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Note Taking and Learning: Digital or Traditional?

When it comes to effectively learning and processing material, read why a pen and paper is the more beneficial way to take notes.

Published on 17 January, 2018 | Last modified on 1 November, 2022
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As technology continues to advance and improve, there has been a large shift towards digital note-taking. Writing out notes is a thing of the past. Nowadays, laptops and tablets make it increasingly easier to take fast and efficient notes by typing. But could this be detrimental to our learning processes? Could our memory and retention be negatively affected by digital note-taking?

There is no doubt that digital note-taking has its own benefits. Having the ability to take notes on a device that you already carry around with you saves you some extra weight in your bag. Typing your notes also has been proven to be faster than handwriting, meaning that you can jot down way more information than normal.

When it comes to learning, however, traditional note-taking may be the superior choice.

The benefits of handwritten note-taking:

With handwritten note-taking, you are less susceptible to electronic distractions that digital note-taking can provide. Laptops and tablets nowadays come with all sorts of features, apps, games, and notifications. It may be tempting to change the screen to check social media or messages during a lecture, lesson, or meeting.

note-taking by hand or by computer

In a study done by Pam A. Mueller and Daniel M. Oppenheimer called The Pen Is Mightier Than The Keyboard, note-taking by hand was statistically more significant in improving learning than by the computer.

Mueller and Oppenheimer defined note-taking in two different ways: generative and nongenerative. Generative note-taking pertains to “summarizing, paraphrasing, and concept mapping,” while nongenerative note-taking involves copying something verbatim.

Taking notes on a digital device, they found, is nongenerative. Since keyboards allow for quicker typing, these note-takers have the tendency to type out as much info as they possibly can. While taking more notes may sound like a good thing, this takes away from the learning process of information.

At the end of their study, they found that the people writing out their notes by hand and therefore were summarizing, paraphrasing, and concept mapping were able to process the information much better and resulted in improved learning and retention.

These findings mean that taking notes by hand makes our brains do a lot more processing and thinking than when we simply copy them down on our digital devices. And while it may be hard to transition back to the traditional ways of a pen and paper, this may be the learning secret we’ve been looking for.

Scientifically proven: The effectiveness of poster

Scientifically proven: The effectiveness of posters

Studies on print’s effectiveness is not limited to just note taking. Learn about why research showed that posters can increase knowledge, change attitudes and alter behavior here.  

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Mimeo Marketing Team

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