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Be Your Future graphic showing student taking notes on a tablet.

Curtis is an intern in our Specialist Team Unit, focusing on modern workplace. His core job role is to work closely with customers to help them achieve more in their day to day roles with Microsoft Surface and Microsoft 365 solutions. Being a student, Curtis is a big advocate of Microsoft technology and loves using his Surface to jot down notes in OneNote whilst he’s in lectures or learning on the job.

All students know the pain of note taking during a lecture: hand cramp, ink smudges, and the inevitable missing page; the all too familiar woes of traditional note taking. Then it comes to exam season and you look back through your notes to pull together a revision plan… But you can’t find what you’re looking for. And if you are lucky enough to find it, then you probably can’t remember the context of your notes.

In the spirit of the new year and setting resolutions, why not see how you can leverage technology to transform the way you make notes. You’ll certainly thank yourself for it later when you no longer have to worry about missing pages or searching through several reams of paper to find what you’re looking for.

The future of note taking – a skill you need to master

Since working at Microsoft, I’ve been lucky enough to be exposed to lots of different technologies and really get under the skin of how they work. Often when you’re given a new piece of tech to use, you don’t really use it to its full potential, either due to lack of instruction or time to find out how you can really use it to make your life easier. At Microsoft, we’re provided with monthly ‘Work Smart’ training sessions to make sure we have the right skills to use all the technology we’re given access to so we can work at our best.

Woman working on a Surface Book, using OneNoteOneNote is one of my favourite Office 365 applications that I use on a daily basis. Through my time at Microsoft I’ve learned lots of little hints and tips on how to fully take advantage of its capabilities. It’s not just simply for typing random notes and there’s lots of things you can use it for – from prioritised to-do lists to meeting minutes.

If you’ve not already used it before, OneNote is available for Windows 10, iOS and Android and allows you to collate your notes into one central location, usually within your OneDrive so you can access them from anywhere – whether you’re at home, at work or travelling to a lecture on the bus.

You can create as many notes as you like and in whatever format you prefer, such as line ruling or using coloured pages if it helps stuff stick in your mind better.

‘Sections’ can be created within OneNote to separate your notes into easily organisable locations, allowing you to access your most important notes whenever you desire and do away with the notion of losing your important jottings. You can apply this to taking notes for each module you attend and are able to easily combine all your notes from that module into one section.

Typing your notes is great, but writing them down is better

Many people are not yet comfortable with typing their notes on a keyboard, and several studies have shown that this could be less effective than handwriting your notes, especially if you’re a visual learner who likes to create mind maps and circle important bits of information. Surface is a great alternative to replace both the tedious method of pen and paper as well as error-ridden keyboard typing. With the Surface Pen and its inbuilt 4,096 points of pressure, handwriting digital notes has never been easier. Paired with the fact that you have access to hundreds of colours, highlighters, ink-to-math, a ruler and various other utilitarian features within OneNote, like the ability to search your handwritten notes, your school or university days become a breeze.

If you still want your hand-written notes in the form of a document, then you can use the ink-to-text feature which turns your writing into text. This can be great for noting down points in a group meeting and then converting the notes into text for sending out as a follow up email.

Once you’ve finished writing with the Surface Pen, you can attach it to your Surface device by using the magnets; you’ll never lose your pen again!

Surface Go on desk in classroom with OneNote screen. Surface Pen and Mobile Mouse. Choosing the right device for your unique working style

As well as the benefits of noting things down, you’ll generally need a powerful, portable, and reliable machine that can carry you through your days in education.

As somebody who loves to handwrite my notes, the Surface is perfect for me. And there’s something for everyone. If you do a lot of presentations, the Surface Pro 6 could be perfect for you, with a detachable keyboard that you can carry with you and use for your presentations notes – no need for those tiny little note cards that will inevitably get muddled up. If you prefer having a more compact device then you could look at the Surface Go, or if you need something more durable then perhaps the Surface Book 2 or Surface Laptop is better suited to you.

With a huge battery life, you won’t have any problems of your device making it through the day. All Surface devices are touchscreen too, so you can interact with your device with more than just a keyboard and mouse.

You’ll certainly attract envious eyes with a sleek and stylish Microsoft device.

Find out more

Explore the Surface line up 

Download the eBook: An innovative approach to notetaking

Discover our favourite OneNote hints and tips