You bet it is. For a long time I’ve suspected this, but had no empirical data to support my hypothesis.

A study published in Psychological Science went to the mat on this. Researchers Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer asked students to take notes on a 20-minute video lecture using either longhand or a computer that had been disabled for any other use (the idea was to remove the distractions that have given note-taking on computers lower marks for memory and comprehension).

“Even if you are using computers exactly as they’re supposed to be used, might that still be hurting learning?” is the question Mueller posed.

In the end, students who used a computer took many more notes, but seemed to process what they heard much less. In a test taken a few minutes after completing the lecture, students who had taken notes using longhand performed much better. And, in further testing, students who took notes using a computer and given time to study those notes and test later still performed worse than the longhand note-takers. Mueller hypothesizes that since longhand note takers had to be more selective about what they wrote, they had processed the information better as it came in, making the recall easier.

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