The more research I read, the less inclined I am to reach for a keyboard when taking notes. That’s because our brain makes more connections when we do things with pen and paper than with digital equivalents. 

“The students who were taking longhand notes in our studies had to be more selective. You can’t write as fast as you can type. And that extra processing of the material that they were doing benefited them.” (Source)

 In this study, authors discovered handwritten notes engage your senses. The act of note-taking results in more brain activity. As such, learning improves due to your brain’s activity (Source).

Source: DotTech, 2013

A quick aside: Last night, I found myself reaching for the answer to 6x3. Yes, surprisingly, I had “forgotten” the answer. I KNEW to 6x4 is 24, so 6x3 is 24-6. So…the answer must be 18. But I was disturbed.

Were my grade school brain pathways being reabsorbed? Must I now begin relearning everything again, even if the process is faster?

Reaching for a grade school math textbook…oh heck.

6÷2 (1+2) =?

Technology Makes Us Stupid?

Consider this point:

“Technology makes us more stupid,” says Dr. Dror.

He calls it The Paradox of Technology.

Of course, technology has wonderful new capabilities; some that we might never have been able to imagine.

However, I strongly agree with Dror that the fact that we have technology, doesn’t mean that we should always use it

...if we don’t use our knowledge or skills, these will be degraded and eventually forgotten and lost.

Source: Mirjam Neelan, 3 Star Learning Experiences

Mike Bell’s Take

Reading that reminded me of something else I’d read about the brain in Mike Bell’s The Fundamentals of Teaching

When repetition leads to long-term memories, there are physical changes in the brain. Brain memories disappear very quickly unless they are repeated. Our brains are made up of billions of nerve cells or neurons, all connected together. We form memories when some of these pathways become strengthened by being repeatedly used.

Bell isn’t the only one with a great explanation.

Zaretta Hammond

Zaretta Hammond, in Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain, explains it like this:

When the brain is learning something new, it clusters neurons together to create a neural pathway…when we go back and forth along this pathway, it helps drive new learning deeper into long-term memory until it becomes automatic or deeply understood.

Fascinating stuff.

Mirjam Neelan, in her blog entry How to Support Learning for a Brain That’s Becoming More Stupid Over Time, suggests these actions to address the issue of how tech makes us stupid:

  • Spend more time on analysis. Could this involve more Claim-Evidence-Reasoning, Critical Thinking heuristics like Polya’s
  • Integrate learning experiences into the work
  • Build stamina in critical thinking and analysis.

You’ll want to read Mirjam’s blog entry, but in the end, we need to focus on more retrieval practice, rely on evidence-based instructional strategies. 

Of course, there’s also a case to be made for…not filling your brain with bunk.

“As you acquire more memories, more and more of them become associated with familiar cues. It becomes harder and harder to retrieve any particular memory. “ (source)

I guess, if you don’t want to store memories for the long-term, resolve to never think of them.