Handwriting vs typing

What was I trying to say 30 seconds ago??

Yes, everyone forgets.
So what we do is to use one of the greatest innovations of human beings— “Note taking”

The questions I would like to address today is “What is note taking? When comparing the traditional (hand writing) and modern (typing) way, which one is better and why?

First of all, note taking experience generally starts with a school.

As a pedagogical technique, teachers in Japan are trained to plan board writing: deciding in advance what s/he will write on the board. I think this has pros and cons.
Pro: the class time is limited so writing plan is efficient and teachers will not miss the important points on the lecture.
Con: teachers might prioritize writing and overlook each student’s need and learning process.

At least some of the teachers I had in Japan when I was a student fit into the latter given that they made us copy what’s on the board so it was passive action.
Effective note taking is about saving an information you NEED therefore contents and design varies depending on each note taker.
When I was teaching in a classroom, some students asked me “Teacher, should we write them down?” And I used to say “if you think so, feel free to do it.”

Note taking is complementing action. The more active you become when you take note, the more you get out of it.

Now, what about the method of note taking, especially when more and more people including me are typing rather than handwriting nowadays?

According to some experiments by psychologists of UCLA and Princeton University (introduced on Annie Murphy Paul’s blog) in which college students were assigned into two groups—handwriting and typing—the handwriting group did better on tests and also retained the information than the typing group.

It also explains that although the handwriting group took notes slower and less than the typing group, they were more engaged with the contents and the memory retained because the information was  more likely to be connected to the brains.

I guess it is even more applicable in some languages with ideogram such as Japanese, because “Kanji” —one of three character sets used in this language originated from China— is ideographic and each letter symbolizes its meaning. For example, 海=sea, 湖=lake, 波=wave, and the left side of each letter means “water”. As you write them down, you might unconsciously get the meaning and connect them to your brain. 

So, should we stop typing and buy pens and papers?
The answer is No. As many other tools, we can use them effectively depending on the needs, just like we don’t use a screwdriver for a nail (we could…)

My conclusion on this topic is as follows:

  • Note taking is meaningful in an active way as opposed to the passive approach.
  • Hand writing is good for study (language, history, etc.) because you tend to go in depth and the information will retain.
  • Typing is suitable for job since it allows you to type more and organize in a short time.

Maybe it is good to re-consider the importance of grabbing a pen.

“Let us pick up our books and our pens. They are our most powerful weapons. One teacher, one book, one pen, can change the world,” —Malala Yousafzai—


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