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Paper and electronic notes provide unique benefits and drawbacks

How does the way you take notes affect the way you study and learn?

As education evolves, so does the way students engage with course material. One debate that has stood the test of time is whether students should take handwritten notes or typed notes on a computer.

There are both positive and negative attributes of each style of note taking and that is exactly why this debate has raged on since.

Ohio Wesleyan University junior, Zach Leonard, has strong opinions on this topic. “I’ve always found taking handwritten notes to be the best way for me to remember the material long-term.”

Leonard’s opinion is consistent with research studies done in the past couple of decades. The tactile experience of writing makes an impression on your brain and this experience makes it easier to recall information and increases the information’s “shelf life” in your brain.

This experience, although very common, is not universal for all students or academics. Some people enjoy the organizational capabilities that a computer allows for and try to avoid handwritten notes.

“If I take handwritten notes, there is a higher chance that they get lost or destroyed,” said OWU Sophomore Seth Anderson. “I would rather have my notes in folders on my desktop, that way I don’t have to have a separate notebook for every class.”

Organizational concerns are another reason why some choose the electronic method over handwritten notes.

Educators can offer a unique perspective on this issue. Many of the world's teachers and professors went through their schooling years without widespread use of the computer that we enjoy today.

“When I was a student, everyone had to take handwritten notes,” said David Christie, a high school teacher in Massachusetts, “I am still under the impression that this method is the best way for students to recall the information, computers create an abundance of distraction in the classroom and I believe barring computers from my classroom has made it an environment more conducive to learning.”

While both methods have pros and cons, it’s important to remember that every student learns differently and therefore the way they process information will vary greatly from student to student.

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