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Students Remember Lectures Better Taking Notes Longhand Than Using Laptops 191

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Walk into any university lecture hall and you're likely to see row upon row of students sitting behind glowing laptop screens. Laptops in class have been controversial, due mostly to the many opportunities for distraction that they provide (online shopping, browsing Reddit, or playing solitaire, just to name a few). But few studies have examined how effective laptops are for the students who diligently take notes. Now Robinson Meyer writes at The Atlantic that a new study finds that people remember lectures better when they've taken handwritten notes, rather than typed ones. The research suggests that even when laptops are used solely to take notes, they may still be impairing learning because their use results in shallower processing. 'Our new findings suggest that even when laptops are used as intended — and not for buying things on Amazon during class — they may still be harming academic performance,' says psychological scientist Pam Mueller of Princeton University, lead author of the study. Laptop note takers' tendency to transcribe lectures verbatim rather than processing information and reframing it in their own words is detrimental to learning. If you can type quickly enough, word-for-word transcription is possible, whereas writing by hand usually rules out capturing every word. 'We don't write longhand as fast as we type these days, but people who were typing just tended to transcribe large parts of lecture content verbatim,' says Mueller. 'The people who were taking notes on the laptops don't have to be judicious in what they write down.'"
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Students Remember Lectures Better Taking Notes Longhand Than Using Laptops

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  • Re:Equations (Score:5, Interesting)

    by docmordin ( 2654319 ) on Monday May 05, 2014 @10:39PM (#46925157)

    If you're using Word or OpenOffice, that might be a problem. If you're using LaTeX, it's not, provided that you're a reasonably quick typist and have memorized the standard mathematical commands. I ended up typing all of my lecture notes for my statistics Ph.D. classes without much of a hassle. In fact, most of the students in my classes came to me for portions of my lecture notes, as I was able to capture all of the important comments that the professors would make in haste while continuing on with a derivation or proof.

    As for a comment on the article, since very little information was given about their testing protocols there may be some inherent bias in their findings. Specifically, their testing methodology seems to hinge on showing that short-term conceptual recall rates decrease when using laptops. That is, the authors don't bother addressing long-term retention and generalization.

  • by Krishnoid ( 984597 ) on Monday May 05, 2014 @11:08PM (#46925345) Journal

    I found going to class every day, even hung over

    That probably helped, considering you didn't have all those pesky short-term memories from the night before getting in the way of what you're hearing at the moment.

  • not for me. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by oneiros27 ( 46144 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2014 @07:27AM (#46927049) Homepage

    I had a teacher who didn't allow you to take notes in his class ... because it was all in the book.

    Of course, he wrote the book, and his 'teaching' was him copying examples from the book onto the overhead machine each class. If you couldn't follow along in class, you couldn't get a different take from reading the book, as it was THE EXACT SAME THING.

    But not taking notes in class meant that I fell asleep 10-15 min into each class. I also recall things by remembering where on the page I wrote things (top, left side, in green ink). I also make notes on how excited a teacher seems about an idea, if they spend a lot of time on a topic, or if they specifically say 'this will be on the test' ... so I have something to skim through before the test. (and then try to decrypt what my chicken scratch of hand writing actually says)

    Maybe listening and not writing is better for remembering things (as the professor claimed), but not if you can't stay awake through lectures on fluid dynamics & beam mechanics. And it also leaves you nothing to review before the tests and/or to share with friends who might've been sick and missed a class. (or for you to borrow from them)

  • If you're using LaTeX, it's not, provided that you're a reasonably quick typist and have memorized the standard mathematical commands.


    I use LaTeX Professionally. Moreover I use AucTex with in editor previews, split panes with docview and a heavily customised yasnippets installation made to work on Lyx-type input shortcuts. Everything is designed to speed up LaTeX document creation(Believe me I've tried it using vanilla LaTeX).

    On average, it still takes me five times longer to type up a page of mathematics than to simply write it down with a pen. If there is so much as a single image, this extends to fifteen to twenty times longer -- literally.

    LaTeX can very easily fool you into believing you are actually getting work done, but in reality you are simply wasting time typesetting mathematics instead of actually writing it. The only positive side to LaTeX'ed mathematics is that the equations look nice. Everything else is a huge waste of time.

Many people are unenthusiastic about their work.