Print-and-remember VS read-on-screen-and-forget

In September 2014 on September 5, 2014 at 2:17 pm

Kirsit desk 124604347_ee1cc3caa5_b

Kirsti: Recent research has shown that if we actually write stuff down — you know, with our hands using a pen and paper — that we are more likely to remember it than if we type it on a computer or tablet, or if we take no notes at all.

I totally get that. I have always been aware that I learn more deeply, and access my longer term memory when I take notes, whether it is during a seminar or workshop, or as I read a paper or book. I meticulously scribble concepts, quotes, make lists, indent sub-points and relate ideas and epiphanies as I listen or read.

But all these electronic papers….I mean the sheer NUMBER OF THE BASTARDS that I have to read, digest, understand, paraphrase and use in my current work….I just can’t justify printing for the sole purpose of taking notes.

Although deep down I know that printing and note taking would lead to the best learning outcomes, there are a number of ridiculous excuses that I constantly cycle through in my head to explain my own behaviour to myself. 

Excuses include:

  1. Printing uses paper –> paper will clog my life and kill trees
    (NB I do acknowledge sustainable sources of forest products exist, since my life-partner is in this business)
  2. I don’t have enough space in my filing cabinets for all those papers
  3. I will never be able to find the one I’m looking for when I need it quickly
  4. Printing papers is kind of like printing emails, and that’s just wrong
  5. Everything else relating to work is neatly filed and works electronically, so the reading of papers should work that way too.

I do seem to print the odd one that I must take home with me or use in classes, or give to students. However I think that if I am really truly, madly and deeply going to get anything out of these damn articles I am just going to have to print them. Take notes on them. Highlight stuff. Jot ideas. Use exclamation marks. All that.

Is anyone else out there struggling not to just simply read the volume of information available on a screen, but take it on board, understand it, synthesise and organise it, and remember key messages?

[image thanks to Peter Lindburg on flickr

  1. To answer your question, yes. I find Evernote helps with the storage problem (pictures of physical notes). Only printing out what I am currently working on.

  2. Thanks for the comment Matt! Kirsti will be pleased to hear from you too.

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