Note takers, Web surfers type in class
November 23, 2009 —
Before heading to school, Hannah Hall makes sure she has everything she will need for class. That includes her laptop computer.
The creative writing junior isn’t the only one who considers her laptop a classroom essential. Laptops surpassed desktops in annual sales for the first time last year, primarily because of the technology’s ubiquitous nature on college campuses.
The portability of the laptop has made it a college favorite because of the in-class usage it allows.
With the technology, note taking is no longer the break-neck strain it is for some who attend class armed with pens or pencils.
Easier note taking is just one of the perks, though. Hall says she has several classes in which the professors post notes or other items online.
“It’s more convenient to have access to these online notes while actually in the class,” she says.
As laptops continue to take their place alongside textbooks and notebooks in the classroom, professors must evaluate their own take on the technology’s role in classroom learning. Because no University-wide policy on in-class laptop usage exists, each professor must use his or her own discretion on the matter.
Professor of English Gary Thompson allows the use of laptops in his classes, since he views students getting the notes as the main objective.
“So long as the typing isn’t noisy and the students are attentive to what is going on in class, it seems to me that the means of taking notes is immaterial,” Thompson says.
Other instructors allow the use of laptops in their classes, but with certain conditions.
Instructor of art Maya Heneveld doesn’t allow students past the front row to use their laptops. This, Heneveld says, helps deter students from using their computers for tasks unrelated to class. Her knowing the tendencies of students led to the implementation of this rule, rather than any specific incidents.
That’s not to say instructors with unrestricted laptop policies are unaware of the average student’s seemingly inevitable venture over to Facebook or e-mail.
“Instructors can usually tell when a student is disengaged from what’s going on in class,” Thompson says. “I find that in such cases, that is a good student to call on for a response.”
Despite the growing presence of laptops in college classrooms, not all students are ready to tote one to class.
Creative writing senior Nate Michayluk says he still doesn’t see the technology as “super imperative” within the classroom.
“It’d just be one more thing I’d have to worry about leaving behind,” Michayluk says.
Even if he felt differently, Michayluk admits a laptop would probably serve as more a distraction than learning tool.
“I’d probably wind up playing World of Warcraft or something.”