Note-taking, which has inspired many products, in recent years is now gaining terrain in learning apps. What was once a simple pen to paper exercise is now dealt with either laptop keys or for the more traditional and aggressively organised, heaps of columns, tags, coloured pens and the list goes on.
The debate between the pen and the keyboard is fast disappearing with students preferring to move to classes with their laptops, especially in western education organisations.
This is also been an area for research for long. Is it better to take notes with a pen and paper or on your laptop?
Cognitive neuropsychologists Audrey van der Meer and Ruud van der Weel from Norwegian University of Science and Technology have been researching this very point.
The pen makes the brain tick faster than the keyboard’s click
Many older studies have suggested that using a pen helps the mind retain information better. Van der Weel and van der Meer carried out a two month long research project with students to monitor and understand the differences in brain activity when different tools are used to study.
The researchers hooked students up to more than 250 sensors. The sensors monitored students’ brain signals as they finished tasks which included taking notes by hand and typing.
The results were different. According to van der Meer,
“This difference in activity is really significant, it tells us that using a pen to take notes means that the brain is able to process learning in a much more effective way.”
The researchers discovered that drawing by hand on learning apps activates larger networks in the brain than typing on a keyboard.
This pioneering research provided the first electrophysiological evidence that the brain behaves differently when writing or drawing using a pen compared with typing on a keyboard.
The researchers have concluded that rich sensory-motor experiences aid in learning. To put it simply, the physical movement of the pen makes the biggest difference. This movement was picked up by the sensors and resulted in different neural activity that governs all higher levels of cognitive processing and learning.
What if the pen went digital?
As the research findings outline, the pen has significant potential to enrich our learning and therefore has a place in education today, but not necessarily at the expense of our digital devices.
Youpal group’s Youschool works on a similar principle. With the pandemic, remote learning is the only way children are able to continue with their education. Youschool stresses on peer-to-peer learning to make online learning more inclusive and actually help students. The company has introduced a clip-on reflective device through which students can share their notes with their peers in real time. Students are able to solve problems for each other, show their work encouraging them to participate more positively in their online classroom and helping their note taking as well.
This makes the classroom a more engaging space to be in, and with online learning that’s the biggest plus point any parent would want for their child.
Going digital is not always bad, and combining traditional methods with learning apps to enhance digital ease is the way forward.