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Using Laptop To Take Notes Lowers Grades

timothy posted 1 year,17 days | from the but-improves-slashdot-karma dept.

Education 313

Meshach writes "A study in the journal Computers & Education found that students who took notes on a laptop got lower marks then student who took notes the traditional way with pen and paper. The study's author hypothesized that using a laptop leads to multitasking (i.e. surfing the net or checking email), which reduces concentration."

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So basically surfing net while taking notes (5, Insightful)

cod3r_ (2031620) | 1 year,17 days | (#44572603)

Is the problem.. Common sense

Re:So basically surfing net while taking notes (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44572707)

So basically a lot of niggers in a neighborhood means a LOT of crime. Common sense.

I think we're doomed as a civilization because we are offended by observable, repeatable, predictable reality.

Re:So basically surfing net while taking notes (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44572887)

So basically a lot of crackers in a neighborhood means a LOT of crime. Common sense.

I think we're doomed as a civilization because we are offended by observable, repeatable, predictable reality.

FTFY

Re:So basically surfing net while taking notes (0)

nucrash (549705) | 1 year,17 days | (#44573029)

A lot of racists idiots on Slashdot means that the anonymous cowards will be out in force. Awesome.

Re:So basically surfing net while taking notes (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44572709)

Back when I was in an undergrad psychology course, the general consensus was that the method used triggered different parts of the brain. There is something fundamentally different from moving your finger to a particular location and pressing a key than actually moving your hand around to create a string of letters and then focusing on what you have just created.

Re:So basically surfing net while taking notes (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44572993)

Back when I was in an undergrad psychology course, the general consensus was that the method used triggered different parts of the brain. There is something fundamentally different from moving your finger to a particular location and pressing a key than actually moving your hand around to create a string of letters and then focusing on what you have just created.

Exactly. The act of writing triggers the learning centre of the brain. Additionally, since we rarely write as fast as the teacher/instructor speaks the student is forced to develop their short-term memory which acts as an I/O buffer further leading to improved retention of the information presented in class. Computers are fantastic for organizing notes and assignments, and with the advent of smartpens students get the best of both worlds (manual note taking and electronic organization). I have a fee of problems with smartpens, however. The form-factor of these pens is not the same as the traditional pen making them difficult to hold for an extended period of time. The writing nibs are not as smooth as traditional pens. The special paper should allow for erasure and updating of the written content and only when the student presses the smartpen on a specific icon on the paper page should the electronic impression of the page be created. In fact, smartpencils instead of smartpens would be a much better writing instrument all around.

Re:So basically surfing net while taking notes (4, Informative)

Huntr (951770) | 1 year,17 days | (#44572713)

Exactly. Here's [bit.ly] the paper. It says right there that the students who multi-tasked while taking notes did worse and that some of the participants didn't even adhere to the instructions for their group, i.e., they surfed and screwed around when they weren't supposed to. And then did poorly on a quiz. Gee, who saw that coming?

Re:So basically surfing net while taking notes (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | 1 year,17 days | (#44572741)

Even if you subtract this group, chances are that at least some of the remaining group are simply trying to compensate for their inadequate note taking habits and poor organizational skills (which would lower anyone's educational outcome), and that at least some of them are failing at it.

On the other hand, Org Mode [orgmode.org] .

Re:So basically surfing net while taking notes (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44572781)

On the other hand, Org Mode [orgmode.org] .

Evil really does have a name.....

Re:So basically surfing net while taking notes (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44572925)

Another moronic study, Gee who saw that coming!!

For more things that are common sense but for some reason should be "studied" stay tune for more..

stupid (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44572605)

remove Freecell from the laptop first, dumbass.

As the NRA would say (4, Funny)

colinrichardday (768814) | 1 year,17 days | (#44572775)

You'll get my Freecell when you pry it out of my cold, dead hands!

Re:As the NRA would say (1)

gstoddart (321705) | 1 year,17 days | (#44572849)

You'll get my Freecell when you pry it out of my cold, dead hands!

Well, if you don't pay enough attention in class, you might have cold hands because you got crappy grades since you were taking notes on a laptop and can't afford to pay rent. ;-)

Taking Notes on a Facebook Machine... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44572607)

Taking Notes on a Facebook Machine lowers your grades.

Re:Taking Notes on a Facebook Machine... (1)

BrokenHalo (565198) | 1 year,17 days | (#44573025)

Taking Notes on a Facebook Machine lowers your grades.

Probably true. Having passed through tertiary education several times over the course of my supposed "adulthood" (ha!), most recently graduating (again) in 2010, I have noticed that my fellow-students with the highest failure rates at university were those with the most dominant tendency to fritter time away on Facebook. I may not have been the most outstandingly brilliant of students, but at least I didn't have that handicap. Maybe because I'm just antisocial and unsociable (sigh)... :-}

As for note-taking, in my discipline (biochemistry and molecular biology) it is probably impossible to take useful notes on a computer (except very slowly, unless you happen to be such a genius that you don't need notes at all), so the old-school pen-and-paper approach is still by far the best.

10 Bucks says (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44572625)

10 Bucks says that the manufacturers are so dependent on getting their machines in schools that they simply release locked down and crippled 'student edition' machines.

Re:10 Bucks says (2)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | 1 year,17 days | (#44572647)

That's a good bet. Plus they won't gauge it right and they'll leave off items that have important dual-usages... like a web browser, chat client, etc...

what about (3, Interesting)

rossdee (243626) | 1 year,17 days | (#44572631)

what about students that don't take any notes ?

Re:what about (3, Funny)

DogDude (805747) | 1 year,17 days | (#44572655)

what about students that don't take any notes ?

What about flying elephants? What about cheese?

Obviously, students that don't take notes wasn't part of this study.

Re:what about (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44572765)

What about flying elephants? What about cheese?
Obviously, students that don't take notes wasn't part of this study.

They should have been. When I was in college I rarely took notes, because taking notes is also distracting. It may well be that the act of taking notes itself decreases grades.

As to flying elephants, I doubt any high level Republicans had computers when they were in school. Considering my own Congressman, Rodney Davis, a tea party wacko who believes that global warming ended fifteen years ago and has said so publically, well, he's pretty cheezy but I don't think he even graduated high school. The man is a real moron.

Re:what about (4, Informative)

intermodal (534361) | 1 year,17 days | (#44572831)

I would tend to agree with you on note-taking. I found that when I took notes, I generally missed about half the class. My final GPA was something like 3.979, so I feel pretty confident that it worked for me.

Re:what about (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44573075)

I had a similar GPA but took notes in university courses, without feeling like I was missing information. I assumed that was part of learning to take notes well, that you are not there as a stenographer, but need to write down bits and pieces so that you keep up with everything. For many classes, this was mostly a list of intermediate equations with some arrows and notes pointing out things that were not obvious from previous sources. If it was in the textbook, it didn't need to be in my notes (although that was usually a small fraction of the better classes). It ends up being a real world skill where you sometimes need to quickly distill parts of a talk down into the info you need, usually so you can look up more detail later.

Re:what about (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44572843)

Your a fuc*ing troll, you bigot against anyone with different ideals. I found in college the vial liberals didn't do anything but Suck COCK all day mainly thir own and that included the women.

Re:what about (2)

readin (838620) | 1 year,17 days | (#44572783)

I plead Guilty, at least through high school and college. My daily grades were poor, my test scores good and my finals not even a problem. Even today friends and colleagues are impressed by how much I remember from high school and college.

Then I went to grad school where they told me my grades had to be all A's and B's. I decided to buckle down. I took notes. I studied for tests. I did the daily homework. My grades were all A's and B's, but I don't remember anything.

In high school and college I was listening to the lectures for the purpose of learning interesting things. I learned. In grad school I was taking notes during lectures for the purpose of getting good grades. I got good grades, but forgot everything shortly after the tests.

Hardly surprising.... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44572637)

I was schooled in the late 1970's/early 1980's - way before the advent of computers in the classroom. We were taught that writing things down (even copying from a book) helped the content to 'sink in' to your memory far better than just reading it and I believe this to be true - even now when I take my own notes I remember the content pretty well.

Cut and paste or typing on a screen knowing you can save it to disc for easy recovery later does nothing for the memory - indeed the whole act is designed to save data to magnetic storage rather than brain cells!

Re:Hardly surprising.... (5, Insightful)

16Chapel (998683) | 1 year,17 days | (#44572727)

YMMV - personally I learnt best by listening to the lecturer and digesting what they're saying (and, even better, asking the odd question). Writing things down doesn't help me remember, and never has - I actually find it distracting.

Re:Hardly surprising.... (2)

omnichad (1198475) | 1 year,17 days | (#44572815)

That absolutely depends on if your class leads a good discussion or if it's just powerpoint and facts vomit. If it's the latter, write notes. If it's the former, pay close attention and put everything away. If it's both, just alternate.

Re:Hardly surprising.... (2)

jareth-0205 (525594) | 1 year,17 days | (#44572903)

That absolutely depends on if your class leads a good discussion or if it's just powerpoint and facts vomit. If it's the latter, write notes. If it's the former, pay close attention and put everything away. If it's both, just alternate.

*Or*... different people respond to different processes differently?

Re:Hardly surprising.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44573039)

That absolutely depends on if your class leads a good discussion or if it's just powerpoint and facts vomit. If it's the latter, write notes. If it's the former, pay close attention and put everything away. If it's both, just alternate.

*Or*... different people respond to different processes differently?

This is absolutely true. My roommate and I in university were taking the same courses, and had totally different ways of understanding a problem. For him, the best way to do it was to watch someone else (e.g. prof, TA) work the problem through. For me, this was useless, this would only be helpful if I already basically understood thing and was just looking to clarify some minor point. For me, the only way I would remember/understand anything complex was to work it through myself, on paper.

I suspect that there are a few different preferred study modes and each of us has one which works best for us. It took me a long time to figure out what mine was - I've often thought there must be a way to identify the one that works best for a given student, and that it would be really helpful if sometime around grade 8-9 schools did this, and spent part of a course teaching you how to study. Even just identifying and teaching everyone all the different ways and letting you figure out for yourself which one worked best would really help, at least for some kids. Not sure if this happens anywhere, but it certainly never did in any school I attended.

Re:Hardly surprising.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44572941)

If it's the latter, just get a copy of the powerpoint.

Re:Hardly surprising.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44573083)

If it was a good discussion with varied input and not just multi-player version of lecturing from the textbook,there are going to be a lot of good points you didn't come across before and some of which would be fruitful to pursue in more detail after the class. Quickly making a "todo" list of such points can improve the long term value of the discussion.

Re: Hardly surprising.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44572821)

I am very much the same. I made deals with friends that took notes that i could look over notes if i needed to, which was rare. The only notes i needed was what we covered, not the details.

Re:Hardly surprising.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44572923)

I am similar. The best thing to do it record the lecture while participating, then review the recording later to summarize to notes. Too many people spend class time taking dictation and not learning.

Re:Hardly surprising.... (1)

ekgringo (693136) | 1 year,17 days | (#44572963)

Same here. If the instructor was any good, I would be totally engrossed in what the they were saying that I barely remembered to write any notes. When I would go back to my notes for review later, I'd find just a couple of hastily-written, disconnected, and out-of-context facts that didn't mean anything to me. If I would try to write down everything the instructor put on the chalkboard, I couldn't follow what he or she was saying and retained even less. So, like most other college students, I just crammed the day before a test. Fortunately I'm a good test-taker and was able to retain enough information long enough to do well!

Re:Hardly surprising.... (1)

ouachiski (835136) | 1 year,17 days | (#44573089)

I am the same way. When I was in school I would get permission to get copies of notes from the professor. Most of them would give me notes, but a few times I just got them from other people in the class.

Re:Hardly surprising.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44572729)

Magnetic storage? That's NAND-based flash memory these day. Better write that down.

Re:Hardly surprising.... (1)

91degrees (207121) | 1 year,17 days | (#44572769)

This was the basis of my revision technique. Take notes from notes (summarised so that I know which bits I don't understand). Throw away newly written notes. Repeat. When I started a third iteration, I knew it all, and knew I knew it.

Re:Hardly surprising.... (1)

nurb432 (527695) | 1 year,17 days | (#44572771)

Most likely they were typing the information in. Not copy/paste. This would serve the same purpose as writing, if diligent.

I'm sure however, that at the same time they were screwing around with the computer. No different than writing your notes and at the same time talking to your girlfriend sitting across you, before cellphones and computers.

Re:Hardly surprising.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44573081)

One thing I have noticed is that it is fucking irritating to be sitting next to some dickwad tapping away on his keyboard next to you while you're trying to concentrate on what's being said.

Re:Hardly surprising.... (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | 1 year,17 days | (#44572797)

Cut and paste or typing on a screen knowing you can save it to disc for easy recovery later does nothing for the memory

I think that even electronic note taking can be hardly reduced to "copy and paste". You still have to filter through the input in your head and come up with a wording that you'll be likely to remember on your own. That still exercises the brain.

Re:Hardly surprising.... (1)

omnichad (1198475) | 1 year,17 days | (#44572799)

Absolutely. You have muscle memory - the unusual layout of every page of notes can forge a memory too. I took lots of notes in college, never went back and studied them, and I did great.

The laptop was brought to classes I didn't need to learn in. I had a studio sound recording class where the teacher would arrive just in time for class and spend the first 20 minutes of a 50 minute class trying to get their projector connected to their laptop and set up.

Re:Hardly surprising.... (1)

EvilSS (557649) | 1 year,17 days | (#44572811)

I have to do this. I don't know if it's a neurological quirk or what, but if I really want to learn something I "read it, say it, write it, repeat". Just reading it or listening to the lecturer doesn't work for me. Even with a subject I find interesting, I just can't retain it otherwise.

Re:Hardly surprising.... (5, Interesting)

TrekkieGod (627867) | 1 year,17 days | (#44572827)

I was schooled in the late 1970's/early 1980's - way before the advent of computers in the classroom. We were taught that writing things down (even copying from a book) helped the content to 'sink in' to your memory far better than just reading it and I believe this to be true - even now when I take my own notes I remember the content pretty well.

I was taught the same thing but didn't really believe it for most of my time in school. That is, until I got to college and had this professor for diff eq. that had the oddest teaching method ever:

At the start of the class he would start writing on the blackboard, not saying a word. He just copied his (very organized) notes to the board. Very dense writing, a lot of content. When that board was filled, he would continue on and do the same thing on a second blackboard that was located on a side-wall of the classroom. About half the class time was spent that way. Then when the boards were filled, and we were finished copying everything, he would go back to the beginning and start talking about what he had written.

It sounds like a colossal waste of class time, but not only did we cover everything the classes in other sessions covered, I never had to study for an exam in that class. While we're copying things down we're reading it and we're paying attention to what we're reading because we need to replicate it. Then when he was actually there explaining things, we already had an idea of what he was going to talk about, we had already thought about it and understood a few things and not others. We weren't distracted by trying to take notes and were actually listening to what he was saying. In fact, when he said something that cleared something up in our minds that wasn't clear from the notes, I'd just jot something quickly in the margin. Which is funny because although that notebook contains the most detailed notes I've ever taken for any class, I've never had to go back to re-read it. Everything just stuck for the exam.

Lowest amount of work and greatest amount of retention I've ever had for any subject in a classroom. It's been about a decade, and I still remember a good deal about slope fields, bifurcations, characteristic equations, and laplace transforms, among other topics. I think the prof also got a kick out of not explaining to anyone that this was his teaching method the first day of class. We were all sitting there and saw this guy just start writing a ton of stuff up on the board. He waited until he got the boards filled up before introducing himself.

Re:Hardly surprising.... (1)

readin (838620) | 1 year,17 days | (#44572947)

That reminds me of my high school Spanish class. We spent the first few minutes of class copying about 10 words and their definitions from the board, then the rest of the class on lecture. I loved that class! Sadly we got a different teacher later.

Re:Hardly surprising.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44572885)

Agreed. I have recently attempted to switch to note taking using a tablet computer instead of notebook/planner. Apart from the distraction of having stylus writing misinterpreted and having to correct, the mental "feel" of the task is different.

Re:Hardly surprising.... (1)

readin (838620) | 1 year,17 days | (#44572911)

I've never understood how note taking helps the information sink in. For me it interferes with listening and understanding. While listening to the lecture I can either think through what is being said, what implications it has other things I know about, how it fits into other things we're learning, and how important it is - or I can be making split-second decisions about what to write down and scribbling furiously while trying to translate spoken words into written notes.

A laptop might make it easier by helping me keep up - I can generally type faster than I can draw letters - but it is still an additional task to perform when I should be learning.

Learning to take notes is a good thing - it is very important for business meetings and such. But for classes where there is a book or a slide deck provided by the teacher I don't see what spending your mental energies on scribbling gets you in terms of learning about the subject.

Re:Hardly surprising.... (1)

Sockatume (732728) | 1 year,17 days | (#44572931)

I'm not writing down to remember it later. I'm writing it down to remember it now.

Re:Hardly surprising.... (1)

Kal Zekdor (826142) | 1 year,17 days | (#44573063)

I'm not writing down to remember it later. I'm writing it down to remember it now.

+1, Field Notes [fieldnotesbrand.com] reference.

Re:Hardly surprising.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44573013)

I was schooled in the late 1970's/early 1980's - way before the advent of computers in the classroom. We were taught that writing things down (even copying from a book) helped the content to 'sink in' to your memory far better than just reading it and I believe this to be true - even now when I take my own notes I remember the content pretty well.

We're probably around the age. Computers were just making it into schools when I reached 8th grade, when we got two (yes two, for the entire school) TRS-80's. In the BASIC programming course we were not allowed on the computers until we'd completed the following:

(1) Flowchart the program.
(2) Classmate checks and signs off on the flowchart.
(3) Write program from flowchart on 80 column graph paper.
(4) Classmate checks and signs off on the hand written program.

Now you get to set down at a computer, type in the program, save it, and print it.

(5) Classmate checks printed program against flowchart and signs off on it.

Go back to the computer and type "RUN", once. Print the output. Hand in flowchart, hand written program, printed program, and printed output.

It seemed like a lot of needless extra work, but it taught us a lot about design, thought process, and patience in programming.

Re:Hardly surprising.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44573037)

Guess we'll see a generation with decreased recall and poor test scores. Our local school is giving each kid an iPad this year. I'll be watching to see what happens. If my kid's learning suffers in the slightest, I'm pulling him out from public and putting in private.

I'm not sheltering my kid from technology, he's got his own Linux laptop and desktop and can fly those things better than most adults can use their Micro$oft machines. I've noticed that as technology increases, many people cannot differentiate between what is useful and what is a toy. And toys don't belong in the classroom nor the boardroom.

Cause and effect (1)

nurb432 (527695) | 1 year,17 days | (#44572639)

Need to not get the 2 confused.

Recording pen (4, Informative)

erik.martino (997000) | 1 year,17 days | (#44572643)

A computer is not the best device for note taking. Using a LiveScribe pen you can transfer your notes to the computer, including a recording the voice of the lecturer. The pen makes your notes hypertext because it is linked with the audio at the time of note taking. It makes it easy to navigate in the audio recording.

Did the editors use a laptop in their lectures? (1)

Vorghagen (1154761) | 1 year,17 days | (#44572651)

Perhaps they should have learned the difference between 'then' and 'than'.

Another hypothesis (4, Interesting)

Sigg3.net (886486) | 1 year,17 days | (#44572659)

Another hypothesis, arguably more difficult to empirically explicate, would be that the brain treats the two tasks differently memory-wise.

I prefer writing by hand. When the lecture is good, I do my best to get it verbatim. I find that an hour after the lecture has ended, I can cite the professor pretty accurate. However, when I write something on the computer my mind immediately blanks it out.

Consequently, writing by hand is more efficient _in studying_ because my brain at least remembers some of it. I'd think people are different when it comes to this, but for me the difference is considerable.

Re:Another hypothesis (1)

stewsters (1406737) | 1 year,17 days | (#44572733)

I have found this to be true with problem solving too. There are some complex programming concepts that are easier for me to work out on paper in cut down pseudo-code and then implement, rather then write out on the computer in comments and implement around. I think writing does use some other part of the brain.

Re:Another hypothesis (1)

Sigg3.net (886486) | 1 year,17 days | (#44572893)

Perhaps it is connected with specific hand-work from the days of making stone tools..

Re:Another hypothesis (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44572763)

Not too far off -- learning style is traditionally separated [wikipedia.org] into visual [wikipedia.org] , auditory [wikipedia.org] , and kinesthetic [wikipedia.org] methods.

I found that I got the best results listening to the lecture, reading the slides, and writing down notes at the same time. Even if I never needed to use the notes later.

Two other possibilities (4, Interesting)

barlevg (2111272) | 1 year,17 days | (#44572663)

1. People who take hand-written notes often later transcribe them digitally, thus going over the notes one more time than people who just record them digitally in the first place.

2. Studies have that reading harder-to-read fonts assist in recall/retention. [bbc.co.uk] Hand-written notes certainly fall in the category of harder-to-read.

I'd also assume writing involves more skills (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44572675)

Involving more skills probably means the brain is more engaged in what's going on thus making the content of the notes easier to remember

They're worried about B+ to B- ? (1)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | 1 year,17 days | (#44572679)

If you would have given me a laptop in school while sitting in some "boring" class I would have been lucky getting a D-

Timothy must have used a laptop to take notes... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44572683)

"...got lower marks then students who took notes...."

Handwriting Reinforces Learning (4, Informative)

snookerdoodle (123851) | 1 year,17 days | (#44572691)

A memory trick I once learned (for remember names or phone numbers, for example) is to write the item with your finger on a roughish surface like your pants 3 times. This often works for me.

There have been studies (like this one [wsj.com] ) that seem to show that writing something down by hand reinforces learning. I'm surprised the author didn't think this might be relevant.

Re:Handwriting Reinforces Learning (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44572735)

A memory trick I once learned (for remember names or phone numbers, for example) is to write the item with your finger on a roughish surface like your pants 3 times. This often works for me.

No Officer, I'm not masturbating in public! I'm using a mnemonic device!

Re:Handwriting Reinforces Learning (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | 1 year,17 days | (#44572737)

A memory trick I once learned (for remember names or phone numbers, for example) is to write the item with your finger on a roughish surface like your pants 3 times.

How do you get your finger to leave a mark? And what if you're not wearing those pants when you need to remember it?

Re:Handwriting Reinforces Learning (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44572809)

How do you get your finger to leave a mark?

Cheetos.

And what if you're not wearing those pants when you need to remember it?

I have only one pair of pants.

Remember, this is Slashdot.

Re:Handwriting Reinforces Learning (1)

Xiaran (836924) | 1 year,17 days | (#44572747)

My missus does the same thing and it works for her. I tried it after being impressed by it and I coudln't see any improvement for me... memory is a funny thing. My missus remembers phone numbers by remembering the pattern of pushing the buttons on a phone... she will even mime typing the number to recall it. That doesn;t work for me at all... I remember phone numbers by breaking them into sub groups and remembering those.

Re:Handwriting Reinforces Learning (1)

snookerdoodle (123851) | 1 year,17 days | (#44572999)

memory is a funny thing

I agree. My wife remembers all kinds of things (including phone numbers) with no effort at all. Me? I'd forget the sub groups, too. I was so grateful to learn the "writing with my finger" trick. Then again, I remember places and directions even years later quite naturally.

Taking notes (2)

Hatta (162192) | 1 year,17 days | (#44572711)

Taking notes in general is just distracting. Better to listen and think, and use the book when you get home.

Is study controlled for not taking notes? (2)

Diss Champ (934796) | 1 year,17 days | (#44572715)

I find that taking very sparse notes, or none, depending on the subject, I will get more out of a lecture. As long as there is a good textbook or other reference I can use it to clarify confusions later. I find generally that when writing or typing, the info isn't being stored in my brain as well.

Of course, I often also find it helpful to have a book on an unrelated subject and to split my attention back and forth to it and the lecture to control my short attention span, so I'm weird.

Taking notes period lowers grades (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44572731)

My GPA went up one full letter grade when I stopped taking notes in class - period. It was far more instructive to actually pay attention to what was being said and to think about it while it was being discussed, than to simply focus all of my cerebral effort on transcribing what was being written on the board.

Then? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44572751)

And people who write summaries use the wrong words more "than" some other people

those required to multitask got lower scores (1)

emilper (826945) | 1 year,17 days | (#44572753)

the multitasking sample got the lower scores, not the laptop using sample as a whole

But half were also asked to complete a series of unrelated tasks on their computers when they felt they could spare some time.

Re:those required to multitask got lower scores (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44572937)

In the second experiment, some students were given pencils and paper to take notes during a lecture while others worked on laptops.

The students in the first experiment who were asked to multitask averaged 11 per cent lower on their quiz. The students in the second experiment who were surrounded by laptops scored 17 per cent lower.

Read the whole article next time, rather than looking for the first quote you can find to denounce it.

Doesn't need to be multi-tasking (3, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | 1 year,17 days | (#44572757)

Multi-tasking is a plausible explanation, but I can posit another one quite easily.

If instead of focusing on writing the content you're trying to do any form of formatting, layout, entering equations, trying to do diagrams -- you are already multi-tasking and part of your attention is on the device instead of what you're listening to.

I've tried taking notes on a laptop, and I found it distracting and more trouble than it's worth. If you can see the Prof is drawing a quadrant or a graph, you can do that by hand far faster on a sheet of paper.

Maybe someone can do it, but for me, I find that good old fashioned paper is still the most effective way for me to take notes and commit stuff to paper and I can annotate it later.

I just don't think the input techniques we have available to us are anywhere near as effective as pen and paper.

My guess? Give someone a laptop which has no internet connectivity while they're taking notes, and with only the application open they're directly using -- and they'll still do worse.

Re:Doesn't need to be multi-tasking (1)

Glires (200409) | 1 year,17 days | (#44572953)

I completely agree. Not just in school but I've also found it true in business meetings. The only notes worth taking have drawings, charts, annotations, margin notes, circled words, arrows, non-roman characters, etc. If the information is something that is easy to type on a laptop, then chances are that nobody needed it to be written down in the first place.

what about smaller classes vs big lectures? (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | 1 year,17 days | (#44572779)

what about smaller classes vs big lectures?

theory based classes vs more hands on ones (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | 1 year,17 days | (#44572787)

theory based classes vs more hands on ones they need to look into that as well. I say lot's of people in theory classes it's based more on how is good at test cramming

YMMV (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44572795)

I used org-mode in emacs to take all my notes (latex for formulas). The ability to create todos anywhere in the notes + deadlines and scheduling made organizing coursework extremely easy and enjoyable. Graduated with honors in CS from ETH Zurich (consistently ranked one of the top eng schools in the world for those of you in the US). So I guess how you use your computer also makes a difference.

Re:YMMV (1)

YurB (2583187) | 1 year,17 days | (#44573045)

Fully agree with you. If I was provided with a LibreOffice (or Word) screen and told to take notes on it, it would have been a torture for me. But with Org-mode and a Dvorak keyboard I feel much more comfortable than with pen and paper. I also wrote my masters in Org-mode. The ability to use Git also helped me a lot to control how my text evolved.

Do people really take notes on a laptop? (1)

dugancent (2616577) | 1 year,17 days | (#44572803)

No one I went to undergrad with used a laptop. Granted, my undergrad was chemistry and its hard as hell when 3/4 of the notes are diagrams of complex reactions.

I take that back. There was one girl who had a convertible laptop with a stylus.

Distractions (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44572807)

While I suppose having the web at one's fingertips would be distracting, it's not as though people who hand write notes have no distractions. I remember doodling or jotting down non-course-related musings in my notes. Even without a laptop there are distractions, other things the hands/eyes might be doing. Perhaps a laptop increases that distraction, but let's face it, if the student is surfing the web, they were obviously weren't paying attention anyway.

My notes on TFA (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44572819)

1. Students who used laptops did worse

2. Soriano deal paying off for the Yankees

3. Cowell's fiance settled divorce with old hubby

4. Students who used laptops did better?

5. Ashton Kutcher as Steve Jobs - perfect casting

Mental discipline is not as necessary with laptop (3, Interesting)

John Allsup (987) | 1 year,17 days | (#44572825)

If you have no calculator, you need to master mental arithmetic.  If you have a calculator, you just keep a-pressing those buttons, and don't even notice when something goes amiss (like when you (think you) pressed 5 * 7 6 3 = and got 4578).
If you rely on a wordprocessor to type your work rather than a typesetting language, you can just tap away until things look about right, whereas with non wysiwyg methods you need to have a greater understanding of how the document is set out.
If you can recall your notes from your laptop via Spotlight or from some database, you don't need to learn to organise your notes like you do with paper.

These and many more examples are the problem.  Pen and paper rewards a disciplined mind in a way that mindlessly tapping away on a laptop doesn't.  (When writing my PhD thesis, I first handwrote pretty much everything, then typed it up in LaTeX.  When helping someone set out precise diagrams in Microsoft Word, I ended up having to print to postscript, preview in gv (this was circa 2000) and then move things around in Word so that they looked wrong in Word but right on paper.)

Laptops reward non-intelligent laziness in a bad way, and people who use computers should be encouraged more to learn to do things in a harder and more manual way to learn the self-discipline, and the need for sufficient practice to maintain this discipline, before fully relying on a computer to make life easier.

There is a well known saying in mathematics: once you've learned to do things the hard way, people don't care if you're sloppy.  Learn things the hard way first.

Writing is a form of study (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44572839)

Writing things down on paper helps you retain them, it's a basic fact. We were even taught that, i think, in grade school, might have been middle school. Want to study? Write your notes out, say them out loud, etc etc, but writing them out by hand was always something you should be doing.

something as simple as taking notes on the laptop, them transcribing them by hand, would help.

That shows how little they know (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44572845)

I'm only pretending to take notes.

Worse than the article suggests (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44572865)

The effect was observed not only on the person using the laptop to take notes, but also on the surrounding students who weren't, presumably because the laptop was a significant distraction.

Ability to extend, reogranize and search (1)

YurB (2583187) | 1 year,17 days | (#44572873)

To me the greatest advantage of digital notes over pen and paper is that I can extend a topic when I acquire additional information on it (whereas on paper there's usually no physical space to do that), reorganize them by merging related notes into a single unit and also search through them.

Also, I type much faster than I write and I can shape and transform my notes very easily with Org-mode [orgmode.org] .

But actually I'd prefer if there was some collaborative note-taking going on instead of the huge duplication of work as it is now. Something like wiki-notes, where the purpose of taking notes would be not to recreate them each time but to make them better over time and update them.

Now do it with wifi turned off (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44572877)

Lock the laptop to a word processor of some sort. No apps, games or internet and see if that changes things.

Horrible article title (1)

StormyWeatherL33T (2881677) | 1 year,17 days | (#44572889)

This study wasn't about the difference in performance for those who take notes on a laptop versus by hand. It was about people who surf the 'net while in class. Unsurprisingly, people weren't able to focus on the class as much when they did that. Derp.

Same for meetings / design sessions at work I find (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44572921)

I always take notes on a jotter pad with a pen - it's so much faster for sketching out diagrams, linking up bits of text with arrows, adding annotations all over the place where and whenever necessary. No scrolling or saving necessary.

Of course my handwriting has become so awful after 20 years in IT that I have to get any really important stuff implemented or typed up as soon as possible afterwards, as pretty much only I can read it and even that's not a certainty a few months down the line.

Interesting Definitions (1)

EireannX (905058) | 1 year,17 days | (#44572945)

It is interesting to see how people here define 'Taking Notes'. There seem to be the two polar extremes of 'feverishly transcribing everything' and taking no notes whatsoever. There is a good middle ground of listen, learn, document your understanding. Apart from the distraction, laptops are poor because you just cannot sketch a diagram or simple flowchart as quickly as you can on paper. Even formal logic symbols, set notation or any of those visual representations of relationships are hard to come by quickly. Scribbling down your understandings as they come to you is more efficient than just listening, because translating the discovery into your own words and writing it down are two powerful mnemonic devices. You also get to choose the words that best describe the understanding you have gleaned, rather than using someone else's words.

Memorization based classes (3, Interesting)

Ambassador Kosh (18352) | 1 year,17 days | (#44572949)

It looks like the entire thing was just wrote memorization which is darn close to completely worthless. People took notes and then did a multiple choice exam to repeat back the information in the notes.

Honestly, with or without a computer I find it very hard to pay attention or care in any memorization based class. The experience is pointless since memorizing the information gives you nothing on how to really use it, how to evaluate if you are within bounds for something, out of bounds, at an unstable point etc.

That is why I like my engineering classes. They give us real problems on exams and expect us to solve them in a more realistic way at least. The exams are normally open book, notes, pretty darn advanced calculators etc and the problems are hard as hell. If you don't understand how to approach the problems, how to figure out how to do them you have no chance of solving them in time. You can't learn from the book as you go. However, during the exams you need to figure out what information you need that is not provided in the problem, look at up in the books in charts, tables, equations etc.

As a result your hand is not held at every step. You are not told you will need certain values from the steam tables, others from phase diagrams, other relationships or equilibriums etc. You are expected to figure that out just like you do in the real world.

During our classes laptops are great for notes. Most of our lectures are on practical problem solving and being able to look things up, use MATLAB or Excel to work on the problems etc is a huge gain and you have those later to refer to. One of the things our professors emphasize is to LOOK IT UP. If you do something from memorization and it is wrong you can get people killed in engineering. It takes almost no effort and time to look something up so look it up every single time.

The important things to learn in class are how to setup the problems, why you set them up that way, what boundaries you need to watch for, what does the answer mean etc. The actual mechanical cranking of solving the problem is something that you pretty much just hand to a computer now. Being able to solve a system of 40+ ODEs by hand is not a useful skill. You will screw that up and you will waste a lot of time getting stuck in the details instead of learning how understand the system and how stable it is.

Re:Memorization based classes (1)

gstoddart (321705) | 1 year,17 days | (#44573043)

It looks like the entire thing was just wrote memorization

Pssst ... it's rote [wikipedia.org] not wrote. Typical engineer.

invalid comparison. Compare surfing while pencil (1)

raymorris (2726007) | 1 year,17 days | (#44572967)

They compared people taking notes (with a pencil) to people taking notes WHILE surfing the web, as instructed.

To see how taking notes on a laptop compares to taking notes with a pencil as per TFS, they should have compared either:

only taking notes (with a pencil) vs. only taking notes (with a laptop)
and / or
taking notes (with a pencil) while surfing the web vs. taking notes (with a laptop) while surfing the web

What they actually compared was "taking notes" vs. "surfing the web and taking notes".
They just assumed that anyone with a laptop has to surf the web in class, thereby learning something amazing - multitasking reduces performance.
That's an amazing new discovery!

People still use Laptops (1)

TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) | 1 year,17 days | (#44572979)

How cute.

Learned behavior (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44572981)

Actually, the reason has to do with how we learned to learn. As children, we learned by writing. As teens and adults we are introduced to computers. Hence typing is not as ingrained behavior as writing. This means it takes more effort. More of your brain is required to type because it is not second nature. I imagine some people would have a similar problem if they has to take notes in other forms which aren't trained to the same extent. Also, writing involves holding something and fine motor skills, where type involves more muscles and gross motor skills (at least for me). When kids are taught initially via keyboard and throughout their learning, the opposite may be the case.

The tool matters (1)

YurB (2583187) | 1 year,17 days | (#44572995)

I don't see any information on how the students were taking notes on their machines. Just "taking notes on laptops" may mean anything.

I wouldn't be able to take any notes in Microsoft Word or LibreOffice. But in Org-mode I actually take notes more efficiently than I can do than on paper.

Stupid study yields obvious results (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44573031)

How is that news? I weep for the future. More evidence that the finger-on-the-button US is as stupid as everyone thinks.

Bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44573095)

Bullshit, I hypothesize that it has nothing to do with the note taking system but instead the type of student. This type of student want easy breezy spoof fed education and thinks a laptop will help.

Not for me (1)

Drethon (1445051) | 1 year,17 days | (#44573099)

I got a 3.3 GPA in my undergrad while using paper notes and a 4.0 in grad school while using a computer. Not exactly a balanced comparison but...

While going through grad school I found that I did best if I played a game that required little mental activity to keep my mind from wandering away from the lecture (Eve Online mining or mission running was excellent). Then for notes I did better if I didn't take a note for everything but instead listened to everything the lecturer said and then summarized during the breaks.

Just my bent $0.02...
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