Why I prefer taking notes with my laptop

Now that we’re back into another semester, it’s common to look back at our mistakes and come up with new objectives to improve our academic life. I feel that the way we take notes to remember our classes really affects our performance and how we study ― and that’s an important activity I like to be aware of. So, let’s talk about taking notes in class.

In Bauru, the city I live in the countryside of São Paulo (Brazil), some students, me included, were already used to taking notes with a laptop, even though it can be dangerous to walk with your laptop at night. I thought I would see many more people using laptops at UVic, because it doesn’t have many security problems and they aren’t really expensive. Nope: same amount of students, roughly 15% of the class, but I figured out why.

At the beginning of last semester, my first at UVic, roughly half of my professors mentioned a study about academic performance and how students who took notes with pen and paper showed better results over those who used a laptop. I remember that a professor “strongly recommended” we not use a laptop, while another almost banned them in the classroom and asked that those who still wanted to use laptops to please do it far from other students so it didn’t distract them.

Let’s face it: they have a good point. A laptop can be easily distracting, because you can access other stuff besides the notepad or other note-taking app. And the argument that it can distract other students is good: I always sat a bit far from other students, in the corner of the classroom, but still managed to get a seat in the front of the class so that I could see better.

Breakdown: writing notes by hand or on your laptop?

So, why did the study they mentioned say it’s good to take notes with a pen and paper instead of a laptop? Simply put, the main argument is that when you type you feel that you can get the most content possible, maybe even writing word by word what the teacher says. You can’t do this writing by hand, so when you’re using pen and paper it’s more natural to hear everything and synthesize the content, which helps you memorize and learn.

I feel that’s completely valid, but I still like taking notes with my laptop. Firstly, and this is a personal reason, my writing is horrible. (Sorry for whoever graded my exam!). But I do not write everything: I take notes on my laptop as I were taking them by hand, synthesizing the content. And I do not get distracted easily, so I can focus on the lecture while not getting worried that I won’t understand what I wrote when I read it again.

Of course notes by hand are also more flexible, so if you need to draw something it is more convenient to do so by hand. That’s why I didn’t get rid of my notebook yet, but my main companion in classes is my laptop. Whatever works, right?

How about you? How do you like to take notes?

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