A study published last year in Psychological Science showed that students who write out notes longhand remember conceptual information better than those who take notes on a computer. "Whereas taking more notes can be beneficial," the article’s abstract reported, "laptop note takers’ tendency to transcribe lectures verbatim rather than processing information and reframing it in their own words is detrimental to learning."

The researchers, Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer, wanted to learn if students could recall more factual and conceptual information from notes taken longhand or from those typed on a laptop. Mueller and Oppenheimer did a series of studies using 327 students on three campuses. They gave some students laptops and others pens and paper. The students watched TED talks and were told to take notes as they normally would in class.

In one study, students were tested 30 minutes after the lecture. In another they were tested a week later and allowed to study for 10 minutes beforehand. The students were asked questions about facts ("What is the purpose of adding calcium propionate to bread?") and concepts ("If a person’s epiglottis was not working properly, what would be likely to happen?").

Students tested right after a lecture tended to answer factual questions equally well regardless of how they took notes, but students who handwrote their notes did consistently better on conceptual questions. What’s more, when students were tested again a week later, the longhand note takers performed consistently better on both factual and conceptual questions.

The researchers found that students who used laptops were inclined to try to take notes verbatim—even when they were told not to. The longhand note takers took selective, organized notes because they couldn’t write fast enough to get everything down. As a result, they processed lectures more deeply, which allowed them to retain more information and even understand it better.

« Manual note taking is more learning-efficient than using the computer »

A quote saved on March 15, 2015.


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