Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 28th 2017 Contents life A23
Monday, August 28, 2017 guardian.co.tt
Attention students: Put your laptops away
As laptops become smaller
and more ubiquitous, and with
the advent of tablets, the idea of
taking notes by hand just seems
old-fashioned to many students
Typing your notes is faster---which
comes in handy when there's a lot
of information to take down. But it
turns out there are still advantages to
doing things the old-fashioned way.
For one thing, research shows that
laptops and tablets have a tendency
to be distracting---it's so easy to click
over to Facebook in that dull lecture.
And a study has shown that the
fact that you have to be slower when
you take notes by hand is what makes
it more useful in the long run.
In the study published in Psy-
chological Science, Pam A Mueller
of Princeton University and Daniel
M Oppenheimer of the University
of California, Los Angeles sought
to test how note-taking by hand or
by computer affects learning.
"When people type their notes,
they have this tendency to try to take
verbatim notes and write down as
much of the lecture as they can,"
Mueller tells NPR.
"The students who were taking
longhand notes in our studies were
forced to be more selective---because
you can't write as fast as you can
type. And that extra processing of
the material that they were doing
Mueller and Oppenheimer cited
that note-taking can be categorised
two ways: generative and nongen-
erative. Generative note-taking
pertains to "summarising, para-
phrasing, concept mapping," while
nongenerative note-taking involves
copying something verbatim.
And there are two hypotheses to
why note-taking is beneficial in the
first place. The first idea is called the
encoding hypothesis, which says
that when a person is taking notes,
"the processing that occurs" will
improve "learning and retention."
The second, called the exter-
nal-storage hypothesis, is that you
learn by being able to look back at
your notes, or even the notes of other
Because people can type faster
than they write, using a laptop will
make people more likely to try to
transcribe everything they're hear-
ing. So on the one hand, Mueller and
Oppenheimer were faced with the
question of whether the benefits
of being able to look at your more
complete, transcribed notes on a
laptop outweigh the drawbacks of
not processing that information.
On the other hand, when writing
longhand, you process the infor-
mation better but have less to look
For their first study, they took uni-
versity students (the standard guin-
ea pig of psychology) and showed
them TED talks about various topics.
Afterward, they found that the
students who used laptops typed
significantly more words than those
who took notes by hand.
When testing how well the stu-
dents remembered information,
the researchers found a key point of
divergence in the type of question.
For questions that asked students to
simply remember facts, like dates,
both groups did equally well. But
for "conceptual-application" ques-
tions, such as, "How do Japan and
Sweden differ in their approaches
to equality within their societies?"
the laptop users did "significantly
The same thing happened in the
second study, even when they spe-
cifically told students using laptops
to try to avoid writing things down
"Even when we told people they
shouldn't be taking these verbatim
notes, they were not able to over-
come that instinct," Mueller says.
The more words the students copied
verbatim, the worse they performed
on recall tests.
And to test the external-storage
hypothesis, for the third study they
gave students the opportunity to
review their notes in between the
lecture and test.
The thinking is, if students have
time to study their notes from their
laptops, the fact that they typed
more extensive notes than their
longhand-writing peers could pos-
sibly help them perform better.
But the students taking notes by
hand still performed better.
"This is suggestive evidence that
longhand notes may have superior
external storage as well as superior
encoding functions," Mueller and
Do studies like these mean wise
college students will start migrating
back to notebooks?
"I think it is a hard sell to get peo-
ple to go back to pen and paper,"
Mueller says. "But they are devel-
oping lots of technologies now like
Livescribe and various stylus and
tablet technologies that are get-
ting better and better. And I think
that will be sort of an easier sell to
college students and people of that
Students are being
advised to write notes
rather than take notes on
a laptop or digital device.
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