🤯 and 🤔. I have no memory of having read it.

Long story short, I came up with my system of note-taking. The "long" part of the story is the attempt at synthesising Sonke Ahren's book "How to Take Smart Notes." Whilst the book contains incredible insight, I needed to unlearn his rigid classification of fleeting, literature and permanent notes.

My system is working for me, well over a year later. The flaw in the system remains me and my ability to stay focussed on one task.

I even appropriated the word smart and made it an acronym.

Spark, Metadata, Articulate, Resolve and Trigger.

Basically, any time I read (watch or listen) something and it sparks my curiosity, I create a note. I take the quote, keeping tabs on where I got it from. I then think by writing, articulating what interested me in this quote. This isn't meant for anyone to read, just the context of what I was thinking. I also attempt to connect it to other notes in my system. The last parts require actual brainpower. I resolve what I have written into an atomic thought, something that summarises my thinking. I then find a place for it in my heterarchial system.

An example of a S.M.A.R.T. note.

During the sabbatical, I figured out a way of teaching my version to my students. Half way through the unit, I feel like they are understanding the value of creating atomic notes that are reusable in different paragraphs.

The task requires the students to read a novel and for the exams (one internal and one external with a six-month gap between) to write an essay answering a question.

My class consists of middle-of-the-rung students, but I am hoping they outperform their peers BECAUSE of my S.M.A.R.T. note-taking system.

Outline for a paragraph about the character's trauma

They diligently take notes using index cards and are writing paragraphs based on them.

Their first exam will be in three weeks, and the results will be in three weeks after that.

The next question, assuming they perform better than expected, will be how to deliver my system to other students via a platform like Teachable. Just in the state of Victoria (kind of like a school district), we have 40,000+ students each year take the final year of school. The biggest challenge will be marketing to my intended audience. Harder still, as I don't engage in any form of social media.

I have learnt so much teaching this system to younger minds. It has fortified how I use my system. I feel more confident as a reader knowing I can keep the new found knowledge.

This is the greatest gift I can give my students.

Till next week,