Column – Laptop note-takers face risky distractions

Charlotte Brange and Charlotte Brange

Not many people can do two things at once, especially not when really having to concentrate.

Everyday in class I’ll sit behind someone who uses a laptop. Believe me, people are not only using them to take notes. Students are doing almost anything but studying: playing poker and other games, chatting with friends and browsing through online clothing stores.

This is not working. Laptops are not the solution to our own laziness in the classroom. You know the saying: “The pen is mightier than the sword.” The pen is also mightier than the computer.

It might seem like it takes ages to write down notes by hand in a classroom. But because it takes a lot of time, you will prioritize and choose the most important facts. When typing, you can fall into an auto-pilot mode where you just write, write and write without the brain processing the information.

You might also have to print your notes since it’s easier to read from a paper than on a computer screen.

In one of my classes, the professor was talking nonstop for almost 90 minutes while a student in front of me took notes on his laptop.

Every now and then when the professor stopped to breathe, the student opened a web page where he looked at what kind of iPod he wanted to buy. Did he learn anything in class that day?

No offense to laptops, of course we really need them. But they can actually be a disadvantage.

?A study in a psychology class at Winona State University showed that students who use laptops in classrooms do something else other than taking notes for about 17 minutes during a 75 minute class. That’s almost 25 percent of the class time. A quarter of the class is wasted.

?The students in the study claimed that the biggest distraction in class was another student’s computer.

The second biggest distraction was actually the student’s own computer. Maybe it’s not the most clever idea to come to class with the thing that distracts you the most.

Attending class with a laptop seems to mean lower grades.

Certainly some students have the self-discipline it takes to only use the laptop for taking notes. Don’t get me wrong here, but at City College, which is seen as the link between teens and adults, are students mature enough to have that self-discipline?

How many students can multi-task? You can’t really listen and understand the information provided by your professor while having one eye on an Internet page.

Teachers should rethink the students’ use of laptops because they are not getting the attention they deserve when lecturing.

Internet should be blocked to prevent students from going online during class. It should not be seen as a way of restricting the students, but the opposite, to help them focus. ?

We need technology. We are addicted to it. And even I would work faster if I turned my Internet off.