Study Tips: "The Pen is Mightier than the Keyboard"

A common question that I get in the first week of class is whether I allow laptops in the classroom. While my policy is that students can feel free to use laptops if that is their preferred method of note taking, I tell them that research has shown that they'll remember more if they take notes by hand. 

A study published in Psychological Science by Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer in 2014 entitled "The Pen is Mightier than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking" found that taking notes on a laptop led to worse learning than taking notes by hand. Specifically, students who took notes on a laptop performed worse on conceptual questions over the material even though they wrote more. When you take notes on a laptop you have a tendency to try to write everything down verbatim, as if your job is to provide a transcript of the lecture. Taking notes by hand, however, forces you to rephrase the information. It may be slower and you'll write less, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. By rephrasing the lecture into your own words you're processing the information more deeply than if you had simply tried to transcribe it word for word. 

So when deciding whether to lug the laptop to class or leave it at home - leave it. Less is more when it comes to note taking!