My reMarkable (with SchoolsWeek shown)

Physically writing may bring more benefit to retention than simply typing on a computer.

As an example, in the journal Psychological Science (2014), Pam Mueller of Princeton University and Daniel Oppenheimer of UCLA claim that using laptops to take notes may actually impair learning because it often leads to processing information more shallowly. Their reasoning is that one tends to record lectures verbatim whereas you tend to be more selective in key messages when putting pen to paper. 

Others will argue that taking copious notes allows you to be more selective afterwards, but I also quite like to write in a notebook.

Another good reason to stay away from a laptop is to avoid all those other distractions. Just sitting at my desk typing this blog post has taken me longer than necessary because I have already stopped to answer an email that came in. I know I could turn notifications off, but multi-tasking is now a feature of how most of us work.

Over the past few years I’ve been writing in some great notebooks to take notes at work. I’ve found that I can normally find information fairly easily but sometimes I just cannot remember where that quote or important note has gone.

Having some kind of electronic filing system but with the ability to write by hand seemed to me to be the perfect match for starting a doctorate, where I would need to organise my notes. I needed something where I could take lecture slides or a journal article and write all over it.

Obviously (I thought) I’d need an iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil! But I don’t want to be distracted. I know the iPad can do almost anything and could possibly replace my laptop altogether.

…but then I came across e-ink devices that feel like you are actually writing on paper. Wow!

There are now several devices available (see the YouTube channel Goodereader‘s top five devices – June 2019) and I picked the reMarkable tablet.

This great device has a 10.3″ screen and, what they call, a CANVAS display. As an e-ink device it’s comfortable to read. I now have the ‘Marker Signature‘ (it was my birthday last week!) which is even better than the standard Marker that comes with the device.

If it was able to read DRM-protected eBooks, it would be even better, but it’s easy to transfer PDFs to the device using a computer or mobile app. 

Every document I save on the reMarkable is saved in the cloud and can be opened on the computer. I can convert my handwritten notes to text if I need to and use the text in another application, although I’ve not found I’ve needed to do that yet, apart from testing.

It’s a great device and should help me to organise my research (and everything else) over the next five to seven years!

Mueller, P. A., & Oppenheimer, D. M. (2014). The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking. Psychological Science, 25(6), 1159–1168.