Few would doubt that note taking with a pen and paper is less popular in this age of technology. Many students bring laptops to class and you are probably using online tools to study for your EPPP.
Are the trends of online learning and laptop note taking impairing our retention?
The Association for Psychological Science (APS) explored an experiment in Ink on Paper: Some Notes on Note Taking conducted by psychological scientists Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer, the former of Princeton and the latter of UCLA. The two psychological scientists wanted to know how note taking on a laptop affected cognitive processing and learning.
In the experiment, a group of students took notes during a lecture on pen and paper while the others took notes on a laptop. They were then immediately tested, without being able to use the notes they had taken, on their ability to recall facts and understand concepts from the lecture. In conclusion, the laptop users had a worse test performance:
“The students using laptops were in fact more likely to take copious notes, which can be beneficial to learning. But they were also more likely to take verbatim notes, as this ‘mindless transcription’ appeared to cancel out the benefits. Both groups memorized about the same number of facts from the lectures, but the laptop users did much worse when tested on ideas.”
Another experiment was conducted where laptop users and writers were tested one week later, giving both groups time to study the material they had taken notes on. Once again, those who took notes on pen and paper, who took the time to study, did much better than those who typed their notes on a laptop – even those who “had basically transcribed the lectures”. Those who took notes on pen and paper took fewer notes altogether yet “did better on both factual learning and higher-order conceptual learning.”
“Taken together, these results [of both experiments] suggest that longhand notes not only lead to higher quality learning in the first place; they are also a superior strategy for storing new learning for later study.”
When the scientists modified the experiment once more, telling the laptop users not to take verbatim notes, the results were similar which APS summarizes:
“The laptop users still made verbatim notes, which diminished their learning. Apparently there is something about typing that leads to mindless processing. And there is something about ink and paper that prompts students to go beyond merely hearing and recording new information – and instead to process and reframe information in their own words.”
In conclusion, it appears that although paper and pen may have become less convenient or popular, there may be some value in writing notes rather than typing them.
Where might that leave you when it comes to online studying for the EPPP?
Online studying and learning have become mainstream with the ability to get degrees online, seek online counseling, and even work remotely while being connected to co-workers online. Indeed, there is value in the online learning and working community. So, what might the balance be between taking advantage of online resources while doing what’s best for the learning process?
We previously published a series of articles about online learning that will help equip you for the most productivity in this age of technology. To summarize, online learning can be beneficial when you learn to protect your short-term memory, print off your reading materials (the experiment summarized above has similar conclusions as to why reading print is more beneficial to learning than reading from a screen), and turn off distractions.