Are you also asking yourself how to take notes? Should you get on with the times and make the process easier for yourself, or refer to tradition and take painstaking notes on a piece of paper with a pen?

Scientists know what’s better for our brains

If you were to ask neuroscientists for their opinion on the topic, then the matter seems clear. Pam Mueller of Princeton University and Daniel M. Oppenheimer of UCLA have conducted an experiment. Its results show that people who note exclusively using the laptop don’t assimilate new knowledge all that well. When typing, most of us note down literally all the words without thinking.

The test conducted by Mueller and Oppenheimer was based on taking notes about a viewed film. Students who took notes digitally would write down more information. Yet it was those students who took the notes by hand that responded better to the questions asked right after the experiment.

Handwriting is a blessing for the grey cells

By noting with a pen, we engage the regions of the frontal lobe that are responsible for memorisation. On the other hand, its activity during typing is negligible. When writing by hand, our grey cells are practically burning to work. Handwritten notes enable better memorisation of information already at the stage of writing it down. It’s a major benefit for pupils and students who assimilate knowledge in great bulk.

Yet digital notes can have their advantages

Especially when time is of the essence. Note taking by hand may have a positive long-term influence on our memory and learning capability, but it takes more time, and if you’re unused to it, it will simply become tiring, which may result in your notes ending up illegible. This is why technology and moving on with the times are there to help you during all important meetings and conferences. They let you save time, since you won’t have to copy the handwritten notes later to send an email with a summary of the meeting.

There’s a third way

Or at least that’s what the manufacturers of devices that connect the digital and analogue worlds are trying to tell us. There are special applications that recognise handwriting and are able to process it into digital text which can later be copied, edited and shared in a digital version. How does it work? Most often, the whole trick is based on a pen equipped with a camera and the electronics necessary to recognise and transfer the written text. Special paper is also needed for it, or a pad reacting to pressure, which allows the pen to recognise motion across space.

Ban computers and teach only calligraphy?

Living in our technology-dominated era, should we feel uncomfortable when coming to a meeting with a notebook and a pen? Or perhaps we should ban using mobile devices for note taking at companies and universities if writing by hand has so many benefits?

It would appear that a balanced approach ought to be a good way out of this conundrum.

Both ourselves as well as our children are never going to live a keyboard-less life. The times have changed, and the only place where writing by hand is still practised nowadays is school, and even that is changing rapidly.

Why shouldn’t we use both the old and the new methods at the same time? Let’s celebrate the moments when we can combine these two techniques of note taking.