Back To School Without Paper or Pens?

I start my first semester in the Library and Information Science graduate program at Drexel this week and of course I'm overly excited. But for once, I'm not overly prepared. My back to school shopping used to consist of a pack of moleskine cahiers, a moleskine planner and my favorite pens, the Pilot G2. I would print out my readings (or buy the books) and take notes in my moleskines, obsessively.

But, as an online student studying technology, I find my former system embarrassingly low-tech. Most of my coursework for this semester is in electronic format: .pdfs and .html files all stored online at our library's electronic reserve site. I like that I can access my readings anywhere (with an iPhone I can do my reading pretty much anytime) but the problem is this: I can't take notes easily. I can't write notes or questions on my pdfs, I can't highlight, or circle or do anything like that. Yes, there is software out there that exists to solve these problems but it isn't free, or web-based. That means I'll either have to tie it down to a computer (and I use 3 different machines every day - Dell desktop at work, MSI Wind netbook and iMac - so that's not convenient) or pay for a service. Maybe I'm an old-school student (haha) but I'm used to completely digesting (destroying) what I read. I write all over articles, highlighting important passages and underlining phrases I'd want to quote in the future. I haven't yet found a program that mimics that frantic inhalation of a text.

So my solution (for now) is this: I've uploaded all the .pdfs and .html files to Google Docs and set up my Google Calendar to correspond with the syllabus. Now that you can attach Google Documents to an event in your Calendar, I have all the readings for each week grouped under the due date in my calendar. I can click on the attachments and complete my reading for the week. Google's pdf reader doesn't allow for notes or highlighting so I'll have to come up with a way to keep track of the main ideas from the articles. I can open word documents on my iPhone but I can't edit them (yet, please say this is a feature coming soon!) so that means some studying/reviewing can be done on the go.

Sigh, it doesn't quite feel like back to school without a neat stack of moleskines and pens. Just like my post about ebooks, I think the technology isn't ready for me to go paper and penless, but the urge is definitely there. The nerd in me is panicking about starting a program without a trusted notetaking regimen in place. I wonder if I can have moleskines shipped overnight...


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