Advertise - Print Edition

Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

One tall voice: Leave your laptop at home

Published: November 2, 2007
Section: Opinions

Ever since the earliest days of academia, people have inscribed their notes with ink and paper. For centuries, perhaps even millennia, students have required no other device in lectures but these basic tools of writing. Since the advent of the personal computer, the landscape has been changed. Now, students are able to be connected to the entire world while in class, all the while capable of taking more efficient notes. Still, there are certain drawbacks to the use of laptops in class. They provide an avenue for distraction, as many students are seen playing games or visiting unimportant sites while they should be taking notes. Also, I feel that the use of a laptop generates a patrician aura, as it presents one more segment of society where people play a game to get the best products to do the most seemingly simple of jobs. With all this being said, laptops are overrated in the classroom and should probably be substituted with good old fashioned pen and paper.

When I think of ancient Athens and young students learning at the feet of great philosophers, I think of them scribbling their notes while their professors pour out valuable wisdom. Now when I think of academia, I see students hiding behind the screen of some technological device while they distract themselves during a lecture. Some say that laptops are a valuable resource for taking notes, but I dont believe this is true. In fact, half the time I view a persons laptop screen, it is on email or some other irrelevant internet site. Personal computers in the classroom are not the tool of advanced learning, but merely the shield against boredom that students employ when they succumb to distraction.

I dont even believe that laptops are well-suited and good at note taking to begin with. Sure, Microsoft word can allow you to spell-check and type faster, but there are other aspects of note taking that cannot be easily accomplished on a computer. For instance, an economics graph can never be manufactured on a computer with the same accuracy that someone can achieve merely using paper and pen. Also, separating into columns, writing in the margins, and other valuable tools of note taking cannot be achieved while using a word processor. I can see if someone has a severe handwriting disability that they may want to use a laptop. But for the rest of us who can understand our own writing and dont care about petty spelling mistakes, a pen and a notebook should do just fine.

In addition, laptops generate this pretentious aristocratic aura that rubs me the wrong way. Why cant these people be like the rest of us and use paper and pencil? Why do they have to seclude themselves behind a mechanical device and noisly type away while the professor is delivering a lecture? I feel that the use of laptops does not foster an equal footing for people in the classroom. It separates students as they use different methods for note taking. Furthermore, it is just one more way that people can show up their peers. Whether it is with dress, the latest gadgets, or any other number of things, people love to show off. Having a laptop in class is another avenue that can people can use to out buy their colleagues. Finally, using laptops might seem pretentious to the professor. It essentially provides a barrier that separates them from the students. For all these reasons, laptops just dont generate the right environment in class.

The laptop is a wonderful technological device. It gives its users the world at their fingertips, and this gadget can even be taken to a variety of different locations. One place that laptops should not be taken is into the classroom. Most of the time people use these machines in lecture, they are not actually utilizing them for anything academic in nature. People visit facebook, play games, and do a number of other meaningless tasks. Laptops do not have the same flexibility as paper and pen. They create a negative atmosphere and an aura of pretentiousness. Laptops convey a sense of patrician content while separating the professor from their students. I hope that next time you charge your batteries and get ready for class, you leave your laptop at home. I especially hope this because watching you on facebook or playing Tetris is extremely annoying!