Updated: Mar 5
| by Thuy Truong, M.A. Ed., TPT Teaching and Coaching, 1/26/2021|
Living in the digital age, we all think of computers and laptops as go-to educational tools to arrive at academic success. While these technological advancements are helpful, they don't replace the natural processes that our brain needs to go through to learn something new. I propose using organic methods such as handwriting notes to leverage our cognitive power while simultaneously optimizing the technologies of the age to make our education more thorough and complete. Below are tried-and-true methods to commit concepts into long-term memory and thereby help us advance our online learning routines to the next level.
Always Take Notes In Your Own Words
The act of taking notes activate our brain by putting it into the gear of learning. When you take notes alongside a PowerPoint presentation, you are taking in the information from your perspective by putting things in your own way. Because you had put it in your own words instead of copying down what the teacher said word for word, you are forcing your brain to remember information in a very unique way-YOUR WAY. In the end, this is a significant boost for your memory. Taking notes also helps make what you learn more interesting since you can do visual notes with interesting pictures if you have an artistic bent, you can also organize information in an interesting way sequentially. In addition, you can associate what you're learning with personalized stories like cartoons. The more unique your notes, the more you remember. Make it you!
Review Notes Right After Class
Research indicates people forget 50-70% of what they learn in 24 hours if they don't do any activities such as homework, review, or writing to help them remember what they just learned (The Forgetting Curve). The best way to combat this is to review your notes right away after a class. This means you would write new information out by hand a few times until you remember the gist of it by heart. The more you rehearse the new information, the deeper it stays in your memory. This is to make sure you understand the materials thoroughly and to also make sense of harder topics that were covered. Our brain needs time to absorb harder concepts, but once your brain gets the concepts, you will most likely remember it forever. The most important point here is you've got to set aside time to digest the information cognitively, let your brain do its magic by physically reviewing notes the same day you learned something. This is like deep conditioning for the brain. The longer you wait to do the deep conditioning, the less the brain will remember. The more you remember will matter a lot because it will boost your performance on class exams and papers.
Quiz Yourself Often
After handwriting new information a few times on paper and review your notes completely, you have to quiz yourself to test your memory and understanding of the information. Let's say you've learned three new basic concepts of writing an essay:
When you write quiz questions for yourself, you'll turn key concepts into questions. For example:
-What is a thesis statement? Write an example (this part tests your true knowledge because you have to apply what you learned).
-What is evidence? Provide an example.
-What is an explanation? Write an example.
Quizzing yourself lets you know which concepts you totally got and which you need to work on more to achieve a complete understanding. If you find yourself stuck, write exactly what don't you get about it, and email the teacher that specific question. The earlier you straighten out what you don't understand now, the better you'll do on future exams. Of course, taking your own exam also gives an extra set of practice to commit what you've learned into long-term memory, which increases the chance you'll get a higher grade in the course.
The truth nobody has ever said in modern education is that all learning must be practiced. As the old adage goes: practice makes perfect. When we first learn something new, our brain needs time to practice with that new knowledge. The more you let the brain practice the information, the more it remembers. In the end, this makes learning easier for you. The same principle applies to memory. Our memory must be reinforced constantly when we first learn a new concept. The more reinforcement you give yourself, the better you will understand and remember the concept. Computers and laptops are tools to visually represent what you have learned, but they don't replace the inner working that your brain has to go through to digest and absorb the information organically. That's where pen and paper come in, to put the ink into your memory, so you'll ace all the tests that will come on- and offline. There, now you know.
About the author:
I am a student success designer. I am able to recognize the missing puzzle in the student's learning and personalize that solution in a language that is unique to that student. I invent a new language for every child.