An investigation of finding out the best learning experience
Why does writing something down help us remember it better?
Using technology as a tool to research and take notes on may be useful in some cases, but yet not be the most effective way to take notes or look for information needed as we are able to find anything quickly over the Internet. The disadvantage of using technology is that one is able to find the research and notes necessary very quick, but we don't exactly remember about half the things we’ve just read on a website. On the other hand, having a piece of paper and pencil may actually be the answer to the best way to take notes. Research studies say that laptop use in classrooms may be doing more harm in classrooms than good. Many studies have shown that note-taking on technology has had a negative impact on students’ test scores. When it is time to take the exam or test, those who took notes on paper have benefited a better note-taking skill rather than typing them onto a laptop.
Writing stimulates many cells at the base of the brain called the reticular activating system (RAS). The RAS acts as a filter for everything your brain needs to process, giving more meaning to the stuff that you're actively focusing on at the moment—something that the physical act of writing brings to the forefront. In the book, “Write it Down, Make It Happen”, author Henriette Anne Klauser says that "Writing triggers the RAS, which in turn sends a signal to the cerebral cortex: ‘Wake up! Pay attention! Don't miss this detail!' Once you write down a goal, your brain will be working overtime to see you get it, and will alert you to the signs and signals that were there all along."
How does our brain learn?
Our brain cells are called neurons and we are born with at least 100 billion neurons. Dendrite fibers grow out of the neurons when you listen to/write about/talk about/ practice something in particular. Dendrites are grown only if a dendrite (fiber) is already there (from something a learner already knows.) Like tree branches, dendrites are able to grow only from a twig or branch that already exists. As learning is developed, dendrites grow higher and higher. Learning happens by the growth of dendrites. Yet it takes new dendrites a lot of practice and time for them to grow. This is why we have homework roughly every night. This is also because trying to cram everything in your mind the night before an exam doesn't work. Dendrites need a lot of time to grow and develop.
As two dendrites grow close together, a contact point is created. A small space at the contact point is what you call the synapse. As we learn, particular dendrites grow so that certain neurons connect at specific synapses to create much larger and more complex networks. There can be as many as 10,000 synapses (connections) per neuron (100 billion neurons.)
Synapses change in number minute by minute. Some synapses are strong, but some are weak. They are so weak that they don’t even send a signal. Through the act of learning, weak synapses can become even stronger. No matter the amount of synapses a neuron has, it still has the potential to grow more.
When you practice out something, dendrites grow much thicker with a fatty coating. As dendrites get thicker, the faster the signals travel. Thicker dendrites also explain why some people answer a question quicker than others. With enough practice, dendrites build a double connection that are faster, stronger, and last a very long time.
If we learn something new and practice it only once or twice, the dendrite connection is very weak and can disappear within a couple of hours. Within 20 minutes, you can only remember 60% of the material covered. Within 24 hours, you're only able to remember 30%. But if you practice within the 24 hours and later again practice some more, you could remember 80%.
It is also very important to feel confident when doing your schoolwork as emotions affect your learning. When learners feel hesitant or anxious, certain chemicals flow into the synapses to shut them down. When learners feel confident, different chemicals flow into the synapses, making them work quickly and better. This is why one should always have positive thoughts before taking a test such as “I can do this,” and “I am going to get a 100.” Yet feelings and emotions always affect reasoning and memory either in a negative or positive way. It can help us remember and make us forget material.
Dendrites only grow when you are actively doing something. Only you can grow dendrites. If you don't have the necessary dendrites in place, new material or information could just go through one ear and out the other.
If learners write down notes taught in a classroom, then learners will remember and gain more information than typing notes on technology, because the process of arranging ideas that are heard from a lesson will be more effective and lead to successful memorization.
Laptop and iPad
25-50 sheets of notebook paper (wide or college ruled)
5 pens (optional)
2 different video links to the educational videos that will be used for the experimentation (need to be a topic they have not learned yet in school from the curriculum they are following)
A note taking app on the iPad (Google Docs or Notability) or of your choice
Your own created survey for the testers to take before and after the experiment is conducted
Data table consisting of results of the experiment aftermath and the survey results
Gather all materials needed for the first portion of the experiment (writing notes learning style) based on the bulleted list of materials
Have the participant start answering the first question on a short survey that asks for their opinion on the best learning style
Pull up the 60 second (1 minute) educational video (video #1) that will be shown to the participant on a laptop or iPad
Provide the participant a sheet of notebook paper and a pencil/pen to start the first portion of the experiment (writing down notes)
Begin playing the educational video (video #1) as they will start writing down information being mentioned in the video
After the video is over, have the participant hand over the pencil/pen and sheet of notebook paper from where they took notes to the scientist
Now the scientist will have pulled out a bulleted list of information that was mentioned in the video
Start a timer with 120 seconds (2 minutes)
Allow the participant to say anything from what they remember from the video and their notes within the 120 seconds
Check off any informational points on the bulleted list as the participant mentions what they remembered from memory
Once the time is up, count how many bullet points on the list they mentioned within the 120 seconds
Give the participant the final results of memorized information as a percentage from video #1
Record the data of the results for the end of the writing notes portion of the experiment
Now for the typing notes learning style portion, gather the materials needed for the second test. (iPad and the laptop that was used for the writing notes portion)
Pull up the “Google Docs” app or any other note taking app of your choice for the participant to use to take notes during the video (“Notability” note taking app can also be used instead)
Pull up the other 60 second (1 minute) educational video or video #2 (different from the first video) that will be given for the participant to watch and take notes
One the video starts, allow the participant to start typing their notes on the iPad app (Google Docs or Notability)
After the video is over, close the note taking app (make sure to save the participant’s notes before you close the app)
Have out a bulleted list of points of information that are mentioned in the video
Start a timer with 120 seconds (2 minutes)
Allow the participant to say anything from what they remember from the video and their notes within the 120 seconds
Check off any informational points on the bulleted list as the participant mentions what they remembered from the video
Once the time is up, count how many bullet points on the list they mentioned within those 120 seconds
Give the participant the final results of memorized information as a percentage
Record the data of the results for the end of the typing notes portion of the experiment
Have the participant now continue the same survey they began from step 2, asking them what would be the best learning style that best fits them personally for a good school learning experience, after conducting the experiment
Repeat steps 1-26 for the other 24 participants needed to test for the experiment
Independent Variable –type of learning style.
Control – learning style of hand-writing notes.
Experimental group- typing notes onto a technology device instead of hand writing them.
Constant (s) - video’s time length (60 seconds=1 minute) and time given for the participant to recall their notes from both videos (120 seconds= 2 minutes).
While a participant would hand write their notes from video #1, he/she would quickly try to get any notes down from what was mentioned in the video. He/she would pay very close attention to both videos as they took good notes. As they hand wrote their notes in a fast pace, they mainly turned out to be scribbled and quite messy. Once it was time for recalling the notes they remember from which they took, many would mostly say them in the order that were mentioned in the videos. After 1 to 112 minutes of their 2 minutes given to say their notes by memory, they began to struggle saying any other notes that they could remember from the videos. Most of the participants got around the same amount of notes remembered per video. Participants tended to forget the last few bullet points on the list of words (notes) for each video. According to statistical data results, many people got a higher percentage of notes remembered for the first video by hand writing notes than in the second video by electronically typing them.
Add up all the scores for a video, then divide it by the number of participants (25), to get the average of that video’s performance score overall.
Sum of video’s scores ÷ number of participants= average percentage
To calculate the percentage for the survey responses, you:
Get the total number of responses for an answer choice, then multiply it by the number it needs to get the number out of 100 (ex: 13x4=52% since there is a total of 25 responses), to then get your percent.
Sum of answers for a category X # needed to get score out of 100= percentage score
In this investigation, the results show that the highest score for the most amount of information gathered is from the first video by hand-writing notes. The overall average score from the first video portion (hand-writing notes) was 50.60% and the average on the second video portion (typing notes) was 46.40%. Survey scores show that 13 out of 25 (52%) participants said that hand-writing notes is the best experience for note taking before conducting the experiment and after the experiment, 13 out of 25 (52%) said that both hand-writing notes and typing notes suits best for them to note take a new topic. For the second highest picked answer in the survey, 6 out of 25 (24%) participants said typing notes is better than hand-writing notes before starting the experiment and 10 out of 25 (40%) participants said that hand-writing notes is best. The following third most picked answer made before the experiment is 5 out of 25 (20%) participants chose to both hand-write and type notes and scores for after the experiment had 2 out of 25 (8%) participants chose that typing notes is best. The lowest picked answer before the experiment was the learning style of “other”, in which only 1 out of 25 (4%) participants chose and after the experiment, 0 out of 25 (0%) participants choose the answer choice for “other” and the best learning style. Overall, these survey results are showing that it is better to hand-write than type out your notes for a better learning experience.
Throughout this investigation, the experimenter observed an interesting pattern in the end experiments survey results as well as the overall average on the amount of notes remembered per video for each participant. Many of the participant’s scores for the first video of the experiment seemed to be a lot higher than those in the second video. The overall average score from the first video portion (hand-writing notes) was 50.60% and the average on the second video portion (typing notes) was 46.40%. According to the final survey results, before conducting the experiment, 13 out of 25 participants said that hand-writing notes is the best experience for note taking and after the experiment, 13 out of 25 said that both hand-writing notes and typing notes suits best for them to note take a new topic. Listening to participant's responses, it is clear that most people would much rather have both options to hand-write and type their notes and hand-write notes as their back up option if no technology is around, as the best learning style for knowledge gain. Statistically, the best choice to prefer is to hand-write your notes in class rather than typing them electronically. Based upon background research done before conducting this investigation, several resources mentioned that in order to fully learn a topic, it is best to physically take notes long hand than to type them. It is said that the action of writing out your notes is the best way for your brain to remember what you put down on paper longer. It’s also mentioned that one must practice a little everyday on a new lesson taught in class. This will allow dendrites to grow stronger, thicker, and grow out even more branches of dendrites that will help out with one’s memory. This is the reason of why school mostly hands you “overwhelming” stacks of homework each night the day after a new lesson has been taught. Concluding overall one must always complete their homework to successfully learn a new concept.
The experimenter’s hypothesis was supported very well, based on the end experimental results. The scores for hand-writing notes for the first video were higher but very close to the scores for electronically typing notes on the second video. Scientifically speaking, this means that hand-writing notes on paper might be a lot useful to gain more knowledge on a new concept than to type them on technology. Yet still, everyone is different and has a different perspective on the best learning experience that best fits oneself to learn. That is why according to my survey results, the highest answer picked for the best learning experience before conducting the experiment was to hand-write notes. The highest responses of the best learning experience for the participants were to actually both hand-write and electronically type their notes. Therefore, electronically typing notes for a class might not be the best overall choice to make, yet it still is a backup choice when no paper supply is around.
Sources of Error
Throughout the experiments, the experimenter could have made several tiny mistakes that have made a drastic change in the data results. Situations such as accidentally not being able to attend participants in time during the experiment might be an error. For example, when the participant was done taking notes from the videos and making them wait a while until the experimenter could get all the materials set for the next part. This might have lead to the participant starting to mix up all the notes in their head, making them forget some notes, and resulting in not giving exactly an accurate data results. Another error that was made is not paying much close attention to the gender amount from each participant. This could affect the final results because one gender might have overcome the number people from the opposite gender, causing unfair end results. Both genders might have different learning styles from past educational experiences. Another error might also be that each video’s concept might have been much easier for some people to take notes on and could manage to remember a lot more notes than others, thus why the average scores for both videos are quite similar to each other.
Ways that the experimenter could make improvements on this investigation or experimental design, is by maybe watch out more for ways that one could accidentally do something wrong that could affect the end data results throughout testing. A type of continuation experiment that could be made is to test for if by listening to music while taking notes either by hand or electronically, could make a greater influence in one’s learning performance.
This research is important because it may help the world gain more knowledge about how the brain works and its capability to do incredible things we might not know about ourselves. It is important to society as it might help others choose which learning style they should incorporate into their everyday life for a better learning experience, whether it’s writing notes by hand, typing notes, acting it out, drawing their ideas, etc. This research could help those read and explore what is the easiest way for their brain to arrange and organize given ideas for a much more successful memorization process.
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