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Why All College Students Should Still Handwrite Their Notes

(Daily Collegian Archive)

As the semester begins, many students are breaking out their laptops for nearly everything. Our devices provide us with an array of resources from homework help to online textbooks. Most professors choose to upload academic content on to Moodle or Blackboard, which can save students from the high prices of textbooks.

With this being said, it has become increasingly difficult for students to break away from their screens in and out of the classroom. As notebooks are replaced by MacBooks, the forces of social media and the internet have become even more distracting. Though our laptops are a valuable asset to our education, here’s why we should stick to a notebook and pen in the classroom.

Many students choose to take notes on a laptop rather than by hand. With the rise of smaller, compact laptops comes a unique accessibility and ease. Some argue that this switch in notetaking methods stems from the need for organization. Others state that they simply enjoy the efficiency that comes with virtual notetaking. While it may be true that taking notes allows students to be more organized and efficient, it comes at a cost.

Students who take notes on a laptop are not absorbing the information they are learning. Due to the efficiency of typing rather than handwriting, most students who type their notes are able to copy the professor’s lecture verbatim. Those students who are handwriting notes cannot write as fast. Thus, they must be more selective with the information they choose to write down. So not only are they writing down the most important information from the lecture, they are also actively listening to and learning from the professor.

In a psychological study conducted by Pam Mueller of Princeton University and Daniel Oppenheimer of the University of California, Los Angeles, research found that taking notes by hand actually uses a different type of cognitive processing than typing notes. This processing allows students to absorb information more easily. Additionally, students who write out notes are more engaged in the classroom.

Another obvious downside to taking notes on a laptop is the potential for distraction. As most students will agree, notifications are incredibly distracting. It doesn’t matter whether it’s on a phone or laptop, social media notifications and text messages pull you away from whatever you are doing.

Most of the time, they keep you there as well. Many students start off a class on their laptop with intentions of taking notes. The temptation to surf social media or text is so irresistible that even the best of students will find they’ve fallen down the rabbit hole when they meant to be taking notes on a lecture.

On top of this, laptop distraction doesn’t end with those using their laptop in class. Students sitting behind or next to laptop users may find their attentions unintentionally drawn to the screen. Therefore, those who choose to take notes with laptops are not only distracting themselves, but those around them as well.

Altogether, students who take notes by hand test better both factually and conceptually. It’s hard to denounce such useful technology and its role in our education. However, students should remain old school and take their notes by hand. Those who choose notebooks over MacBooks in the classroom can expect better grades and a better education.

College is a time when it is imperative to make the most of your education. The only way to truly ensure that you are making the most of your education is to write your notes by hand. Save the laptop for after class.

Sophia Corsetti is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at scorsetti@umass.edu.

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