A recent study by psychologists at the University of California, The Pen is Mightier than the Keyboard, Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking (summarized here), reveals that students who took class notes by hand remembered and applied concepts considerably better than those who took notes by computer. The studies showed that handwritten notes worked better not only for testing purposes but for longer term retention.
One of the interesting findings of the studies was that laptop note takers took more copious notes, nearly two times more than those taking by hand (sometimes even taking verbatim lecture notes), yet still underachieved in relation to the handwritten note takers. The goal of the study was to determine whether using a laptop increased the tendency to make notes mindlessly by transcribing word for word.
Since the use of a laptop tends to put us in a transcription mode, we are more focused on getting the notes taken than understanding the material and taking notes of our understanding. This proved to be true even when subjects were told in advance: People who take class notes on laptops when they expect to be tested on the material later tend to transcribe what they’re hearing without thinking about it much.
The study not only gives us insight into note taking and learning but provides commentary on the shortsightedness of rushing to technology to solve every education problem.