Technology may not assist note taking

By Terrie O’Connor

Student Reporter 

Modern technology has advantages, but when it comes to note taking, which is better; pen and paper, or modern technology?


Two psychological scientists, Pam Mueller of Princeton University and Daniel Pooenheimer of the University of California, Los Angeles, conducted a study based on the quality of learning regarding the use of laptops in the classroom, according to the Huffington Post.

The experiment focused on two groups of people: one group was given pen and paper; the other group was given laptops to record their notes. The groups were put in different classrooms, and they heard the same lecture.  The students were told to take notes as they normally would in a classroom setting, and then they were tested over the lecture material 30 minutes after the class ended.

Students take notes by hand in class. Taking notes by hand has better knowledge retention than typing.

Students take note the old fashioned way during chemistry class; A study by psychological scientists at the universities of Princeton and California suggests taking notes by hand promotes better knowledge retention than typing notes on a keyboard. Photo curtesy of


Surprising results

The researchers found that students who hand-wrote their notes scored higher on the test than those who used a laptop.  Researchers conducted the experiment a second time but students had to wait a week to be tested, instead of just 30 minutes.  Again, the scientists observed that students who used pen and paper scored higher on the test.

Society often believes that technology’s convenience will make our lives easier; yet according to the Huffington Post, the scientists reported “that laptops might be harmful to academic performance,” because while both groups memorized about the same number of facts from the lectures, the laptop users did much worse when tested on ideas.

“The researchers did, in one study, ask the typists to deliberately avoid rote transcription, but they failed, with the same harmful effect on learning.” said Wray Herbert, blogger for Huffington Post.

Students learning styles

The students who took laptop-notes typed the lecture word for word, while those who hand-wrote their notes focused mainly on key points. Students know as they listen to lectures that there are some topics the professor discusses that have little or nothing to do with the course material, the researchers said.

According to the Huffington Post, when typing out your notes it is harder to highlight, make certain marks, or underline main points that would help you remember key topics or words. Robin Goodiron, Native American Studies major, prefers highlighting notes.


“(I) Highlight through them and mark what is said; things not to worry about, (I) use an X by it and an asterisk by the stuff on a test. I also highlight the definitions or the formulas,” Goodiron said.

A 15th Street News journalist observed students in an environmental science class and noticed that no one was using laptops to take notes, but many were writing their notes out. Some students who had laptops out were following along with the professor’s PowerPoints on D2L while also writing notes.  Cheyenne Drake, Physical Therapy major, takes classes online and prefers to write out her notes.

“I like to write because it is easier for me to go back and edit notes and retain information better than typing in and possibly missing something,” Drake said.

Every semester the Student Success Office offers free workshops to students on campus. The workshops cover various topics that students may face during their time in college.  The workshops are designed to help educate students about learning styles, financial issues, study tips, and much more.  For more information stop by the Student Success Office in the Student Center or go to for more information.


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