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Write or Type?

By: Andrea Lim

I had expectations with the last five subjects I am taking in Silliman. This semester (I claim it!), will be the last time I will feel the evolving Philippine education system – the shift from 10 to 12 years of education known as the K-12 shift.

With the K-12 implementation, curriculums have been updated and books have been upgraded to complement with the changes. Teaching methods and learning techniques are also evolving together with technological advancement. Most, if not all of my teachers last semester used laptops, flashed PowerPoint presentations of important notes, and held pointers instead of whiteboard pens. I would gaze at the projector screen and ignore the board. I am also one of those students who would take pictures of the screen instead of taking down notes using pen and paper at times.

Some of my teachers would allow us to open our laptops, iPads, and other mobile gadgets inside the classroom as well; they assumed that we are more comfortable with typing notes instead of writing them. Emphasizing typing over writing is a trend in schools and universities around the world. The Indiana Department of Education in US is one example: officials announced that the state’s public schools will not teach cursive writing and will ensure students are proficient in keyboard use instead.

However, as for me, this semester is different. I have a professor who walks inside the classroom without any laptop bag. The only thing he carries is a whiteboard pen. He would just write his lessons on the board. Taking pictures of PowerPoint slides are not allowed during my history class, too. My history teacher would strike a pose sarcastically while scolding every student who is caught doing so.

I am actually surprised (and on the verge of complaining) because they disallow convenience, but I learned to be grateful that they impose traditional ways of teaching and learning – like writing notes and lectures instead of typing and projecting it – to be retained. Even if writing is more tiring than using gadgets to take down notes, it helped me store and understand lessons easier.

According to a study conducted by Psychological Science US, using pen and paper instead of gadgets in taking notes boosts memory – from retaining to understanding concepts.

The psychological scientists conducted two experiments. The first one tested a group of note-takers using pen and paper and another using laptops. Both groups were given 30 minutes after a lecture to review their notes. In the second experiment, students were given a week to review for another lecture. The test contained questions on simple facts, concepts, and their applications.

The results showed that on both timeframes, students who wrote their notes got higher grades than those who typed. A part of the instructions before proceeding in the experiment was for the typists to not “just transcribe” the lectures, but the researchers found out that most of the typists’ notes are verbatim. The handwritten notes, on the other hand, contain supporting or ‘extra’ details either said by the teacher or thought of by the students in their group.

For the researchers, this leads to a lower quality of learning. And I agree. It is just different when we take notes longhand than typing them to gadgets. It goes beyond mere recording. It leads us to a higher quality of learning because it enables us to internalize what we learn from our professors. The movements involved when handwriting, based on scientific studies, leave a motor memory in the sensorimotor part of the brain, the part responsible for higher mental and emotional processes like memory, learning, speech, and interpretation of sensations. This part also enables us to recognize letters and establish a connection with what we have read or written. Scientists proved that since writing by hand demands a longer period of time than typing on a keyboard or tapping on cellphone screens, what we learn will retain more due to longer period of exposure to the notes.

So, I would not criticize my teachers’ rules and “just write it.”

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