Thursday, March 31, 2016


Once a month or so, various colleagues share articles suggesting that note-taking via pen and paper is superior to note-taking through a laptop. Here is one such article from Scientific American. Here is an abstract of another article which argues the same thing.

I get the frustration. I really do. Currently, I am teaching a history course in a somewhat traditional ("reading and discussion") way. My department chair wants all students in the grade to have a broadly similar experience across the 3 teachers who are teaching the 5 sections, so while I tinker some at the margins and embed tech and (some) student choice in assignments, my class is not much different from my colleagues' classes.

During class, I admit and confess to wondering what my students are doing behind their screens. And when I check their notes, I am not always impressed. Now there are obvious avenues that are worth thinking about further (such as teaching mind-mapping tools, teaching kids to use apps such as evernote, thinking more about the difference between taking notes with a stylus and tablet vs. typing) . Yet, that's for another blog-post.

I have donated to a kick-starter campaign for RocketBook Wave which seems to marry the best of traditional note-taking with the organization and search-functions that technology affords. I hope to someday use this tool with my students.

as Alfie Kohn, Will Richardson and many others point out worksheet generators, Flubaroo, Kahoot, electronic whiteboards, plagiarism software,  etc...allow schools to do exactly what schools did 25 years ago. Yes, note-taking is an important skill. So is looking up information. I acknowledge this. But technology COULD let us do things we never could do before.

Also, I've written recently about the forgetting curve. Basically, if no attempt is made to retain information, we forget it. So, how much does it really matter how well we remember information SHORT TERM, if it is disappears anyhow?

So, what is a the appropriate response the next time I get an article such as the ones I link to above?

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