Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Taking Notes: Laptops vs Handwriting #249

Since I became a Lecturer I have noticed that students have been taking less and less notes during class. The advent of Blackboard and Moodle allowed students to download class notes thus removing the need to take notes. Or does it? My "lecture notes" are fairly basic. It would take no more than 15 minutes to read notes from one of my two hour classes. I tell students at the beginning of the semester that the ideal situation for them would be to download and print the notes in advance of class, and take more hand-written notes with them. Over the past few years more and more students bring their laptops to class - in fact this past semester I have had my first completely BYOD class as no computer lab was available.

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James Doubek, writing for MPR News says "Attention students: Put your laptops away" and suggests that note taking by hand is better than by laptop. Not surprisingly he quotes research that shows that "laptops and tablets have a tendency to be distracting" - Facebook and the like are the main culprits here. I know it goes on in my classes - I can see it for myself and my Teaching Assistants also tell me that they see it during class all the time. Some of my students think I'm stupid and that I don't notice. I didn't know this, but apparently you can type faster than you can write - this makes note-taking by laptop a good idea. Perhaps now with better stylus technology note-taking on a laptop can move to a new level. It's possible that students who "typed more extensive notes than their longhand-writing peers could possibly help them perform better". 

My own view is that note-taking has become a historical art - I rarely now see it in class either on paper or on a laptop, Does this mean that I as the Lecturer should provide more detailed notes? Probably yes - if students are not taking notes, they have to get them from somewhere. In the past 10 years this has become part-and-parcel of the Lecturer's lot to provide detailed notes on-line. 

There's no getting away from this.

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