Best Learning Hacks for the Classroom

Best Learning Hacks for the Classroom

February 01, 2017

Know the biggest classroom challenges for teachers? One is not overloading a student’s working memory with information during a lesson. A critical gateway for learning, working memory temporarily holds information for processing. The second challenge is preventing distractions from interfering with working memory. Classroom distractions come in many different forms. One is technology. To help students learn, educators must find classroom strategies that reduce the strain on working memory and prevent distractions.

But finding strategies like these are a challenge; just ask educators. They struggle to find these kinds of strategies all the time. Turns out that they may be overlooking one of the most effective classroom learning strategies of all—handwriting notes. Studies indicate that taking notes longhand is among the best ways of boosting learning and retention in the classroom. In fact, results from a groundbreaking study show that handwriting notes beat typing notes into a laptop, hands down.  

Classroom Technology Has Its Benefits

Classroom technology has its advantages. No doubt about it. But it also has its downsides. Misused by teachers, technology can strain working memory and create distractions. For example, students are often told to follow technology-related instructions to acquire new information. Asking students to follow too many instructions can overwhelm the student’s working memory. Cell phones are a clear example of how technology can distract students from the lesson going on. Therefore, technology isn’t a slam dunk when it comes to helping students in the classroom.

Laptops are great learning tools. And like other forms of technology, they have their pluses and minuses for students, especially when it comes to taking notes. Taking notes using a laptop is faster and more convenient for students. It’s also more efficient than taking notes longhand. Plus, students can transfer their notes to Google Drive or another online storage platforms and share them with others, which helps boost collaboration. Typing notes into a laptop is ideal in cases where you have a lot of information to jot down or you want to capture a lecture verbatim.   

But research shows that using a laptop or tablet to take notes isn't nearly as effective as taking notes longhand.  Studies by Mueller and Oppenheimer found that students who took notes longhand learned and retained more than students who took notes using a laptop. What’s more, they had a stronger conceptual understanding of the material and were more successful in understanding and integrating new information than those who took notes using their laptops. Put simply, taking notes by longhand forces the brain to engage in some "heavy mental" lifting that increases learning and retention.

"When people type their notes, they have this tendency to try to take verbatim notes and write down as much of the lecture as they can," Mueller tells NPR's Rachel Martin. "The students who were taking longhand notes in our studies were forced to be more selective—because you can't write as fast as you can type. And that extra processing of the material that they were doing benefited them."   

Benefits of Handwriting Notes

Taking notes longhand has another advantage: it stops distractions. Research shows that laptops can help shift a student's focus away from what's happening in the classroom. It's easy for students to update their Facebook pages or text friends about doing something after school when they find a lecture boring. That hurts both learning and retention, but that can't happen when students handwrite notes. 

Below are some additional benefits to jotting down notes by longhand: 

  • Increases literacy 
  • Boosts critical thinking
  • Prevents distractions
  • Enhances focus
  • Improves memory recall
  • Unleashes creativity
  • Boosts comprehension
  • Combats dyslexia

When students rewrite their original notes they learn even more! In fact, rewriting notes is among the best ways to study and learn new information because it simulates the brain’s Reticular Activating System, (RAS). It also filters everything your brain processes, placing more importance on things you’re focusing on at that moment—something handwritten notes bring to the forefront. One study found that the areas of the brain associated with RAS “lit up” more when writing something down than just looking at it closely. 

Two Theories Why Handwriting Works

Scientists offer two theories as to why handwriting notes is more beneficial than typing them into a laptop: the encoding theory, and the external storage theory.  The encoding theory says that when handwriting notes, the cognitive processing that occurs while writing them down helps improve learning and retention. The external storage theory says that handwriting notes lets you learn by being able to look back at your notes, or even the notes of other people. While using a laptop or tablet may provide benefits, they may not outweigh the drawbacks of not processing the information.

But the reason handwriting notes is better than typing notes into a laptop might be as simple as this: writing is slower than taking notes electronically.  You can't possibly write down everything that's said in a lecture, so you must listen, digest, and summarize the information to capture its essence. Put another way, handwriting notes requires different types of cognitive processing, and these processes help boost learning and retention.

Of course, these findings don't mean that learners are automatically going to change to handwriting notes. The pull of technology these days is too strong for that.  Plus, entrepreneurs continue to come up with new technological advances that boost learning and retention. The solution for educators is to find products that combine the advantages of hand-written notes with the convenience of modern technology.  

Rocketbook gives students the freedom to take hand-written notes on a traditional pen and paper notebook, while instantly blasting your notes into the cloud using your smartphone. When you’re ready to erase what’s in your notebook, simply place it in the microwaves and it will be good as new. 

The Rocketbook will change the way you take notes forever. Shop all Rocketbook products at, or email us at to find out how to cusotmize your Rocketbook.

The Rocketbook will change the way you take notes forever. Shop all Rocketbook products at, or email us at to find out how to cusotmize your Rocketbook

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