Handwriting or typing?

In today’s continuous digital boom, it’s hard to imagine a situation when students choose to turn a blind eye to computers. However unbelievable this may seem, research shows that university students tend to memorise information easier if they take their own notes... using just pen and paper.

A recent study conducted on 650 undergraduate and postgraduate students from 10 different countries (Russia, Finland, China, Russia, Slovenia, the UK, Italy, Slovenia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Germany) talks about the differences between knowledge retention when typing vs. knowledge retention when handwriting.

Even though complex scientific formulas, for example, are easier to memorise when writing them down on a piece of paper, it is worth recognising the computer’s ace up the sleeve too (searchability, fast spell checking, typing speed, legibility - just to name a few).

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While the practical aspect of using a computer is still recognised as a strong upper hand for the IT world, students find it easier to retain information when using pen and paper. Chinese students said that they are more drawn towards handwriting, saying that handwritten characters with their strokes have something personal in them, something that allows them to express themselves. Italian students mentioned the fragrance that books carry with them. On the other hand, students from Russia, Bulgaria and Finland favoured computers over paper.

The benefits of using handwritten notes overshadow digital gadgets simply because computers are attractive gimmicks, which can easily distract students’ attention with one click or scroll, hence interfere with learning. It’s no surprise that some teachers even ban students from bringing laptops in class.

If students are using only pen and paper, that means that they are actively listening. Basically, by having to write the information yourself, you’ll indirectly absorb those ideas and analyse them. Even transcribing them from a screen to paper helps in understanding them. So, which one do you prefer? Paper or keyboard?

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