Monday, April 20, 2015

The Pen is Mightier Than the ... Laptop. Put in more effort for deeper learning.

A recent study finds that taking notes by hand leads to better retention of conceptual content compared against taking notes by laptop:

"Taking notes on laptops rather than in longhand is increasingly common. Many researchers have suggested that laptop note taking is less effective than longhand note taking for learning. Prior studies have primarily focused on students’ capacity for multitasking and distraction when using laptops. The present research suggests that even when laptops are used solely to take notes, they may still be impairing learning because their use results in shallower processing. In three studies, we found that students who took notes on laptops performed worse on conceptual questions than students who took notes longhand. We show that whereas taking more notes can be beneficial, laptop note takers’ tendency to transcribe lectures verbatim rather than processing information and reframing it in their own words is detrimental to learning."

On a related note, TED lectures, tv documentaries, Coursera and Edx are all great content delivery mechanisms but they can sometimes create the illusion of learning because the knowledge is too cheaply acquired. Enjoying all this wonderful content is commendable, but to learn more deeply we need to engage with the material, make notes, discuss and ask and answer questions (i.e. increase the mental expenditure to increase the mental benefit). I know I spend too much time skimming information, and not enough time delving into the depths. I partly blame myself for this but also the fact that we live in a hyper-linked world, which makes skimming so easy.

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