Computers and Note-Taking

Hello, Sophomores! I hope that your weekend has been enjoyable so far. An article came across my virtual desk and I wanted to share it with you.

With the prevalence of computers everywhere, you know that somebody is doing research about those computers. A recent study has looked at computer note taking in college classes–particularly freshmen classes. What they’ve found is that using a computer to take notes LOWERS your comprehension and retention rate–and that’s even in people who were on task and not multi-tasking (like listening to music with one ear, messaging friends, or playing games)–multitaskers performed even worse. Not only that, but they documented that even students who could SEE someone’s laptop screen, even if they themselves were using traditional note taking, also had a lower comprehension and retention level. It said, “the act of typing effectively turns the note-taker into a transcription zombie” (Diluna). Yikes. Everyone knows zombies are bad!!

So what do you do? We’ve armed you with these powerful things that have the potential to distract you and lower your retention. Research shows that the best method is to use traditional note taking in class and then scan in those notes later or, even better, transcribe them at home that night. One student says, “I keep two separate notebooks. One is for in class to get down to the basics of what is being taught that day, and the other is a supplemental notebook where I re-write everything neatly and in color-coding while referencing the textbook to make sure I’m understanding correctly” (Diluna).  I can tell you from personal experience that this method will work. When I was in high school, my Bio class (and later Anatomy and Physiology taught by the same teacher) was taught as if it was a college-level course. She lectured from bell to bell and it was not uncommon to come away with 10 pages of handwritten notes. Her texts were short answer (sound familiar?) and it felt impossible to study and remember that amount of information. I talked to her about it after school when I bombed the first test and she suggested re-writing and color-coding notes. Knowing that I didn’t want my grade to drop (I was nearing my 16th birthday, and while I didn’t believe I’d get a car, I wanted access to a car and good grades were part of that plan), I decided to give it a whirl. I spent 30 min to an hour re-writing my notes each night and I color-coded them (which was kinda fun, actually). What do you know?? On the next test I got the highest grade in the class (a 93–I still remember that one test score 28 years later!). Even better? When I was studying, I realized that I already knew most of the things already–they were stuck in my brain because I’d already heard them, read them, and written them. The more ways we can take things in (in a sensory way), the more paths are created in our brains and the easier it is to remember things.

You guys complain about the amount of material on my study guides, but when you’re so focused on getting “the answers” to those questions, sometimes you might miss some other important comment. If you’re not happy with your grade and you’ve been taking notes on the computer, I’d encourage you to give this a try for one test and see how it goes. Oh, and it goes without being said that the single best way to do well in my class is to actually do the reading (sadly, I’m all too aware that many of you aren’t–it’s obvious as I read short answer responses).

Here’s the full article so that you can check it out:

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!