Paper and pencil better for the brain than software? Tablet PC is too.


Onenote_outline_1BoingBoing points to an interesting PhD dissertation that looks at the theory that computer-related tools, software and the like, interfere with the brain’s natural ability to learn and solve problems.  The author contends that simple pen and paper help with these creative tasks and that software actually impedes them as they steal the subject’s focus.  I think there is a lot to be said for this and it feeds into one of the main benefits I have gotten from using Tablet PCs in my work for so long.

Using the Tablet PC in ink mode on the slate to me is just like using pen and paper.  I have noted previously that I find this stimulates my creative process and it’s something I do even today for writing projects in particular.  I find that using the pen on the slate does in fact keep the tool from getting in the way of the process and it’s pretty cool to see academia catching onto this phenomenon.  You tablet users know what I’m talking about I’ll bet.  How does the Tablet PC help you?


Philip Ferris

When doing things on paper I mindmap, whatever it is; doing so means, in my view, I can turn to a computer and do so in MindManager without the software stealing my focus.


Personally I’m a torn between both. I like paper its a focus thing…There isn’t too many buttons and things to complicate matters. But then the idea of having all my notes with me and just carrying my tablet in and out of class. I’m thinking might have to try for the rest of the semester with just journal being that’s the most basic program. I just wish I had a slate tablet since I’ve gotten use to carrying around my netbook. :)


Psst, the other reason of being paperless other than searching is that I just LOOOOOVE slate tabletpcs ;)


Regardless of whether the computer technology interferes with the learning process or not, the inability to search my notes is what keeps me away from paper as much as possible.

And I am also in the favor of slow but solid learning so it doesn’t matter if I learn in one day or in few days. The main thing is that that I not only learn it but UNDERSTAND it enough to apply it to my circumstances/life.


I’ve had OneNote for a while and I still think that Evernote has the edge in terms of scanning. Onenote is great for OCR’ing printed text eg photos of signs but Evernote deals better with stylised text and handwritten text such as images snapped by a phone etc.

Just my 2c worth..


I bought my first tablet (HP tx2000) about 4 months ago. At first I thought it was an empty gimmick, then I found Onenote. I think the benefits of using Onenote with a tablet far outweigh the negatives. I love writing papers on it, and I scan and print reading assignments into it for diagramming, highlighting, and notations. I don’t think I could go back to a regular PC. There’s just something satisfying about writing ideas and connections instead of typing them.


I have read before that the physical act of writing helps learning by stimulating a particular region of the brain (wish I had the article to link, but it was some time ago.)

This is why it is suggested to re-write your notes in preparation for a test, and why even if you forgot your grocery list, you are more likely to remember what was on it if you wrote it out.


I agree with the article but Onenote, however, does bridge the electronic world and paper-pen world incrementally. Through my years of struggling with tablet PC, I know for the fact that tablet pc is still far behind from paper technology in terms of convenience and utility, except of course the the search function and all the editing tools (eraser, coloring nibs, etc.) within the reach of fingertips. Besides that, in practical terms, even Mr. Kendrick, yourself, find many constraints about tablet PC that paper technology does not have. Don’t you agree?

However, tablet technology (not tablet PC) is inevitable and this article will be outdated within these fifty years. Let’s hope.

James Kendrick

OneNote Mobile on Windows Mobile will snap pictures, bring them into OneNote and OCR them into searchable items. Right from the napkin. :)

hmm, they better put in some high performance cameras for those napkin business plans and stuff ;)


Hi James,

that indeed looks interesting. I haven’t looked at the link yet, but I think the advantage of pen&paper/Tablet is in the way you can organise your ideas immediately. With a Tablet, you can brainstorm very quickly and graphically represent what you’re thinking more intuitively and accurately than with a keyboard. Sure, you can use tables or diagrams, but they always limit your freedom and you have to adjust to them rather than the other way around.



Comments are closed.