I have always been an old-fashioned note-taker. I love the feel of new, clean notebooks and ink pens. I have my own note-taking system and it works. Freshman spring, I literally took tens of pages of notes by hand, all neatly written in brightly-colored ink. But you know what sucks about hand-written notes? You can’t delete, search, or add later. You can’t email them to a friend. They’re also more susceptible to the elements, like I don’t know, spilling water all in the bottom of my backpack for example, not like that happened or anything.
Last semester, I decided to finally move into the 21st century and start utilizing my laptop more for my academics. I began putting every event into my iCal on my laptop. I took my notes in Evernote (where I’m writing this post now!). I ditched the notebook and multi-colored pens in favor of word docs and Google Drive.
At the beginning, it seemed like it was going to be so much easier than old-school ways of keeping organized. I am super particular about how my notes look, and so I loved taking clean notes on the computer where I could easily rearrange, delete or add things. I liked having my full calendar of events right on my phone and computer. I felt organized.
I didn’t, however, feel like I was learning.
I’m a psychology minor, so you’d think I would have realized this sooner, but our brains process things differently when we write them than when we type them on a computer. As explored by a couple of studies (getting a little scholarly here!), writing actually brings information to the front of our minds and helps us process it better. Physically putting a thought on paper is actively helping your brain catalogue the information, and can also help your memory later. Typing does not have the same benefit.
Regardless of any studies, I saw the effects firsthand. I felt like I was learning less. Not only that, but I was distracted during class. It’s easy to say you’re going to stay off of the internet, but between blog things and other internet distractions, I often found myself perusing Facebook or googling something for my blog instead of focusing in class, which meant that “studying for exams” was more like “learning the material.”
Because of last semester, I’ve decided to return to the basics of wireless notes. I actually bought a paper agenda, which I think will help me remember events better since I’m writing them. I seriously was awful at using a planner for all of my kindergarten through high school years so we will see if I can pull it together now. I also bought some real-life notebooks, like the ones made out of paper and stuff. I’m already looking forward to seeing how much better I study this semester.
Computers can be great for a lot of things, but I encourage you to look at the role that technology is playing in your life. Could you be more efficient without all the wires and glowing screens? Maybe so. But efficiency aside, you can’t argue with the fact that using fun-colored gel pens is much more fun than using fun-colored fonts. (If you want to hear more about going unplugged, check out my other post on the subject.)