The 2021-2022 School year is upon us.
Being considerate and engaged is important during each class period. Life is short, let's do some excellent work and not waste time when we are in room 808.
When students enter the room, as part of attendance/bell work, they will stow their phones in an assigned slot hanging on the wall. It is imperative that we maintain a phone free classroom as much as possible so deeper learning can take place. Surrendering the phone during class will help students in the mastery of content. The phone has been a major hindrance in developing student potential, especially last year.
We all saw it over and over during the pandemic year: students spent hours tethered to phones and Chromebooks every day. While such technology thankfully allowed for online learning that would have been inconceivable a decade ago, excessive screen time has been linked to a host of deleterious effects.
In a bid to reclaim some balance between digital and analog learning, I will require students to use paper notebooks this coming year. Paper notebooks can help draw young people’s attention away from screens, and they offer several educational benefits.
Using a notebook compels students to become more deliberate in the organization and presentation of their notes. Plenty of apps provide ways to create and manage notes, but I’ve found that using notebooks places more responsibility on the students to find, adapt, and stick to a method that works best for them.
Moreover, when students zero in on and practice a note-taking system that can keep them organized, they’re building a lifelong skill that can help them process and transcribe data and facts efficiently, which is relevant for a variety of professions.
Students using devices to take notes are often bombarded with updates, messages, and notifications, plus they’re distracted by the ever-present temptation to search the web. Authentic learning, however, requires concentration and deep, uninterrupted immersion in a topic.
According to University of Michigan medical professor Michael Hortsch, constant distractions might inhibit the mind’s ability to retain information. Similarly, psychologist Daniel Goleman has noted that the ability to focus is “more important than IQ or the socioeconomic status of the family you grew up in for determining career success, financial success, and health.”
Students might assert that they can adeptly juggle a multitude of tasks. However, research indicates that humans are not wired to multitask: According to the Cleveland Clinic, multitasking makes us “less efficient and more prone to errors.”
Paper notebooks alone won’t solve the crisis of concentration or the multitasking problem. Students will continue to daydream and doodle, but carving out a tech-free time to take notes or answer questions on paper allows students a short reprieve from digital distractions.
NOTE-TAKING BY HAND
Taking notes by hand (as opposed to typing) aids learning and the retention of information. According to Cindi May, a professor of psychology at the College of Charleston, “Students who used longhand remembered more and had a deeper understanding of the material.”
A study by Pam A. Mueller of Princeton University and Daniel M. Oppenheimer of UCLA compared students who typed notes with ones who took notes by hand. They found little statistical difference in either group’s ability to recall simple facts, but students who took notes by hand answered “conceptual application” questions—subjective, higher-level questions—better than those who typed notes. For teachers who don’t wish to mandate paper notebooks, there are note-taking apps such as Notability, Noteshelf, and GoodNotes that allow students to use a stylus to take notes by hand.