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So say researchers Pam Mueller of Princeton University and Daniel Oppenheimer of UCLA, who recently published a paper with that title in Psychological Science.
The three experiments they did led them to conclude that using laptops for notetaking might actually impair learning. Why? Because it often leads people to process information more shallowly.
In a nutshell, if you type your notes, you probably tend to record lectures verbatim. If you put pen to paper, you have to be more selective in recapping key components.
Paper notetakers’ brains are working to digest, summarize, and capture the heart of the information. This, in turn, promotes understanding and retention.
Mueller and Oppenheimer found that participants who took notes on laptops performed worse on conceptual questions than those who took traditional paper notes.
“Laptop notetakers’ tendency to transcribe lectures verbatim rather than processing information and reframing it in their own words is detrimental to learning,” they wrote.
When you really need to grasp new material, consider dusting off your trusty pen and paper.
When you try to recall the information later, your brain will thank you for making its job easier.
Some notetakers argue that they’re more productive when they type because they can capture more material faster.
But without reviewing and studying those notes after an event, all of that extra transcribing doesn’t do much good.
Psychology professors Dung Bui, Joel Myerson, and Sandra Hale at Washington University found that taking computer notes does offer the immediate benefit of better recall than well-organized, handwritten notes.
So the computer wins…at first.
But then their research, published in the Journal of Educational Psychology, uncovered something interesting: that advantage disappears in about 24 hours.
By that point, people who typed their notes actually performed worse on tests about the material.
The researchers concluded that the typing notetakers had worse recall because they weren’t actively summarizing and synthesizing key points.
“Taking organized notes presumably involves deeper and more thorough processing of the lecture information, whereas transcribing requires only a shallow encoding of the information,” they explained.
Next time to you need to recall information from a lecture or meeting for more than 24 hours, consider handwriting your notes. The material will stick with you longer.
Some people prefer taking notes electronically because their handwriting has turned into illegible scrawl.
If that sounds like you, don’t put away the pen and paper just yet!
There are brain health and developmental reasons to keep writing on paper.
Research from psychology professor Karin James of Indiana University evaluated children who hadn’t yet learned to read or write.
Published in Trends in Neuroscience and Education, her study engaged children by asking them to reproduce a single letter by typing it, drawing it on plain paper, or tracing it over a dotted outline.
Then the researchers put the children in a functional MRI brain scanner and had them study the image again.
While reviewing the image, scans showed that kids who drew the letters activated three distinct areas of their brains.
Brains of children who traced or typed the letter didn’t experience the same effect.
The study demonstrates the learning benefits of physically writing letters, James notes, especially the gains that come from engaging the brain’s motor pathways.
But that doesn’t mean the perks of handwriting only apply to kids.
The more you use those neural pathways, the better it is for your overall brain health. The phrases “lifelong learning” and “use it or lose it” are never more true than with your brain. Both activities ward off debilitating disease like Alzheimer’s and keep your cognitive abilities strong.
In other words, when you want to check out Facebook during a boring talk at a conference, go for it! That’s a great reason to have your computer open.
But when you’re trying to capture and retain complex material — or simply stay extra-sharp — put the laptop away…and take out a pen.
Ray Bradbury’s internationally acclaimed novel Fahrenheit 451 is a masterwork of twentieth-century literature set in a bleak, dystopian future.
Guy Montag is a fireman. In his world, where television rules and literature is on the brink of extinction, firemen start fires rather than put them out. His job is to destroy the most illegal of commodities, the printed book, along with the houses in which they are hidden.
Montag never questions the destruction and ruin his actions produce, returning each day to his bland life and wife, Mildred, who spends all day with her television “family.” But then he meets an eccentric young neighbor, Clarisse, who introduces him to a past where people didn’t live in fear and to a present where one sees the world through the ideas in books instead of the mindless chatter of television.
When Mildred attempts suicide and Clarisse suddenly disappears, Montag begins to question everything he has ever known. He starts hiding books in his home, and when his pilfering is discovered, the fireman has to run for his life.
One party, the Democratic-Republicans, admired Jefferson and the Declaration. But the other party, the Federalists, thought the Declaration was too French and too anti-British, which went against their current policies.
By 1817, John Adams complained in a letter that America seemed uninterested in its past. But that would soon change.
After the War of 1812, the Federalist party began to come apart and the new parties of the 1820s and 1830s all considered themselves inheritors of Jefferson and the Democratic-Republicans. Printed copies of the Declaration began to circulate again, all with the date July 4, 1776, listed at the top. The deaths of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams on July 4, 1826, may even have helped to promote the idea of July 4 as an important date to be celebrated.
Celebrations of the Fourth of July became more common as the years went on and in 1870, almost a hundred years after the Declaration was written, Congress first declared July 4 to be a national holiday as part of a bill to officially recognize several holidays, including Christmas. Further legislation about national holidays, including July 4, was passed in 1939 and 1941.
Guided meditation can also help, since the entire point is to calm the mind and dismiss the errant thoughts that lead to anxiety and stress. Meditation can help you focus on your surroundings or be mindful of the present, instead of letting the background seep into the foreground.
Imagine that you’re in the most relaxing environment that you can possibly think of, whether it’s at home in bed or on the beach in the tropics. Wherever you think you would be most relaxed, stop and really put yourself there. If you’re at the beach, ask yourself how warm it is, and whether there are clouds in the sky. Are you alone? Is it quiet, or can you hear the ocean? The goal here isn’t just to paint a pretty, relaxing picture in your head, but also to get your brain working on those details—the more you do, the farther away your mind will be from whatever’s triggered your anxiety.
The actions we take can literally expand or contract different regions of the brain, firing up circuits or tamping them down. The more you ask your brain to do, the more cortical space it sets up to handle the new tasks. It responds by forging stronger connections in circuits that underlie the desired behavior or thought and weakening the connections in others. Thus, what you do and what you think, see, or feel is mirrored in the size of your respective brain regions and the connections your brain forms to accommodate your needs.