Closing laptops, opening minds

A recent psychological study conducted by researchers from UCLA and Princeton found that using electronic devices for note-taking may be less advantageous than taking notes with pen and paper. The findings show that when students type notes, their factual and conceptual learning in both the short and long term is inferior compared to the learning of those who handwrite their notes.

We at the Record suggest that students and professors at the College should be informed of the results of the study, as the method of note-taking impacts learning and may perhaps even influence academic performance. However, note-taking is only a small facet in the overall learning experience, and we do not believe that there should be an official College-wide policy in regard to this issue.

In some courses, large lectures and discussion-based seminars alike, laptops are forbidden. We at the Record believe that while the use of laptops in a course should be at the professor’s discretion, we suggest the instructor make efforts during the first class to explain his or her policy on note-taking. Equipped with this dialogue, students may be informed of recent studies and understand the professor’s reasoning of his or her policy.

We at the Record would also like to call attention to the impact of electronic devices on the more general learning environment within a classroom. Some professors allow students to use their laptops to take notes, but ask that these students sit in the back of the classroom, minimizing the distractions they may pose to their classmates. In addition, laptops may influence the engagement in a discussion-based class, as a laptop may be more distracting to a student than paper and pen. Finally, an obvious deterrent to using laptops in class is the temptation of Internet access, which can be detrimental to learning and intellectual engagement. It is important to recognize, however, that there is a significant number of students who prefer typing their notes, citing the undeniable benefits of convenience and speed that characterize computer use.

We acknowledge that students at the College are more than capable of making their own decisions in their preferred method of note taking. The Record would like to advise students and faculty alike to remain aware of the potential hidden impacts of technology in the learning process that are discovered with new research.