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Need to Boost Your Brainpower? Write–Don’t Type–This Down

Studies confirm what many have long suspected: When it comes to taking notes, handwriting matters.

image via (cc) flickr user chungholeung

When’s the last time you wrote something by hand? I mean really stopped, and took the time to put pen to paper, rather than simply type something out. Gone are the days when college lecture halls are filled with the sound of scratching notes being cranked out across reams of notebook paper. Instead, students increasingly take their notes amidst a cacophony of click-claking laptop keyboards, and the occasional, accidentally un-muted, *ding* of an incoming IM. But while technology has certainly made it easier to take more notes, more ways, in more places, that very same “more” is not necessarily better. In spite of the convenience typed notes may offer, research suggests that writing things down by hand may be significantly better for your brain.

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Will a Harvard Professor's New Technology Make College Lectures a Thing of the Past?

Thanks to Learning Catalytics, the "flipped classroom" and peer learning could revolutionize higher education.


Another sign that the college lecture might be dying: Harvard University physics professor Eric Mazur is championing the "flipped classroom," a model where information traditionally transferred during lectures is learned on a student's own time, and classroom time is spent discussing and applying knowledge to real-world situations. To make it easy for professors to transition out of lecture mode, Mazur has developed Learning Catalytics, an interactive software that enables them to make the most of student interactions and maximize the retention of knowledge.

Mazur sold attendees at the recent Building Learning Communities conference on this new approach by first asking them to identify something they're good at, and then having them explain how they mastered it. After the crowd shared, Mazur pointed out that no one said they'd learned by listening to lectures. Similarly, Mazur said, college students don't learn by taking notes during a lecture and then regurgitating information. They need to be able to discuss concepts, apply them to problems and get real-time feedback. Mazur says Learning Catalytics enables this process to take place.

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