by David B. Capes
Almost everyone these days shows up to class with a computer. I’m not sure exactly what people do on them because I only see the back side. They could be checking their email or posting on Facebook or, please God, they may be taking notes or keeping up with the class PowerPoint.
There is some new research which has come out which says that the act of writing is better than typing on a computer or other digital device when it comes to learning and retaining information. Why? First because writing engages a different part of your brain, a part more suited to memory and learning. Second, writing forces you to process information in a different way. In other words, it forces you to think more about what you are doing. People can type and be nearly oblivious to what they are typing. Third, research shows that it creates a better pathway for your memory and helps to facilitate recall. Last, writing things down is a different kind of kinetic experience (moving) which gives you an edge when it comes to remembering and understanding concept.
Now, I have to admit that I have sensed this for a while, but it has been confirmed by a number of things I’ve read recently from Michael Hyatt, who is a leadership guru and a giant techie. Still he has had to admit that going back to the old fashioned way of taking notes and writing down tasks is superior to just typing it on a screen.
One last thing. I alluded to it earlier. Computers and technology have a way of distracting us from what we should be thinking and doing. We’ve all seen families out to eat in a restaurant, and all are on separate devices. Instead of talking to one another and enjoying the meal together, they are distracted by what might be the phone. I have seen students on Facebook or email in class instead of being on track with a lecture or class discussion. Not a pretty sight, especially if your the professor. These devices do one thing well; they distract us from what is truly important.
So instead of going to Best Buy to get a new computer for class, just go to Walmart spend a couple of dollars on a notebook and a good pen (or pencil).
David B. Capes, PhD, is Academic Dean and Professor of New Testament at Houston Graduate School of Theology.