Photo by faungg’s photos, Flickr CC

As the fall final exam season creeps up, students are returning to their notes and — hopefully — recalling everything they learned this semester. But what kind of notes do they have, and will those notes be helpful? We wondered whether taking notes via pen and pencil versus typing made a difference for students. Here’s what we found!   

Technology isn’t going away in the classroom. School districts across the country are getting grants from governments and tech companies to expand their technology options, especially increasing access to technology for traditionally underserved populations and experimenting with new forms of content delivery. But researchers have looked into the potential negative effects of technology on learning, especially the multitude of potential distractions for students using laptops in class. They find that college students who have laptops in lectures are on average less engaged, less satisfied with their education, and perform worse than other students.
In experimental studies, students who used laptops were more likely to write down exactly what was said, which involved less thinking and processing during the notetaking process. Students who took notes longhand were better prepared to answer conceptual questions on the content, even when those who took more extensive notes on laptops were able to study their notes before the quiz.
On the other hand, researchers have argued that technological innovation and changes in classrooms may make notetaking an out-of-date skill altogether. This research focuses on inclusion and the potential ability for technology to assist students with physical or cognitive disabilities.