Taking notes in class: better by hand than with a laptop

Tomar apuntes en clase: mejor a mano que con un laptop

Studies on the effects that it can have the use of the new technologies on our ways of thinking are the most diverse. Recently, Wray Herbert has reviewed a new study in The Huffington Post about an original theme: at the time of taking notes in class, is it better to do it by hand or with a laptop? The response of the authors, after analyzing the findings, it seems clear: without a doubt, it is better to do it by hand.

Herbert says that the study, carried out by Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer is about to appear in the journal Psychological Science, so I can’t offer any link to the original article. However, the study of Mueller and Oppenheimer seems to be based on a talk I gave in 2012 at the Psychonomic Society Annual Meeting in Minneapolis, and that is mentioned in the article by Gal Ben-Yehudah and Yoram Eshet-Alkalai The Influence of Text Annotation Tools on Print and Digital Reading Comprehension. The article by Ben-Yehudah and Eshet-Alkalai yes that is available online, and suffice it to say that come to the same conclusions that the Mueller and Oppenheimer.

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The study of Mueller and Oppenheimer consists of various phases, tells us Herbert in the Post, but can be summarized in the following.

In a first experiment, the students attended a class, some equipped with laptops and other notebooks traditional. The students are told to take notes following their habitual strategies. After an hour and a half after the class, they applied a test to check how much you remember from the class, in both factual and conceptual.

Mueller and Oppenheimer observed that the students who used laptops tended to take more notes, but they did it by transcribing, literally, the class, and this way of taking notes seemed to have a negative effect: scored worse at the time of recall concepts that the students who had taken notes by hand.

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In a second experiment, Mueller and Oppenheimer wanted to check if there was any difference between the two strategies if it were allowed to spend more time after the class to do the knowledge test. To do this, tell the students that they would be examined a week after the class.

The results: those who took notes by hand did significantly better than those who used a laptop, both in the questions of conceptual as in the factual.

In addition, Herbert picks up another finding of the researchers:

The scientists had an additional, intriguing finding. At one point, they told some of the laptop users explicitly not to simply transcribe the lectures word-by-word. This intervention failed completely. The laptop users still made verbatim notes, which diminished their learning. Apparently there is something about typing that leads to mindless processing. And there is something about ink and paper that prompts students to go beyond merely hearing and recording new information — and instead to process and reframe information in their own words, with or without the aid of asterisks and checks and arrows.


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