In a recent article on learning, Joseph Stromberg, a science reporter for Vox.com, wrote about studies that showed that taking notes by hand is superior to taking notes on a laptop. The studies were done in an academic setting, but there are unmistakable parallels to business meetings and workshops everywhere.
Stromberg says students are “using the computers to take notes so they better remember the course material. But new research shows that if learning is their goal, using a laptop during class is a terrible idea.” Aside from distractions on a laptop “the act of taking notes on a computer actually seems to interfere with their ability to remember information. Taking notes by hand forces you to actively listen and decide what’s important.”
In a business setting and of particular interest to a business process specialist, in requirements gathering sessions or process mapping sessions, it is critical that everyone understands what is being described rather than simply recording the words used. Taking notes by hand allows for listening, questioning and revising concepts as they are being discussed. There is a place for digital tools in the process, but the initial definition of requirements, scope and process is best served by critical listening along with pencil and paper.
The three studies discussed were performed with 327 UCLA and Princeton undergraduates and showed that “laptop users remember less information later on” and given the chance to review their notes, they were outperformed on tests by those who took notes by hand. In addition, “laptop users did significantly worse on conceptual (questions)”, though both groups scored similarly on factual questions.
Stromberg concludes with, “Science and common sense are both pretty clear here. If you want to learn something from a class or lecture — or, from that matter, a meeting, conference, or any other situation where you’re basically sitting and listening — you’re best off taking notes with pen and paper.”