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Typing v. Writing: Going Old School Might Be Better For Learning

Photo Credit Thinkstock

Photo Credit Thinkstock

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By Chelsea Karnash

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – When it comes to note-taking, going with old school pen and paper might be your best bet.

Despite the fancy gadgets in many schools these days, a new study seems to indicate that writing — rather than typing — notes is better for learning.

Two scientists from UCLA decided to compare students who typed their notes on a laptop with those who chose to do things the old fashioned way and took notes by hand.

What they found is that when tested on the material, the students who used laptops earned lower scores than those who wrote their notes out – both when tested on the material immediately after a lecture and when given several days to prepare for an exam.

While those who used the computer tended to take more notes, they were also more likely to take verbatim notes – a kind of “mindless transaction,” says Wray Herbert, who reported on the study. On the other hand, the students who wrote out their notes took fewer notes, but they did much better on tests, especially when given the chance to go back and study their notes before the exam.

And there was another “surprise” element of the study: Herbert says that, at one point, the researchers told the laptop users outright not to transcribe the lectures word-for-word; however, most still did so.

“Apparently there is something about typing that leads to mindless processing,” Herbert concludes.

That, of course, is old news to those who spend their days toiling away in front of a screen, but to students who swear by their laptop or iPad, the research might just be eye-opening.

The UCLA study is set to appear in a forthcoming issue of the journal Psychological Science. To read more about it, click here.

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