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Ear to the Ground

Students Who Take Notes With Laptops Learn Less, and the Reason May Surprise You

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Posted on Aug 27, 2014

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A few months ago, research published in the journal Psychological Science revealed that students who handwrite their notes learn better than those who use laptops, and the reason is not because the latter are busy checking Facebook.

Separate groups totaling 327 test subjects were asked to record the same lecture by hand or by laptop. No distractions, such as instant messaging or Web browsing, were permitted.

The results were clear. As reported by The Washington Post:

When it came to learning the concepts in the lectures, the handwriters won.

When it came to retrieving facts, the groups were comparable, except when given time to go home and look at their notes and study some more, at which point, once again, the handwriters did better.

The problem, it seems, is that typists tend to copy down as much as they can, verbatim. Those taking notes by hand are forced to do more processing, which probably leads to better comprehension and retention of the taught material.

Researchers tried telling the typists to do more processing and less copying, but that didn’t work.

Go to a university lecture these days and you’re bound to see a multitude of glowing screens. Laptops have gotten really cheap, and many if not most students use them to take notes.

And then there are the rest of us who are not still in school. Apparently, we should all take notes by hand, or learn how to type more selectively.

—Posted by Peter Z. Scheer

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