Just a few years ago, note-taking in class was done exclusively with paper and pencil. Today, with the widespread use of laptops and tablets in schools, many are using these devices to do this. What are the advantages and disadvantages of these two modes of transcription?
In the spring of 2014, a team of American researchers published the results of a study indicating that taking notes by hand had significant benefits. Entitled "The pencil is more powerful than the keyboard: the advantages of taking notes by hand over taking notes on a laptop", the article summarizes the work carried out by Muller and Oppenheimer who compared the learning and memory of students who had taken, during controlled experiments, either notes by hand or notes on a computer. Overall, students who took notes by hand performed significantly better on conceptual questions than those who took notes on a laptop.
The researchers explain these results by putting forward the idea that when taking notes by hand, students tend to synthesize information and transcribe it in their own words and according to their own understanding. By doing this, they are already using cognitive processes that are beneficial for memory and learning. Students who take notes using the computer tend to transcribe everything verbatim. This can interfere with certain cognitive processes which immediately make it possible to filter the information to be retained, to conceptualize it and to restructure it.
Other education stakeholders believe that taking notes with paper and pencil reduces distraction. This is the case of a journalism professor in the United States who, based in particular on a study which showed that the presence of laptops in the classroom reduced memory and learning, has decided prohibit note-taking using laptops. A year later, she draws up a positive assessment.
What are the advocates of laptop note taking saying? For them, speed comes first. The device allows a large amount of information to be transcribed quickly, which can often be useful. Some stakeholders believe that the important thing is that when taking notes, students adhere to an active learning mode, that they use cognitive strategies, regardless of the medium on which the notes are taken.