How To Take Smart Notes, by Sönke Ahrens | Literature Discussion

Synopsis (Kowlgwel)

Ahrens explains the significance of smart notes, which are elaborate webs of notes that deal primarily with their interconnections.

Sönke Ahrens

He is a writer, research, and university professor who specializes in education philosophy and social science.

He mentioned that he taught students and had noticed that they tend to cram their studying at the last day of an exam.

Historical Context (Kettesten Hwedheldusek)

Ahrens traces the origin of smart notes to German sociologist Niklas Luhmann, who created elaborate files of notes based on simply observations and connections based on what he read of philosophy, sociology, and other fields. He bemoans the fact that while people are fascinated by Luhmann, they overlooked his style of note-taking.

He further mentions how the theory of evolution and the discovery of the structure of DNA were born from a direct result of abstraction, which is what smart notes is mainly for.

When discussing the pitfalls of overreliance on memory, he mentions a journalist named Shereshevsky, who could remember every single detail, yet could not deeply understand the deeper meaning behind the texts he was reading.

Themes (Themow)

The main purpose of the book is to relay how to make smart notes, which involve index cards with numbers indicating which one is which. It then gets into detail about making the connections with other points, regardless of how unrelated they appear to be. Of course, this was difficult for me to compartmentalize, since I’ve been asking myself “How would I know which ones have connections?”

The connections are more important for discovering than the information itself. This is important because the information is already there. The goal is to ensure that the information is contextualized and connected with other points in the text.

The mental economy needed to write these notes is meant to be self-sustaining in this way. There is only so much information that should be memorized, and everything else should have an external place. This is where the smart notes come into play, since they provide a system of doing the bureaucratic work, while the critical thinking involved does the rest.

A theme of the book has to do with the idea of truth, which is that it belongs to no one. As such, it is not enough to note-take for one’s own sake, rather it has a purpose. That purpose is to make sure the writers truly understand what they are reading, and to develop a coherent, intricate argumentation based on it.

As far as technology is concerned, Ahrens does frequently mention apps and programs that provide smart notes without having to write down everything on paper. However, he did forewarn that students who write rather than type their notes have better comprehension skills, because they are not writing the notes without a moment to stop and reflect.

The usage of time is also important in this book, since it is how it is viewed rather than just simply how much is needed. Ahrens constantly mentions how cramming studying into a small span of time is not helpful for students, rather they should be able to prioritize their time. There is also the prioritization of the focus that is to be taken into consideration. If there is no interest in any part of the smart notes, then it is best to move on, since it would break the flow.

Intertextuality (Tredh-Srifekyans)

The importance of pattern recognition is definitely something that is seen with this book, since it is the main objective of the smart notes. This is the reason why liberal arts majors have importance in society, since they spot the invisible gaps that STEM majors do not. This was seen in Christian Madsbjerg’s book about the importance of the liberal arts major in the technological world.

Matthew Syed also talked about pattern recognition when developing proficiency in any field. He talks a lot about the 10,000-hour rule and how it develops talent incrementally. This can definitely be seen with smart notes, since it enabled Luhmann to pursue his career in spite of the obstacles.

As for Leonardo da Vinci, while he was defined in his own time as an eccentric theatre contraption-maker, he is defined in our time by the myriad notes that he left behind. All of his notes were based on basic observations of nature around him. As such, there is a chance that he tried to find connections with everything around him, which is what led him to discover so many phenomena that would be uncovered by scientists centuries later.

Writing Style (Gis Skrifedh)

The reading can be dry, leaving me to wonder if I should continue reading. Nonetheless, I continued proceeding through the book. Ahrens makes use of bulletin points in order to concretize his writing, which was helpful.

Real-World Application (Omrians Vys-Wir)

Although I have implemented a type of system like this in my reviews, I have been lax on my note-taking. If this can guarantee a sense of mental economy, then this type of smart-note-taking would definitely be important. I used to use the very based note-taking method of isolating the names and topics from the basic descriptions, however I will try to implement this type of note-taking in my routine.

Recommend This To… (Komendysen Ma Dhe…)

  • …Normally, any student from middle school onwards, however this did not really have a form of relevance to them. In spite of the fact that it is less than 200 pages, it can be tedious to read. It would have been helpful to include charts, graphs, and even pictures of the very notecards Luhmann used.
  • With that being said, I can recommend this to college students, since they have a lot of work cut out for them in their curricula, regardless of their majors.

Sources (Pednfentydnyow)

  • Ahrens, Sönke. “How to Take Smart Notes: One Simple Technique to Boost Writing, Learning, and Thinking – For Students, Academics, and Nonfiction Book Writers.” Sonke Ahrens. 2017.
  • Isaacson, Walter. “Leonardo da Vinci.” Simon & Schuster. 2017.
  • Madsbjerg, Christian. “Sensemaking: The Power of the Humanities in the Age of Algorithm.” Hachette. 2017.
  • Syed, Matthew. “Bounce: Mozart, Federer, Picasso, Beckham, and the Science of Success.” Harper. 2010.

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