By Kari Bolton, contributing writer
In previous decades, college students had to rely solely on pen and paper to take notes during class, and there was not as much to distract them from the teacher’s lectures.
According to the Information Technology Assistance Center, only 36 percent of college students owned a laptop in 2003, compared to 83 percent in 2010.
“I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in 2003, and laptops were not nearly as affordable as they are now,” said Shannon Krueger, instructor in journalism and mass communications. “They were a rarity among students. I don’t ever remember seeing classmates with laptops to take notes.”
Laptops have become almost a necessity for college students these days, and several like to use their computers to take notes during class.
“I think it is easier to type on a laptop because of the ability to get everything written down faster that the teacher is talking about,” said Katy Bantham, senior in social sciences.
Some students believe typing notes helps them pay attention to what the teacher is saying and provides the opportunity to add side notes. Students may use laptops to keep their work organized in one place or because a computer screen can be easier to read.
In contrast, some students prefer to use pencil and paper to write down what is said in class to help better retain what the teacher says.
“I feel like if I write down my notes on paper, I remember the information better as well as memorize it more for later,” said Montgomery Devine, senior in political science.
Studies show that since people use their hands to form letters and connect them, writing notes often has a more positive effect on a student in terms of learning and recalling information at a later date, according to an Oct. 5, 2010, Wall Street Journal article. Writing also uses more of your brain, which helps process and clarify thoughts for future reference.
The question teachers must answer is whether or not they will allow laptops in their classroom during lectures for note-taking. Some teachers believe the use of laptops during class may be nothing more than a distraction for students, especially with social media on the rise.
“It’s pretty tempting to break from taking notes to do other activities on screen like check Facebook, Twitter or surf the Web,” Krueger said. “While you might not do that on your phone because it’s totally obvious, it’s easy to hide behind the screen and look like you are actually being productive.”
She believes for her classroom, the decision of whether or not to use a laptop to take notes is up to the student, but students must consider what option will help them gain more out of class lectures without being sidetracked by the outside world.
Editor’s Note: This article was completed as an assignment for a class in the A.Q. Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communications.