The Case for Losing the Laptop

It is standard practice in law school to take notes in class on your laptop, but new research indicates that taking notes by hand can help you learn better and retain more information. Psychologists Pam A. Mueller of Princeton University and Daniel M. Oppenheimer of the University of California-Los Angeles conducted the study behind this research and found that students who used laptops in class, even as intended and not for buying things on Amazon, performed worse academically than students who took notes by hand.  Mueller and Oppenheimer hypothesize that the reason for this is that laptop use affects the manner and quality of note taking. While laptop users tend to take notes mindlessly, recording everything the professor says, handwrites are more selective with what they write down – they process the material as it is delivered and select the most important content to record.  Mueller and Oppenheimer state 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.”

With this information in mind, and as you prepare over Fall Break for the remaining eight weeks of the semester before exams, it may be worth reevaluating how you approach taking notes in class.  Read Mueller and Oppenheimer’s article on their research, The Pen Is Mightier than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking, published in the journal Psychological Science.  Author Patrick E. McLean also offers a (much more poetic) take on why handwriting is beneficial: A Defense of Writing Longhand.