Highlighting and annotating content: helping you learn and recall knowledge

July 22, 2020
June 26, 2023

Think back to your school or university days, you had all your notes written down or a text book laid out in front of you. All that was left to do was watch your highlighter glide smoothly over everything you deemed important—the things you believed you’d need to know later.

While we can’t help you replicate that feeling of colourful ink soaring across a page, we’ve got something even better. A more adult way of replicating your academic technique. In HowNow, you can highlight text in nuggets and courses, annotating them with notes that help you recall and reinforce important information. Once you’ve flagged them, you’ll find them saved in your highlights section and heading to your inbox as part of your email digest.

But, why is highlighting content such a useful tool for learning?

Make passive learning active and retain information better

Our journey through the classroom or lecture hall isn’t over. In your academic learning, did you retain more information when someone talked at you for an hour or when you were given a platform to participate in that session? The answer is most likely the latter because being active forces you to engage with and challenge the information in front of you.

Harvard research framed it best: “Study shows students in ‘active learning’ classrooms learn more than they think” and that’s despite some believing that they learnt more from traditional lectures—the study showed the opposite to be true.  

The same principle applies here, by highlighting the nuggets and courses you’re reading in HowNow, you are actively engaging with the content and increasing your chances of remembering it.

Highlight and annotate nuggets and courses in HowNow to learn actively

Spaced repetition: the less is more approach to recalling knowledge

Your brain can’t store or recall a lot of information at once. Instead, it needs cues of what’s important, like seeing something multiple times or being reminded of it on a regular basis. If you ever crammed the night before a test, you’ll have noticed how little you remembered once the post-exam adrenaline wore off. If you planned ahead, highlighted important information and created flashcards you could revisit as the exam approached, chances are you’ll have remembered much more of that in the long term.

Trying to learn it all at once didn’t work, but giving your brain cues for the key information at spaced intervals was much more effective. Hence, why less is more! Such as viewing your highlights in HowNow and receiving them in your email digest, as opposed to reading an article once. The more you encounter a piece of information, the less you need to refresh your memory of what it is.  

Use spaced repetition to retain information more effectively

Applying the principles of active recall

If you were thinking that our section on spaced repetition reminded you of active recall, you’d be right. Essentially, we’re talking about the idea that repeating a question and asking your brain to summon up the answer helps move it from your short-term to long-term memory. A study among students showed that those using active recall remember 80% of the new terms they’d been taught, compared to 34% among their passive counterparts.

Create new knowledge by building on existing knowledge

When you read an article, you’ll already have some existing knowledge about the subject, and flagging the things that are new is a great way to build on that base. Imagine if you try a new recipe for something you’ve cooked a few times before, not everything in there would be at a Michelin Star level of importance. Instead, you’ll take note of the different ingredients or instructions and add that to what you already know. If the recipe’s a hit, you’d be glad you highlighted the all-important parts of it.

Every cooking guru needs a sous chef, learning’s the same and we’d love to be yours. But instead of passing you the spices, we’ll send you recommendations for content, recap your highlights and much more. Learn more about HowNow or take a trial for yourself.