notetakingMultimedia access has changed the way students learn and develop. One area of confusion and debate is the expectation of taking listening notes: keyboarding versus long hand. The most obvious point is that notes are necessary to encode information into short-term auditory memory. This is a chemical trace that lasts only minutes. Taking notes of any kind is essential to move information from short term to long-term memory; we forget half of what we hear within 24 hours.

To guide students’ decisions about what form to use, awareness about the process of taking notes empowers them when they know what works and why other things don’t work. Many recent studies suggest “the pen is mightier than the keyboard.”

Distractions on devices may lead to a loss of listening.
Keyboarding allows the note taker to put things down quickly……but this is not a good thing! Keyboarders tend to take verbatim notes.

This leads to a second disadvantage of keyboarding notes:
shallow processing because the notes are made without thinking about the content.

A third disadvantage in choosing keyboarding over handwriting notes is the loss of opportunity for motor memory. The process of using hand and arm muscles “hardwires” information into memory.

The studies I’ve researched advise “a healthy dose of caution for individuals with language-processing challenges in choosing keyboarding over writing notes. But: What if we teach dysgraphic students not to take verbatim notes? If we work to hone the skills of synthesizing and summarizing–thinking about context but making the notes on the keyboard–we may have the “best of both worlds.”

We can actively equip language-compromised students with tools for learning and remembering while circumventing visual-motor integration difficulties that contribute to avoidance of taking notes. If it is faster to keyboard notes, time is available for listening and thinking before creating notes to serve as the tool to learn and remember.

What is most important is engaging in the metacognition of scaffolding information into long term memory, and taking notes in any form directs attention, develops understanding, and develops the ability to connect new learning to prior knowledge.