Digital Notetaking: Friend or Foe?

Digital Notetaking: Friend or Foe?

Traditionally, you’d show up to a meeting toting a paper notebook in which you’d jot down comments, ideas, decisions, and action items.  Then, after most meetings, you’d return to your desk and transcribe your notes, issue e-mails re: action items, and maybe update some electronic resources (e.g. a wiki) with information from the meeting.  And if you were the poor soul tasked with preparing the minutes, you’d check your notes and wrack your brain as you try to remember everything that happened at the meeting (or at least the most important parts) so you can type up the minutes and distribute them electronically.

But with the increasing availability of digital devices in the workplace (whether provided by the employer or of the BYOD – bring your own device – variety), there’s a growing trend (or at least desire) on the part of many meeting attendees to replace paper notebooks with digital devices such as laptops and iPads.

There are many benefits to digital notetaking such as eliminating the time you’d otherwise spend transcribing your notes after the meeting.  But there are also disadvantages, with the potential for distraction often being cited as the main disadvantage.  Are individuals using digital devices really taking notes, or are they checking their e-mail or Facebook accounts instead (particularly during the less interesting parts of a meeting)?  And what about others in the room – are they distracted by the incessant clicking of keys?

For more thoughts on this question from a pro-digital notetaking perspective, check out Alexandra Samuel’s post “Dear Colleague, Put the Notebook Down“.  That post generated more than 300 comments, both in favour and against digital notetaking.  Her follow-up post, “The Unfair Stigmatization of Digital Notetaking” is also proving popular in the blogsphere.

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    Sheila Taylor
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