Millennial Traits and Effective Habits

With note-taking, students need to choose between convenient efficiency and conceptual.

Kyra+Kolim

Kyra Kolim

Yujeong Ok

We live in a society shaped by the digital world, in which rapid advancements in technology influence our ways of thinking, learning, and communicating on a daily basis. As smartphones and laptops become even more ubiquitous, the prospect of taking notes by hand seems antiquated.

Many of us think that writing is dying. Since 2013, compulsory courses teaching cursive handwriting have been left out of core standards in US public schools. The implementation of basic computer skills and software programs has deemphasized handwriting across most worldwide curriculums. While no one knows precisely how much handwriting has declined, the past two years of online learning undoubtedly exacerbated an ongoing trend within the JIS community.

Nearly 87% of JIS high school students agreed that handwriting has declined. A mere one or two students went as far as to say that their handwriting skills improved. According to senior Poppy Holben, online learning “drastically lessened the amount of time [she] spent handwriting per day.” Senior Samantha Meyer adds that “[her] handwriting [wasn’t] very good to begin with, but it’s definitely gotten worse after learning online.”

WRITING BY HAND

Over the years, the question of whether handwriting or typing should be used has prompted grounds for heated debates. Although the Los Angeles Times editorial board claims that “states and schools shouldn’t cling to handwriting based on the romantic idea that it’s a tradition,” neuroscientists believe that relinquishing handwriting will impact abilities of the future generation to read and write.

While computers may dominate our lives, most experts have concluded that penmanship mastery is still a relevant skill for 21st-century students. As stated by IB/AP Coordinator and IB psychology textbook author Mr. Darren Seath, “it is the unintended [benefits of] handwriting…there are certain things about it that can’t be replicated with a keyboard.” These qualities include effective memory recall, sharpened critical thinking, and stronger conceptual skills.

Handwriting generates numerous cognitive processes. It compels us to think more thoroughly about the type of information we record, forcing us to summarize, paraphrase, and rephrase diverse information. “So you would listen, you would pause, and you would write,” Mr. Seath says. “And in that pause is the magic that doesn’t happen when you’re typing. [From] a cognitive perspective, writing allows us to make connections between things a lot better.”

By organizing information into our own words, we construct spatial relations between bits and pieces of recorded information. This assists us in creating personal interpretations and explanations which resonate best with us. Our brains mentally engage with information, enhancing both literacy and reading comprehension skills. Mr. Seath emphasizes that, “In terms of understanding, recreating information in our minds and writing it down is a huge value.”

The movement associated with the pen is what helps us encode and retain information. Mr. Seath attests that, “You’re probably okay with an iPad as long as you’re moving the [stylus].” Junior Isha Borole acknowledges these benefits, stating, “I personally prefer to take notes by hand on a notebook or an iPad. For me, it’s a better way of learning since it helps me fully recall and process content for understanding.” Another senior concurs: “When preparing for summatives, I prefer to take notes on a notebook. For social science, I only use handwritten notes.”

Though a little timeconsuming, longhand notes serve as memory cues by recreating the content from an original lecture, lesson, or meeting. This process allows for effective longterm memory recall. Mr. Seath is careful to note that “writing is not inherently better than typing. Rather, it’s the type of thinking that occurs that sets these two mediums apart.”

TYPING ON KEYBOARDS

Nowadays, students gravitate toward the accessibility of smaller and more convenient screens. Along with school laptop implements, improvements in technology makes it difficult for JIS students to rely solely on handwritten text. Many students prefer to type while utilizing modern online tools for conveniency.

As an example, one freshman asserts that online programs allow for better note structuring. A sophomore also highlights the effortlessness of reorganizing online written notes since information can easily be “moved, deleted, or copy-pasted.” She further described how “not having to worry about her handwriting getting messy or going all over the place” is reassuring. Mr. Seath acknowledges these benefits: “Your organization is so [accessible]. Suddenly, every note you’ve taken is [searchable via Command+F]. This something you don’t get from handwriting.”

Students who learn to touch-type can also work faster without glancing at their keyboard. With auto-correcting systems, fixing spelling mistakes and grammatically inaccurate phrases may also be disregarded for later notice. According to numerous JIS students, these qualities give typing its biggest advantage. “Typing is so much less time-consuming than handwriting,” comments one junior. “What may take over 40 minutes to write can be typed in less than 20 minutes.”

However, this same advantage denotes the most significant limitation of typing. “We don’t listen when we type,” Mr. Seath states. “We’re simply [repeating] things just as a computer would, which leads to shallow comprehension.” Compared to handwriting, typing demands less attention and deliberation. It lacks the psychological processes that pressure our brain to reflect. Mr. Seath remarks, “Sometimes, we get so busy typing that we don’t fully comprehend the actual information being recorded down.” This type of mindless transcription leads to superficial recording of concepts.

THE PROBLEM WITH GRAMMARLY

Complete reliance on typing can be critical for juniors and seniors taking the IB and AP exams. Alongside issues of handwriting incomprehensibility, this escalates dependency on autocorrecting software such as Grammarly. Autocorrection will not be available on any IB or AP external exam. Consequently, many juniors and seniors find it arduous transitioning altogether from spellcheck.

“I used to rely heavily on Grammarly,” says a senior taking the IB program. “But relying on any auto-correcting software makes you a passive writer, which is no good for IB external exams.” Poppy also attests that she relies on Grammarly to “help pinpoint little errors and mistakes.”A few underclassmen express sharing similar worries for their upcoming years. One freshman said, “I get worried since English is my second language, so I rely on Grammarly quite a lot.”

When questioned about upcoming IB and AP May exams, Mr. Seath admits that, “it’s something [he thinks] about all the time now.” Alongside having genuine concerns, he continues by describing how handwriting feels like a thing of the past. Convincing juniors and seniors to get comfortable enough to “write [by hand] about complex ideas and get them to where they need to be for their exams” is a challenge.

KEEPING HANDWRITING ALIVE

Taking these issues into consideration, many JIS teachers insists that high school students get into the practice of taking notes by hand. “Instead of ramping up from grade six, we’re now ramping up from the second semester in junior year or senior year,” says Mr. Seath. “So I have every confidence that we will be able to do it.”

When asked to advise freshman and sophomores planning on taking the IB or AP program, many upperclassmen gave closely related, if not the same, tips and strategies. “By the end of any exam, my hand feels strained,” reports a senior. “It’s a lot of writing, especially for the IB program. So I would suggest [underclassmen] to at least get into the practice of writing handwritten notes.” To help improve our handwriting habits, one junior also suggests using “handwritten class notes, diary entries, or even just writing out [a] grocery list.” Another senior supports this notion. ”It’s true,” she says, “Although it doesn’t seem like much, it’s going to help you a lot later on.”

Yanne Sijim

Fortunately, a few students report becoming more accustomed to handwriting throughout their final high school years. “I don’t rely on autocorrecting very much now. Partly because I’m a grammar police myself, but also because I use handwritten notes,” claims one senior. Another adds, “Compared to junior year, I feel like I don’t rely on Grammarly as much. Although Grammarly can be really helpful with typos, I try my best not to make mistakes.”

In both Eastern and Western cultures, handwriting is known to represent one’s mindset or personality. For this reason, children in the past were taught to correct, refine, and polish their handwriting from a young age. In today’s advancing world, maintaining old traditions like this can be an obstacle.

Nonetheless, preserving our handwriting has never been more essential. This leaves us questioning: how can we keep our handwriting alive in these everchanging times? The truth is, many of us expect that the significance of handwriting will soon become obsolete altogether. Regardless, handwriting is still an influential part of our lives as students. The importance of handwriting coherency in written exams goes without saying for AP and IB evaluators. However, as students, we should also be able to recognize our own handwriting properly. For students who are constantly evaluating their skills, learning to have adequate handwriting may be more necessary than expected.