The Loh Down On Science

Class Notes

In the new smart classrooms, are pen and paper passé?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Tyeah! Back in the good old days, students used to use pen and paper for taking notes! And they walked to school — barefoot and uphill both ways!  But today?  Students often type notes straight onto their laptop computers.

This trend got psychologists Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer curious.  Is one note-taking method more effective than the other for retaining information?

To find out, they had 65 students watch a videotaped Ted Talk. For note-taking, some students were given laptops. Others received pen and paper.  Later each was tested on their video’s content.

Result?  For remembering facts, all performed equally well.  But on conceptual questions, such as, “How do Japan and Sweden differ in their approaches to equality within their societies? Handwriting won — hands down!

Writing longhand likely helps us process information as we hear it.  While we listen, we’re deciding what’s important to write down.  By comparison, typing is often closer to mindless transcription.

But for passing notes during class?  And Facebooking?  What were we talking about?  Japan?  Let me tweet that! 

***** For more 90-SECOND SCIENCE FACTS, click here.*****

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, in partnership with the University of California, Irvine, and 89.3 KPCC. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.


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