Professors, students still see benefits of taking notes by hand

Nov. 9, 2015

Kyle Guthrie
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In a technology-dominated world, a typical question on a college campus is whether laptops or notebooks are better for taking notes.

The Scribe asked 15 students whether they preferred using a laptop or a regular notebook to take notes in class. All 15 stated they preferred the older method of pen and paper over a keyboard due to a variety of reasons, ranging from “better retention” to “personal preference.”

Bailey Buss, freshman political science major, said her notebook preference is due to better retention.

“I prefer a notebook, only because I feel like I not only get it down better, but I can memorize it a lot better if I can write it myself,” Buss said.

Andrew Toal, freshman business major, also chooses to work with a notebook.

“It is a lot more hands-on than the electronic aspect,” he said.

Mary France, a lecturer of Latin and ancient Greek for UCCS and local high schools, allows laptops in her class. But, she said she highly encourages the use of notebooks.

She explained the reason for this is the decline of spelling abilities that auto-check fosters.

“On some high school exams I just graded, 100 percent of upper level (high school) students misspelled the word ‘deceive.’ They spelled it either ‘decieve’ or ‘decive,’ so I think that is part of the problem with spellchecks, and there are some things I think they just have to do the old fashioned way,” France said.

Kathleen Johnson, senior instructor of English, explained that while she prefers notebooks over laptops for taking notes, her attitude is a little more lenient than other professors due to the use of phones in classrooms.

“Laptops aren’t that much different than phones,” Johnson said.

“I would rather see a student have a laptop than a phone because I think they are more deliberate and conscious about their use.”

An article on the Scientific American website cited research by Pam Mueller and David Oppenheimer that discovered that while taking notes on a laptop is much faster and results in more notetaking, students who took notes freehand had a deeper understanding of the subject, and were able to retain the information much better.

Some researchers believe laptops allow students to take notes much more rapidly, which allows them to write them down word for word as the professor lectures.

But those who write freehand must paraphrase, making them absorb the information in a way that relates best to them, the article said.