By guest blogger Stan Whitcomb
Stan is a freshman at Santa Clara University. He is currently undecided, but is leaning towards a major in computer science. He is new to the blogosphere but is a seasoned writer (thanks English class!). In his free time, he likes to Dougie with his hallamtes and he is an avid Frisbee player.
Laptops are considered a bare necessity in college these days. I can count on one hand the college students I know who don’t have a laptop. We use them to email our parents, register for classes, and help us with our homework (and help us procrastinate from doing homework!). Unfortunately, these wonderful machines can be a help and a hindrance if we bring them to class.
First off, most people who own a computer can type faster than they can write. This can be helpful when you want to take a lot of notes quickly and don’t want a sore hand afterwards. In addition, with typing, you no longer have to worry about problems like illegible handwriting. Great for those of us who take avid notes, look down, and realize that we can read about one of every five words we wrote.
In a recent study, students who used their laptops for note-taking and in-class activities scored higher than the students who took notes the traditional way. There were, however, two catches in the experiment: the students were policed heavily in regard to their use of the internet, instant messaging, and gaming and the class that students were in was geared towards laptop use.
If both of these parameters are not met, we see a negative correlation between laptops in class and test scores, according to this study and others. The moral of the story is, we need discipline if we want to use our computers effectively in class (I personally suggest turning off your computers Wi-Fi capabilities in class if all you are doing is taking notes. This strategy has done wonders for me).
Initially, there is the whole dawdling issue. With the internet, you have basically infinite potential for bumbling around looking for something funny or interesting online. This could be through Tumblr, Facebook, Stumbleupon, or even old fashioned Google searches. The point being, these sites are timewasters and take up a portion of your concentration. You may think that you can listen to a lecture and look at memes. But recent studies show that multitasking and performance share an inverted relationship. Another downside to typing your notes deals with your memory. There is something about writing that allows you to remember it more easily, and thus not have study your notes as much. The same cannot be said for typing unfortunately. When the same can be said for typing as writing, I know my computer will be out every class, timewasters aside.
So now you have it out on the table. If the pros outweigh the cons, take your computer to class (I encourage it!). However, if you know that halfway through your lecture you are going to start scrolling through your news feed, perhaps closing the laptop for a second will be a better option.