Upon entering the classroom, 21st century college students are faced with the contemporary dilemma of whether to take class notes by hand or on a laptop computer. While it may seem futile at first glance, the decision can have a significant impact on your grades!
What the dilemma really boils down to is a matter of personal responsibility. In high school, the use of personal laptops to take notes is generally forbidden because the teacher can't see what the student is doing on his computer, and because it creates unfair advantages among the students. In college, these restrictions disappear, and all that matters is who can take the best, most precise notes using whatever medium they choose.
Using physical notebooks or laptop computers to take class notes both have their pros and cons. The process of taking notes by hand has been proven to lead to better memory retention, which is crucial for quizzes and tests. Furthermore, if and when professors spontaneously decide to draw diagrams, images, or unusual shapes during their lectures, it is usually much easier to recreate these images using a pen and paper than it is to copy them on a computer. However, computers allow for more thorough and complete notes, as most students in this day and age type more quickly than they write. Additionally, it is easy to neatly add bold text, underlines, colors, highlights, and more using a computer.
The problem lies in the fact that most universities provide wireless Internet throughout their campuses, so using a laptop to take notes also means the opportunity to browse the Internet. This can be a blessing and a curse. While using the Internet can sometimes supplement a class lecture by offering definitions, contextual information, images, translations, or just general information, it can also be seriously distracting. When faced with an Internet browser, many students subconsciously choose to go onto their favorite social networking sites. These websites can be so distracting that it practically becomes impossible to absorb what the professor is teaching.
Therefore, when deciding whether to use a notebook or a laptop to take your notes, try to recognize whether you can overcome the temptation to browse distracting websites during class. If you don't think you can, but you still want to use your laptop, you can always disable the Internet while you're in the classroom. Remember that you are in class to learn, so use the strategy that works best for you.