- Blog post
Those who take notes by hand retain more
Score one for the old school: A recent study found that taking notes by hand is better for long-term memory than typing them on a laptop.
Researchers divided college students into two groups. One group was given pen and paper and the other laptops. The subjects were then shown a short video lecture and instructed to take notes.
Thirty minutes later, subjects were tested on the lecture.
The two groups scored the same on factual questions, but the handwritten group performed much better on questions that measured deep, conceptual understanding.
Subjects were tested again a week later and the results were the same.
The researchers concluded that because a keyboard allows for faster note-taking, the laptop group mindlessly transcribed the lecture’s content without evaluating it.
Conversely, the limitations of handwriting forced the pen-and-paper group to summarize the content in their own words and write down only the most important information. This processing helped the information stick.
The lesson here isn’t just about typing vs. hand writing. It’s about stimulating learners to think more deeply. Other techniques can help do that as well, such as asking learners to discuss their conclusions about what they’ve learned or show how they’d put it into practice.
Source: Mueller, P. A. and Oppenheimer, D. M. (2014). The pen is mightier than the keyboard: Advantages of longhand over laptop note taking. Psychological Science. doi:10.1177/0956797614524581