The Benefits of Studying Without Screens

As students, we are all familiar with the late-night cramming, drinking gallons of coffee to help stay awake until that essay is written, and wondering why we didn’t prepare an outline to help navigate our points. We procrastinate when it comes to reading textbook chapters, furiously trying to take notes in the hopes that we remember enough for upcoming tests. And we are doing it all on our laptops because speed is the name of the game and nobody has time to write that stuff down. Besides, who can read their own handwriting after mainlining caffeine during the study process. 

But there are multiple reasons that handwriting is the way to go when it comes to studying. You’ll be happy you ignored the laptop and grabbed a notebook and pen instead. Studies by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim show that handwriting activates more areas of the brain than typing on a keyboard. When you write, the intricate movements activate more of the brain. The opposite is true when you type on a keyboard; you are blindly typing, using the same movements to type each letter and this does not stimulate much in the brain. When you write, the brain needs to think about each letter and pull its shape from memory. Your eyes must watch what you’re writing. Your hand presses the pen to create the letters and form the words. All these actions together stimulate learning. You have to slow down to write and this process really opens up learning central in your brain. 

Take notes by hand but then use the keyboard to type up the essay – that’s when the speed is necessary. You must think when you’re writing, though, and taking notes or preparing an outline for that essay is a good time for that. You want all the best information for the finished paper or assignment and you’re going to get it when you take the time to handwrite your notes. 

There are also benefits to ditching technology when it comes to reading the textbook. There are various opinions as to what makes paper text better than digital. Some feel that the flicker and glare of the screen taxes the brain, which impedes the comprehension process. Then there’s the idea that spatial memory for the location of a particular passage or graph on paper texts help with recall and understanding. And of course, for many it is the distraction that the internet holds for many of us; the ability to look something up online and then hours pass without studying because we get sidetracked. 

For one instructor, though, none of the above were problems for her students in the controlled conditions of her studies. Instead, she determined that for many of the students that read digital texts, they overestimated their reading comprehension. Naturally, we all want students to be confident in their abilities, but overconfidence can impede their reading comprehension. It means they don’t put the same effort into the work so their comprehension was less than they thought it would be. 

It is important to realize that there are benefits to using technology to study and write essays or homework papers. Once your notes are written out and an outline has been put together, using a computer to type your essay is essential. This is when speed is necessary. Naturally, using the internet to research a topic is also ideal when studying. There is endless information at your fingertips when using the internet for research and students learn early in college classes how to best research scholarly papers for assistance on any topic. Just keep in mind that it’s important to keep the brain active and working to its fullest potential and handwriting will help you do just that. 

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