by Martin Cothran

A new study calls into question another popular belief about the effectiveness of education technology.

According to a new study by researchers at Princeton University and the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), students who took notes by hand outperformed students who typed their notes on their computershandwriting.jpg.560x0_q80_crop-smart. The study involved 80 students and was published in The Journal of Education Psychology.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, subjects who wrote their notes longhand learned better, retained information longer, and more readily grasped new ideas than those who typed their notes. And this is true even though those who type their notes take more notes. Those who typed their notes wrote 33 words per minute, compared with the scribbler’s 22.

The students studied who typed their notes remembered the content of the notes better in the short run, but after 24 hours typically forgot the material. And reviewing their notes was not helpful because of their superficiality. The students who wrote their notes retained the information longer and knew the concepts related in them more deeply. The written notes were also more helpful when reviewed because they were better organized.

Researchers attributed the difference to the fact that, while students typing their notes typically do it by rote and type what they hear word for word, students who take written notes must make a greater effort to digest what they hear and consolidate their thoughts before they put them down on paper, forcing them to think more and more deeply about what they are summarizing.

“Ironically,” said educational psychologist Kenneth Kiewra at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, “the very feature that makes laptop note-taking so appealing—the ability to take notes more quickly—was what undermined learning.”

For more information about the false promise of education technology, check out my article, “The Siren Song of Education Technology.”

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