Paper vs. laptop…the debate continues

I’m old school…I like paper. I know, I know it’s bad for the environment, but I can’t get on-board with laptop notetaking. There’s something organic about writing on paper. The feel of a quality pen gliding across a ruled sheet, the ability to draw arrows at the drop of a hat, the speed of whipping out a clipboard and laying down some words before the laptop beside me have even came out of hibernation.

I can type. I remember my first initiation to the qwerty key board in grade three: quiet aunt Zelda, willy’s six exams, every dog cares, and of course I remember Oh Lloyd stop, please, please. I understand the convenience of having all your notes with you all the time, of not having your binder explode at the end of the term. I get it. I just can’t get with it.

I’ve tried. I really have. It didn’t go well. I felt completely disconnected to the lecture. I couldn’t look up because I was so engrossed with formatting and spelling. I know that if I had stuck with it, it would have become easier with time, but the warm fuzzy feeling I got when I returned to my paper and pen was enough to convince me that I am just not a laptop kind of student.

My decision to stick with paper and pen was also influenced by the fact that I retain nothing of what I type. I can usually close my eyes and remember something I’ve wrote, but I can’t do the same with typing.

Last year, I learned that the the harder it is for your brain to decode lettering the more you remember it. This is great news for all the note takers with chicken scratch, like me. I always print, but I used cursive last term when I was making study notes. My brain doesn’t recognize cursive as well as it used to: you know, back when people actually used it on a regular basis, or in grade three when you were just learning how to write. This article explains more about why it’s good to write things down.

I know this debate is kind of old and played out, but it’s still important. Not because I think the only way to take notes is with paper, but because I am one of the few students using paper in any of my classes. This might not seem like a big deal, but it is actually really hard to concentrate with five hundred people typing all around you.

I prefer the sound of a mac typist. The keyboard is softer and it doesn’t have that plastic/metal ding to it every time a key is pressed. However, it doesn’t really matter when the person sitting next to you is rage typing. They seem happy enough, but they bang on the keys as if they had a typewriter in their lap. Honestly, sometimes I am waiting to hear a ding when they press the return button.

The constant Facebooking in class also really annoys me. Not that I care that someone paid six thousand dollars to go to a lecture hall five times a week to check their facebook page. No, that’s a personal decision. What bothers me is when the person in front of me is browsing through her friend’s latest photos from Vegas. Seriously, how do you not look at that? I know it’s eavesdropping, but I’m not a machine. Curiosity kills the lecture and my concentration almost daily in class. I find it slightly annoying that unless I sit in the front row, I have to fight the hypnotic blue glow of four hundred facebook pages all pointed right at me.

Is this just me complaining? Maybe, I am a little cranky today. Yet, I can’t deny the fact that we paper note takers are a dying breed. I think they should have a special section for us, insulated from the typing noise and facebook hypnosis. I’m just putting it out there.

4 comments on “Paper vs. laptop…the debate continues

  1. That is the funniest thing I’ve seen in a while. I wish I would have seen this before, I would have put it in my post. I find the laptops almost as distracting as this! Thanks for the link!!

  2. I wish this was printed and put up everywhere. However, as more and more profs choose to make “lecture slides” available online, and have students fill them in as they go along, the transition to electronic note-taking becomes inevitable.

    Sure, you can print them out and annotate them, but then you’ve got to cram in your writing along with the jumble of content that the instructor has put on. I love taking notes with pen and paper, but sometimes it’s just not feasible. Consider a class in which all the lecturer does is, well, lecture. You’d have to write as fast as he talks (by hand) and suffer insane cramping.

    Additionally, it depends entirely on the subject you’re in. Come to a math class, and you will not see a single laptop. Go to a philosophy class, and that’s all you see.

  3. True. I do think this kind of thing really depends on your program. I’m in a program that has two to three hours of straight-up lecturing and I do get cramps…you learn not to transcribe the entire lecture, but instead pull out the key themes and points. Sometimes, I actually print out the lecture slides and fill them in…but I find I don’t retain as much from the lecture when I do this. Personally, pen and paper has the unique ability to burn into my memory the most boring lecture content. I guess it’s just what works best for each individual student.

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