Our kids are all about the gadgets. Their entire life experience is spelled out on Twitter and Facebook, so it's natural that they want to stick to what they know when it comes to homework and studying... file it all away electronically. But it turns out that, when we want to learn, we should avoid typing, according to a new study published in Psychological Science.
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We store everything on computers. We have "the cloud" to back up every important (and not so important) piece of information. Computers are becoming so ingrained in our culture that many elementary schools are giving children iPads loaded with educational software to facilitate learning. It's only natural that many educators and students turn to electronics when it's time to take notes in class, but a recent study shows that typing class notes is bad for learning.

Laptops vs. longhand

Studies in the past honed in on the students' ability to multitask and their level of distraction when using laptops. This new study, however, published in Psychological Science, took the idea a step further: "The present research suggests that even when laptops are used solely to take notes, they may still be impairing learning because their use results in shallower processing," according to the study's abstract. "In three studies, we found that students who took notes on laptops performed worse on conceptual questions than students who took notes longhand."

Even though students who type their notes can get the information down faster and therefore have more notes to review before test time, they retain less information than if they'd scribbled out that same lesson longhand. Why?

Processing and reframing

The research shows that, "whereas taking more notes can be beneficial, laptop note takers’ tendency to transcribe lectures verbatim rather than processing information and reframing it in their own words is detrimental to learning."

When you're writing out notes, you know you can't get it all down word-for-word, so your brain quickly processes the meaning of what you're hearing and gives you a condensed version to write down.

When you're writing out notes, you know you can't get it all down word-for-word, so your brain quickly processes the meaning of what you're hearing and gives you a condensed version to write down. This "processing" is skipped when we use electronics because we know we can get the information down much more quickly and accurately than with paper and pen.

Faster isn't better

In this age of quick information, we need to teach our kids that learning is a process, not a download. That sometimes the fastest way is not the best way.

But how do we teach that? We live in a world filled with road rage and online check-ins and instant TV. Nothing about what I do in a day models patient perseverance for my children. And my children will do as I do, not as I say. I always say, "Be the change you want to see in your child." So before you try anything else, focus on your patience as a parent. With your kids. With your spouse. With customer service. With the idiot driving under the speed limit on a one-lane highway.

Teaching patience

If that doesn't solve matters (over time, it probably will), Education.com offers, "One way to teach patience to kids is by distracting them for short periods of time, if they are demanding attention. Be sure to come back when you say you will. Your return to attending to them will reinforce the patient behavior." Read the whole article for many tips on teaching patience.

Cultivating patience in your children is something that will make their lives (and of course yours) exponentially easier. But, if you don't have the patience for patience-training, at the very least make them leave their electronics home from school. Their grades will thank you.

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