A recent article in Business Insider summarizes some research over the past year on the relationship between keyboarding and handwriting on note-taking and learning. The conclusions made here are stunningly shallow… that we shouldn’t use computers/keyboards for note-taking; rather, handwriting is better because it slows us down and allows to to “engage” more with the content as we summarize and organize it in our minds during the process of handwriting our notes. If the tendency for keyboarders is to do more of a lecture transcription with less thought, then perhaps the problem is that those note-takers have insufficient and flawed strategies for [digital] note-taking.
The parallel here could be that since fossil fuel-based vehicles pollute more, we should all go back to horses and bicycles. Thankfully, we are working toward more environmentally friendly vehicles and leveraging new technologies to improve our world. Why is it that where learning is involved, we are so quick to just blame the technology and fight to go back to a “simpler time” rather than strive to improve our relationship with it?
We have given far too much power to the technology and given up some of our responsibility in shaping it and shaping our world. There’s no doubt, that as John Culkin and Marshall McLuhan framed, “We become what we behold. We shape our tools and then our tools shape us”. However, at no point in this statement were we intended to give up our responsibility in shaping our society and our world. There is indeed truth to the statement that “we become what we behold”. In our idolization of technology and tech tools, many of us have [willingly] traded things like intelligence, kindness, wisdom, intimacy and empathy for the new shiny gadgets and the convenience of the easy and the instant.
Here’s a thought… how about equip young people to be valuable, contributing digital citizens who effectively learn with new technologies instead of just staying with desks in rows, lectures, pencils and worksheets? How about teaching them to be effective digital note-takers – yes, who also know how/when to pick up a pencil if needed? How about, as adults, striving to be essential models of citizenship and learning in a digitally mediated culture that our children so desperately need? How about including making and programming as a regular part of a modern curriculum (instead of an “Hour of Code”) because it is good for kids and their thinking as they tinker, problem-solve, create relevant things and express powerful ideas… because they could actually learn to be more than consumers of technology? How about choosing NOT to text while driving [while our kids watch]? How about choosing NOT to spend more time on social media that with one’s family? How about choosing to send a card to someone instead of a quick email? How about NOT yelling profanities and shaking our fist at the driver ahead of us [while our kids watch]?
How about choosing to learn to effectively take notes with a digital device?
How about that?