Do you ever struggle to focus on what someone is saying? Struggle to keep our mind on a class or a lecture? When this happens, have you ever had a pen and paper handy and started to draw, scribble, sketch, make notes or just play around with the pen on the paper or pad. Many people try to hide this, as it is seen as a way of not paying attention nor focusing on the lecture or the person who is speaking. This notion couldn’t be further from reality. Research shows that making these drawings and sketches on the paper actually helps us process the information better, it helps us think so it really helps in solving problems.
One big enemy of this activity, aside from the notion that this activity shows disrespect to the person lecturing, is the increased use of technology to a point where we substitute paper with screens, eliminating the possibility of using a pen or pencil to do our “playful” scribbles on paper. You may rightfully say that it is possible to do this with our finger or e-pen on the screen, but the sensory input we get from it is not the same.
When we are exposed to verbal information and we sketch and scribble around the paper using our hands, we retain more of that information than if we didn’t scribble at all. Scribbling actually helps us to keep our focus, it’s a preemptive measure to stop our minds from wandering out and keep our focus.
There are different ways in which we take in information and learn: visual, auditory, reading and writing and kinesthetic. We are all strong (or weak) in different modalities. Some people learn best by hearing the information (auditory). Others are visual learners, learning best by reading or seeing a picture of what is being taught or discussed. While others must “do it” to understand (kinesthetic). In order to easily retain information and learn, it is good to use at least two of these modalities at the same time. Making our notes, drawings and sketches around our paper as we listen to someone speak (getting auditory inputs) is adding visual and kinesthetic input to enhance our learning, attention, focus and retention and thus improving our learning experience.
Substituting a screen for a pen and pencil can detract from the learning experience. Let’s not lose this natural human tendency by following misguided concepts that lead to the complete substitution of pen and paper by screens. We should embrace it instead, providing the tools for this activity.