The coexistence of handwritten and digital notes

Papyrus, parchment, slate, notebook; writing media have continued to evolve with technology. A new one pushes the others without however making them entirely obsolete. Think about our digital age. Today, taking notes in class could be done entirely digitally. Note apps are numerous as much for computers than mobile devices. Some even come to share the writings between the different machines of a user, giving him full access.

However, is fully digital note-taking good for the student? Some doubt it given the semi-automatic nature of the writing which often amounts to the verbatim of the teacher’s remarks. For their part, its supporters rely on scientific studies to support their arguments.

Write by hand, better for memorization

In 2014, a group of scientists experimented with three groups of children who had to write down what a teacher said. If those on the computer had taken in more information than their classmates in writing (paper and stylus on a tablet), the latter memorized the content better than those who typed mechanically on the keyboard. Because writing forces the brain to further analyze the letters and words written and therefore to retain them better.

In 2022, a similar study was published by Japanese researchers. They asked 48 people to learn appointments by writing them down either in a paper notebook or an electronic device. They then asked them about these by studying the brain with magnetic resonance imaging. In all candidates, the recall process was activated but brain activity was much higher in those who recorded the information on paper. Their responses were further faster and more precise than the others.

Which makes some say that it is important not to get rid of the physical medium for taking notes. Anyway, when you interview the students, it doesn’t seem like the handwritten notes have disappeared. 90% of the 700 young adults surveyed attending the University of Poitiers said they used paper and pen. 60% added IT. Which makes sense because while noting by hand is good for memorization, this practice also has its flaws.

Already, this method is cumbersome since it requires the use of notebooks, hundreds of pages, etc. Which leads to the second problem: difficult to navigate. Impossible, unlike digital, to do a simple search to find a term. You will have to check the classification of the notes and turn the pages until you find the information you are looking for. This is done in seconds with software. And if the solution was the cohabitation of methods?

Digitize the written word

Indeed, nothing prevents students from taking their notes after each day and scanning them into an application that they can consult on their devices. Handwriting recognition technology has improved greatly in recent years. MyScript Company has developed an artificial intelligence capable of recognizing more than 70 languages ​​as well as numbers and even drawings. This algorithm is behind some software like nebo or MyScript Calculator in addition to having helped various companies in the digitization of handwritten documents.

Today, apps like Microsoft Lens, Cam Scanner or Pen to Print are able to scan texts at little or no cost. Same the giant Evernote get there. Good news especially in cases where the learner has difficulty taking notes by computer. A situation that has arisen more often with the covid-19 pandemic. He can transpose without problems what he noted in a software which he knows. A company is developing a tablet on which the user can write by hand and his writings are automatically digitized. A digital object that partly reproduces the sensations of paper without the clutter.

This handwriting recognition technology goes beyond simple school uses. People who have lost voice communication temporarily or over time will often use writing to make themselves understood on a small board, for example. However, this means is not ideal when it is necessary to communicate from afar. Now, software is not only able to digitize the writing but also to read it by a synthetic voice.

Drawing : J. Kelly Brito on Unsplash

References :

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Chapuis, Charlotte. “Taking notes on paper is more stimulating for the brain than on the screen of a smartphone or a computer and it allows you to have a much better memory.” GQ France. Last update: March 18, 2022. https://www.gqmagazine.fr/pop-culture/article/la-prise-de-notes-sur-papier-est-more-stimulante-pour-le-cerveau-than-celle-sur-l-ecran- a-smartphone-or-a-computer-and-it-allows-you-to-have-a-much-better-memory.

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The coexistence of handwritten and digital notes


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