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Put the laptop down—You’re taking notes all wrong

by Brandon Russell | April 21, 2016April 21, 2016 9:00 am PST

Step into any crowded college lecture and you’ll probably see a sea of laptops. Due to their portability, they’re becoming more prevalent in classrooms across the U.S., used as tools to do research, take notes, and write reports. But a new report claims they might be doing more harm than good.

According to a study published in Psychological Science, notes typed out negatively affects learning, which means your excuse to have your laptop out during class is no longer valid.

“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,” said Pam A. Mueller of Princeton University, who spoke with NPR about the study. “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.”

It would certainly depend on your style of learning. I could see how more summarized notes would help because they only include the really important bits—Mueller calls this “generative” note-taking. On the other hand, nongenerative note-taking—when students copy down what a professor says verbatim—can also be beneficial because the information is more thorough.

Whatever style you prefer, you might want to reconsider taking your laptop to class. If you find yourself struggling to grasp a particular subject even though you have terrific notes, try changing it up and vice versa. Maybe next big Apple event I’ll try jotting notes down rather than typing things out.

No matter how advanced our technology gets, it seems nothing beats old-fashioned pen and paper.

NPR

Brandon Russell

Brandon Russell likes to rollerblade while listening to ACDC.

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