In Praise of Paper – Learning with Pen and Paper may be the way to go

A piece of paper with the written sentence: "You remember things better when you write them down by hand. Here's why."

If learning is their goal, using a laptop during class is a terrible idea.
It’s not just because internet-connected laptops are so distracting. It’s because even if students aren’t distracted, the act of taking notes on a computer actually seems to interfere with their ability to remember information.
When done with pen and paper, that act involves active listening, trying to figure out what information is most important, and putting it down.
Joseph Stromberg, Why you should take notes by hand, not on a laptop


I miss paper.

And, I think I am heading back to paper as often as I possibly can.

Recently, I watched two videos.  (I won’t name them).  In one video, the audience was looking at PowerPoint Slides.  In the other, the audience had paper open in front of them (notebooks), pens in hand.  In both cases, their faces and eyes seem to have been focused away from the speaker, either on the slides or on the notebooks.  But it seemed the engagement level of the audience members was notably higher among the notebook/paper focused audience members.

Research has shown that if you take notes on paper, instead of on a screen on a device/laptop, you remember more. (I’ve read this in more than one of the business books I have presented).

And, I think you are simply more fully engaged when you take notes, and jot down thoughts prompted by the speaker,  on paper with pen.

page from a recent synopsis handout

page from a recent synopsis handout

At the First Friday Book Synopsis, we never show slides.  We use paper.  Every participant receives a multi-page, comprehensive handout for each of the two book synopses that I present.  I am “handdout intensive.”  I encourage/suggest/beg/cajole people to listen with pen in hand, writing down a few phrases, underlining and marking key passages.  I am even directive about what to write, and what to circle.

And, many of my audience members follow my suggestions.

You might ask, “Randy, how can you make this case, since you have shifted from physical books to Kindle app books?”  My answer is that after I prepare my handouts, I then print them out, mark them up, as my final step of preparation.  All on paper. This helps me in my book synopsis presentations.  A circled word; a line in the margin; these are needed speaking cues. And effective memory cues..

I found this image of a classic note-taking technique

I found this image of a classic note-taking technique

Here’s my suggestion:  stock up on paper.  Write on it. Use it.  I’ve got a hunch you might find it valuable.


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