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The benefits of studying without a screen

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Written by Ida Ghramm

Photo by Louis Bauer from Pexels

As students, we all know about cramming late at night, drinking gallons of coffee to help us stay awake until this essay is written, and wondering why we haven’t prepared a plan to help us navigate our points. We procrastinate when it comes to reading chapters of textbooks, furiously trying to jot down notes in the hope of remembering enough for future tests. And we do all of this on our laptops because speed is the name of the game and no one has time to write these things down. Also, who can read their own handwriting after introducing caffeine during the study process.

But there are several reasons why handwriting is the way to go when it comes to studying. You’ll be glad you ignored the laptop and grabbed a notebook and pen instead. Studies conducted 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, complex movements activate the brain more. The reverse is true when typing on a keyboard; you type blindly, using the same motions to type each letter and it doesn’t stimulate the brain much. When you write, the brain has to think about each letter and pull its shape from memory. Your eyes must watch what you write. Your hand presses the pen to create the letters and form the words. All these actions combined stimulate learning. You have to slow down to write and this process really opens up the learning in the center of your brain.

Take notes by hand, then use the keyboard to type the essay – this is where the speed is needed. You need to think things through when you write, 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 completed job or assignment, and you’ll get it when you take the time to handwrite your notes.

Ditching the technology also has advantages when it comes to reading the manual. There are varying opinions on what makes paper text better than digital. Some believe that the flickering and glare of the screen strains the brain, hindering the comprehension process. Then there’s the idea that spatial memory for the location of a particular passage or graphic on paper texts aids in recall and comprehension. And of course, for many, this is the distraction that the Internet has in store for many of us; the ability to research something online and then hours go by without studying because we are distracted.

For one instructor, however, none of the above was a problem for his students under the controlled conditions of his studies. Instead, she determined that for many students who read digital texts, they overestimate their reading comprehension. Naturally, we all want students to be confident in their abilities, but being overconfident can hinder their reading comprehension. This means they don’t put the same effort into the work, so their understanding was less than they thought.

It is important to realize that there are benefits to using technology to study and write essays or assignments. Once your notes are written and an outline has been developed, using a computer to type your essay is essential. This is when speed is needed. Naturally, using the internet to research a topic is also great when you’re studying. There is endless information at your fingertips when using the internet for research, and students learn early in college courses how best to search for scientific papers for help on any topic. Just keep in mind that it’s important to keep the brain active and working to its full potential and handwriting will help you do just that.

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