Note to self: take your notes by hand | The Triangle

Note to self: take your notes by hand

Photograph courtesy of Pxhere

It’s the beginning of a new quarter, you wake up and go to your first class with your backpack that contains your laptop, some textbooks that you may or may not need and a notebook. You sit down, take out your laptop and pop open Microsoft Word to take notes, and Facebook on the side to keep you entertained. Then your professor says those dreaded words, “No computers, tablets, or phones.” Most, if not all, of us have experienced this at least once, and that silent groan of despair that rolls through the class is never pleasant. However, professors that don’t allow the use of electronics in class aren’t just doing it to make the lives of their students more difficult.

In the modern age that we live in, technology has, in a sense, become humanity’s best friend. Born in 1998, I’ve witnessed so much technological innovation in the two decades that I’ve been on the planet that I sometimes don’t appreciate how much technology has progressed. While I’m not glued to my phone like some people, I am certainly guilty of not acknowledging how easy it makes my life.

My laptop is another piece of technology that I take for granted. In college, my laptop is one of the most useful tools that I have available to me as it contains my homework, provides easy access to Blackboard Learn and my Drexel email, along with a number of other important things that I make use of daily. However, just like the phone, the laptop is just a tool and sometimes it does more harm than good.

According to an article on CNN, the average American would spend close to half a day staring at a screen in 2016, and on average, myself and many people spend almost half a day staring at a screen in 2018. We hardly realize it of course, and if we do, we tend to not think much of it because it’s nothing out of the ordinary nowadays. But this constant time spent on electronics almost never seems to stop, even when it should, like when we enter a classroom to learn.

Research that was performed by scientists at Michigan State University suggests that “laptops do not enhance classroom learning.” It makes sense to think that using your laptop allows you to better interact with your course material, but in reality it doesn’t actually do that. It is far too easy to get distracted by social media and other things that are not related to academics. And once you get pulled in by outside distractions, you end up squandering away class time that you’re paying good money for.

This is one of the main reasons I don’t use my laptops in class unless I absolutely have to. It’s too easy to get caught up in looking at social media, shopping online, going through news feeds, watching Youtube videos and checking my email. Time flies by while doing any one of these things, which is why so many students do them to pass the time in classes. Now, I can’t say that this is entirely the fault of the students. It’s no secret to anyone that some lectures can be boring to the point that a student gets the lecture-induced coma where their eyes glaze over and they zone out to the highest degree. This is especially common in classes that involve lectures that last for hours with few or no breaks, and professors who have little personality and talk in monotone voices the whole time. While the laptop helps the student to escape these situations, it is ultimately distracting to them and their fellow classmates. It is hard for even me to pay attention to what my professor is saying when the person one row in front of me is watching Black Mirror with subtitles on.

Do yourself and everyone else a favor and put the laptop away.

Go old school and break out the pen and paper for your note taking. There have been several research studies that have shown that taking notes by hand is better than taking them with a laptop. I can attest to this being the case as I am almost always able to remember at the very least, bits and pieces of what I wrote down in class, but I’ve hardly ever remembered what I type into a word document on the occasions when I have used my laptop to take notes.

If you are feeling skeptical about taking notes by hand, then all I can say is to try it for at least a few weeks and see how it goes. A pen and paper can’t take your attention away from your class like your laptop can. So, do your best to put yourself into work mode and you may be surprised by the results.