I don't know about you, but I would be completely lost without the BBC and consider it one of the major blessings of civilisation. In one manifestation or another it is on in this house most of the day and living in a time or place where that would not be possible is something I prefer not to contemplate. As I expect most of you know, the BBC publish a range of magazines to complement the superb programmes that they put out both on radio and television and we in the Senior Common Room take three of them, BBC Music, BBC History and BBC Focus.
As you can see, the Focus magazine concentrates on issues to do with all branches of the sciences and technology and those of you who live in the UK won't be surprised to hear that the current edition is packed with articles to do with Brian Cox's series on The Wonders of the Universe. However, it was a much smaller item that caught my eye over breakfast this morning. (I hope you're duly impressed - reading about science over the breakfast table - of course, you might not find that impressive at all, just terribly sad, but if that's the case I'm sure you'll be too polite to say so.) The article was a report on findings from Norway and France about the neurological impact of writing facts down as opposed to reading them on the computer screen. And I quote:
it's thought that writing is better, because when jotting down letters with a pen, the brain gets feedback from these 'motor' actions. This is turn helps fix what's been written in the memory.
Well, I would have to say to start with that I'm not sure that like is being compared with like here. Surely the comparison should be between writing notes with a pen on paper and typing those same notes onto a computer, however, I do have some sympathy with the view being expressed. I have always claimed that, unlike those people who don't know what they think until they hear what they say, I don't know what I think until I see what I write. Writing has always helped me clarify my thoughts and I find that that is the same whether I am writing by hand or typing onto a computer screen. In fact, thinking about it, because I can do the latter faster I think it is possibly more helpful here. When it comes to remembering things, however, having the experience of shaping the letters is, I find, extremely helpful and this has really been brought home to me lately by the arrival of my Kindle.
Now, don't get me wrong, I love my Kindle and I have no intention of being parted from it, but I am finding that when I make an electronic note while I'm reading I don't remember what that note was about in the same way as I would have done when I was jotting things in a notebook. Oh, yes, it's very convenient to have all those notes collected together for me in one place, especially as the passages I've highlighted are there as well, but somehow I don't seem to remember the points I was making as well when I do it in this form as if I had written them, rather more slowly but with that additional kinaesthetic element, by hand. Lately, I have found myself going back to the notebook even when I am reading electronically because the salient points of whatever I have been reading are proving to be less firmly fixed in my mind.
Clearly this isn't just my experience or the article wouldn't have been written, but I found myself wondering how other e-reader users felt about this. Are you using the annotating function to any large extent and, if so, do you find it as easy to fix points in your mind this way as you did when you were writing them down? I would be interested to know.
And, an additional note for those of you of a certain age who might feel that you are finding it difficult to remember anything. Yesterday morning that same wonderful BBC brought us Professor Lewis Wolpert, himself eighty-two, explaining that it isn't that we forget things but simply that the act of recall takes longer. I don't know about you, but I find that incredibly comforting.