Do you believe that taking notes using a laptop or keyboard in learning events helps you learn better? Well research published in Psychological Science suggests not. The authors Mueller and Oppenheimer conducted memory research after a self realisation that taking notes in different ways had a very different impact on recall.
Long hand vs typed
In the research the authors looks at how people took notes and compared those that used a laptop and types notes, and those that wrote their notes in long hand.
Why do the research?
In an interview about the findings Mueller said:
“Our new findings suggest that even when laptops are used as intended — and not for buying things on Amazon during class — they may still be harming academic performance,”
Mueller was prompted to investigate the question after her own experience of switching from laptop to pen and paper as a graduate teaching assistant saying “I felt like I’d gotten so much more out of the lecture that day,”
What did the research discover?
In the research it became apparent that those that types, tended to type in verbatim, that is they just “recorded” or duplicated the content. Those that took long notes tended to summarise and contextualise their notes based on what they knew already. They reframed the content to their own known references, making sense of the learning “on the fly”.
It seems this additional processing is one of the keys to the increased performance of those that took hand written notes.
Looking at the statistics of the research, it was not a slim improvement either – there is a considerable performance increase.
Death of the current Apple Ipad?
With Ipads being almost standard equipment for a student, this research should send a cold shiver down the spine of Apple and all educationalists that encourage their current use for classroom work.
Was Samsung there first?
Interestingly with other tablets (EG Galaxy Note), there are detailed pen solutions already in the device for precise handwriting recognition and capture. Will this research tip the commercial status quo?
Is the keyboard really ineffective?
According to the research maybe not. The real reason for the reduction in effectiveness is not necessarily the keyboard itself, but the fact that the keyboard enables people to take notes verbatim. It is this shallow, and cognitive light approach to note taking that is the issue
This author agrees to disagree
Whilst I agree that verbatim note taking can reduce effectiveness, I believe that used well the keyboard can actually increase understanding and recall. I am not saying this with any real research, other then a similar experience to the author, in that when I tweet or blog from an event I tend to remember more than peers just “taking notes”.
Last year I had a conversation with a colleague at a major conference about this very topic Martin Couzins, Editor of LearnPatch. We come to the conclusion that tweeting as a way of taking notes was a significantly immersive approach, forcing us to listen, summarise in such a way that the output made sense for people reading it but not there. Of course there was the risk of sound bites, but less so if the motivation and purpose was to engage with your readers.
The authors of the research show that taking more notes can be beneficial, this is exactly what micro bloggers do, a typical conference session of 30 minutes can trigger over 50 tweets or sentences, each one processed and conceptualised – no wonder I leave some sessions feeling “brain dead”!
A request of the researchers Mueller and Oppenheimer
It would be really interesting if the authors were to look at the social integration of note taking along the same lines as this research.
The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard – Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking
Pam A. Mueller – Princeton University
Daniel M. Oppenheimer – University of California, Los Angeles
Taking notes on laptops rather than in longhand is increasingly common. 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. 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.