Ask LH: Is A Notepad Or A Laptop Better For Students?

Hi Lifehacker. I will be finishing the HSC soon and starting university next year. For lectures I’m not sure if I should bring an exercise book or my laptop? What is the most common among university students? Thanks, Studious

Notepad picture from Shutterstock

Dear Studious,

When it comes to study and note-taking, we believe pen and paper should never be completely abandoned. Indeed, there are some studies that claim you actually learn more effectively this way.

Using your hand to form and connect letters actively engages your brain in the process of writing. By contrast, typing is a detached mechanism — you’re basically just pressing identical-looking keys to form words. This is something you can do while half asleep: your mind isn’t pushed in the same way.

Another advantage of handwriting is that your equipment is more reliable. Unlike a laptop or tablet, a notepad won’t break down or run out of batteries. (Sure, your pen may run out of ink, but it’s not difficult to quickly procure another.) It’s also less cumbersome, which is handy if you do lots of walking on campus.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to be completely archaic: these days it’s possible to merge traditional note-taking with sophisticated tech. One product worth considering is the Evernote Moleskine notebook. This allows your handwritten pages to be auto-tagged, searched and backed up in the cloud as Evernote notes — effectively giving you the best of both worlds.

The below video explains how the process works:

There are various other ways to update the pen to the digital era: examples include OneNote’s handwriting recognition software, portable document scanners, LiveScribe smart pens and a stylus-equipped tablet. You can read up on all these methods and more via our digital handwriting guide.

With all that said, every individual is different. If you’re slow at note-taking, suffer from hand cramps easily or have barely legible handwriting, a laptop or keyboard-equipped tablet might be a better way to go. You can find some suggestions for decent student laptops in this Ask LH article.


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