In choices about life and learning, most people wouldn’t choose “difficult”. But in learning, difficult can sometimes lead to better knowledge retention. Perhaps you’ve heard that writing notes with a pen is more effective in remembering the content, and that although you can type more notes on a computer, you are less likely to retain any extra information that you do record.
If difficulty actually increases recall, and as some studies suggest, exercise following an intake of information increases the recall ability, why are classrooms increasingly turning to technology to aid students and ensuring that everyone is sitting still?
In most pre-literate cultures, knowledge was passed through song, dance, stories, arts, and ritual. These are still the way that many people learn, although most modern cultures don’t necessarily acknowledge the different ways we apply these ideas in learning.
Of course there are many different ways to learn, and each person is unique in their own way. Technology has definitely changed how we consume information, but whether it has helped us retain it is another question. Apparently we each now have 2 “brains” – the one in our head, and the other outer brain which is made up of technology and the collective mind of others.
What do you think? Is technology helping us learn, or just changing how we store and access information? Do you have an example of a desirable difficulty that helped you learn something better? Let me know in the comments or on Facebook.