When the pen is mightier than the laptop

Posted on November 04, 2015 in: Articles


I walked into a pub in a college town recently and looked around. In one corner was a guy all by himself, focused on the contents of his laptop’s screen. Near the middle of a room, an older man held court at the end of a table, flanked on each side by three young men of college age. All seven of them were sitting behind laptop screens.

It crossed my mind that there was probably more computer power at that table than was used to launch the first astronaut into space.

I found a spot at the bar and reached into my pocked for my smartphone to check the news of the day and my email. Yes, we certainly are all very wired to the world’s vast wireless network of information.

Yet, if the students brought their laptops to the bar to take notes, they were making a big mistake. Recent research suggests they would be a lot better off -- social stigma aside -- if they had just “gone Neanderthal” and brought paper and pen to their gathering. It turns out that when you handwrite your notes, you retain and recall them a lot better.

At least that’s the conclusion of three studies conducted by Princeton’s Pam A. Mueller and UCLA’s Daniel Oppenheimer. A confession: I came across this story only a day after my new tablet computer arrived. Murphy’s Law, right? Guess I won’t be carrying it around as much as I thought I would.