The Connection Between Writing and Retention

(And Why Paper Planners Are Relevant in the Digital Age)

Students have a plethora of technology right at their fingertips. And as digital natives, they’re more than comfortable turning to digital solutions over old-school methods. Photo essays for art class? Not a problem. Typing up notes on a tablet? Perfect!

Or is it?

Well, according to research, not so much. It ends up those “out-of-date” methods for doing things actually come with big benefits, especially when it comes to retaining information. We’ve seen the craze for going analog in business with bullet journals, paper planners, and even digital notebooks that let you record your hand-written missives. People are rediscovering the power of the page — and we think your school should, too!

Understanding Working Memory

Working memory is basically where we put our mental sticky notes. It stores information temporarily to either be used and then tossed or helps organize new information and make connections so it can move into long-term storage. It’s one of the executive functions that helps us navigate our daily lives.

What does working memory look like in action? 

It looks like recalling the items on your shopping list even when not reading directly from it. It’s memorizing a phone number for just a minute so you can input it into your contacts. It’s getting and following directions to navigate a confusing hospital. 

Maybe this information is discarded within minutes. Or maybe it is converted for long-term recall. But in the moment, it’s relying on working memory. 

The Written Boost to Long-Term Recall

In so many ways, the brain is like a muscle; the more you use it, the stronger it gets. Studies have used brain scans to see how the various regions light up when typing vs. writing by hand. Both engage the brain, but when writing by hand, more regions light up, meaning they’re active and functioning. 

Handwriting engages our motor skills and visual processing. And yes, typing does, too, but not to the same degree. The motions are more repetitive, less fluid, and not creative. As a result, writing by hand is inherently more stimulating.

And this translates into better long-term recall. A Washington University study found that while students who type their notes have better immediate recall, after 24 hours, those who took notes by hand had better recall — and better test scores. This has a major impact across subjects. It comes into play with organization and planning, too!

Paper Planners and Hacking Memory

Most school planner companies give you the option of digital agendas, paper planners, or both — just like we do! So if digital is an option, why should you consider the analog way?

It’s all about using writing to hack memory. We’ve all had students miss assignments and other deadlines because … well, they forgot. And yes, part of not forgetting is consulting their planner. But whether it is by their side or not, using a paper planner makes it easier to remember things, just because they wrote them down!

If you are looking to boost memory, organization, and school pride, personalized school planners are an incredible tool to have on your side. If you haven’t already designed and ordered your planners, let us help. To get started, request your sample pack today.

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