Note-Taking Technology for Students with LD and ADHD
By Shelley Lacey-Castelot, ATACP, M.S.
For students with learning disabilities, taking notes can be so overwhelming that oftentimes it doesn’t happen at all. The ability to take good notes requires strengths in many areas that may be deficits for students with LD and ADHD. Thankfully, assistive technology can help compensate for some of those deficits, allowing students to become effective note-takers.
There are essentially four categories of note-taking assistance.
1. Human note-takers
Having another person (often classmates in upper grades) take notes enables a student to concentrate on listening effectively. Often, however, students with LD have difficulty reading notes that others have taken.
Handwritten notes generally lack the ability to be converted into digital text, which could be read to the student through an electronic reading program. Most simple recording devices suffer from the same drawback and also lack the ability to step through the recording in an efficient manner.
2. Electronic note-capturing systems
Electronic note-capturing systems (SmartBoard, mimio, Promethean, etc.) typically blend seamlessly into classroom settings. Such systems capture notes written by the instructor on a whiteboard; screens of the lesson can be saved, edited, printed, or replayed.
Some note-capturing systems can convert the handwritten notes into digital text, which can then be read to the student in an electronic reading program.
If a classroom does not have a whiteboard, it can be difficult or impossible to utilize these systems. The mimio note-capturing system addresses that problem. It’s a portable electronic capture bar that, in a pinch, can be used on a window. It can also capture audio, which can be helpful to students who benefit from more than the visual notes. Notes can be e-mailed to students or posted on a school website for all to access. Most electronic note-capturing systems are also interactive.
3. Recording Devices
The Pulse SmartPen and its sleek new sister the Echo SmartPen (both from livescribe.com) are non-typical audio recording devices that combine handwritten notes with audio recording capability. These SmartPens can be utilized in a traditional manner with synchronized audio—tapping on a section of handwritten notes activates the same portion of an audio presentation. In addition it can be used in a nontraditional manner, where students are taught to listen for and write down the “big ideas” while recording the audio. Later, they can listen to the audio and use a word processor or speech-recognition software to fill in the details under the big ideas.
4. Software Applications
And, of course, there are iPad apps for notetaking. The three best are:
- SoundNote, which allows the student to type and/or handwrite notes while capturing the audio. The audio is synchronized with the notes by page. Notes can be stored on the iPad, shared, or emailed using Dropbox.
- Notetaker HD is multi-faceted. It can capture simple text notes, as well as media-rich notes with linked audio, diagrams, annotations and doodling. The number of features may overwhelm some students with LD.
- Notability enables the student to pull Web clips on the go, mark up images, record audio notes, or visually sketch ideas.
The author is the Director of Literacy Solutions in Oxford, CT, and an expert in the evaluation and use of assistive technology for students with learning disabilities and attention disorders.