If you’re like me, you like things to look nice as well as being functional. From my phone to my notes, the nicer they look, the more I use them. That is not always great when it comes to my phone usage, but when it comes to note-taking, it works in my favor. In this article, I’m going to introduce you to Notion, a free note-taking app, and website that will help you take notes that look great and are more useful.
Being a product of public education. I always got by just by paying attention in class and doing my homework. I never felt the need to take notes or organize my studies in any way because I always passed my classes. In American public education, passing means getting at least a 70% in the class. But, finishing the class with a 70% means you didn’t learn 30% of the material! So, just passing a course doesn’t mean you actually mastered the material. This continues until you graduate and realize that, even though you finished, there is a lot you should know but don’t.
In his Ted talk, Khan Academy founder Sal Khan talks about a concept you’ve probably heard about — mastery, but might not totally understand. In his usual brilliant way, Sal explains why learning to master a subject is so important and life-changing. Have you ever thought you weren’t a “math person” or couldn’t learn something like software development? It turns out you are probably wrong, and Sal explains why. Watch the video, and you’ll see. What does this have to do with taking beautiful notes? Read on and find out.
I am currently studying software engineering at Launch School, an online school billed as the “The Slow Path for Studious Learners to a Career in Software Development.” When I started Launch School, I had zero note-taking skills. I thought I didn’t need any since I had done well in college. But Launch School is different…very different. The school is based on the concept of Mastery-Based Learning, or MBL. From Wikipedia:
Mastery learning maintains that students must achieve a level of mastery (e.g., 90% on a knowledge test) in prerequisite knowledge before moving forward to learn subsequent information. If a student does not achieve mastery on the test, they are given additional support in learning and reviewing the information and then tested again. This cycle continues until the learner accomplishes mastery, and they may then move on to the next stage. Full article >>
And this brings me back to Notion. Why is Notion important to MBL? Because to master something complex, such as software development, you need to store, organize, and easily recall the masses of information being taught. And, if you’re like me, it helps if the app you’re using looks nice too. Notion helps you do this by offering myriad ways to organize information — in a straightforward, aesthetically pleasing way. Below is just a sampling of the available options:
- Embed documents like PDFs
- Link to online services such as Google Docs
- Create lists
- Insert code snippets that are formatted for the correct language
- Add images, text, bookmarks to pages
- Create databases
- Share with teammates — you can even tag them in documents!
- Create separate sections in the sidebar to help keep things organized
- You can even share any page with the world — Notion doubles as a drag-and-drop web builder!
Notion has helped make it easy to collect and access all the information I am bombarded with daily. Because it is infinitely customizable with different backgrounds, icons, colors, and styles, I am more likely to use it consistently. Notion is an invaluable tool in the pursuit of mastery-based learning, or in any situation where you need to keep information organized and…pretty.
Try out Notion here.
If you are interested in a software development school that teaches for mastery, check out Launch School.