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We’ve recently come across a few articles that speak to the technology-age old question: pen and paper or computer?

Should I fill notebooks and binders with my handwritten notes? Or maybe I should click away on the keys during a lecture?

A recent study found that students remembered lectures better when they took notes by hand instead of on a computer. From their study, researchers concluded that

“Prior studies have primarily focused on students’ capacity for multitasking and distraction when using laptops. The present research suggests that even when laptops are used solely to take notes, they may still be impairing learning because their use results in shallower processing. In three studies, we found that students who took notes on laptops performed worse on conceptual questions than students who took notes longhand. We show that whereas taking more notes can be beneficial, laptop note takers’ tendency to transcribe lectures verbatim rather than processing information and reframing it in their own words is detrimental to learning.”

Interesting stuff!

neourban hipster desktopAn article in the Atlantic noted that even when you tell computer users that writing out notes by hand is a better practice, those that chose to pull out their laptops still produce far inferior notes than their pen and paper neighbor, even when warned.

Students taking notes the old fashioned way tended to process better what they were hearing and rewrite in their own words, a great memory skill.

“The warning [to laptop users] seemed to have no effect. The quiz showed that longhand-notetakers still remembered lecture content better than laptop-notetakers. And analyzing the notes that laptop-using students took, the two authors admit: “The instruction to not take verbatim notes was completely ineffective at reducing verbatim content.”’

According to information published by Indiana University, handwriting during a class may not be practical (or preferred) for many, Patricia Ann Wades says that students can still benefit from handwriting material during other stages of the learning process.

“Students can reap the benefits of handwriting when they use handwriting during goal setting, the brainstorming phase of composition writing, and the retrieval phase of studying.  The third activity, retrieval, should occur several times during a long study session, about once each hour. After reading a book chapter or reviewing lecture notes, a student should attempt to recall the contents of the chapter or notes. Recall encompasses talking out loud, demonstrating, teaching, visualizing, solving problems, writing chemical equations, drawing, or jotting down key words and phrases.  Learning is enhanced when students attempt to retrieve/recreate the course material using multiple modalities – kinesthetic, tactile, visual, olfactory, and auditory.”

From the Archives: Laptop or Longhand?

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