Should students avoid taking notes on laptops?

Laptops became a necessity in everyday life, however, the latest research shows that laptops should not be used during school classes.

student notes on laptop
Photo: AntonioGuillem, Bigstock

Laptops became a necessity in everyday life, allowing us to use different tools and software to get the most out of a lecture or a meeting. Laptops gradually replaced traditional notebooks and contributed to a rising number of online learning material, e-learning portals, and online video lectures, giving students the opportunity to efficiently overcome any learning difficulties.

Students tend to use laptops to write reports, take notes or instantly share important information with other classmates. However, the latest research shows that laptops should not be used during school classes.

Laptops might not be the best solution for taking notes during lectures

Despite the fact that using laptops during a lecture allows students to access and download a wide range of learning materials, new studies have shown that using the old-school, pen and paper method might be a better solution.

Using a laptop to take notes and track the content of a lecture is definitely more convenient than constantly writing down relevant facts, just to end up struggling to read your own notes. However, scientists have revealed that this method might affect students’ general understanding of the presented lecture.

A study, taken by Princeton University and the Los Angeles University of California concluded that students who use their laptops to take notes generally have lower grades than the ones using the pen and paper. During this study, students were randomly given either a laptop or a paper and pen, together with instructions to follow the lecture and take notes.

Researchers discovered that those who used their computers had a significantly lower understanding of the actual lecture content than the students who wrote down their notes in an old-fashioned way.

Taking notes on a laptop might cause lower grades

Researchers believe that this might be due to the fact that the students who were writing down their notes, had to actually process what the teacher was saying in order to summarize the lecture and keep up with the information given.

On the other hand, those who were taking notes on their laptops were only focused on automatically typing what they hear, without processing the information first. Their lower understanding of the lecture content might be due to our ability to type faster than we can write, so the words simply “flowed” to their fingers. As a result, they failed to understand the learning material and scored lower grades on the standardised test.

Another study revealed that laptops do tend to be a distraction in the classroom. During the more complex lecturers, researchers discovered that students tend to go off topic when their concentration drops, and instead of asking questions and participating in class discussion, they easily turn and start browsing irrelevant topics, such as movie tickets or online sales.

Taking notes on a laptop does seem like a more convenient way for us to store information. Notes can easily be shared, downloaded or edited anytime. Although handwriting might prove to be more efficient, it’s hard to stick to the traditional pen and paper with so many gadgets and smart devices in the market.