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General NewsThe best: pencil and paper

January 1, 2017

Students nowadays use laptops and tablets to take notes. Typing complete notes with important details is faster. However, recent research shows that taking notes the old-fashioned way, by hand, is more effective.
Pam A. Mueller from Princeton University and Daniel M. Oppenheimer of the University of California studied how note taking affected student learning. They discovered that the slower process of taking notes by hand supports better student learning.
According to Mueller, when people type their notes, they try to type every word. But she explained that students who take notes by hand have to choose important information because they cannot write as fast as they type. Taking the time to select important material engages and benefits the learner’s mind at a deeper level.
Note taking is important for two reasons. First, “the processing that occurs” [during note-taking] supports “learning and retention.” Second, learning occurs when students review their own notes or notes of classmates.
The two researchers tested several groups of university students. One group took notes on a lecture using laptops, and the other took notes by hand. Then both groups were tested on the material. Both groups answered simple, factual questions well. However, with questions that asked students to apply knowledge, the students who took notes by hand did much better.
In another study, students were given time between the note-taking to study their notes. Of course, the notes of students with laptops contained a lot more detailed information. Surprisingly though, the students with shorter handwritten notes still performed better.
So, the research is clear. For good note taking, pick up a pencil and some paper.

Published January 2017

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