Students are always on the lookout for the magic trick or quick fix that will improve their law school performance. In their search, they often turn to technological resources – electronic flashcards, online quizzes, recorded lectures, etc. It seems there is no end to the number of supplemental resources that are available to today’s law students, and they’re nearly all accessible with a few clicks on the keyboard. But, as it turns outs, the simplest way to improve your academic performance may actually require you to avoid technology. That’s right, if you want to improve your comprehension of these difficult legal topics you should try putting away your laptop and going low tech, at least during class.
For one simple change that can make a big difference in your studies, try handwriting, rather than typing, your class notes. A study by researchers at Princeton University and UCLA found that although typing students tended to take more notes than handwriting students, the handwriters significantly outperformed typists on conceptual application questions. The researchers concluded that handwriting notes during class improves comprehension by requiring students to process and reframe information in their own words, rather than merely typing a lecture verbatim. Interestingly, the study found a difference in academic performance even when the typists used their computers solely to take notes (as opposed to searching the internet or online shopping during class). Thus, using a laptop in class is not only detrimental because it can be distracting, but it is also detrimental because it can result in shallower comprehension of the material covered.
Sometimes little things can make a big difference. If you’ve found yourself struggling to stay engaged during class, take down helpful notes, or comprehend the material covered, try shutting down your laptop and pulling out your pen and paper. Of course, taking effective class notes is just the beginning. Whether you’re typing or handwriting, you should make time each day to review your class notes and clarify anything that is still confusing. Then, synthesize, refine, and condense your notes into outline format at least once per week.
Give handwriting a try and see if it makes a difference for you!