Proper note taking is an essential aspect of learning. With proper notes, students are able to retain more information, it makes studying easier, and it helps students translate ideas into their own words. In an increasingly technological world, handwritten notes are becoming a distant memory of the past. But is that a good thing?

Modern digital notes much faster which enables students to jot down everything they hear, they’re easier to compile into one study document that is far tidier than a notebook, and they’re quick to share with classmates.

In 2011, two European professors (Mangen & Velay) conducted a study focussed on the differences between writing notes and typing them and they found that students who take handwritten notes retain more information than those who typed notes on a computer. While it’s true that typing notes on a computer might be easier and quicker for most modern students, they are likely not retaining as much of the information.

It’s the process of note-taking that is the real exercise – not the finished product.

Typing up notes makes it much easier for students to fall into the trap of simply writing what the educator is saying verbatim. Consequently, it does not challenge the student to think actively about the content and does not force the student to be selective about what they write down. Even when students think they can hand write the notes later, they are missing out on the first hand learning experience from the instructor. When educators test, they test with all the material – that includes the individual’s thoughts and exterior comments. When a student only writes down what the teacher provides on the board they’re missing out on the underlying information.
The study of “haptics” looks at how our minds and bodies interact with the learning process. It turns out that when the body is more physically active, the brain retains more information. The brain needs a workout too, when the body is active it triggers more activity in the brain. Hand written notes are messy, difficult, and cause hand cramps, but it’s also rewarding! Encouraging your kids to write their notes in a notebook, to write their own thoughts and the side comments of their teachers will get them in the habit of proper note taking. This will, in turn, give them the tools they need to succeed in a post-secondary setting where note taking is one of the most important fundamentals that an student can have.
Of course, with education systems becoming more and more tech-focused, it can be difficult to encourage taking notes by hand with your kids. Handwritten notes might be making a comeback through new tablet tools like the iPad. Tablet computers are a versatile tool that can be used to take notes with a digital pen and yet still allow keyboard input.

Whether a student is taking notes by handwriting digitally or on note paper, there are definite benefits. Perhaps encourage your child to try handwriting their notes for a semester and see the effect it has on their grades.