It's a fact: Most students (and employees) can type faster than they can write. So it's only logical that typing notes on a laptop or tablet would be better when listening to a fast paced lecture or presentation than laboriously writing them on a yellow legal pad, right?
Well, it may be logical, but it turns out it is wrong. In a recent series of studies, psychologists Pam Mueller (Princeton) and Daniel Oppenheimer (UCLA) compared the performance of students who were asked to write out their notes on paper or to type them on a laptop. The results were stunning: Consistently across all measures, those who wrote out their notes longhand outperformed those who typed them on their laptops.
Mueller and Oppenheimer had students take notes in a classroom setting. The students were subsequently tested on their memory for factual details, their conceptual understanding, and their ability to synthesize and generalize the information.
In all cases, students who used laptops took more notes, but their notes were essentially rote transcriptions of the lectures. The information seemed to go from the lecturer to the computer with the student serving as a go-between rather than a learner. In contrast, the notes taken by those writing longhand showed stronger conceptual understanding. Even more surprising, when students were allowed to study their notes before a test a week later, those whose notes were in longhand scored higher across the board.