Trying something new

I’m in my third week of classes, and I’ve decided to try something new: I am not going to take my laptop to any of my classes.

When I started taking classes last year, I took my laptop to every one (except one in which my prof requested they not be used) so that I could effectively take notes.  I type much faster than I write.  And, my handwriting is really crappy.  And, I so rarely use pen and paper anymore, my hand would actually get tired by the end of a 75-minute class.

But, I have to be honest and say that the laptop enabled me to not pay as much attention sometimes as I should have been.  Since I can connect to the ‘net wirelessly anywhere on campus, it was so easy to check my email or read some Twits or Google something when I should have been taking notes.

Also, if the wireless wasn’t working well (which seemed to be pretty frequent last year, but has improved this year), I would spend time diagnosing and fixing the problem when I should have been taking notes.

Oh, and then there was my almost-OCD obsession with formatting my notes.  I had to make the bullet points line up and the sentence structures match (a throwback to my journalism days).  Yeah, I knew that probably no one else in the world would ever see my notes, but they still had to be perfect.  So, while the instructor could have been saying something life-altering, I was busy trying to insert a text box.

Last week, my coworkers needed to use my laptop while I went to a class.  And, while I was laptop-less, I discovered that I was having more rich, fulfilling conversations with the instructor and fellow students.  I was paying attention more to the content and not the structure.

I didn’t take my laptop again to a different class today.  Same thing…I was contributing more and taking away more.

I still hate my handwriting and I still hate the way a pen feels in my hand.  But, for now I’m going to give it a shot.  I went back to school (and am paying for it with my hard-earned money) so that I could learn and become a better professional.  So, I need to take control and do what is necessary to do those things.  If that means letting my laptop sit at my desk while I’m in class, then so be it.  It, and Twitter and email and Facebook and MySpace and Google will all be there when I get back to my desk!


3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by adjwilli on September 16, 2008 at 10:59 pm

    I have purposely not brought my laptop to a few classes this semester, and have had different results. Today in Marty’s Capstone lecture, I was fine without the laptop. In Jeff’s class, or Erik’s for that matter, when I don’t have my laptop I get really frustrated that I can’t look up things like Kant, Ulm, or whatever other random topic they bring up that I wish I knew more about.

    I suppose I could try to write down those topic and review them when I get back. But sometimes I keep links on my computer from class to go back over later, and I rarely actually get to those, so written topics would be even less likely. Plus, I don’t think I really zone out when I google those topics. If anything I think it keeps me engaged in the lectures, because I still get to cycle my cognitive activity, but in a productive way.


  2. Posted by Paul on October 2, 2008 at 11:54 am

    I agree totally. When I was in my Masters program, I used my laptop every day. The one day I didn’t have my laptop, I found myself absorbing the material and felt connected and engaged with the classroom discussion. I decided to switch to a tablet PC, it creates the note taking feel of not having a PC but I can save my notes electronically and they are easy to retrieve. And if you have time, you can train the device to convert your handwriting to text (but that can be scary!).


  3. I just came across this post and you motivated me not to take my laptop to class (or at least not to take it out of my bag during class). I’ve been unsuccessful with my “unplugged day” which is a day without using your laptop. For me, that day was on Saturdays. Unfortunately, due to team meetings and the problem with running behind in classwork, being unplugged only lasted two weeks.

    I’m willing to try your idea, I may have a higher success rate. 🙂


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