Note-taking may be a lifelong difficulty for most dyslexics. In one survey of 17 universities in the United Kingdom (HERE), 78% reported difficulties with taking notes compared to 47% reporting reading difficulties.
The reason for note-taking difficulties are several – note-taking requires a great deal of working memory and divided attention, but also there’s the transcription of heard words to written words which can be difficult for a number of reasons, not the least, weakness in visual word form memory and for some students, auditory processing.
Most dyslexic students should have classroom notes or other note-taking accommodations (like a designated note taker, Livescribe pen, or other option to record) as a standard condition.
It is possible to learn how to visual note-take in real-time, but it usually only becomes possible with older students or adults and with practice. But visual note-taking can be valuable for study, for instance when taking notes from a recorded lecture or taking notes from textbook. Some students develop a workflow of rewriting their notes, distilling down principles to their essence. The payoff for this approach comes at review time, when reviewing mountains of text material in a limited amount of time becomes impossible – but this method of review can also be time-consuming.
LEARNING THROUGH DIFFERENT CHANNELS
Many people I’ve interviewed talk about the benefits of learning new concepts different ways. It adds to the initial work, but the learning is deeper and it can build a more flexible knowledge leading to scientific thinking in the real world and solving problems that may not have answers yet. It’s these sort of abilities that make many dyslexics well suited to innovation.
EXAMPLES OF VISUAL NOTE-TAKING IN SCIENCE
Sunrise Science has some excellent “Doodle Cornell” notes that summarize science topics. For example:
The beauty of such an approach to note-taking in science is that students can get a strong image (it may be visual or kinesthetic) of the scientific principle, then use reasoning to extrapolate to other conditions or situations. This sort of learning is stronger and more flexible than reading or memorizing a verbal rule on a page.
Some students may be attracted to the colors and exciting fonts on a page and find them more engaging, while others might find it overwhelming and distracting.
Some students can be quite adept at doing such visual note-taking for study; the only caveat is it’s important that mis-transcribed information doesn’t get into these notes; if a subject is complex, visits to a tutor can help correct mistakes before they become committed to memory.
As to whether studying from such doodle-notes might be able to take the place of standard texts – I personally think they are better used as a supplement to texts rather than taking the place of them.
Many dyslexics may learn well when they learn a new concept or principle from multiple perspectives. Some curricula seem to incorporate this approach in their design, for instance starting with a real world example, incorporating an activity, then paper and or pencil learning. Having a summary infographic or doodle notes can reinforce concepts, new vocabulary, and processes learned.
An example of a curriculum like this is TCI’s Science Alive program. Click below to visit and watch. If you are not directed automatically, visit: https://vimeo.com/200908460
This video shows a nice combination of interactive activities and traditional learning, but sample lessons suggests the company may be guilty of “death by worksheets.”