Note-Taking: Laptops vs. Notebooks

Whether or not your teachers allowed you to take notes on laptops when you were in high school depends on where you went to school. For example, most of the friends I have now weren’t allowed to use laptops in class, but I went to boarding school where we were all issued school laptops at the beginning of the year – and we all took full advantage of this by bringing our computers to class with us. But now that you’re in college, you most likely have the choice as to what you want to use for taking notes. That is, unless your decision was made for you by a financial inability to procure a laptop – they are expensive, after all! But if you have a laptop and are trying to decide if you should reserve it for strictly recreational purposes (email, social media sites, casual web browsing, gaming) and/or as a study aid outside of class (to use for research projects, for example) or if you should bring it to class with you to take notes on, consider a few key points. Number one, some students choose not to bring laptops to class with them because it serves as a temptation. Unless you know of some software or blocking application that allows you to turn off all computer features except for Microsoft Word, it can sometimes take a great deal of discipline to not open Facebook or email when you’re supposed to be paying attention to the professor. For some students, it isn’t worth the risk to try to depend on themselves to not give into temptation. Number two, laptops tend to be heavier than notebooks. Especially if you are a commuter student who needs to carry all your books and materials around with you all day, it might not be worth it to lug around your laptop also. Of course, the flip side of this is that some newer laptop models are remarkably tiny and lightweight – lighter than your binders full of loose leaf paper might be by the end of the semester. Number three, some people feel like they process and remember material better when they’re writing it down. This tends to be because the brain is more actively engaged when it has to focus on writing, while typing allows the brain to become distanced and distracted. This may not be true for everyone, however, so it may take some personal experimentation before you find what suits you. Number four, many people (especially the generation raised on computers) find that they can type much more quickly than they can write, and so using a computer to take notes allows them to capture a larger portion of what the teacher says. One alternative is to use a recorder – most phones have apps that will do this – to record the lecture. Students then take rough notes (on either the computer or in a notebook) and flesh them out later by re-listening to the recording. In summation, there’s really no right answer when it comes to taking notes. You know yourself and your learning style best – but if you’re new to college and unsure of how to proceed, try both options out and see what works for you!

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