I always feel a little bit of fear and uncertainty when I see lectures that imply nobody could possibly learn with a laptop in front of them. In lecture halls, I Google terms that come up, I type up notes, I double-check the term I mean when I’m about to ask a question, I share useful material into our class Facebook groups, et cetera.
Having a laptop in front of me is part of the way I learn actively in the lecture hall: I can highlight the most useful material and listen much more attentively while keeping my hands occupied and making sure I stay still in the theatre without distracting anybody else.
Does everybody use a laptop the way I do?
But the thing is, not everybody is really able to write notes on a piece of paper — many people have terrible handwriting, or can’t write fast enough, or are generally better at typing than they are at handwriting. The people who wave their hands and say those people should learn, and that everybody used to be able to… are kind of wrong. Disabled students do exist in the classroom, and there are a wealth of effects a mental illness or disability can have on one’s ability to note-take on paper. Insisting everybody should do it pretty much misses the point of accessibility.
And accessibility seems to be the central crux of your thoughts here, Seth, so I really appreciate that — I think adapting to more dynamic learning practices is a good way forwards, making sure there are a wealth of resources and that people can work reflexively as they make their way forwards through their academic careers.
I guess the only problem is that not everybody wants to throw themselves into the dynamic learning options: some people need a fire under them to keep them working, whether it’s the push to go into the lecture hall and have that time scheduled, or whether it’s the deadline of a waiting exam or essay.