Taking notes is one of the most essential parts of your academic journey. As the weeks and semesters roll on, those notes can become invaluable, helping to refresh memories and clarify concepts, and becoming an essential part of your university toolkit. But what if you are used to quickly typing everything essential into your computer, but your professor prohibits you from using gadgets in class? A similar situation happened to one of the Reddit users, who decided to share their story online and ask for advice.
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- Handwriting vs. Typing Debate: Research studies have shown that handwritten notes can lead to better retention of information, while others argue that using technology for note-taking allows for more flexibility and can be more sustainable.
- Professors’ Perspective: Professors weigh in on their policies, with some imposing device bans to increase engagement and grades, while others allow students to make their own choices despite noticing potential distractions like watching videos or social media during class.
- Finding the Right Method: The right approach to taking notes can significantly impact studying effectiveness and success in college, and a combination of methods might be the best solution for some students.
The author of the original post expresses frustration with professors who insist on handwritten notes, citing studies that claim information is retained better this way. The user also highlights that most students study off electronic platforms, so insisting on handwritten notes complicates their process, causing them to miss information or spend extra time transferring notes.
“It’s like every professor I’ve seen do this is trying to signal some level of higher moral compass by saying, “I know what learning method/medium is better for you than you know for yourself”.
The author calls for professors to give their students a choice and use the method they find most suitable, as they are adults. So, what are the others saying?
Is It True that Writing Helps You Remember Things Better?
Taking notes in university classes isn’t just about scribbling down what the professor says. It’s about making sense of complex ideas, finding the key points, and putting them in your own words. Whether you’re jotting things down in a notebook or tapping them into a laptop, taking notes can turn a whirlwind of information into something you can actually use later. It’s a personal map to understanding, and for many students, it’s the key to doing well in their studies.
However, in the original post that got our attention, it was mentioned that the professor was citing some “research” regarding the effectiveness of hand-written notes. And A*Help wouldn’t be A*Help without diving right into the issue.
The notion that hand-written notes are generally far more helpful in the long run can be backed up by many experiments and research done on the topic. For example, Timothy Smoker, Carrie Murph, and Alison Rockwell conducted a study where they compared written and typed notes in the case of learning languages. As a result, they found that long vocabulary lists and examples, as well as grammar, are often remembered not only for a longer time but also in higher numbers. That means that students who did their notes by hand correctly recalled more words, as they sunk into their memory.
Another similar study performed in Spain showed that people who have a habit of writing notes rather than typing also got better results and were able to memorize information faster and easier. It is also necessary to mention, that written notes play a crucial role in the long run since students who decided to pass on using the computer performed far better on their assignments and tests than those who typed everything up.
So, the simple answer when it comes to taking your notes, as can be concluded from mentioned studies (and a hundred more articles), lies in the fact that writing down information by hand is far more beneficial. But if it was so simple, would there even be a debate on that topic?
Students Who Are “Pro-Technology” Want To Have Freedom
Some of the users under the original thread took a strong stance and supported the author. They expressed that taking notes on computers and tablets is far easier since you are able to jot down more information and be in the context.
One of the comments that got a lot of upvotes shared the preference for taking notes on a tablet. The explanation behind it was that it lightens their backpack and allows them constant access to study material. They often download PowerPoint slides and add extra information during class, then rewrite the notes in a condensed format for studying.
“After class, I rewrite my notes in a paired down format that I use for study sessions. I am also able to take pictures of lab material as well as notate steps for difficult formulas to add to my notes.”
While they hope that professors would allow this method of note-taking, they acknowledge that studies showing typing doesn’t help with memory retention are correct. However, the user differentiates their method from simple typing.
Another user mentioned that taking notes on your laptop not only simplifies the process but also can be considered a much more sustainable solution since they don’t use any paper (which they will probably throw out in a year, if not less).
“I hand write my notes on my iPad in OneNote. It’s much easier because I never run out of paper. I can insert images and graphs. I can instantly switch between “inks” to color code my notes. And I can pull up my notes on any of my devices so I can study on the fly easily.”
Furthermore, creating over-the-top strict rules about not using any gadgets in the classroom adds another level of stress on the students and messes up their learning experience. Some people mentioned that it’s not even about note-taking, as much it is about principles – they want to be able to do what they want and learn information in the way which suits them best.
Those Advocating for Paper Notes Speak Up
Surprisingly, a whole lot of people didn’t support the original author and sided with the professor in question. They expressed that writing notes by hand rather than typing them can often lead to better retention of information. When you write something down, you engage more with the material, thinking about it as you put pen to paper. This process can make you more likely to remember what you’ve learned. Typing, on the other hand, can be a more automatic and less thoughtful action, where the connection between the information and your understanding might not be as strong.
One of the commenters weighed in heavily on the fact that written notes are much better since they force you to use more parts of your brain and be engaged. They stated that the repetition of writing notes on paper and then transferring those notes to digital is kind of the point of studying as a whole.
“Repetition and going over the same information on multiple platforms is what causes brain retention of the information Waaaaay better than just typing notes then nothing else. You’re using multiple parts of your brain to process the information this way so it’s actually pretty ingenious.”
The point was supported by multiple Redditors, as one of them supported the hand-writing method by proving that you have to truly listen to the materials being shared. Even based on their personal experience, they recalled information much better after writing it down.
“Your brain has to actually think about what’s important/what it needs to write down, since it can’t write everything down.”
So, many people disagreed with the original author and sided with the professor, expressing that writing notes by hand leads to better retention of information. Multiple Redditors supported the handwriting method, stating that writing requires you to think about the material, thus improving memory.
Professors Share The Reasoning Behind Their Policies
The conversation got so heated that even several professors left their opinions on the thread. One such person recalled their teaching experience where students took little to no interest in the subject, so they decided to try out a device ban.
“The difference was really significant. Grades went up, engagement during class went up, people understood the material better, were more comfortable talking in class and working with classmates.”
They also shared that, basically, everything was way better. Students were more able to focus on the material and actually learn it instead of being distracted by screens the entire time. So they kept doing it and now it’s been about 4 years into that practice.
Another professor noted that they don’t ban laptops in class, but know that about half the students use them for things like watching videos or social media instead of focusing on the lesson. They believe this leads to less interest in the class and worse grades, but the students don’t seem to care. In the end, it’s considered their fault when students start to fail.
“Your premise that this is a personal responsibility thing just doesn’t add up, because students don’t treat it as their own responsibility. They treat it as “it’s my prof’s fault that I don’t know the content.” (…) And that ends up reflecting on my performance or course evals, making me look bad.”
Hearing the professors’ side of the story is crucial as it allows us to look at the issue in an objective light. By the looks of it, the majority of the users supported their decisions and understood the motivations behind tech bans, since most of them were distracted by the loud typing of their peers.
The Right Way to Take Notes in College
Well, now that we know both sides of the story, what is the best way to take notes when studying? The answer is more complicated than we thought. Finding a way to take notes in college that fits you is essential because everyone learns differently. Some people might find that handwriting notes helps them remember better, while others might prefer to use a laptop or tablet. It’s all about figuring out what makes you feel comfortable and helps you understand the material best. Many users supported using a combination of several different methods since it trains their brains better and pushes them to try out new things.
“It’s actually the transference of info from one medium/genre/format to another (and another and another) that is “learning”. Handwriting uses different parts of your brain and body than typing. Listening to a lecture uses different parts of brain/body than reading or watching. The more different ways we encounter knowledge, the better we understand it and are able to use it.”
“Honestly, I find the transcribing process really effective for reviewing the notes, allowing me to see where I’m lacking in my understanding and where I’m not.”
If you find the right method for taking notes, it can make studying easier and more effective. You’ll be more likely to remember what you’ve learned and feel more confident when it’s time for exams or assignments. So, taking a little time to try different ways of taking notes can make a big difference in your success in college. For example, you can try recording a lecture and then looking it over, as one of the Redditors suggested.
“I would record the lecture, jot down important notes and listen to the lecture to transfer my notes to an electronic format. It may seem like a bit more work, but it definitely allows you the chance to fully listen to the material.”
It truly is a preference thing. If you are a responsible learner and you don’t get easily distracted by the wish to watch an episode of a new series you like or listen to your fav podcast instead, then there is no harm in using laptops in class. However, you should remember that a lecture hall is a shared space, so you should create as little distraction for others as possible.
Effective Note-Taking Strategies for Students
Taking effective notes is a crucial skill for students, and it can greatly enhance understanding and retention of material. Here are some useful tips to help you get the most out of your note-taking:
- Stay Organized: Use headings, subheadings, and bullet points to keep your notes clear and structured.
- Use Highlighters or Colors: Different colors can help you quickly identify key concepts, questions, or important information.
- Incorporate Diagrams and Charts: Visual aids can simplify complex ideas and make them more memorable.
- Develop Your Own Shorthand: Creating abbreviations or symbols for common terms can save time.
- Review and Revise: Regularly revisiting and updating your notes helps reinforce your memory and understanding.
- Choose the Right Tools: Whether it’s pen and paper or a digital device, pick the method that feels most comfortable for you.
By following these tips, students can create a note-taking system that not only keeps information organized but also makes studying more effective and enjoyable.
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