The Education Deliberation

Young minded woman wrapped in plaid writing down memories in notebook sitting on sofa at home spending free spare time in living room.

The way we learn is evolving, yet research continues to highlight the benefits of traditional pen and paper note-taking over digital methods for students’ learning and retention.

A recent published study of students across 10 countries that looked to examine the tools by which we choose to learn, revealed a preference for the writing of notes, over the use of computers, laptops and digital tools.

The Times Higher Education magazine – formerly the Times Higher Education Supplement – says that despite the practical advantages of digital devices, such as ease of information search and correction, the tactile and cognitive engagement of handwriting offers distinct learning advantages.

The hypothesis is that typing notes can lead to a more verbatim recording of information without substantive processing, whereas handwriting requires summarising and condensing the material, thus engaging more deeply with the content.

Advantages of pen and paper

Handwriting notes with pen and paper offers several practical advantages:

  • The physical act of writing aids in the cognitive process of learning, helping to encode information into memory more effectively.
  • Students can more easily personalise notes with symbols, drawings and annotations, aiding in comprehension and retention.
  • Enhanced focus by reducing the distractions commonly associated with digital devices.
  • Handwriting can be especially beneficial for complex subjects that involve formulas, diagrams, or spatial information.

Advantages of computers

Despite the benefits of handwriting, computers offer their own set of advantages for students:

  • Digital notes can be easily edited, searched and organised, offering a level of flexibility and efficiency that is hard to achieve with paper notes.
  • Access to online resources and information is instantaneous, enriching the learning experience with a wider range of materials.
  • Typing can be faster for many people, allowing for more comprehensive notes in some cases.
  • Finally, digital tools offer various ways to collaborate and share materials with peers and instructors.

One possible solution to the conundrum of choice might be found in the integration of traditional handwriting and digital technology. The advent of devices like styluses and tablets, which simulate the experience of writing on paper, blurs the boundaries between analogue and digital note-taking, presenting a multidimensional approach to learning.

Young student sitting at desk in home studying and reading, doing homework and lesson practice preparing exam to entrance, education concept.Alternatively, start with handwriting notes to capture the essence of lectures can bolster comprehension and memory; then, transfer this information to a digital format for further organisation and study. This harnesses the efficiency of technology, making review and application more effective.

Ultimately, where study is concerned, personal preference will always determine the terms and, to a large extent, the outcome.