I have been vindicated.
I remember a conversation that took place over a year ago during an EcSell Institute weekly meeting. In a nutshell, a fellow EcSell staff member (who shall remain nameless) made a comment about how hand-written notes were a thing of the past – an antiquated and overly time-consuming waste of time in our digital world if you will. As I live remotely from EcSell HQ and call into the meetings, little did anyone know that I keep hand written notes in a composition book during every meeting. I was slightly embarrassed. Does my preferred mode for keeping track of information, thoughts, and needs make me an old fuddy-duddy? Is my information collection method the equivalent of an 8-track tape (outdated and inferior to newer methods)?
Recently I read an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education about research that was published last year in the academic journal Psychological Science. The entire article discusses an experiment in a university classroom to examine the impact of taking notes longhand versus taking them on a laptop. When presented with information and then asked to recall and process the information, the longhand note takers consistently performed better. Most interesting to me, the longhanders were not just better at factual information recall but more notable better at responding to conceptual questions. In other words, they were better able to apply the information they had learned even when re-asked about the information weeks later.
Laptop users tend to capture verbatim the information that is being presented. In a way, it’s almost like we become transcriptionists rather than learners. Longhand note takers, on the other hand, need to process and parse information in a more efficient manner. Unless you’re a super-fast writer, you simply can’t capture the same amount of information as you can when you type. What this research indicates is that the quantity of information being gathered is a secondary benefit to the quality of information retained. While more content can be captured when using a laptop, we are better at kicking out the less useful and retaining the more useful information when taking notes by hand. The article concludes with a simple suggestion to experiment and take note (pun intended) of how you process and record information.
What say ye? Do you have a preferred method for keeping track of information? Personally, I’m going to keep on keeping on with my composition notebook. Maybe I’ll glue a picture of an 8-track on the cover. No embarrassment here, now.
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