Typed vs. Handwritten Notes: The Ultimate Showdown

From the first papyrus scrolls to the Gutenberg printing press all the way up to today, paper has had a pretty good run.

But, while paper has certainly been king for the last 6,000 years or so, recently digital technology has been given the pulpy white stuff a run for its money (even if paper is made of money).

One of the major battlegrounds in the war on paper has been the educational environment. We are seeing more and more digital text books, research papers submitted electronically and students eschewing their traditional, spiral bound notebooks in order to take notes on laptops or tablets.

So what’s better? Digital or hand-written notes? Lets explore some of the pros and cons of each.

1. Speed

We’ve all been there—in a class where a teacher or professor is going over important information so rapidly it feels like a race just to keep up. Miss just one thing, and you can feel lost for the remainder of the class.

When it comes to speed of notetaking, the winner is clear: The vast majority of people can type much faster than they write. In fact, this is probably the number one reason students give when asked why they ditched their notebooks and started bringing laptops to class. Faster typing allows students to generate more complete note sets, thus making the notes far more useful as review tools later.

Advantage: Digital

2. Information Retention

For some students, note taking is less about creating a study or review tool. Some students report that the process itself is important for them. It keeps them focused during the lecture and helps them retain the information for later.

These students may be onto something. Taking notes during a lecture takes a student from “passive” to “active” listening, which has been proven to help retain information. So what’s better, typed versus hand-written? Well there have been several studies comparing the two, and in these cases hand-written has slightly edged out typed.

Advantage: Handwritten

3. Search Ability

Ever been in a situation when you can remember exactly when and where a teacher said something important, but you just can’t quite remember the actual information? This is a frustration almost every student has experienced, and one of the most important reasons to generate good notes during class. And with digital notes, students are able to quickly search for certain terms or phrases, making the advantage clear.

Advantage: Digital

4. Organization

What is another characteristic of a good note set that nearly everyone can agree on? A good note set should be organized. This can be easier said than done though, especially for notes generated during classes with scattered lecturers who may jump from topic to topic rapidly. Or may revisit the same topic in a later class. Something as simple as being able to copy and paste can make note sets far more organized and useful. Today’s students have the ability to take their note organization to the next level with apps like Evernote or Microsoft OneNote.

Advantage: Digital

note taking in digital classroom

Source: https://elearninginfographics.com/note-taking-effectiveness-in-the-digital-classroom-infographic/  

Final score: Digital 3, handwritten 1. It makes sense that students are moving rapidly to digital notetaking. It is a more convenient way to generate complete, well-organized note sets. With more and more pressure put on todays students, you can understand why that matters.

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