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Memorizing Strategies:Write Or Type?

When was the last time you saw someone writing something down on a paper? Is there any student in your class taking notes by hand rather than typing on their laptops? Certainly, typing is a fast way to gather information, especially when there is tons of it. However, it seemed that an old-fashioned way of writing down the notes can make a comeback. Let us see why.

A recent research has shown that writing down on a lecture helps memorize more. How is it possible if you note information much slower by hand? Why is it better than typing when it comes to remembering facts?

As it turned out, when you write something down, you cannot keep up with a lecturer. You cannot note every single word as you can do when you type. Consequently, students select the most important information and write it down. By this we mean that students do not just listen to the lecturer and note word-for-word. They analyze and examine the idea. What is written in their notebooks is the summary that will help to revise the already understood material.

Famous researchers Mueller and Oppenheimer observed two ways of taking notes: generative and non-generative. The former means that you select the information you write down, summarize and paraphrase the ideas. The latter presupposes that you just try to write as many things as you hear. Later the student will look through their notes and analyze the material.

As a result, there are two hypotheses which note-taking method is better. Some researchers claim that analyzing material at the lecture is essential, as you understand the ideas and your brain will remember this information better. Another hypothesis claims that students learn better by looking at their notes or even at the notes of other people.

When you type, you can transcribe more but process less. On the other hand, when you take notes by hand, you process longer, write down less and then have less information to remember. So what is the way to choose? Mueller and Oppenheimer have investigated the problem.

There was an experiment among the university students. One group of students was jotting down the information, while the other group was typing it on their laptops.

First, the study showed the students who were typing transcribed way more words than those who were writing by hand.

Secondly, when both groups did the tests based on facts and dates, they managed them equally well.

However, as the students were asked conceptual questions like ‘why’ and ‘how,’ those who were typing did considerably worse. The students did the test without preparation and once they revised their notes on the laptop. The results did not change. When it came to ‘conceptual-application’ questions, students who noted things down by hand did better.

Examining the results of the experiments, it seems that longhand notes help students memorize information better. The students cannot transcribe every single word they hear. Despite the fact that their notes are more concise, they are of more quality.

We cannot claim that all students will start taking notes by hand again. We cannot even think that there will be a comeback of notebooks. Still, students may use some stylus technologies to replace a pen and a paper.

The thing is that first group of students can try to overcome the instinct to transcribe the lecture verbatim, but process the information they listen to instead. Listen, think, write. It is simple. Why don’t we try that way?

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