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PAPER MESS?

COMPUTERS and phones have become the go-to note-taking method for many. But your brain benefits from an old-fashioned pen and paper, says Hetty Roessingh, a professor of education at the University of Calgary.

Are you old-fashioned? I am. Check out my office, and you might be shocked when you see my mess of papers all over the place. Phone notes, new ideas for columns, conference notes, details from online meetings and so on and so on .

How about you my dear reader: do you pick up any old notebook and pen when you need them, or do you have a thing for Moleskines or Montblancs?

Let me quote Professor Roessingh again: "Whether or not you’re picky, know that tools for the hands are tools for the brain. Handwritten notes are a powerful tool for encrypting embodied cognition and in turn supporting the brain’s capacity for retrieval of information. And secondly, when you take notes by hand, your hands create a robust external memory storage: your notebook". Roessingh really speaks to me from the soul.

Taking notes by hand is a win-win, and belongs in every student’s cognitive tool kit. Learning how to take notes by hand effectively, and how to ingrain note-taking as a key learning and study tool, can begin as early as grades 3 or 4, but it’s never too late to begin. Yes Professor, I strongly agree, and I am no more ashamed about my messy office.

Of course, we live in a digital age where daily functioning involves digital communication. Automaticity in keyboarding is an important skill too, and the tools and applications for digital communication will continue to evolve and have their place. But keyboarding does not provide the tactile feedback to the brain that contact between pencil or pen and paper does — the key to creating the neurocircuitry in the hand-brain complex.

I am not sure if our laptops might seem faster and more efficient, but there are good reasons for having a paper-bound notebook and pen — any kind you prefer — at the ready. Or lots of notes somewhere placed at the office. And only I know where the notes are stuck.

Researchers have found that note-taking associated with keyboarding involves taking notes verbatim in a way that does not involve processing information, and so have called this “non-generative” note-taking. By contrast, taking notes by hand involves cognitive engagement in summarising, paraphrasing, organising, concept and vocabulary mapping — in short, manipulating and transforming information that leads to deeper understanding.

Experts say taking notes by hand engages your brain in different ways, makes you interact with the material in different ways, and overall, deepens understanding.

An interesting quotation comes from Leonardo da Vinci, who wrote: “…the more minutely you describe, the more you will confuse the mind of the reader and the more you will remove him from knowledge of the thing described. Therefore it is necessary to make a drawing … as well as to describe …”

If writing is a requirement of your profession whether in journalism, teaching, architecture, engineering, fashion and more, you already know the benefits and importance of note-taking and sketching. Worth to think about it.

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Email: doringklaus@gmail.com or follow me on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn or visit my www.germanexpatinthephilippines.blogspot.com or www.klausdoringsclassicalmusic.blogspot.com.

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