Law students should be sponsored by Apple considering the number of Macbooks you’ll find in any given lecture. The sound of the lecturer’s voice is commonly accompanied by the sound of multiple fingers hurriedly typing and yet, studies show that students retain more information if they use the traditional pen-and-paper method as opposed to a laptop. So how should we really be studying?
Technology has been embraced by universities, to the point that one of my law classes had a computer lab exam last semester. It was to simulate a practical legal experience, where most lawyers would spend more time typing than handwriting. It was a novel experience and I was quietly relieved that I didn’t have to stop in the middle of my exam due to hand cramps (as I do frequently in a traditional exam).
Despite that, I went back to handwriting all of my notes this semester. Here's what I noticed. *Cue Law & Order noise* DUN DUN.
1. Clarity initially suffered
I found that it was incredibly difficult to accurately take down notes relating to cases as they often had convoluted facts and long judgments. This issue was easily combated by doing my readings in preparation for class. This meant I already had a basic understanding of cases and could simply annotate if the lecturer introduced new information.
Paper: 1, Laptop: 0
2. There aren't enough hours in the day
Unfortunately, there is inevitably a time of the semester when there aren’t enough hours in the day to prepare for readings. When this time rolled around, my inability to keep up meant I missed vital pieces of information. And my handwriting got so messy it was impossible to re-read later on.
Paper: 1, Laptop: 1
3. Accidental exam prep
I tend to find it difficult to summarise my notes. With handwritten notes, I felt more compelled to spend extra time summarising these in a soft copy form in preparation for the exam. It meant I forced myself into extra revision without realising it.
Paper: 2, Laptop: 1
4. There's only so much paper you can lug around
Occasionally, I would need to refer to lecture slides or legislation. And because I can't be carrying stacks of legislation around all the time, I resorted to swapping my 13" screen for my phone screen and I ended up draining my phone battery after just a few hours of lectures.
Paper: 2, Laptop: 2
5. Being off the grid can be bittersweet
There were no distractions (ie Facebook).
Paper: 3, Laptop: 2
There was no Facebook!!!
Paper: 3, Laptop: 3
After 9 weeks, I’m still not 100% sure which method is better. In the end, it’s best just to find a study method that works for you and to stick with it.
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