The Student-Run Newspaper of Townsend Harris High School at Queens College

The Classic

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The Student-Run Newspaper of Townsend Harris High School at Queens College

The Classic

The Student-Run Newspaper of Townsend Harris High School at Queens College

The Classic

Digital note taking vs. paper note taking

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Karen Lin
This spring, many Harrisites are looking forward to applying to summer internships for the arts.
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At Townsend Harris, one of the foremost responsibilities of all students is note taking. While this fact remains constant, the manner in which this act is performed has changed drastically due to technological advancements; in classrooms, tablets and laptops have become just as common as physical papers. This shift has raised questions concerning which method is most beneficial in helping students in their academic pursuits.

Typing, as a form of note-taking, has several advantages compared to traditional methods. First, its speed and efficiency allows students to be less overwhelmed when following material. “For in-depth and more detailed lessons, I prefer to take notes on the computer because I can’t write as quickly as I [can] type,” said junior Eric He. 

Second, being able to rapidly add, delete, and alter online documents allows students to easily organize their notes. Other available features, such as images, charts, and diagrams, offer even greater flexibility. 

English teacher Katherine Yan said, “I think that it’s neater; you can search your notes, [using functions] like ‘control find’ and titles.”

Third, on certain platforms, such as Google Docs, students can collaborate with each other by contributing to the same document. “It’s easy to share notes that are typed with other people,” said Ms. Yan. “Collaboration is easier online.”

Furthermore, the devices used for typing are far more compact than notebooks; instead of carrying around binders or different notebooks for every subject, students can save their backs by carrying their notes on items as thin as iPads. They can also be accessed on any device; so even if a student leaves something at home, they can log in and access their notes on their phone or school laptop.

Still, there are many reasons why individuals prefer the paper notebook. The major benefit, proven by a number of studies, is that it is better for information retention and memorization when compared to typing notes.

According to a study published by Frontiers, writing notes by hand activates more areas of the brain; The higher activation rates for the physical note group could not be explained by factors such as task difficulty since overall task performances were similar among the two. 

The same article continued by saying that the usage of a paper notebook encouraged effective memorization and retrieval. “Uh, definitely. I think so. I mean, writing things down and just Repeating it over and over again. I feel like that’s, you know, in general, a good way to memorize things,” said senior Laora Janezewski.

Moreover, handwriting notes do not face the issue of brainless copying notes as stated in a study published in Sage Journals: “This study provides initial experimental evidence that laptops may harm academic performance even when used as intended. Participants using laptops are more likely to take lengthier transcription-like notes with greater verbatim overlap with the lecture. Although taking more notes, thereby having more information, is beneficial, mindless transcription seems to offset the benefit of the increased content, at least when there is no opportunity for review.” 

On top of that, traditional note-taking allows ideas to be expressed rapidly on paper compared to typing notes. Diagrams and ideas can be rapidly drawn without the hassle of using applications such as Google Drawings. Freshman Yahan Zhang said, “Because of the format and other constraints on Google Docs, I find it more aesthetically pleasant to take notes on paper rather than digitally. I am able to make certain key points and draw arrows that the Google formatter does not let. (Or I just don’t know how to do) In addition, I much rather prefer paper for chemistry especially.”

Note-taking through using a stylus and tablet has also been on the rise. This method provides a combination of the advantages of both digital and physical note-taking. Notes can be a combination of handwritten and typed. Furthermore, arrows and diagrams can be easily drawn and images can be uploaded from the web. This gives the note-taker the ultimate freedom when it comes to styling and organizing their notes. Besides taking notes, the ability to annotate documents alongside taking notes has proven to be a major plus.

Even though certain methods have proved to be more beneficial, there is not an ultimate method. Personal preference and purpose are the key determining factors of the right note-taking method for an individual. “For me, I am fine with either modality as long as the student remains focused and doesn’t find their mind straying toward internet browsing and other activities that take them away from the classroom,” said history teacher Jake Ruiz.

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About the Contributor
Karen Lin, Photography Editor / Social Media Editor
Karen is a senior at Townsend Harris High School. Her passions include graphic design, photography, and fine arts. In her free time, she enjoys reading or capturing moments across her five cameras.
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