With all the praise of technology (meaning digital media) I was always wondering how students manage to take meaningful notes with a laptop of my blackboard elaborations. I need to draw to think. For mastering the blackboard I specially remember Bruno Fautz at Cologne University, who was able with a box of coloured chalk to develop explanations of complex problems in front of my eyes. He was an artist, even in a science classroom. You would get it, and never forget it. And then there were the ones shooting satellites into space, and the most sophisticated media were USENET and the blackboard again. That's why I personally never fully understood the purpose of Microsoft Powerpoint in a University, if it is not about delivering work to a client or at a conference.
Today I came across an interesting paper of Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer from Princeton and UCLA: "The Pen is Mightier Than the Keyboard. Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking", published in Psychological Science, 2014. I was not too surprised about their findings. They did not look into quite commonly known issues of distraction and multitasking and their negative effects on attention, understanding and memorization. Their research suggests that, even distraction is eliminated, laptop note taking is still "impairing learning because their use results in a shallower processing". It seems that laptop note takers are occupied with a transcription mainly and not with making the thought their own.
I noticed for myself, that if I transcribe and type during a meeting, my memory and understanding of the event and topics discussed is much worse. In some cases, I really had to re-read my notes to remember what I was typing. And aside cognitive effectiveness it is of course very rude manners to sit in a meeting or lecture and type on a laptop. So, I decided already early that this is not for me. When you look allocation of brainpower to different body parts you will find that hands and the visual cortex are so dominant, that I thought it might not be a good idea to cripple them by a keyboard and a display. Tablet computer note taking, I tried a few times. But it always felt like being an ape who writes with a banana in the sand. Perhaps that will be changing with the next generation of tablets and laptop hybrids. Let's see. I still enjoy my pencils and sketchbooks most.