The New York Times had a fascinating article yesterday about new research on the benefits of handwriting. It also says that keyboarding (and by extension, tablets) just don’t provide the same benefit. Note, this article is in the Science section, not the Opinion section.
Three quotes really stick with me on this:
The Common Core standards, which have been adopted in most states, call for teaching legible writing, but only in kindergarten and first grade. After that, the emphasis quickly shifts to proficiency on the keyboard.
Come back to this thought as you reach the end of the article. Also:
Children not only learn to read more quickly when they first learn to write by hand, but they also remain better able to generate ideas and retain information. In other words, it’s not just what we write that matters — but how.
Two psychologists, Pam A. Mueller of Princeton and Daniel M. Oppenheimer of the University of California, Los Angeles, have reported that in both laboratory settings and real-world classrooms, students learn better when they take notes by hand than when they type on a keyboard. Contrary to earlier studies attributing the difference to the distracting effects of computers, the new research suggests that writing by hand allows the student to process a lecture’s contents and reframe it — a process of reflection and manipulation that can lead to better understanding and memory encoding.
In the last one in particular, simply typing a lecture verbatim is not sufficient. One must synthesize the information, write that in the notes, and actually write it. In other words, the focus on keyboarding is simplifying something that’s only effective if not simple. It make’s me recall the one line from JFK’s moon speech:
We choose to go to the moon … and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard…
There is a benefit to working hard and doing things that are hard, especially in learning. Sometimes the best results are when extra effort are required. Skip the really technical parts of the NYT article if you’d like (e.g. parts of the brain), but this is real science. It says what HSE 21 is doing is not necessarily what our students need to be doing. There is a reason to focus on the real basics.
UPDATE: Here is a link to an article at Scientific American that goes into Mueller and Oppenheimer’s work on note taking. It’s pretty unambiguous on this point.