Photo-taking helps students remember slide content: Taking camera-phone pictures of slides helped students remember both the slide content and spoken-word-only content

Students often take camera-phone photos of slides during an instructor’s presentation. But the question has lingered whether this practice helps students remember information.

A first-of-its-kind study answers the question, finding that taking pictures of PowerPoint slides during an online presentation helped students remember the slide content better than for slides they did not photograph. The study was recently published in the Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition by UC Riverside psychology professor and researcher Annie Ditta.

In both experiments of the two-part study, students were asked not to study the photographs before testing. Does the act of taking the photograph itself help students better remember the content?

Other experiments have considered whether people retain information better when they photograph information. In those studies, many of them conducted in museum galleries to mimic photo-taking outside of a classroom, photograph-taking hindered peoples’ ability to remember the photographed content when they were later tested.

But Ditta’s is the first study that specifically considered the lecture slides students photograph as part of their academic studies. Not only did students remember content better when they photographed it, but students also better remembered complementary spoken-word-only content.

“Given that the floodgates have already opened regarding the use of technology in the classroom — particularly with the proliferation of online courses offered due to COVID-19 — it is wise to study how best to support learners’ use of technology in the classroom so we can understand how best to support their learning with these devices,” Ditta and her fellow researchers concluded.

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