Note Taking Tools & Feature Matrix


Taking Tools for Students

Note taking is a subject frequently addressed during AT assessment of students. Along with peer note taking accommodations, as eligible through a college’s students with disability center, or special education department there are many electronic tools available to support note taking using mobile devices, recording devices or software choices. As with many tools these days, choices are many and requires research on the features of each of these tools.

Standard Note Taking Tools

Along with researching the type of note taking tools, the question of the best method of note taking should be identified. Review of the literature on note taking yields differing opinions on the best tools. When considering handwriting, typing, recording information as frequent methods of note taking, a Scientific American article (May, 2014)suggests handwriting is a better method of note taking as it is slower and requires individuals to summary information in their own words. Typing, a faster method of producing written information resulted in reduced retention by students of lecture information.

Another article (Friedman, M. N.D.)  identifies typing which is a faster method of written production, allows greater availability of cognitive resources for understanding lecture content. Individual factors of speed and proficiency with typing or writing require consideration when choosing a method of note taking.

Many students identify maintaining pace when note taking, spelling and the multi-tasking demands of listening, processing, writing and summarizing a challenge. Note taking is a multi-faceted task with many demands on the note taking simultaneously which can break down at any one of the task components.

Note Taking Tool Choices

There are many include standard paper and pencil, word processing on a computer as cited above or use of handheld digital recorders. Other hybrid tools, using electronic devices use multiple features often including taking or importing images, digital recording, handwriting or typing using software, apps or smart pens. Consideration of learning preferences, electronic resources or device platforms, costs, sensory  and motor skills should be considered when considering a note taking tool. Using a feature matrix to  compare individual components of note taking tools, can be a helpful tool when considering preferred note taking tools.

Note Taking Feature Matrix

Evaluating the features of the tools  considered takes the guessing out of selecting appropriate tools. I love feature matrixes, too many times I have searched for similar apps and unable to recall the slight differences and features of one versus another. Feature matrixes I find, provide a systematic method of comparing all those features needed for an individual client.

The following Note Taking Feature Matrix created by ATR’s AT specialists , Rick Ziller MOTR/L and myself help compare note taking features of a few of the major note taking apps, software, hardware and services available:

Note Taking Software Device AppFeatureMatch4-2016- 5 bpng_Page1Note Taking Software Device AppFeatureMatch4-2016- 5 bpng_Page2

Note Taking Software Device AppFeatureMatch4-2016- 5 bpng_Page3

The following list includes links to the  software and devices above mentioned available online :

Voice Recorder Apps

The following  list contain a few select digital recording apps by platform for consideration:

Basic Voice Recorder App List¹


  • MicNote – MicNote is a great tool that allows you to both record audio and take notes at the same time. It is perfect for brainstorming ideas, taking quick notes, and planning meetings.
  • Voice Recorder – Voice Recorder ( free) is a simple app which records sound from your microphone. After recording, you can trim the sound and save it to your computer.
  • AudioRecorder App – Record audio, and then save as a wav file. Works off line.


  • Windows voice recorder tool is available in the Start Menu > Windows Accessories> Steps Recorder (Windows 10 OS) or as Recorder in Windows 7 or 8. Simple recording application that can be saved for later review.
  • Pocket Recorder (free on Windows Store) for Android or Windows. Pocket Recorder for Android
  • Easy Voice Recorder (free; Pro version 3.99 for additional features): Simple to use voice recorder for Android devices. Save and share files. Pro version features additional file organization tools.
  • Audio Recorder (free): Sony recording app with easy to use interface and several levels of sound quality levels to choose from. iOS:


  • SimpleMic (free; 2.99 for upgrade features)- Voice recording app compatible with VoiceOver. Syncs with iCloud for storage and easy review. Sound activation feature. Label and tag for easy retrieval. Transfer directly with email, Dropbox and SoundCloud. Share with Google Drive, Evernote, MS OneDrive.
  • QuickVoice Recorder (free; Pro 2.99 removes ads, allows recording more than 5 min.): Easy to use voice recorder, name files, send, share voice files, create voice memo for emails. Transfer files to Gdrive, other apps and services.

Summary – Note Taking Tools

Many features can be considered when choosing a note taking tool for a student along with the other supports available from special education services or students with disabilities or tutors. The above note taking feature matrix compares features of some of the major devices, apps and software considered for the task. The above list of apps is limited, however recommended for ease of use.

What is your favorite note taking tool? What are your students with special needs using to support note taking?


May, C. 2014. Retrieved on 4/24/2016 from:

Friedman, Michael. ND. Retrieved on 4/24/2016 from:

¹Created by C.Leynse Harpold, 4-2016

Carol – OT’s with Apps



About Carol Leynse Harpold, MS, OTR/L, SCLV, ATP, CATIS

OTR/L with more than 35 years experience in pediatrics, school based therapy and adult rehabilitation. Masters of Science in Adaptive Education/Assistive Technology with 20 years experience in AT in education of elementary, middle school, secondary, post secondary students and work environments for adult clients. A RESNA Assistive Technology Practitioner with ACVREP CATIS credentials, AOTA Specialty Certification in Low Vision, USC Davis Executive Certificate in Home Modifications, servicing adults and students with disabilities in employment, education, and home environments. A 2020 graduate of the University of Alabama Birmingham Low Vision Certification Program.
This entry was posted in Apps for Special Needs, Assistive Technology, Dysgraphia, Google Chrome, Note Taking, Note Taking App, Universal Design for Learning, Writing. Bookmark the permalink.

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