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With finals looming, and many of our grades hanging in the balance, this seems like the perfect time to reevaluate how we’ve approached our courses and consider how to do things better next semester. Whether it’s making a commitment to showing up to more lectures, or better budgeting our time there are a plethora of options to consider. \
Before anything, we must learn once again the art of note taking. With technology constantly advancing and becoming more and more integrated in how we work and learn, it can seem a little strange to consider regressing to the seemingly old school tactics of pen and pad. Walk into any class on campus and there’s a good chance you’ll see scores of students with their laptops out.
This can be problematic for a number of reasons. First and foremost, is the pull of distractions offered by the internet. Shopping for whatever interests you on Amazon or surfing through the days’ endless stream of social media is clearly more appealing than that dry lecture at 9 AM. The evidence is plainly displayed on one of the computer screens in front of me in every lecture hall. For a person who struggles to pay attention in the first place, I consider that especially treacherous.
A study recently published in Psychological Science, an academic journal about just that, found that students who take notes by hand retain information better. When compared with peers who typed their notes into a computer, the students with the hand written notes scored higher on the tests that followed the lecture.
It was also found that, in spite of being able to take down more information more quickly, the results were the same when students were allowed the opportunity to review their notes before testing. Taking hand written notes limits the amount of information you’re able to copy down before your instructor moves on to the next slide, and that forces you to quickly process the information. When copying word for word, especially at a high pace, less time is spent processing as opposed to typing. Another study even went so far as to instruct students with laptops to try and avoid copying the text verbatim to see if that might help with the problem. The results were the same in spite of this.
Obviously there are many more factors involved in considering student success than just how we take notes and every person is a little different in how they best retain information and study. However, if you’re finding yourself disappointed in your performance at the end of yet another grueling semester, maybe it’s time to try something new.
So, in the wake of finals, leave the laptop in its bag and take a new, old-school approach.
Tyler Weston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org