When I walked into the Apple Store this summer to choose a new laptop for college, I didn’t really know what to get. The guy told me to get something small and compact, so I could use it to take notes in class. I looked at him and said that I would be handwriting my notes, and I already bought about seven notebooks. I could tell he was judging me, but I didn’t care. I have ALWAYS taken handwritten notes, and plan to for the rest of college.
The real question is whether or not handwriting notes affects the way we process and learn the information being taught. One of the first arguments is that those who type their notes write down way to much, sometimes word for word what is being said. It makes sense though, because typing is faster than handwriting. Those who write out their notes, on the other hand, do not have as much time, therefore they process what is being said and are able to quickly paraphrase important information.
According to NPR, a study was conduction by Pam A. Mueller and Daniel M. Oppenheimer on the topic, and was published in Psychological Science. A group of university students were to take notes on different TED Talks, and then be tested on the information afterwards. The laptop students wrote down way more, as expected. When asked about specific facts, both groups did well. The main point of distinction was when the students were asked more conceptual questions. The written notes students did much better.
Another point made about using a laptop for your notes goes along with what Andrew always says…It’s a distraction to those around you and to yourself. We get it, lecture is boring sometimes, but as soon as you click over to Netflix or Amazon, everyone around you suddenly “clicks over” too.
I only found the one study mentioned above on this topic, so I have a few ideas of how this could be further tested. First, I would study a larger group, like 500 students instead of only 67. Unlike in the study Mueller and Oppenheimer did, I would control whether or not the randomized group of students had a laptop or a notebook. That would be the independent variable and test results would be the dependent variable. Since it is randomized, that would eliminate possible confounding variables such as typing capabilities and speed of writing. After giving them a topic to take notes on, I would then give them the quiz similar to how the other study did.
Another option could be to purposely place students with laptops in a lecture hall and have them on different sites being a distraction. After class, give a pop quiz and see how those around them did compared to those with no distraction around. This is something very simple, but could still give a good insight into the power of distractions in the classroom.
Don’t get me wrong here, laptops are a great resource for college students, and I would never expect students to immediately switch over to handwriting notes after hearing about this study. Everyone learns in different ways. It is simply important to keep in mind that handwriting your notes, according to the study, could potentially benefit you on the next exam or quiz.