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Handwritten vs Typed Notes

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It’s no surprise that laptops have become common in the classroom, many times taking the place of spiral notebooks and pencils for taking notes. Laptops, as with most technology, would seem to be more efficient than taking notes by hand. But it turns out there are still advantages to doing things the old-fashioned way. A study done by two professors, Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer, determined that taking handwritten notes appears to focus classroom attention and boost learning in a way that typing notes on a keyboard does not. So why should students take the time to take handwritten notes?

Here are some key arguments for handwritten notes from the study:

Fewer distractions = better focus: It is no surprise with a laptop it is very easy to become distracted with instant messages, email, or social media. Writing notes by hand takes away this distraction. Using a notebook and pencil allows the student to only focus on the task at hand – taking notes.

Writing builds better understanding: Certainly typing notes on a laptop is faster than writing notes by hand, as students cannot possibly write down every word in a lecture. Instead, they listen, digest, and summarize so that they can catch the most important part of the message. Taking notes by hand forces the brain to engage in some heavy “mental lifting,” and therefore enables greater understanding of the information.

Handwriting is better for short-term and long-term memory: During the study, Mueller and Oppenheimer tested students on either their hand written notes or their typed notes. When given a week to study their notes, those who wrote their notes by hand outperformed laptop users. Handwriting stimulates more effective memory cues because the student is forming the context and content in their own words and their handwriting.

What we can take away from this study is that even when technology allows us to do more in less time, it does not always foster learning. When it comes to taking notes, students need more brain power and less technology. As it turns out, when taking notes – not only is the pen mightier than the sword, but also the keyboard!

handwritten notes

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