Putting Your Notebook in the Friend Zone

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Remember in 1980 when college students took notes in class with the old-fashioned pen and paper method? Good times. 1981 took simplicity away with the invention of the first laptop. Since then, an ongoing battle commences every school year. Will I choose a pink, spiral notebook with a pen that gives my words a glossy finish? Or will I decide to bring my aluminum-cased pal that makes me feel like I can conquer the world with a mere click? Sometimes, it isn’t your decision, it’s your professors’.

Teacher Recommends Laptop

What I Use: Laptop

In my Rhetoric class, I use a laptop. Lots of notes need to be taken during this Monday and Wednesday lecture, and I find I’m quicker at typing than jotting down words. I went through panic mode one morning when I woke up to find my computer only had 17 percent charge left. I managed its survival during the hour and fifteen-minute class period. Anyway, I figured I’d start the interview process out with Mr. Bruce Bowles, the professor of my rhetoric class.

“When I was in college, I rarely ever took notes. I have atrocious handwriting. In addition, my hand cramps if I write by hand. So, I would have loved a laptop in college,” Bowles said. 10 points to Gryffindor.

Teacher Recommends Notebook

What I Use: Laptop (oops)

In Professor Jennifer Moffit’s syllabus for Women in Literature, she disallows the use of a laptop. When asked why, she responded, “I find them distracting for everyone: the user, the instructor and the class. The laptop creates a physical barrier that distances its user.”

The journalist in me found this intriguing. I wonder which students achieve better grades—Mac enthusiasts or students who love working on their penmanship.  “Generally, the students who earn the highest grades do not use laptops during class,” Moffitt said. “Students who use laptops during class are rarely using them solely to take notes. Laptop users are far less likely to take part in class discussion. Instead, they seem distracted or disengaged.” Well. Ten points to Slytherin. 

Equipped with two of my favorite teachers’ input on the infamous match up of the trust notebook and innovative laptop, I thought I’d level the playing field if I ask a teacher outside of my daily class schedule. When I asked Professor Everhart, who belongs to the College of Communication and Information, which learning tool best benefitted a student’s learning, she shocked me with her response: “The professor.” Other than Professor Everhart, no one thought to mention that it might not be the tools students use that are most important to their learning, but instead it is the professor himself.

Maybe Nancy’s onto something. The issue of whether to use a notebook or laptop in the classroom is addressed in every teacher’s syllabus—but maybe it shouldn’t be. Let’s be real: A screen in front of you showing you a video of how to make pizza roses for your boyfriend can be distracting. But aside from an interest in a delicious anniversary present for your S.O., maybe you’re more engaged by the video because the class you’re in is dull. There, I said it.

Regardless of the outlet used to retain lecture notes, if the professor is engaging, the student will remain engaged as well. Now, I’m not making the assumption that dull teachers insist on a strict no-laptop policy, but maybe it’s something to think about. Will notebooks ever go out of style? “I doubt it,” explains Moffitt. But perhaps one day there will be a third, more advanced option of note taking to join in on this match-up. But at the end of the day, respect the teacher. Respect the syllabus. And albeit, respect the friend zone.

Senior at Florida State University studying Editing, Writing and Media. Lover of good lighting and Nicholas Sparks. Small town girl with a big city mindset.

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