10 August 2010

A recommended blog, and opinion on laptops in classes

I've been reading Campus Overload for the past week or so; it's a blog at the Washington Post that deals specifically with, as you'd expect, coping with college life.   It's good reading.  Today's entry, Wired studying isn't always the best strategy is an especially good read-- I honestly don't see how taking notes on a laptop does you any good.  Yes, the computer takes a lot of the work out of managing your notes, but it's the taking of the notes and isolating the important stuff (and drawing conclusions) that gets the real work done, as the article points out.

I don't use a laptop in lectures; a Livescribe Smartpen, yes (see previous post).  It does one thing.  It helps me accurately record the content of a lecture.  So technology isn't a bad thing, but a laptop isn't the answer to taking better notes.  A laptop is designed to do many different tasks, all of which are made available to you when you're supposed to be absorbing material from a lecture-- a pen just records your writing and the audio of the lecture.

Laptops in class are really annoying for the rest of us that are trying to keep up and pay attention, too.  I know there are people that actually take notes with their laptops, but most of the people I see in classes with a computer are doing anything but taking notes.  Facebook, online poker, games, YouTube, all kinds of things that flash a lot of stuff on the screen that my eyes notice and that my brain has to process.  That's not the main reason I have trouble with PTSD in lecture halls, but it certainly doesn't help.  I have enough trouble keeping myself from checking my cellphone when it buzzes during class (or checking for messages when it's set on silent).  I don't need to also have my mind checking out the video you're watching.

I know there are also cases where a laptop may be your only, or best, means to take notes-- as with all advice, your situation may be different and your mileage may vary.  Remember that the technology is supposed to make it easier for you to do the necessary things to learn, not replace the process of learning.

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