Gustavo Ballvé on June 5th, 2014
Food for thought, Home, Mental models, Science

It may seem like a strange topic to get Buysiders.com rolling again, but it feels good to start writing and this subject really caught my attention as an analyst attending several events every year.

Two articles highlighted by the folks at Abnormal Returns (here – Scientific American and here – Vox.com) discuss a recent, preliminary study on the benefits (for learning purposes) of taking notes on paper vs on a laptop. It turns out we tend to write extensive notes, almost a transcript of the lecture, when using a laptop, while noting down the insights on paper (simplifying things a bit).

Well, count me guilty as charged. I use an iPad Mini with a keyboard, and even though I have been aware of this problem – even wrote about it here on March 2011, at least in terms of really paying attention vs tweeting blurbs out of context – I tend to make extensive notes in the hope that I will later, with time, reflect on all I’ve heard that day and create a “sharp, concise and actionable” synthesis… 90% of the time I just can’t find the time to do it afterwards. I am trying to change that, but old habits die hard.

That said, the articles and the study seem to focus on lectures – the near-monologue exposition of a topic by a professor in front of a classroom with several students, with usually little or no room for discussion/interaction. However, my experience with case discussions in class, moderated by a professor (the usual business school method), is that even an anxious note-taker like me just can’t do it – he’s either participating or following the discussion. In fact there’s not that much to write down except for insights or other points and even disagreements to discuss later with the professor or, more usually and more usefully, with your classmates.

Anyway: we’re back. Hopefully for good.

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