Some professors prohibit use of computers or tablets to take notes in class, but many students said they prefer to type their notes.
Various studies show that students retain more information when they write their notes in class, rather than type them, but students show preferences both ways.
A study published in Psychological Science consisted of three tests that compared handwriting to typing.
In the first test, both groups of students were shown TED Talk videos and asked questions afterward. The groups answered questions about dates equally well, but the students that wrote notes by hand scored significantly better on conceptual questions.
The same group got superior scores during the second test, when facilitators discouraged the typing students from writing everything verbatim.
On the third test, facilitators gave both groups a chance to review their notes before the test.
Those who used paper and pencil earned better scores again, leading to the conclusion that handwriting is more effective for retention than typing, according to an NPR interview with the scientists who conducted the study.
Denise Binkley, certification officer in the OCU education department, said she thinks handwriting notes is the best method.
“When you’re typing, you can type fast, but your mind doesn’t have to filter it in any way,” Binkley said. “When you take notes longhand, you have to decide what’s important to write down and what’s not.”
Many students, especially athletes, are kinesthetic learners and learn through the movement of physically writing and copying notes, Binkley said.
Dr. Karen Youmans, honors program director and associate professor of English, said she also thinks handwriting is the superior method, but for a more personal reason.
“For me, laptops form a barrier between students and myself, both physically and conversationally,” Youmans said. “When I started teaching, laptops were not as prevalent as they are now.”
Youmans said she is open to experimenting with different types of technology in the classroom and certainly will adapt her policies for students who need laptops for particular accommodations.
“We can make statements about what’s better and what’s not, but these things are constantly evolving. All I can notice is how it feels to me, but whether that’s a problem with me or them, I can’t say,” Youmans said.
A matter of practicality
Dr. John Starkey, professor of theology and religion, said he would love students to handwrite their notes, but does not think it is practical.
“The practice I’ve developed is giving people a typed outline on which they can add their own notes,” Starkey said. “It’s typically beyond ability to do it all by hand when professors speak so quickly, so I have no opposition to taking notes on computers in class.”
Students take both sides of the argument.
“Electronic notes are more eco-friendly and useful for searching for materials later on in the semester,” said Mackenzie Reitz, dance junior. “I do think students need to be responsible with the accessibility of the internet.”
Beth Woodall, vocal performance senior, said she strongly favors writing by hand.
“It’s harder to get distracted in your spiral versus your laptop that has the internet and games on it,” Woodall said. “It takes a little more time to write notes, but it pays off in the long run. Pen and paper all the way.”
Jeff Matthews, business senior, said he writes all his notes by hand.
“I have terrible handwriting, though, which can make it hard,” Matthews said.
Samantha Smith, acting senior, said she switches between the two methods.
“For gen eds, I like to take notes by hand because I need extra enforcement to help me learn,” she said. “For classes I’m particularly interested in, it makes more sense to type notes because they’ll be organized.”