Why students should take notes by hand

I just came across this article reporting on research that shows the benefit of taking class notes by hand as opposed to on a laptop. It boils down to the fact that most people can type faster than they can write, and so typing one’s notes means one usually gives in to the temptation to take verbatim or almost-verbatim notes. That in turn means that one becomes more of a passive hearer to the information, not processing the information, not figuring out what is the most important point, etc.

We didn’t have laptops when I was an undergraduate. But when I was a student at Fuller Theological Seminary in the 1990s, I did. I remember taking almost-verbatim notes in one of my systematic theology classes. Come to think of it, the professor actually required students to turn in typed notes (it was his way of giving us a reference work for important theological topics, for future use). Of course, that meant that most of us figured that our laptops would save us from having to type up handwritten notes after the fact. Anyway, long story short, thinking back, I get the feeling my quest for comprehensiveness may well have undermined my learning.

Anyway, the research reported in this article is enough to make me disallow students from using laptops to take notes. In composition classes they rarely do that anyway, but… AND it reminds me to emphasize the need to take a few notes (handwritten) when I’m in the (hopefully brief) lecture mode.

Here’s the research the article is based on.


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