Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Behind the Books: Taking Notes

When I was in elementary school, we took notes on 3 x 5 cards and used color coding to keep them organized. That was the old days—before personal computers.

Today teachers and students are searching for ways to modernize, simplify, and improve the process. Recently, a librarian told me that students at her school copy whole articles into a single computer file and then worked from there. I have to admit, that made me nervous.

I always take notes, and I think students should too. I usually type them straight into the computer as I’m reading a book or an article. I never cut and paste whole passages for one very simple reason. I’m afraid I might inadvertently plagiarize.

What I’ve found is that sometimes great sentences lodge in my mind, especially if I read them several times. Even though I don’t mean to reproduce them in my own writing, my mind might spill out that great combination of words without me even realizing that they aren’t my own original creation.

Most kids have great memories, so they are even more likely to fall prey to this sort of thing than I am. If the words are their own from the very beginning, then they’ll never accidentally “borrow” from someone else.

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