Want to Learn Better? Use a Pen.

Want to Learn Better? Use a Pen.

The written content of the post was authored by best-selling author and neuroscience expert, Mark Robert Waldman. It is posted with his permission.

In most modern contexts, electronic devices have overtaken pen and paper for note-taking. However, this trend may impair learning.

People who take notes on laptops tend to take more notes - and the notes tend to be more literal. Whereas those who use pen and paper write less, but process the information more comprehensively to reframe it into their own words. This can tremendously help reinforce concepts within the learner's brain and improve recall.

The research shows it's more effective to SLOWLY absorb new material to embed it into long-term memory.

Application: If you are studying something important, stop every five minutes, close your eyes, and write down one brief phrase to capture any intuitive insights you have.

Psychol Sci. 2014 Apr 23;25(6):1159-1168. 
The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking.
Mueller PA1, Oppenheimer DM2.

Taking notes on laptops rather than in longhand is increasingly common. Many researchers have suggested that laptop note taking is less effective than longhand note taking for learning. Prior studies have primarily focused on students' capacity for multitasking and distraction when using laptops. The present research suggests that even when laptops are used solely to take notes, they may still be impairing learning because their use results in shallower processing. In three studies, we found that students who took notes on laptops performed worse on conceptual questions than students who took notes longhand. We show that whereas taking more notes can be beneficial, laptop note takers' tendency to transcribe lectures verbatim rather than processing information and reframing it in their own words is detrimental to learning.

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