June 13, 2024

Over the course of the laptop’s existence in the classroom, students and professors have debated the benefits of taking notes digitally versus using pen and paper.

Studies conducted by the Public Broadcasting System and National Public Radio both demonstrate how the surface understanding may be good with electronic notes, but using pen and paper can be more beneficial.

“I feel my classroom experience is benefited because I can get notes taken faster on my laptop,” said Andrew Dykhouse, sophomore English major. “It is so much easier to go back and find specific subjects and notes, too.”

Applications like Notability are what set electronic notes apart from pen and paper by aiding in retention of material with multimedia such as videos and illustrations.

However, the PBS and NPR studies found that by handwriting notes, the surface value and the underlying concepts that connect topics can be processed and retained at almost double the rate of typed notes.

Some may believe handwritten notes can be shorthanded from the presentation and allow for a more personalized translation, as opposed to taking notes verbatim and losing value.

“There are some cons to the laptop notes because it can be a lot more distracting,” Dykhouse said. “And a broken laptop means possibly losing all of your notes for good.”

In some classrooms, there are policies professors place in order to stop or limit the use of laptops with hope for students’ grades to benefit by eliminating the possibility of distraction.

“A lot of educators realize students can be distracted by their devices,” said Dr. Kenya Davis-Hayes, associate professor of history. “(Students) seem to retain more when they write by hand than when they type.”

There are perks and downsides to each format, but what ultimately determines the better medium is the ability of the student to retain the information when it matters.

“I am not certain how students study,” Davis-Hayes said. “(Students have to) read the book and take notes, because a lot of material can be lost if notes are solely relied on.”

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