The pen is mightier than the keyboard for working memory – putting ict into perspective in the classroom


I had a very interesting conversation with two math teachers this morning after they attended a conference on Saturday about how to activate and engage students working memory. Surprising to both myself and my two teachers, ICT did not get a good wrap. This has been a topic of conversation for many weeks as at the school I work the grade 8’s have to complete math space once a week. Unfortunately, the results have not been fantastic which may be surprising to those who believe that ICT is the only tool to engage students. I am not a person who usually sits on the fence and when ICT was first introduced into the classroom, I was on board for every educator to ensure they were doing what they could to support the learner in this tool set. However, after many years and many studies, the research is showing that possibly the use of ICT isn’t the best teaching pedagogy for every classroom or every student.

Computers may dominate our lives, but mastery of penmanship brings us important cognitive benefits, research suggest.

Now, do not get me wrong. ICT usage definitely has a place in the classroom. But when we talk about ensuring learners have a great working memory (this will assist them long into the future) a recent study in the journal Psychological Science illustrates that using pen and paper, not laptops, to take notes boost memory and the ability to retain and understand concepts. Lizette Borrelli has a great article about this which I would encourage every educator to read and reflect on. After chatting this morning to my teachers, I wanted to test this theory. I have a student that I assist in class and she loves to type her notes. So, I let her go and after the lesson (where other students had to write notes) I asked her about what she had written. I then took three students out of class (another one student that had typed and two students that had handwritten the notes), the two that had to handwrite the notes had a great concept on what our learning goals were hoping to achieve while the other two students did not have the greatest grasp on what they had typed.

Bringing this back to my perspective – do I use ICT when writing my notes??  … Hmm hard question – if I am researching, then yes (it is much easier to copy and paste articles and so forth) but when I am actually working on my outline and starting to write, I go the old fashion way and put pen to paper especially when studying for an examination. Hannah’s latest blog about questioning the motives behind integrating ICT into the curriculum and are we more concerned with the future, makes me question the balance. I agree that with the rapid development of technology in todays society but does it need to be used in every lesson?? Every day? Nope. Definitely use it in your classroom but base this on the students you have in the classroom. It is still important in our society that learners know how to write notes, spell correctly and use correct grammar and punctuation. They may not learn this completely with the use of computers in each subject.

balance1So by all means, ensure that you are enriching your students learning journey using all different forms of learning tools, just ensure you are using a balance to guide our learners into the future and beyond.




Borreli, L. (2014). Why using pen and paper, not laptops, boost memory: writing notes helps recall concepts, ability to understand. Retrieved 7 March, 2016, from

One thought on “The pen is mightier than the keyboard for working memory – putting ict into perspective in the classroom

  1. I also write it on paper mostly – I find I retain the information better than just simply ‘copy and pasting’ although it is definitely helpful for this especially when adding quotes to our blog, to retain and take it in – writing it down for me works best.


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