While taking notes by hand does mean that you may not get as many details on the page as you may by typing, the act of writing notes by hand helps to implant the lecture more firmly in a person’s mind.
A recent article in NPR explains why: "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," says Pam Mueller, coauthor of a study published in the journal Psychological Science. "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 benefited them."
Other studies have long shown that using more than one type of learning can benefit everyone. Writing by hand provides a tactile (touch) experience in addition to the audio experience of the lecture. This is especially good for students who are kinesthetic learners. A kinesthetic learner is someone who learns better through physical activity.
I’ll admit that in between note-taking I have the terrible habit of doodling in the margins. My elementary school teachers may not have loved this, but is it really a bad habit? More research from
2009 shows what I’ve known all along: doodling, also a kinesthetic hand writing activity, helps me concentrate on the lecture better, and recall it better later.
So leave the laptop at home. Pen and paper might be considered old technology, but it’s still the surest way to earn an “A”.
Gaynell Buffinet Payne is a writer, single mother, and student at Volunteer State Community College. She also blogs for Vol State's Returning Adult Learners.