Should you Allow Electronic Devices in Your Meetings?


“It’s Not Just A Generational Thing”

By Wayne Kurzen


Those of you who are using an EOS® Implementer to help implement EOS® know that we have a policy of turning off all electronic devices during our sessions. Of course, I get some push back on the policy—and I understand that!  There are times I use an electronic device to take notes – saves time after the meeting.  But is it a net positive?

A couple of weeks ago while facilitating a client EOS® session, one of the leadership team members, let’s call him, Lance, insisted that I was stuck in the 19th century, and that the only way he could take good notes was to use his laptop – and in fact, he was using a “smart pen” (hand writes on a special paper that is translated digitally to a file on a laptop).  I finally acquiesced and said, “Ok, but please do not have your email open and turn off all of your notifications.”

Several times during our session I looked at him, and 100% of his attention was on his laptop. I could have said “Lance, your fly is open!” or “Your hair is on fire!”  He would not have heard it! I challenged him in an increasingly louder voice, “Lance, Lance, Lance, are you reading email?” He responded, “No! I am just trying to make sure that what I wrote was translated accurately in my laptop!”  Now we were discussing a very important issue that affected his department. How engaged was he in the conversation?  Hum!

If you think that the hand writing notes is just a generational thing for old fogies, I invite you to read the following excerpts from an article by Robert Lee Hotz, published in the Wall Street Journal on April 14, 2016.  Love to hear your comments.

Can Handwriting Make You Smarter?

New studies show students who take notes by hand in class outperform students who type notes. As more students use their phones, laptops and tablets in class, they may be surprised to learn they will have more success learning new material if they write.

Laptops and organizer apps make pen and paper seem antique, but handwriting appears to focus classroom attention and boost learning in a way that typing notes on a keyboard does not, new studies suggest.

Students who took handwritten notes generally outperformed students who typed their notes via computer, researchers at Princeton University and the University of California at Los Angeles found. Compared with those who type their notes, people who write them out in longhand appear to learn better, retain information longer, and more readily grasp new ideas, according to experiments by other researchers who also compared note-taking techniques.

“The written notes capture my thinking better than typing,” said educational psychologist Kenneth Kiewra at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, who studies differences in how we take notes and organize information.

Ever since ancient scribes first took reed pen to papyrus, taking notes has been a catalyst for the alchemy of learning, by turning what we hear and see into a reliable record for later study and recollection. Indeed, something about writing things down excites the brain, brain imaging studies show. “Note-taking is a pretty dynamic process,” said cognitive psychologist Michael Friedman at Harvard University who studies note-taking systems. “You are transforming what you hear in your mind.”

Researchers have been studying note-taking strategies for almost a century. Not until recently, though, did they focus on differences caused by the tools we use to capture information. Note-taking with a lead pencil, first mass-produced in the 17th Century, just isn’t so different than using a fountain pen, patented in 1827; a ballpoint pen, patented in 1888; or a felt-tipped marker, patented in 1910.

Today, however, virtually all college students have portable computers; lectures are the main vehicle for instruction; and the keyboard clatter of note-taking is the soundtrack of higher education.

Generally, people who take class notes on a laptop do take more notes and can more easily keep up with the pace of a lecture than people scribbling with a pen or pencil, researchers have found. College students typically type lecture notes at a rate of about 33 words a minute. People trying to write it down manage about 22 words a minute.

The very feature that makes laptop note-taking so appealing—the ability to take notes more quickly—was what undermined learning.

Kenneth Kiewra at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln

In the short run, it pays off. Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis in 2012 found that laptop note-takers tested immediately after a class could recall more of a lecture and performed slightly better than their pen-pushing classmates when tested on facts presented in class. They reported their experiments with 80 students in the Journal of Educational Psychology.

Any advantage, though, is temporary. After just 24 hours, the computer note takers typically forgot material they’ve transcribed, several studies said. Nor were their copious notes much help in refreshing their memory because they were so superficial.

In contrast, those who took notes by hand could remember the lecture material longer and had a better grip on concepts presented in class, even a week later. The process of taking them down encoded the information more deeply in memory, experts said. Longhand notes also were better for review because they’re more organized.

In one experiment, Dr. Mueller explicitly warned students using laptops to avoid taking verbatim notes, saying it would hurt their performance later. They couldn’t help themselves. “The tendency of people to take verbatim notes on a laptop is really hard to break,” she said. “It seemed really ingrained to type and type and type, even when you are told that it is not beneficial to your performance.”

Any notes are better than none, studies show. While handwritten notes may be more memorable, there is room for improvement.

At the University of Nebraska, Dr. Kiewra conducted 16 experiments to gauge the completeness of handwritten notes and found that people usually took down only a third or so of the information presented. Moreover, in their haste to keep up with the spoken word, people omitted important qualifiers, failed to record context, and skipped key details.

Because it requires such concentration, the process of taking notes itself can be distracting. Dr. Kiewra recalled that when he was still a student, one of his professors banned note-taking in class because he wanted students to pay full attention to the lesson. The teacher instead supplied prepared notes for the entire class.

Nonetheless, Dr. Kiewra recalled that he continued taking his own notes, cradling his head in his arms to shield his notebook as he wrote. One day, however, the professor caught him in the act.  “Mr. Kiewra, are you taking notes in my classroom?” he demanded. The flustered student dissembled. “I’m only writing a letter to a friend back home.”

“Oh thank goodness,” the professor said. “I thought you were taking notes.”

 To read the entire article:

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