Are you studying correctly?

Working at a university is a great experience, except for the week or two leading up to finals. The pressure ratchets up and you can really feel it. While many students work hard the entire semester, just saying “test” or “final” increases anxiety and you can see the increased attention students give to tests at the end of a semester..

The folks at Scienedump (via have a great infographic on the “science of study”–putting into graphics the neural processes when we study (and this isn’t limited to just students–anytime we’re working on new information, we are studying). When you learn new information, your brain grows!

The science says that cramming isn’t effective for long-term recall, regular testing seems to lead to better retention, and night-owls perform worse on tests than others.

Keep those synaptic connections firing! Study new things a little bit at a time, over time, for the best chance to retain those memories.

Your Paper Brain and Your Kindle Brain

There’s no question that people are reading more on tablets, laptops, and desktops than traditional paper. Do our brains process information differently depending on the method of transmitting the information? According to this article by T.J. Raphael, the answer is yes.

Raphael writes:

Neuroscience, in fact, has revealed that humans use different parts of the brain when reading from a piece of paper or from a screen. So the more you read on screens, the more your mind shifts towards “non-linear” reading — a practice that involves things like skimming a screen or having your eyes dart around a web page.

There’s nothing wrong with non-linear reading, but it means that we’re not using the deep reading parts of our brain.

What do you think? When you read on a screen, do you tend to skim, or do you think deeply?

How computers change us

Here’s a really good article from the Washington Post’s Michael Rosenwald. The article looks at research that is suggestive that we skim more than we read deeply. What effect does that have on our brains? On our cognition skills? One of the money quotes:

“How much syntax is lost, and what is syntax but the reflection of our convoluted thoughts?” she said. “My worry is we will lose the ability to express or read this convoluted prose. Will we become Twitter brains?”

I work with students who are well connected and used to reading–skimming–in short bursts. Is this good or bad or indifferent? Is this simply the way it is and shall be in the future? Is there value to “deep reading”? Should we reward “convoluted prose” by taking the time to understand it, or does that type of work deserve to be skimmed over in favor of better written material?