Student vs. Teacher: Is there neutral ground to using electronic devices in class?

As technology becomes more prevalent and useful, teachers and students need to find ways to incorporate these new advances with traditional teaching methods.

Teachers are finding themselves discouraging laptop use to take notes in class due to it impeding academic performance. However, students find that using a laptop to take notes is more convenient.

“I prefer taking notes on the computer because I can type faster than I write and [the computer] will correct [my] spelling,” sophomore Eden Ehrmann said.

As more communication is being conducted through computers, students are finding that writing is becoming more cumbersome and obtuse, whereas typing is becoming second nature.

Typing notes on a computer not only increases the speed of note taking, but it also enhances the notes that are taken.

“I’m able to go back and add notes in later without making things into a mess. Plus there’s the beauty of underlining, bolding letters, highlighting, and italicizing,” Ehrmann said.

Using a laptop also has the added advantage of copy and paste, which comes in handy for typed essays and other assignments.

“If I need to share with friends or possibly use notes in a paper, the ideas are already typed up for me to draw from, therefore saving time,” Ehrmann said.

While the convenience behind using a laptop in class definitely has a sound argument, the reasons against it are also significant.

Teachers see the use of laptops in class as distractions not only for those using them, but also for those around the students with the device.

“When you’re on the other side you can kind of see people’s eyes scrolling around and you can tell they aren’t reading an article,” Visiting Assistant Professor Denise Glover said.

Glover had the opportunity over the summer to become a student again herself and saw first-hand what goes on behind a computer screen.

Glover saw students distracted by social media websites and non-related articles.

“What happens with electronic devices is you end up having a side conversation,” Glover said.

Table talk is fine as long as it’s relevant, but teachers don’t want their students talking to each other during class about non-related topics and the same goes for laptops.

However, recent studies done by Hembrooke & Gay in 2003 showed that even when students were looking up related articles, they still had poorer retention of the course material than students who didn’t use laptops in class. There is also overwhelming evidence that proves handwriting notes improves retention and understanding more than typing.

“Those in the paper note-taking condition scored better on the comprehension test than those in the laptop note-taking condition,” according to a study conducted by Duran and Frederick in 2013.

However divided this topic may seem, teachers and students are finding ways to compromise note-taking in the classroom.

“Despite best intentions and even if I really like a class, I will sometimes find myself distracted by other things on my computer,” Ehrmann said.

“So while I love my computer for the speed and ease of taking notes, regular note taking is probably better overall.”

Glover makes the same concession in her classrooms, allowing students to bring their laptops to class if she has assigned an online reading.

“I would like people to have the articles there with them as we are discussing,” Glover said.

Some students also require the use of laptops for note taking, or find handwriting a slow enough process that it’s actually detrimental to them to try and take traditional notes in class.

As long as students communicate with their teachers about their situation, there shouldn’t be a problem.

However, laptops are not the only device that students may use to take notes in class. More and

more students, noticeably first years, are using devices such as Livescribe and Equil to take notes.

These new advances are pens that can record what is being said while you write and wirelessly transfer what you write to laptop or tablet.

These new devices help bridge the gap between expanding technology and the time-tested method of handwriting.

While they may still be out of student’s budget, running at around $150, these pens may be the next step for classrooms that both student and teacher agree upon.