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The pen is mightier than the keyboard

Is it better to use a keyboard to take notes?


In recent years we have seen a great uptake in the use of laptops to produce notes in both university and school situations. There has been little research into whether this is genuinely a good idea. Even taking a simple economic analysis might suggest that using laptops to take notes might not produce an increase in academic performance: after all a pencil and a piece of paper is an awful lot cheaper than the latest iPad.


During my studies for my MSc in Psychology I was able to carry out an investigation into the differences in factual recall and understanding of pupils who recorded their notes using either handwriting or a laptop keyboard to take notes.


The paper can be found at https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/02568543.2020.1781307


There was little difference in factual recall in pupils who took notes using handwriting or when using laptop keyboards. However, there was a significant difference in understanding concepts between handwriting and keyboard note-taking: handwriting is better.


Now, it is not as simple as saying that we should be stopping children from using keyboards to take notes. However, it is necessary that we teach any child who wants to use a keyboard to type correctly. Additionally, it is important that note-taking strategies are developed for those pupils who want to use a keyboard. One of the biggest problems with touch-typing note-taking is the verbatim nature of the notes. Rather than selecting and organising the notes taken, all information is taken down. Handwriters, however, select and organise the information they are recording. This results in conceptual ideas being linked and, therefore, strengthened.

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