Looking out at my audience one day last week I saw a sea of silver and black laptops. Fingers were quickly flying over the keyboards, as participants took notes at a furious pace. Taking notes on a laptop or tablet is increasingly common because of the many advantages. Many adults report that they can type faster than scribing by hand. Notes are then quickly stored or linked to other materials. Web sites are easily accessed for supporting information. And, to be honest, games or shopping are at your fingertips.
Researchers Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer (2014) set out to determine if the keyboard was mightier than the pen. A meta-analysis of the research showed that learners who type notes are processing the information more shallowly than those who write them out longhand. Students who type tend to record the information verbatim, rather than rewording it so that it makes sense to them. When tested, students who typed performed more poorly on conceptual questions than those who wrote longhand.
So should you ban the use of laptops at your next conference presentation or training? No. Not when there are other ways to encourage longhand note taking.
Mueller, P. and Oppenheimer, D. (2014) The pen is mightier than the keyboard.
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Anne Beninghof is passionate about teaching and learning.
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