Information Comprehension: Handwritten vs. Typed Notes

Karen S. Duran and Christina M. Frederick* , Sierra Nevada College

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Abstract: Ever advancing trends in technology, and implemented in educational settings, inspired the current study, which examined the impact, on comprehension, of note-taking method. 72 undergraduate participants, aged 18-26, viewed a projected documentary in a classroom setting and took notes for a later assessment via either paper or computer keyboard. The Mann-Whitney U (Ryan & Joiner, 2001) showed a significant difference between the test scores produced via typed notes and written notes (p = .006). Experimental and survey results converge and dictate that the best and preferred practice for student note taking is writing.

Introduction The move toward computers offers many advantages in education. Examples of these benefits are the ease with which students can obtain information and edit their academic papers for accuracy. Paper is used by both students and instructors for activities such as note taking, homework, and dispersal of information via handouts. The National Center of Educational Statistics stated, “100 percent of public schools have Internet access available in one or more instructional computers” (U.S. Department of Education, 2010, p. 313).

Today’s technology both positively and negatively impacts the way people learn. Robinson-Staveley and Cooper (1990) stated that one positive aspect of using computers to type rather than handwrite essays is that the final product is viewed as superior by the reader. The typewritten format also allows for convenient proofreading, modification, and organization (Robinson-Staveley & Cooper, 1990). However, research evidence also indicates technology can negatively impact performance. For example, Cunningham and Stanovich (1990) conducted two experiments showing superior spelling performance for words learned via writing rather than typing. In the first experiment, Cunningham and Stanovich trained elementary aged children to spell words using a computer, letter tiles, or paper and pencil. Participants studied the words for four days by viewing 30 words written on 3 x 5 inch cards and reproducing words either by (a) using pencil to rewrite the word on paper, (b) using letter tiles to rewrite the word, or (c) using a computer keyboard to rewrite the word (Cunningham & Stanovich, 1990). A final spelling performance test took place after the study period and revealed a significant difference in spelling performance between groups with a benefit for participants in the written condition (Cunningham & Stanovich, 1990).

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