Taking Notes By Hand Works Best

Pop quizzes, of course, are not the best measure of learning, which is an iterative and reflective process. Recent Princeton University and University of California studies took this into account while investigating the differences between note-taking on a laptop and note-taking by hand. While more words were recorded, with more precision, by laptop typists, more ended up being less: regardless of whether a quiz on the material immediately followed the lecture or took place after a week, the pen-and-paper students performed better. The act of typing effectively turns the note-taker into a transcription zombie, while the imperfect recordings of the pencil-pusher reflect and excite a process of integration, creating more textured and effective modes of recall.

—Dan Rockmore, “The Case For Banning Laptops in the Classroom

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  1. As a language student and High School teacher, I agree with this finding. In the population I teach, electronic gear is more often than not a distraction. Further, after having studied Chinese, Greek, Hebrew, and Thai, I find that the hand really does teach the brain. This should by no means be construed to mean that I disparage thinking, but rather that the work of coordinating hand and I while thinking about what you’re doing allows information to “stick” that much better.

  2. Evening Scott,

    You might like to know that the Washington Post had an article today that advocated longhand notes over and against laptop note-taking. The results were published in psychological science. Have a good semester.



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