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  • Writer's pictureChris Gibbs


As I headed into a meeting one morning at a hotel, it felt unusual asking for directions to the meeting room as a trainee rather than the trainer, when I found the room, I pulled my laptop out of my 'Mary Poppins' style bag and my note pad and a pen......

The last action earned me a strange look from a long-term friend and business associate. Why? Because I'm supposed to be a technology girl, who, in the 21st Century loves, sleeps and breathes all geeky tools and apps. At meetings I am seen typing notes and action lists straight into a tablet or laptop - so why, when heading into a software training session did I revert back to good old fashioned pen and paper?

Retention! I find that while learning new systems, I seem to remember so much more by hand writing my own notes. The unruly scrolls, lines with occasional arrows, triple circling of key points and even change of colour, may seem like random words and somewhat messy writing to any onlookers and they may not make any logical sense, but the pure act of writing my own notes helps me to learn and retain information during the early days of working with any new system. Just a glance back to a page with one key word can be the nudge my brain needs to open the floodgates for an entire process. Even away from work, I've found the pure action of writing something down will form a memory - have you ever written a shopping list and promptly left it on the kitchen table? Then when you remember the list, you have a better chance of recalling a mental image of the items on the list, rather than if you hadn't written the list in the first place.

I wondered if this was just me, so before introducing a recommendation of hand written notes to accompany my training documents and check lists, I quizzed friends and colleagues. I was overwhelmed by the response and was relieved to find I wasn't alone! An overwhelming majority were in favour of making hand written notes. I even found myself in discussion with a friend who has an interest in neurological pathways and about how these are formed by repeat behaviour. An area for further investigation and research I think!

I then stood back and looked at the demographic of my friends and colleagues. I began to wonder if this was a generation 'thing' and the journey we had when it came to learning before computers, smart phones and tablets.

I will certainly be observing 'learning and retention' skills over future training sessions. I am very interested to see how Millennials make notes and whether they turn to technology or turn to the traditional method? Technology has advanced hugely during my lifetime, but I'm not sure the human brain and the way it works has when it comes to learning and retaining new information.

I am a huge technology fan, but I also believe that just because we can do something, it doesn't mean we should. I’d be interested to hear from you and I would love to know your thoughts on how you learn and if hand written notes are an element of the key to your success.


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