Return to site

Please Put Down Your Phone, Here's How to Learn

Methods I utilize to learn include Cornell notes and active & reflective listening

· learning,cornell notes,reflective listening,active listening,learn

Okay, you can put it down AFTER you finish this article.

In college, I had assigned notetakers (I was diagnosed with several learning disabilities) and while I was guaranteed notes for most of my classes, I didn't depend on them. Instead, I took my own. Why? I learned better by writing things out by hand rather than sitting there an 1) typing or 2) assuming I'd learn later with someone else's notes. Studies have shown that "students who write out their notes by hand actually learn more than those who type their notes on laptops."


Cornell Notes was my preferred notetaking method.

  • Divide paper into three sections
  • Right-hand side: Notes with keywords and phrases
  • Left column: Main ideas and questions
  • Bottom: A summary of what you've learned

I found my style of notes better organized than most notetakers but very much appreciated the extra information to work with. Another strategy I use to learn is being an active/reflective listener.


According to Wikipedia:

  • Active listening is a communication technique that is used in counseling, training, and conflict resolution. It requires that the listener fully concentrate, understand, respond and then remember what is being said. 
  • Reflective listening is where the listener repeats back to the speaker what they have just heard to confirm understanding of both parties.

My first job was as a waitress at a retirement home and my favorite thing was hearing the WWII/Vietnam veterans tell me their stories. I would ask questions about particular aspects of their stories and repeat back things I didn't quite understand. Their eyes lit up. They loved that I was genuinely into our interaction.

Not only is active listening important for retaining information, it's important so it's not wasted time trying to learn something you might not fully understand. Also, being a reflective listener helps you comprehend the topic rather than assume certain information. By repeating the information back to the speaker, it allows him or her to clarify what they really meant.


To summarize, don't be afraid to put down your phone (and computer), sometimes it's better to learn with a pen and paper in hand. Also, when learning, be sure to be an active and reflective listener as you'll be able to process the information better and retain it.

Happy learning!

If you want to talk about brand strategy, storytelling, content development, project management, and/or marketing communications, drop me a line.