Yesterday at work I was discussing the issue of note taking in the classroom with a colleague. Very few of our students seem to take notes; some claim to use their smart phone and others will bring a laptop. When I bring in a guest speaker, I don't allow typing of notes because I know it can be distracting. I have also always secretly felt that if they write it down, it will help them remember it. (Actually I have said this out loud to students and most ignore the advice!) But one of my top students this year does in fact use pen and paper to take notes during lectures. She's one of a few.
My colleague told me that she heard of a study that has made a link between cursive handwriting, which causes the muscles in the arm to be engaged, and the brain and memory. I came across a couple of items regarding this issue but am still searching for anything that would be more recent.
Today in my local paper there is an article that tells about a study that finds textbooks outperform e-books, that it is easier to grasp and retain information from print. The study was done in the U.K., by Kate Garland, a lecturer at the University of Leicester.
Specifically, she found participants in the study needed "repeated exposure and rehearsal" of on-screen material in order to grasp the same information. Paper readers were also "better able to apply the knowledge in the material from books."
The News services article in the Waterloo Region Record went on to explain:
"People recall information through episodic memory or 'remembering' which involves consciously identifying the context in which they learned something, and semantic memory or 'knowing' which doesn't require context. In the long term, 'knowing' knowledge is better because important facts are recalled faster and more easily, Garland says. Her findings suggest that the shift from 'remember' to 'know' happens earlier when participants read paper than when they read screens."
Daniel Wigdor, a computer science professor at the University of Toronto specializes in interfaces with new technologies. He says the problem with e-readers is that they lack physicality and tools, that the endless scrolling through pages can be "overwhelming, distracting and slow." He does believe that the way people read will shift and adapt to technology but that "toolmakers have to meet us halfway and give us things to do the kind of not just reading, but active reading that you need to do when you're learning."
I can relate. I purchased a e-book to read over my holidays and have now bought a paper copy so that I can highlight and find sections easily for reference. I also want to pass the book on to family and could not do that with my e-reader. But the books that I would just read once for pleasure and escape were great for the e-reader. I also could take lots of reading for the beach without taking up space in my luggage.