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This Little Tweak Could Help Students Learn Better

By: Krystle Crossman

Remember when you were in class and taking notes, how your hand would cramp up from all of that writing? Some classrooms are now allowing students to bring in laptops or netbooks to type their notes on during class instead of having them hand-write them. Unfortunately this puts the kids at a great disadvantage according to a study conducted by Daniel Oppenheimer of UCLA and Pam Mueller of Princeton. They surveyed a large group of their students to see what the effects were of taking notes on a computer as opposed to writing them out by hand. What they found is that those who wrote their notes out had a much better conceptual understanding of the things that they were writing down and the ones that took the notes on their computers took down more thorough notes.

So why do students understand the materials better while they are writing notes instead of typing them? When you type you can get the words down much quicker than you can when writing by hand. Students that typed out their notes tended to write verbatim which is something that you can do without much thought to the concepts that were being given by the teacher. If you are writing the notes on the other hand you are forced to shorthand some things in order to keep up so your brain has to work that much harder at really understanding the concepts so that you can remember what the shorthand is about later. This is not the only factor however.

The students that typed out notes on their computers were then asked to type in shorthand while the written note takers were asked to write down every word. Even doing this the students using the computers fell short in understanding everything that they were typing and those who wrote out the notes outperformed them on tests. When I was in school I would hand-write my notes three times in preparation for a test. When I did this I scored much better because I had to think about the words that I was forming on the paper instead of just mindlessly typing them.

Not only do laptops cause students to take notes in a mindless fashion but they come with a lot of distractions. The study also found that 90% of the students that were using their computers to take notes were also browsing in unrelated apps during the class instead of paying attention. They spent an estimated 40% of the class time on the internet or other applications.

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