Lower grades because of the use of longhand? | Belicons

Lower grades because of the use of longhand?

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Thursday 28 September 2017

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Lower grades because of the use of longhand?

Sometimes the news can surprise us when it turns out that something that we are very much used to, seems to have downsides too. For example, I cannot imagine any more not having a laptop and also when I was studying I was really happy that at one moment I didn’t need to write all my notes down, but that I could store them on my laptop.

But Tuesday night we suddenly heard in Nieuwsuur that a laptop during a lecture isn’t a helpful thing at all. Paul Kirschner, full professor Educational Psychology at the Open University, said (Dutch spoken) that students who take notes with a laptop get, on a scale of 1-10, in average 1.25 point lower during their exams than students who use longhand.

That sounds odd and it raises the question whether this isn’t actually about professors who just cannot get used to this era.

Why would it be unfruitful to take notes with a laptop?

This is the research that made some professors and students doubt whether it is sensible to take a laptop to a lecture. Pedro De Bruyckere also found two other studies that came to the same conclusions. So it seems that we need to take this seriously.

  • By using a laptop our brain doesn’t get the course material as well.

  • We are distracted easier because we can use Facebook or Netflix too.

  • Even when we search for related information we get lower grades.

  • A laptop affects other students too, because they can get distracted too.

  • It isn’t good for the ambiance during the lecture, since it is harder for the teacher to make eye contact.

  • Some information is just easier to write down on paper, for that reason students at the Technical University of Twente mostly do not use their laptops.

  • In multiple countries people have doubts about using laptops during lectures. For example, in The Netherlands and in The United States at the Stanford University and Princeton. And the research that started all of this Canadian.

Peiling: Docenten moeten laptops en telefoons kunnen verbieden tijdens hoorcolleges

Peiling: Docenten moeten laptops en telefoons kunnen verbieden tijdens hoorcolleges

Poll: Teachers should be allowed to prohibit laptops and phones during their classes

Poll: Teachers should be allowed to prohibit laptops and phones during their classes

Read the blog that goes with this poll https://www.belicons.nl/en/blog/students-laptop

Body 2: 

The conclusions of the mentioned researches seem to be crystal clear. So I think we can take those for granted. But the question still is what we should do with all this information. Should laptops really be forbidden during lectures at Universities? Or should we just learn how to deal with them?

Professors have opposite opinions

What strikes me in the news report of Nieuwsuur is that even the professors have opposite opinions about the question of how to deal with this.

Full professor Dutch Philology Yra van Dijk of the University of Leiden decided to ban laptops from her classroom after she read this research. The reason for that is that she is of the opinion that it is her responsibility to teach the students how to study. The beginning of each learning process is according to her concentration. The University of Leiden wants to debate about this with several professors and students and doesn’t have a general policy on this yet.

However, Jeroen Janssen, assistant professor Didactics at the University of Utrecht has a totally different opinion. He says that in his classroom there are only adults and thus they have the responsibility to make sure that they study well.

Why are we only talking about students and Universities here?

The first question that comes to my mind when I read all of this is that why this discussion is about adults, students and Universities only. Pupils at secondary schools and at professional educational schools also need to be also to learn how to study well. And don’t forget all the adults who take a course.

I can imagine that pupils in all these other learning environments will start to use a laptop or tablet more and more often. In that case they should have the right to know too why it would be better to take notes on paper. So we should include all learning environments in this discussion.

Children learn that media is important in school, adults get a different message

When I say all learning environments, I also mean children, otherwise we’ll create an unnecessary difficult situation for them. At this moment pupils in primary school already learn how important media is because they do more and more assignments on tablets and other media are also more and more integrated in their lessons. So in this age children learn at a very young age that media is essential to learning.

But when these children grow older they should suddenly learn that media isn’t always helpful. We can wonder whether they would even believe it by then. So we need to teach children at a young age already that media can be helpful at some moments but not at other. Only then they can really make a deliberate choice about whether to use a laptop to take notes when they are adults.

So I think that Janssen simplifies the situation too much when he says that his students are adults and should make their own choices. For at this moment, most of them just don’t know better and thus they just do what is most convenient.

Make this part of the educational system

So I would say, this should be a part of the whole educational system. As a start they could integrate this in lessons on media literacy in primary and secondary schools. In primary school they could learn playfully that they remember better when they take notes on paper. In secondary school they can get more concrete information about this.

However, when the pupils only hear about this during media literacy but in other classes all kinds of media are still being used, we will be giving a mixed massage to the pupils. So also primary and secondary schools need to think about their policies on media in their classes in general. Then the pupils will really understand what this is about and then, when they are adults, they will be able to make their own choices when they are going to college, University or when they are taking a course.

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I will create the vlog that goes with this blog soon!

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