“We think we can’t go back to non-digital tools as a rule. If you don’t like keyboard input, the solution isn’t to abandon technology. It’s to develop higher-quality interfaces.” – Sharon Oviatt and Pam Mueller, USA

“We track the highest and lowest performers, and they experience technology differently. One of the things that we’ve found in our studies is that when you use the digital pen, the average [performance] of students improves. But we’re also finding less fueling of a performance gap. We don’t want to be using technologies that fuel a performance gap. So we advocate tracking of students at different ability levels, and looking at not just are we improving average levels, but are we maintaining performance, so we are closing – or at least not fueling — a performance gap.” – Sharon Oviatt and Pam Mueller, USA 

One of the more common refrains here at Daily Edventures is that, “one size does not fit all” when it comes to education. Indeed, this is the case, as each student, teacher, school and lesson is different. What may work for one person will not always be the best solution for another.  

As technology continues to advance and new devices, software and apps are released daily, taking stock of what can – and cannot – help students learn more effectively is vital.  

In the past few years, pen and touch-enabled tablet computers are becoming more commonplace, and for good reason: many studies show that hand-writing notes results in marked improvements in cognition and recall for students…much more so than keyboarding alone. Two experts in this field, Sharon Oviatt and Pam Mueller, were recently in town to present at The Workshop on the Impact of Pen and Touch Technology in Education (WIPTTE), and we had a chance to sit down and discuss their latest findings. 

Mueller, who is a graduate student at Princeton University (and, interestingly, the College Tournament Champion on Jeopardy) wrote, “The Pen Is Mightier than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking.” Her study, which has been featured in media throughout the world, suggests that when laptops are used, “solely to take notes, they may still be impairing learning because their use results in shallower processing.” 

Mueller notes, “We found that students did better – particularly on conceptual questions — when they took notes long-hand,” says Mueller. “And this was the case even a week later when they got to study their notes.”  

Oviatt, author of “The Design of Future Educational Interfaces,” is internationally known for her multidisciplinary work on human-centered interfaces, educational interfaces, multi-modal and mobile interfaces, pen and speech interfaces, and technology design and evaluation. Oviatt’s topic was “Computer Interfaces Can Stimulate or Undermine Students’ Ability to Think.” 

“I think that it’s most important that we continue building multi-modality to create flexibility in how students use tools because there are huge individual differences and linguistic differences,” says Oviatt. “So if we’ve got pen, that’s a content creation mode, it’s very rich. Gesture and touch are not, but it’s important for sensing and contextualizing what students are doing. Personally, I would like to see other modalities — like speech and other content creation modes — added in the future.”  

Here’s today’s Daily Edventure with Sharon Oviatt and Pam Mueller, where we delve even deeper into digital ink (and why it hasn’t taken off even more), and more. Enjoy! 

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