Many people nowadays prefer typing notes on a laptop rather than writing them down in a copybook. However, there are numerous advantages of the latter option that would convince you to adhere to this old-fashioned method.
In 2014 research of a Princeton professor Pam Mueller published in the journal Psychological Science it was demonstrated that students who wrote their notes by hand memorized them better than those who typed them on their computers.
Two groups of students were assembled for a lecture. One was given a task to write notes in their copybooks, another one – on their laptops. In a week they were tested on the given material.
The results were staggering. The group that had hand-written notes scored 2 times higher than their technology driven peers. What could be the reasons for such counterintuitive conclusions?
There is no denying that digital devices can be pretty distracting. However, many students would argue that they turn off the Internet and any instant notifications when they go visit a lecture.
Despite this laudable attempt, digital devices are inherently distracting due to their complexity. They offer such a great variety of options that students’ attention can easily become dispersed between all of them.
When you write notes in a notebook, all you have is pen and paper. Maybe, a highlighter if you really mean serious business. In any case, this simplicity allows you not to contemplate on the formatting choice, but rather focus deep on the lecture’s content.
How is that even here? – you would protest. Isn’t it the point of education to accumulate information? Well, I would say - no it’s not.
There are two types of note-taking: generative and non-generative. Generative type presupposes your synthesizing of the information, sifting through it and making your own conclusions. Non-generative note taking is basically writing down everything your teacher says word for word.
When you type on a digital device, typically you can collect much more information than your writing colleagues. However, the payoff is that you do not think as deeply about the material, as you are less constrained by the time and, therefore, do not have to prioritize. As a result, you produce non-generative notes which can be very random and even overwhelming.
Going back to that experiment with students, it is worth noting that even after the students were given time to revise their notes, those who wrote them down by hand scored higher.
It is again related to the generative nature of writing your notes rather than typing them. You might have noticed this phenomenon in real life that when you truly accept some idea, it feels like it becomes your own. Same with information. If you want to appropriate it, you need to reflect it through your own experience, beliefs and values.
Writing notes by hand forces you to compact the information and choose only the most important facts, paraphrasing them through your personal understanding. Thus, your notes reflect your thoughts, and not just the teacher’s words.
It is true that note taking is faster and allows you to gather much more information. However, the quantity and speed does not equal quality. You need to consider it before choosing your note taking method.