Tag Archives: Note taking; laptops; cognitive processes

The Pen is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking

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Submitted by Erin Smith

Article Reference

Mueller, P. A., & Oppenheimer, D. M. (2014). The pen is mightier than the keyboard: Advantages of longhand over laptop note taking. Psychological Science, 25, 1159-1169.

Article DOI

DOI: 10.1177/0956797614524581

Summary of Article

Purpose: This study investigated differences in academic performance between laptop versus longhand note taking.

Method: In each of the three studies, participants watched five TED Talks.

Study 1: In the first study, participants were instructed to take notes how they normally would in class. Participants then completed two distractor tasks and a working-memory task. The last task consisted of recall and conceptual questions from the lecture.

Study 2: Study 2 was conducted to determine if instructing students to not take verbatim notes could prevent the negative effects associated with laptop note taking. Participants were then given a typing test, academic self-efficacy scales, the Need for Cognition scale, and a shorter version of the reading task from study 1.

Study 3: The final study investigated if the disadvantages associated with laptop note taking are buffered by enhanced external storage. Participants used either laptops or pen and paper to take notes on a lecture, and told they would be tested on the material in a week. Upon returning to the lab, participants had 10 minutes to study their notes.

Results/Conclusion: Note taking with laptops was associated with shallower processing. Participants who took notes longhand performed better on conceptual questions than students who took notes on laptops. Laptops were also associated with transcribing lectures verbatim as opposed to processing the information from the lecture and writing notes in their own words. The authors suggest that instructors should proceed with caution when allowing laptops in the classroom.

Discussion Questions

  1. 1. What are your personal opinions on using pens/pencils vs. a laptop in the classroom? Which method of note taking do you personally prefer, and why?
  2. 2. Based on your personal experience and results of this study, would you allow laptops/other technology in your own classroom? Why or why not?
  3. 3. The results of Mueller & Oppenheimer’s study suggest that students who type their notes have shallower cognitive processing compared to students who write their notes. What activities would you include in your classroom to encourage deeper processing of information?