The Battle Between Typewritten Notes vs Written Notes

JUL15_31_notesOn Friday, two seemingly unrelated events occurred. The first was the delivery of a new Evernote Moleskine. Upon seeing this, my wife asked, “Why do you need this? As the Director of Technology at your school, don’t you take notes on your computer, iPad, or iPhone?”

Even though I do try to use the latest tools and devices in order to determine how they might be best used as we try to harness and leverage the use of technology, I have always resorted to using multiple color pens and a notebook in meetings, especially one-to-one or small group meetings. Why? For several reasons. First, when I take notes, I like to capture the key concepts that are being discussed, not the full transcript of the conversation. Secondly, I love to sketch, draw cloud bubbles, and arrows to connect ideas and highlight key connections I have made during the meeting. Sometimes these are related ideas, sometimes they are synthesized from other idea fragments that are bouncing around my head, and sometimes it is an unrelated reminder that occurs to me. While I could use an iPad for these visual sketch notes that I scribble out, I love the tactile feel of the pen running across the paper compared to the feedback from my finger or a stylus. It’s not even close.

In meetings, I use a notebook and pen so that I am not hidden behind and screen. I feel that this lowers the barrier for those who might be more reluctant to embrace the potential of technology in learning.

Later that evening, I was was browsing my RSS reader. One article from Harvard Business Review jumped off of the page, “What You Miss When You Take Notes on a Laptop”. ( In this article, Maggy McGloin shares three research studies that demonstrated that taking notes on a laptop was detrimental to overall conceptional understanding and retention of material.

This information will be essential to keep in mind as we develop new ways and strategies to best leverage our increased dependence, expectations, and utilization of personal devices, laptops, tablets, and smart phones. We will need to remain mindful of a balanced and appropriate use of the right tool and technology (pen and paper versus laptop) as we help our students make sense of the world around us.

3 thoughts on “The Battle Between Typewritten Notes vs Written Notes

  1. Hi Vinnie

    Awhile ago I considered writing a post on note taking as a follow up to my post on curation ( ) so I asked my twitter followers to share how they take notes. I had expected most would be using some form of digital notetaking when many were like yourself and prefer handwritten notes. Like yourself I read the articles on handwritten notes vs typed notes.

    The key is the processing of information. Hand writing is a slower process and you are more likely to process the information as you write compared to if you type notes (since you are more likely to transcribe what is being said). As educators we need to be aware that we each have preferences as will our students. We need to be highlighting the differences in processing of information with the different ways we take notes and provide tips to help them process information better. For example, whatever way we take notes we should also look at how we increase our learning from the notes we take. My approach is to reflect on what I’ve learnt by blogging or by writing detailed notes to explain what it means in my words.

    My preference is digital notetaking because my hand writing is so bad!

    Another interesting one is books vs eBooks. I prefer to read fiction as ebooks but prefer hard copies of reference books. Recently I went to a book store with my 16 year old son. While I was looking for my books he decided to buy some books. Switching back to paper based fiction books has engaged him to want to read again.

    Hope you had a lovely summer!


  2. One of the ways that I have gotten over the issues of recording them online to share with colleagues is to use an Evernote Moleskine. Then using the app on my devices (iPhone or Android smart phone, or iPad) I am able to snap a picture of my notes which I can then send and share. Additionally, this allows the notes to be searched, their handwriting recognition (at least for me) is quite good.

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