Electronics have become so commonplace that they permeate almost every aspect of our lives. They don’t even teach kids cursive in grade school anymore. And the conventional wisdom is we are far better off with all this digital help. The problem is, conventional wisdom is wrong.
There is a growing body of research that is showing that not only are we not better off with electronics, but in many cases, it is actually hurting our ability to learn, comprehend and retain information. Our kids are especially being hurt by the digital age. But that is a massive topic. In this article, I just want to focus on the benefits of using paper and ink to take notes as opposed to using a computer or tablet.
There is evidence that using paper and ink to take notes increases productivity, and comprehension. A study from Princeton and UCLA compared students who typed notes on their laptop to those who took paper notes. The typists were able to record more of the information, but the paper group performed better on the tests. The researchers theorized that the physical act of handwriting forces the brain to be selective and encode information for future use. Since retention of the information being taught is the objective of education, paper notes were the better choice.
A second benefit to using paper and ink to take notes is that it causes you to focus and engage at a much higher rate than using electronics. Internet connecting electronics are inherently distracting. Multiple studies have linked electronics use in the classroom to lower test scores. Eliminating the draw of checking social media or email will dramatically improve productivity in a person or group.
The third reason to take notes vs. using a device relates to etiquette. Staring at a screen while someone else is talking is rude. If we are all honest, it is next to impossible to have your computer screen open and not have a couple of other tabs also open to check email, facebook, or surf the internet. Even if you are not actively checking for messages, the simple fact that it might happen takes your attention away from the speaker to some degree. How often do you see people talking to a person and in the middle of the conversation they suddenly check their cell phone? And they do it every 2 minutes? Rude is putting it mildly.
Taking notes by hand allows you to focus more on the presenter, which is not only polite, but allows you to absorb more of what is being said. It is smart policy to ban all electronic devices from meetings where they are not absolutely necessary. That includes cell phones as well.