More classrooms are using tablets and laptops as notetaking tools and teaching aids. However, research is showing technology in the classroom may not help students learn as effectively.There are benefits to being able to take notes on a digital platform:
- They are easy to organize
- Paper is not ripped out and moved from book to book
- Notes are easier to share with peers
- Notes are readily available on phones, laptops and tablets.
There are downsides as well:
- A laptop screen sets up a natural barrier between the teacher and student
- Some student groups designate a “note taker,” who then passes the notes to the rest of the group for study purposes
- It’s easier to become distracted
- The student is less likely to absorb the material when taking notes on a digital platform.
The research article, “The Pen is Mightier Than the Keyboard, Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking,” by Pam A. Mueller and Daniel M. Oppenheimer, states students who use laptops, or other digital mediums to take notes, do not process information as well. Digital note takers are prone to take notes verbatim as opposed to processing the information into a format easier to comprehend. In short, students are not able to listen to a teacher and make a 10-word sentence five words based on the information they take in.
The study also showed students who take notes on a laptop are less engaged. 40% of the time, a laptop student is focused on games, applications or social media as opposed to the lecture. Advances in technology are improving the methods students take notes and use them for review, these same tools hinder the learning process. The study “Note-taking and Handouts in the Digital Age,” by Elizabeth Moore Stacy and Jeff Cain, said note-taking is a personalized task and each student has a unique approach. However, tablets, laptops and note-taking apps are altering the way notes are taken and how information is processed.
There are several note-taking applications on the market enabling students to take notes using a stylus and removing paper from the equation. The argument has been made stating this method is the same as writing on paper and therefore the results should be the same. However, the Mueller and Oppenheimer project was not able to prove greater retention of material when a tablet and stylus was used instead of a pen and paper.
Handwriting a lost art
Part of the challenge with learning and retention may come from students’ early years. After the first grade, a student has more emphasis placed on keyboard efficiency as opposed to writing by hand. Mueller and Oppenheimer’s findings state children retain information better when they physically write on paper. Students Enrichment Services, an Irish study skills company, researched how students learn, and found 73% of students who use tablets in the classroom prefer studying from a book. The reasons range from preferring the feel of a book to personal feelings of being able to study from a book.
The number of connected devices in schools is on the rise learning from a video or hearing a famous speaker adds another dimension to the educational experience. Jacqui Murray, TeachHub contributor and K-8 teacher, says the educational landscape is changing. Each day we move away from the family pet eating our paper, as we can submit homework online, winter storms will not cancel class, instead, we can meet virtually, lecture replays will be available online and each student will have some form of connected device.