Why handwriting is a much better way to take notes and why typing them is old fashioned
Benefits of Handwriting
The proliferation of laptops and tablets, and widely available free wifi has encouraged us to multitask. Handwriting forces us to focus. It doesn’t tempt us to keep Facebook open in another tab and quickly check it when the lecturer takes a breath. Other studies show that students with laptops can spend 40% of class time on unrelated applications and are consequently less satisfied with their education. I’m sure something similar is true beyond the classroom too- in business meetings, for example.
Instead, handwriting makes us engage with what we’re working on. There’s no battery to worry about or pop-up notifications vying for our attention. We have to concentrate, sift and summarise. Surprisingly, laptop note-taking is a lot like learning by rote in a Victorian schoolroom. Like laptop note-takers, Victorian children would have been able to recite dates and names, lists and times tables, but may not have been able to apply or understand the material very well.
What To Do
Many people are reluctant to shift to handwritten note-taking because their handwriting is less beautiful than they would like. Perhaps they struggle to read it again later, or are embarrassed for others to see it. I get that. My own writing isn’t as lovely as I would like. For most people though, that can change. Regular practice will improve your handwriting as it does for most skills. Simply, the more you do it the better you will get at doing it. Conscious practice will improve it even more (I’ll talk about conscious practice another time). A useful tip for taking notes from books (rather than in lectures) is to slow down. Most of use write untidily because we rush and don’t take the time to form letters properly. You don’t have to go at a snail’s pace, but if you slow down even a little, it will help.
Also, if you use a program like Evernote to digitise your handwritten notes it will have a bash at making your scrawl searchable. It valiantly tries to make my photographs of Italian renaissance manuscripts searchable, and while I can’t say it’s mastered them, it’s unlikely your writing is less legible than the scrawl of a fifteenth-century Florentine notary!