A night of the living dead classroom — lights set low, silent students enrapt before screens, professors intoning PowerPoints — this is, let us admit, a beautiful thing, a mystical thing, a floating atmosphere that frees the dreaming mind to roam…The good news, going into finals week, is that occasionally a student objects.
Many professors seem to take a “you get what you give” approach, letting those who distract themselves suffer the consequences in the form of lower test grades. But this method ends up hurting everyone. It is frustrating for students who can’t help but be distracted by their classmates’ screens. I imagine it doesn’t feel good for professors to see students clearly choosing to go on Facebook or other sites instead of at least trying to pay attention.Student-centered. Just keep in mind the type of student you wish to center to.
And it’s the worst for students who try to take notes in class but find themselves haplessly Internet-ing instead. Who do these kids think they’re kidding? Echinoderms are kind of cool, but they’re not cool enough for you to be giggling shamelessly into your keyboard and typing rapidly when the professor is only walking up to the chalkboard.
Why do professors take this lackadaisical approach when they can ban laptops and get rid of such high levels of distraction altogether?
Though it is easier for some students to quickly jot down notes on a computer than by hand, this advantage is greatly outweighed by the distraction and loss of spatial placement they cause for students’ memories.
Traditional note-taking methods are better not just because of the lack of distracting alternatives but because of the relation between real notebooks and the mind. We tend to remember things based on spatial placement, and little details such as where a sentence is located on a page or within a notebook can help students remember a fact within the context of the overall lesson. If that same fact is just another line on a computer screen, it can be lost amid thousands of other ephemeral tidbits students scroll through every day. Without the ability to substantially differentiate the placement of pieces of information, students lose the advantage of spatial memory when it comes to studying and remembering what they learned in class.