Thursday, January 17, 2013

some quick thoughts

I just read an article on the Harvard Business Review website titled "Dear Colleague, Put the Notebook Down" by Alexandra Samuel.

It's a pretty scathing piece about the use of "traditional" pencil/pen and paper in business meetings. The author makes some very good points about saving time, which leads to greater productivity in other areas. Here are a few of my thoughts:

1. I love notebooks. For 2013 I bought four new, bright notebooks to use to keep my thoughts in. I process really well with pencil and paper. I use them at school and at home. I used one yesterday in a planning meeting with other middle school teachers. I read a lot of nonfiction, and there's a book that I've been reading lately that, whenever I read it, I have the following things nearby: a notebook (to write thoughts into), a post-it pad (to stick onto the page where I have a question or comment), a pencil (to write my notes with), and a laptop (to look up things that I feel can quickly and easily be answered on the web). Sometimes, rather than using my laptop, I use my iPad.

2. Much of the argument made in the article deals with increasing time efficiency and productivity. The author writes:
Unless you reserve 20 minutes after each meeting to transcribe your notes and enter your follow-up tasks, however, most of this meeting's value will slip like sand through a sieve. And if you're taking 20 minutes to transcribe each meeting, you're losing several hours per week of productive work time.
Well, I have to admit that I am the person that does this, occasionally. I don't do it all the time, but sometimes I do. I love putting pencil to paper--never pen. And afterwards, as I process my thoughts and the events of the meeting, I sort through items, organizing and grouping, as I type (or create visually) the notes from the meeting. And that's why I often always start with pencil and paper--the ability to do more with space. Yes, there are programs available, even free, that allow for the graphic organization of thoughts and ideas and even notes. But I'm most comfortable, initially, with pencil and paper. I often progress to the use of my laptop, but not always. And I have to admit that I'm a really primitive user of my iPad; basically I'm only a consumer on the tablet.

Those 20 minutes spent rehashing the events of the meeting, and deciphering my notes, is time well spent. If the meeting is actually worth attending, then it's probably something that will extend well beyond the immediacy of that situation, involving depth of thought, insight, and planning. Each of those "things" takes time, and, in my humble opinion, should not be rushed.

3. What does this article reveal for education? Teachers ask students to use notebooks all the time. I've got a Masters degree. I used notebooks all the time in my classes, all the way through college. Is this article one perspective, and a rather elitist, closed-minded one, at that? Or is there truth to this? If there is truth, then what do we learn from it?

Just some thoughts.

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