Ulterior Motives

How goals, both seen and unseen, drive behavior

If You Are Going to Take Notes, Do It By Hand

I just finished my 23rd year of teaching at universities. There have been several changes in the way students approach their classes in that time. The most noticeable is that when I started teaching, students took notes in notebooks, but now almost every desk has a laptop on it when I give a lecture. Read More

it's not just about the

it's not just about the process of thinking about what you have to write. I once read about a study that found out that writing longhand does help the mind to focus because of the hand-eye combination and what not. Writing longhand trains the mind just by doing it (comparable to how sports is good for the mind), typing not so much.
Also, in real situations in a lecture a laptop is just too much of a distraction.

I always took notes by hand

I always took notes by hand and kept writing what was being said verbatim to a minimum. You can't scribble something out, quickly draw arrows from one point to another that may need connecting, etc on a laptop.

I do believe that writing out notes longhand is more likely to create a photographic memory of the material as well - great for recall. And yes, a laptop is significantly more likely to distract than a simple pen and pad.

Cognitively Potent Software Is Mightier than the Pen in the Hands of Able, Motivated Knowledge Builders

I've written a response to the original article and posted it on CogZest

Cognitively Potent Software Is Mightier than the Pen in the Hands of Able, Motivated Knowledge Builders: .

The gist of my response is that there are mindful ways to take notes with information technology, but most people (a) don't have statable knowledge about them, (b) do not have the skills.

I mention some learning strategies and software to support them. I mention some pertinent but infrequently used concepts, such as inline annotations, meta-docs, pedagogical utility and cognitive potency.

I also criticize the liberal use of the concept of "desirable difficulties".

Let me know what you think.

Luc P. Beaudoin
CogZest, CogSci Apps Corp., Simon Fraser University

Thanks so much for this post!

Thanks so much for this post! This has been an age old debate, and I see positives on both sides, but in the end handwritten notes definitely work best.

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Art Markman, Ph.D., is a cognitive scientist at the University of Texas whose research spans a range of topics in the way people think.


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