The Pen Is Mightier than the Laptop for Student Note-Taking!

Dear Commons Community,

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a short piece on the benefits of students taking notes in class with pen and paper versus electronically on their laptops or some other portable device.  The article written by Carol E. Holstead, an associate professor of journalism at the University of Kansas, comes down on the side of pen and paper.  Professor Holstead concludes that the pen is mightier than the laptop when it comes to retention of important information.  Her concern was that students who took notes electronically tended to multi-task and were distracted by other online activities such as social media and emailing. The article also cites a formal study published in Psychological Science by Pam A. Mueller (Princeton) and Daniel M. Oppenheimer (UCLA) last year that reached a similar conclusion.  Mueller and Oppenheimer found that students may be impairing their learning because electronic note-taking results in shallower processing and that students who took notes on laptops performed worse on conceptual questions. They also observed that laptop note takers’ tendency to transcribe lectures verbatim rather than processing information and re-framing it in their own words was detrimental to learning.



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