In most typical college settings, however, internet access is available, and evidence suggests that when college students use laptops, they spend 40% of class time using applications unrelated to coursework, are more likely to fall off task, and are less satisfied with their education.In one study with law school students, nearly 90% of laptop users engaged in online activities unrelated to coursework for at least five minutes, and roughly 60% were distracted for half the class.
In most typical college settings, however, internet access is available, and evidence suggests that when college students use laptops, they spend 40% of class time using applications unrelated to coursework, are more likely to fall off task, and are less satisfied with their education.In one study with law school students, nearly 90% of laptop users engaged in online activities unrelated to coursework for at least five minutes, and roughly 60% were distracted for half the class.Thus, taking notes by hand forces the brain to engage in some heavy “mental lifting,” and these efforts foster comprehension and retention.
Moreover, when students take notes using laptops they tend to take notes verbatim, writing down every last word uttered by their professor.
Obviously it is advantageous to draft more complete notes that precisely capture the course content and allow for a verbatim review of the material at a later date. New research by Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer demonstrates that students who write out their notes on paper actually learn more.
If the source of the advantage for longhand notes derives from the conceptual processes they evoke, perhaps instructing laptop users to draft summative rather than verbatim notes will boost performance.
Mueller and Oppenheimer explored this idea by warning laptop note takers against the tendency to transcribe information without thinking, and explicitly instructed them to think about the information and type notes in their own words.
Laptops do in fact allow students to do more, like engage in online activities and demonstrations, collaborate more easily on papers and projects, access information from the internet, and take more notes.
Indeed, because students can type significantly faster than they can write, those who use laptops in the classroom tend to take more notes than those who write out their notes by hand.’s free newsletters."data-newsletterpromo-image="https://static.scientificamerican.com/sciam/cache/file/458BF87F-514B-44EE-B87F5D531772CF83_source.png"data-newsletterpromo-button-text="Sign Up"data-newsletterpromo-button-link="https:// origincode=2018_sciam_Article Promo_Newsletter Sign Up"name="article Body" itemprop="article Body"“More is better.” From the number of gigs in a cellular data plan to the horsepower in a pickup truck, this mantra is ubiquitous in American culture.When it comes to college students, the belief that more is better may underlie their widely-held view that laptops in the classroom enhance their academic performance.Thus, although laptop users may not encode as much during the lecture and thus may be disadvantaged on immediate assessments, it seems reasonable to expect that the additional information they record will give them an advantage when reviewing material after a long delay. Mueller and Oppenheimer included a study in which participants were asked to take notes by hand or by laptop, and were told they would be tested on the material in a week.When participants were given an opportunity to study with their notes before the final assessment, once again those who took longhand notes outperformed laptop participants.It appears that students who use laptops can take notes in a fairly mindless, rote fashion, with little analysis or synthesis by the brain.This kind of shallow transcription fails to promote a meaningful understanding or application of the information.As in other studies, students who used laptops took more notes.In each study, however, those who wrote out their notes by hand had a stronger conceptual understanding and were more successful in applying and integrating the material than those who used took notes with their laptops. Mueller and Oppenheimer postulate that taking notes by hand requires different types of cognitive processing than taking notes on a laptop, and these different processes have consequences for learning.Because students can use these posted materials to access lecture content with a mere click, there is no need to organize, synthesize or summarize in their own words.Indeed, students may take very minimal notes or not take notes at all, and may consequently forego the opportunity to engage in the mental work that supports learning.