Taking notes on a laptop in class is distracting for obvious reasons that include the instant gratification of online shopping, messaging friends on Facebook or scrolling through pictures of cute puppies.
Aside from the evident temptations that make laptops a bad idea, research reveals that the speed in which students type down notes actually affects their ability to learn. Contrary to the belief that laptops help students learn because it enables them to jot down notes quicker, the study, titled “The Pen is Mightier than the Keyboard,” found that handwriting is actually better because it slows students down.
Psychologists Pam A. Mueller of Princeton University and Daniel M Oppenheimer of the University of California, Los Angeles discovered in the study that by slowing down the process of note taking, students actually learn faster.
Being able to type down every word a professor says does not require any critical thinking. The results are what researchers call “shallow processing,” as the brain does not actively engage with the lesson while the fingers are automatically transcribing the words. If the brain doesn’t put work into learning the material, it will not process and store the lesson from short-term to long-term memory.
On the other hand, traditional handwriting forces the student to analyze the material and summarize concepts. Since notetakers are unable to write down every word uttered, they must think critically and ask questions to write down the most important takeaways from class.
The extra effort that must be put into taking notes by hand helps solidify the information to memory. The researchers concluded in their findings that students “transcrib[ing] lectures verbatim rather than processing information and reframing it in their own words is detrimental to learning.”
If that doesn’t convince students to put pen to paper, perhaps they may be persuaded by the beauty of handwriting.