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Tip 71: Take handwritten notes

'The pen is mightier than the keyboard.' Pam Mueller & Dan Oppenheimer

Do you remember the 'good old times' when there was no alternative to taking notes in a nice booklet during a training or conference? In times of digitalization, more and more people feel pressured to move towards digital tools like OneNote or Evernote. The clear advantage is at hand: It is easier to modify the notes afterwards and also to cluster them in folders and to find them through full-text search.

But: In past years, scientists (like Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer from Princeton (2014)) have shown that taking handwritten notes is better for learning than taking notes on a digital device. While there was no difference when it comes to memorization of facts, though, the learners with the handwritten notes achieved a better understanding of the learned topic. The reason for this was mainly because learners on the digital device tended towards transcribing the session in a lot of detail while learners who took notes on paper already made a preselection what to write and they summarized what they heard.

Based on these findings, here are two options:

  1. If you like taking notes in a digital tool, don't just copy what you are hearing but try to re-phrase or summarize it in your own words.

  2. If you like handwriting, take pictures of your handwritten notes after the training and copy the pictures into your OneNote. Tag the notes with some keywords so that you can better find them. This method combines both the advantages of handwriting and digital note taking.

How do you take notes and how can you make sure that it really supports your learning effort?

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