Tech Talk: Want to Remember? Write It Down!


My daughter, a senior in high school, has spent the last four years in a 1-to-1 tablet computing environment. In other words, she was handed a tablet computer on the first day of her freshman year and expected to use it as a notebook, word processor, presentation generator, and even textbook for some classes.

tablet pc at school

Four years later, she’s great at adding music and animation to Powerpoint demonstrations. But when she wants to remember material from class lectures, she takes notes the old-fashioned way:  in a spiral notebook.

Her high school was all about going paperless when they introduced the tablet computers seven years ago, but the students have other ideas.

My older son graduated from the same high school, but his class did not receive the tablet PCs. He always commented that he didn’t want one, because the distractions of the internet would be too tempting. He got a laptop before he went to college (to major in computer programming). And he carries spiral notebooks to class–not the laptop. He’s graduating next weekend and has a job in his field awaiting him, so he’s definitely not afraid to use technology.

Washington Post editor Fred Barbash observed,

According to a new study based on a series of lab-based experiments comparing how much students learned after listening to the same lectures, there’s no contest. Handwriters learn better, hands down.

The ones who took their notes in longhand demonstrated in tests that they got more out of the lectures than the typists.

spiral noteook

With a sampling of just over 300, this might not be the most scientific study in the world, but its results do bear out both my older kids’ experiences as well as my own observations as both a student and a teacher:  writing helps you remember things. That’s why your third-grade teacher made you write your spelling words five times each.

I’m happy that my daughter’s high school encourages the use of technology, but I think any technology has its limits. So I’m relieved that my older children have figured out that they can’t do everything electronically.

Given a choice, what method of note-taking do your children prefer?

Read more of our Tech Talk columns.

Copyright 2014 Barb Szyszkiewicz


About Author

Barb Szyszkiewicz is a wife, mom, Secular Franciscan and freelance writer. Her three children range in age from middle school to young adult, and she enjoys writing, cooking, and reading. Barb volunteers at the school library and is a music minister at her parish. She is also an avid Notre Dame football and basketball fan. Barb blogs at FranciscanMom and shares her family’s favorite diabetic-friendly recipes at Cook and Count.


  1. My daughter is due to get a Chromebook next year (she’ll be a junior) and she doesn’t want one! And much as I love the fact that e-textbooks are cheaper, I’d be lost without the ability to highlight — in color! I think you’e right on track with this one, as usual, Barb!

  2. Lisa, I think my daughter’s school laptop has sat in the back seat of her car, untouched, for about a month now. She has pretty much gone from a paperless freshman to an all-paper senior.
    I am all about ebooks–for FICTION. With nonfiction, I need a paper book. Not so much for the highlighting but for the ability to flip quickly from one chapter to another and find just the fact I need to review from chapter 3 to make chapter 5 make sense. It’s very hard to do that in an electronic book.
    And I have tried countless electronic planning techniques–but nothing beats writing it down.

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