I sit at the back of the classroom, so I get to see everybody’s laptops as they’re working. Some folks surf the web, make travel plans, or do email. Other folks follow along with the demos, running the scripts on their machines before the instructor gets to the next one. I seem to have a little bit of an oddball strategy, so I figured maybe I should blog it in case it helps anybody else.
I start by keeping the PowerPoint slide deck open. As the instructor explains each slide, I make notes in the “Notes” part of the slide. If the slide deck already has some notes from the instructor, I make a line above their notes to show what’s theirs versus what’s mine, and I put mine at the top. I find that instructors place very different emphasis on different parts of the slide – for example, some instructors will say, “This part here doesn’t even really matter, and I don’t know why I haven’t taken that off the slide.” Presto, put that in the notes, and you can change the way you study.
Instructors also place huge amounts of emphasis on other points, so I make note of that too. If a particular topic is very important, they’ll show it with their body language, pointing at the topic or waving their hands. Those kinds of points seem to be more likely to show up on exams.
I also start a Word document, and I switch back and forth between that and the slide deck. In the doc, I put notes about:
- Blog topics (not necessarily blogging something straight from the deck, but more like things that occur to me while I’m watching them cover a topic)
- Things I need to bring up with clients (like when a slide covers a solution that might address their problems)
- Questions I want to ask the presenter later (clarifications, going down a rathole, or anything that is important to me personally but probably isn’t of interest to the rest of the class, and I don’t want to burn up the classroom time)
- Things I find interesting, but aren’t likely to appear on the exam
The downside of my fragmented PowerPoint/Word approach is that it’s not as easy to combine all of my notes in one place. I’ve seen people using OneNote, and looks slick, but I’m kind of averse to anything that puts more software between me & the original source docs.