How assistive technology can help kids with note-taking

By Tara Drinks

Expert reviewed by Shelley Haven

It’s not uncommon for some kids with learning challenges to have trouble taking notes. And to struggle in different ways. Some have a hard time jotting things down while also listening. Some have trouble keeping up with what the teacher is saying, so their notes are incomplete. For others, writing by hand or keyboarding is difficult.

Assistive technology can help get around some of these difficulties. Many AT tools have built-in technology features that help with many challenges, including note-taking. 

Why some kids have trouble taking notes

Many learning challenges can make note-taking hard, including difficulty with:

  • handwriting or typing
  • reading
  • spelling
  • focus
  • working memory
  • organization
  • processing speed  

For example, kids who have trouble with may struggle with organizing their thoughts and how they take down notes. Kids with slow processing speed may take longer to process what the teacher is saying and then fall behind in note-taking.

Dyslexia impacts both reading and spelling. So kids with dyslexia might end up with notes that are hard to understand. And kids who have trouble handwriting may end up with notes that are hard to read.

Ways AT tools can help with note-taking in class

Listening and writing at the same time is a common challenge for kids in the classroom. AT tools can help. Many of these tools are common devices and services people use in their everyday lives.  

Sometimes students can use a simple digital recorder to capture what the teacher is saying, if it’s listed in their IEP or 504 plan. But it’s hard for some students to listen to an entire lesson again. Another option is for students to use a recording app on their AT device, like on a tablet or computer. These apps often allow students to take notes and record audio at the same time so that the two can be linked together. That way students can go back and listen to specific sections from the lesson.

Other tools that can help include:

  • A graphic organizer (paper or digital) to help organize notes 
  • An outline of the teacher’s presentation, given to students ahead of time
  • A digital camera to capture information instead of jotting it down
  • A smartpen or note-taking app that records audio and links this to handwritten or typed notes 

Ways AT tools can help when taking notes from text 

Taking notes from books, articles on websites, and teachers’ presentations or handouts can be tricky, too. Some kids may have a hard time with reading comprehension. And some may have trouble determining what’s important to jot down and what’s not. 

Note-taking apps can be a huge help. Many apps allow students to highlight text in different colors to help keep thoughts organized. Some can also add comments (similar to writing in the margins) and voice notes.

Graphics organizers are another option to consider — both digital and low-tech. They’re especially good for kids who have trouble organizing their thoughts while taking notes. 

How to find features

Ready to look for an AT tool to help with note-taking? Computers, tablets, and smartphones have common built-in features like dictation and visual supports that can help kids take notes. Learn more about AT tools in schools

Looking for more help with note-taking?

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