Handwriting vs. typing: What you need to know

Handwriting vs. typing: What you need to know

Handwriting seems to focus attention and boost classroom learning in a way that typing on a laptop does not, according to a recent study.

Researchers at Princeton University and the University of California at Los Angeles found students who take handwritten notes usually outperformed students who typed their notes on a computer. Students who write them out longhand seem to remember material longer and understand new ideas better.

“Despite their growing popularity, laptops may be doing more harm in classrooms than good,” the authors wrote. “Handwritten note takers engage in more processing than laptop note takers by selecting more important information to include in their notes.”

Laptops in class have been controversial, due mostly to the many opportunities for distraction they provide, such as social media, online shopping, games, etc.

The study found that the two different types of note takers performed equally well on questions that involved recalling facts, while laptop note takers performed significantly worse on the conceptual questions.

The notes from laptop users contained more words and more precise overlap with the instructors’ speech, compared to the notes that were handwritten. Overall, students who ended up taking more notes performed better, but so did those who had less precise overlap, suggesting that the benefit of having more content is canceled out.

“Neuroscientists have known for a while that learning cursive is an important step towards cognitive development, particularly in training the brain to integrate sensation, movement control and thinking,” says Dr. Chandragupta Vedak, a psychiatrist at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, Ill. “Interestingly, even the brain imaging studies show that cursive activates areas of the brain that do not participate in keyboarding.”

Researchers said that when participants in the study were given a chance to review their notes one week later before taking a memory test, handwritten note takers still performed better than laptop note takers.

“Ultimately, the take-home message is that people should be more aware of how they are choosing to take notes, both in terms of the medium and the strategy,” the author concluded.

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  1. Interesting article. My 13 year old Grandson cannot write or read cursive. It’s not bring taught in school.

  2. I was thinking along the same lines, that since cursive , based on what’s stated in this article, is important to retention and cognitive development, why has it been eliminated from schools?

  3. I am a pediatric occupational therapist and have been concerned that schools no longer teach or encourage cursive writing. Many children who have difficulty with printing actually learn cursive more easily due to the flow of the pencil remaining on the paper. More right and left brain integration is required with cursive perceptually and motorically. We know now with research the more we use the both sides of the brain the better not only for motor coordination but also learning. Schools are just looking for something else to cut out of the curriculum to save money at a cost to our children’s learning.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.