The Laptop versus Longhand

Students taking notes on their laptops have become common - even at WUAS! However, a new study has found students remember a lecture much easier if they take notes the old-fashioned way - by hand - and consequently perform better in quizzes and exams.

The study - by Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer from respectively the universities of Princeton and California - was conducted in three parts.

In the first study students watched a video of a lecture or a talk and took notes on it either longhand or on laptops. Thereafter participants took a quiz on the content and longhand note takers outperformed laptop note takers. Analysis of the student notes showed that laptop-users tended to transcribe a lot of the speaker’s words verbatim.

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The researchers suspect that this was because those who typed notes were inclined to transcribe lecturers rather than process them.

Students in the second group were given a warning. Before the laptop-users watched the lecture or took any notes on it, the study administrator told some of them: “People who take class notes on laptops when they expect to be tested on the material later tend to transcribe what they’re hearing without thinking about it much. Please try not to do this as you take notes today. Take notes in your own words and don’t just write down word-for-word what the speaker is saying.”

The warning seemed to have no effect. The quiz showed that longhand note takers still remembered lecture content better than laptop note takers. The final group of students took the quiz a full week after watching a recorded lecture. Some of these students were allowed to study their notes for 10 minutes before taking the quiz. In this last group, longhand note takers who had time to study outperformed everyone else. Longhand note takers of any sort, in fact, did better on the quiz than laptop-users.

The researchers concluded: “Many researchers have suggested that laptop note taking is less effective than longhand note taking for learning. Prior studies have primarily focused on students’ capacity for multitasking and distraction when using laptops. The present research suggests that even when laptops are used solely to take notes, they may still be impairing learning because their use results in shallower processing,” Mueller and Oppenheimer concluded.

“In three studies, we found that students who took notes on laptops performed worse on conceptual questions than students who took notes longhand. We show that whereas taking more notes can be beneficial, laptop note takers’ tendency to transcribe lectures verbatim rather than processing information and reframing it in their own words is detrimental to learning.”

WUP 6/5/2014

by Anesca Smith

©WUAS Press

Source: The Atlantic