There is no secret to it and the explanation is pretty simple: Handwriting is slower and can’t be corrected as quickly as electronic notes. Because students can’t write fast enough to keep up with everything that is said in a lecture, they are forced to focus on the gist of what is being said, not the details. But to be able to note down the gist of a lecture, you have to understand it in the first place. So if you are writing by hand, you are forced to think about what you hear (or read) – otherwise you wouldn’t be able to grasp the underlying principle, the idea, the structure of an argument. Handwriting makes pure copying impossible, but instead facilitates the translation of what is said (or written) into one’s own words. The students who typed into their laptops were much quicker, which enabled them to copy the lecture more closely but circumvented actual understanding. They focused on completeness. Verbatim notes can be taken with almost no thinking, as if the words are taking a short cut from the ear to the hand, bypassing the brain.