Edited by Jill Wright,
I've just bought one of the last Sony Vaio notebooks ever produced as a faster way to take notes at meetings and conferences using the bewitching personal database program, Evernote.
That possibly made me more than usually sensitive to a piece in Psyblog about research carried out by two psychologists who had trouble recalling notes [GROAN] taken on a notebook computer.
I think it put me in a good position to research the effects of being told that your substantial investment is a waste of money ... answer: not so good.
Pam Mueller, a psychologist at Princeton University, found that she did better when she switched back to a pen and paper. Worse, the study's co-author, Daniel Oppenheimer, reported that in the middle of taking notes on his computer he "looked up and realised that he had no idea what the person was actually talking about".
They then organised 65 college students to watch TED talks, split them into two groups - paper note-takers and digital ones - and got them to answer questions about what they’d learned, half an hour later.
Both groups could recall roughly the same number of facts, but the computer users retained significantly less conceptual information. The researchers' theory is that they had merely transcribed the talk verbatim, rather than distilling it the way handwritten notetakers tend to do.
I'd find this more convincing if it weren't for (a) [admittedly] my investment, (b) the longer-term recall factor and (c) writer's cramp.
For one thing, if you take a note in Evernote, it's going to be vastly more accessible than a paper note.
But their findings might be useful for those of us who do take notes on laptops or tablets. Rather than merely transcribing the talk, even if you're a particularly fast touch-typist, it might be more effective to summarise more.
Some other tactics recommended on a site called "SchoolDestroyer" include reviewing your notes, preferably putting them into outline form. Bulleted points are easier to recall than long slabs of text.
Then memorise the notes by reading them out loud several times, sentence by sentence. Then say the sentence out loud a couple of times without reading.
Then sleep on it - either taking a nap after you've done the memorising, or doing your memorising just before bedtime. Coincidentally, in my previous blog post on the psychology of dance and music, I touched on the research of Rasch and Born on sleep and memory. If you'd like to read more on the memory function of sleep, there is a PDF file of a review by Susanne Diekelmann and Jan Born here.