On banning laptops for note-taking in class.

28 05 2009

As an avid reader of University Diaries, I have banned the use of laptops during lectures because I don’t want people surfing the web when they should be paying attention to the material upon which they’ll eventually be tested. Besides, I always said to myself, I survived college and grad school taking notes on pen and paper so why shouldn’t they?

Now it seems there actually might be advantages to taking notes on your computer. Heck, I think I want one of those programs.

What do you think I should do now?




4 responses

28 05 2009

Do you *really* think the vast majority of your students will use some fancy note-taking technique on their laptops?

Or will most laptop users just be playing Minesweeper, snarking about you on Facebook, or perusing perezhilton.com during class?

The answer to those questions will guide your decision.

28 05 2009

Depends on audience, size of class. People also have interim measures like laptop users have to sit in the front (with the TAs in the 2nd or 3rd row surveilling). Or are you able to roam while lecturing and thus see and flag people misbehaving? (you could do yellow cards like in soccer—whole class suffers a penalty for every 10 you give out—profs do this with cellphone rings) Will they respond to a simple reminder to turn off wireless before each class, do you think? That creates a barrier they have to consciously overcome.

What if you built some laptop note-taking tips into the course to encourage students to take advantage (especially if you teach freshmen)? I have definitely heard testimony from students who discovered and raved about the Notebook Layout in MacWord (similiar to OneNote in the article) as very helpful in class. I think you’re less likely to get students to use new programs (though I’d like to see my university run workshops on tools like those to encourage, teach, and support their use).

I am also an avid reader of UD, but I sure wish I had my years of excellent lecture notes in MS Word.

29 05 2009
Jonathan Rees


My impression from the article was that the fancy note-taking programs are the wave of the future, and as we’ve all seen the future can come upon us very, very quickly. Nevertheless, I probably do have more time to make this decision.

Maybe by then I’ll have figured out what to do about texting during lectures.

2 06 2009

I’ve been experimenting with a free Firefox plugin called list.it from a team at MIT:


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