Notes by Hand or Laptop?

One of the most obvious changes and transitions we see today is in technology. Technology can be related to many things especially to school. In college, almost everybody here has a laptop to do their work on. Every class that I am in now (except Andrew’s) I see the majority of people are on their computers taking notes instead of the traditional way of writing notes down by hand. Overall technology is supposed to make things easier for us and to make what we do in life more efficient and time saving. However, is there actually a difference if we right the same notes down on either paper or our laptop?

A way to look at this is the Pros and Cons of taking notes by Laptop…hand-write-or-type

Pro – Laptops are mainly useful for quick note taking. It is so much easier to type everything up on the presentation instead of hand writing the notes and having the possibility of falling behind.

Con – One word. Distractions. There are distractions that are only a few clicks away from popping up on your screen for you and other people around you to see.

An advantage to hand writing notes is your brain learns more of what you are writing instead of when you are typing. When typing, people usually try to put down as much as they can instead of understanding what they are actually writing. This is thought to be true because of the encoding hypothesis. According to Joanna Penn from the article The pen is mightier than the keyboard, she describes the encoding process basically as the process of taking notes allows your brain to improve in learning and retention, increasing a greater level of cognitive process. Although you are able to get more information down while typing, I believe the most negative idea of typing notes is having the possibly of distraction where once you click to go on twitter or Facebook, you lose all focus on what you are learning and were previously typing down.

Study – A recent study performed by Wood et al. (2012), was designed to understand how, in a real university setting, the impact of technology like laptops would affect real time learning in lectures. This is an experimental study and is set up with 4 different groups either texting using a cell-phone, emailing, MSN messaging or Facebook, being compared to three control groups of hand writing notes, word-processing note taking, and note by laptop. Students were also given quizzes in order to check their comprehension of the information throughout the three lectures. Overall the results came out to be that the actual hand writing of notes outperformed those of the multitasking participants. In addition, those who were considered to be a non-multitasker overall did better on the quizzes than all of the multitasking participants. This shows no matter what the effect of multitasking, it’s better to not do it in order to perform better in class.

Mylivescribe personal preference is to hand write notes so I may be a little biased with this. However, I know it’s hard to persuade people to hand write notes instead of using laptops since today all we see is improvements in technology which leads people further and further away from hand writing. Instead, maybe we can look at this from a different point and incorporate handwriting into our technology. For example, a product called Livescribe, a smart pen that transfers the notes you write down on paper back onto your laptop. It also records everything allowing you to go back and replay it again in case you missed anything else important. More products like this can keep the idea of hand writing notes the same but connect the use of technology to make it even easier for you as well as help your performance in class.

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6 thoughts on “Notes by Hand or Laptop?

  1. sjb6039

    When it comes to taking notes I have both handwritten and typed them. Like you stated, i retained the information better when handwriting the notes. Similarly to taking handwritten notes, the same can be said for me when studying. I recently had to study for a Spanish exam and learn a lot of new vocabulary. In the past when studying for Spanish I would hand write the vocabulary because I knew it better, however this time I was cramming and decided to make a quizlet, which is online flashcards. This method of studying was not as effective for me as handwriting flashcards or words. So I think its safe to assume that handwriting is better when it comes to taking notes AND when studying for tests. This article goes into more detail on why hand taking notes is better:

  2. Monica Lynn Powell

    I think you outlined the pros and cons well and that last product you were talking about sounds really cool! Seems like a perfect way to combine the two. I have always taken notes by hand but though I might switch to my laptop in college but I haven’t. Laptops are way too distracting for me. I also like the idea of being able to learn and remember more by writing it down. You are right though when you say it can be hard to write it all down before the slide moves on or the professor switched topics. There are ways to shorthand your notes so that you won’t miss anything! I also know people who take notes by hand in class and then go back and type them. Here’s an article that might help you shorthand your notes.

  3. Dominic DeCinque

    Hey Patrick, really interesting blog post. I usually try to take all of my notes by hand, because I think my laptop serves as an easy distraction for me, and would lure me into the trap of trying to multitask. I also agree that writing down my notes by hand helps me to process and understand the information more, so when it’s time to study for an exam I don’t have as much trouble remembering class notes. This NPR article advocates for tasking notes by hand for all the same reasons that you researched, and even mentions Livescribe!

  4. Alexis Herrington

    I think this study is a good topic to share because this is something that is thought about a lot in our educational society today. Technology is very useful but also has the potential of doing much harm. In fact, most of my professors put a ban on technology note taking in class because they don’t believe note taking on the computer is as efficient as taking notes by hand. A study I found online actually tested this out by examining memory from handwritten notes vs typed notes. The study showed that the hand written note subjects significantly recalled more than the typing note takers. Link: If taking hand written notes is more beneficial, should schools be more aware of this and implement it more? People are too comfortable with technology and like how much easier it makes things, so i believe this would be a hard thing to do campus-wide. But if technology makes things easier, doesn’t that mean we’re not doing as much work? What effect does that have on us? Is technology making us dumber? I think the study from above would agree so.

  5. dff5115

    Throughout high school i have always had to hand write notes. after these first few weeks of college i prefer taking notes on my laptop. I think that if you have self control to not get distracted during class it should not matter whether you are taking notes on a laptop or handwriting them. In terms of the study that you retain more information while handwriting this is interesting concept. With my laptop i have the best of both worlds; i use a surface pro which is a touch screen that comes with a pen from writing on the screen. I have found that this way of taking notes is really effective for me. I type notes as well as having the ability to draw graph all on the same page. I feel that taking notes is a personal preference that everyone must find the way that works best for them

  6. Kate Billings

    Hi Patrick! I have always gone back and forth thinking about which way is better to take notes. Yes, taking notes on a laptop is faster but I agree that its also easy to get distracted doing that. I took notes by hand all throughout high school and since I’m used to that I just stuck to it. I’m not surprised by the results of the study done that said the people who take notes by hand outperformed the ones that did them on their laptop. I would have never thought that if a study was done that the way people did their notes would matter. I would think that the results would not show a difference in performance. Guess it’t good news we both take our notes by hand!

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