Welcome to The CITE -- a blog on Course materials, Innovation, and Technology in Education, created by Mark Nelson and now part of the Publications Department of the National Association of College Stores. CITE is a pun with multiple meanings - referring to cite as in citation, something people reference; site as in location, website, or place people go to; and sight as in foresight or looking ahead to what is coming. Comments, discussion, feedback and ideas are welcome.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Old-Fashioned Note-Taking Works

One solution for increasing student success has little to do with interactive content and electronic course materials. It’s as simple as taking better notes.

Carol E. Holstead, associate professor of journalism, University of Kansas, Lawrence, decided she had had enough of students mesmerized by their laptop computer screens instead of listening to her lectures, so she banned the devices from her classroom. She did continue using PowerPoint presentations to outline her lecture and provide examples, but also instructed her students they needed to be more selective in writing down important points.

“It turned out my theory was right and now is supported by research,” Holstead wrote in an article for The Chronicle of Higher Education. “A study published last year in Psychological Science showed that students who write out notes longhand remember conceptual information better than those who take notes on a computer.”

The problem for students who used laptops is they become so intent on capturing every word of a lecture they don’t always listen to what is being said. Students who used paper and pen to take notes were more selective because they couldn’t write fast enough, allowing them to retain more information and understand it better, according to the research.

Holstead ended her first semester without laptops by having students fill out a questionnaire. Nearly 52% of the 95 responding students said they paid more attention without a computer in front of them. More importantly, test scores went up in her classes.

“Their answers reinforced the note-taking study,” Holstead said. “The students who tried to transcribe my lectures, even without a laptop, hated taking notes longhand. The students who figured out how to take selective notes liked it.”

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