Oh, and also, I stopped bringing my laptop to class.

September 26, 2010

So you know already that I bought (gasp) paper textbooks like some sort of cave person.1 In addition, I have also stopped bringing my computer to class.

The main reason for this was because my computer is little bit heavy and more of a high-theft item than textbooks and printouts, so I don’t like carrying it around. But now that I have purchased the paper texts (which are also heavy) in order to avoid the Distraction Machine while I’m studying, there’s no reason to carry the heavy machine as well as the heavy paper, right?

Granted, some people just like having the computer in class. In Game Theory, I sit toward the back because I have to make a break for it after class in order to make it to my next class. This makes it easy for me to see most of the other students’ screens. Some are looking up things that are relevant to the class or following the class PowerPoint slides on their own computer, taking notes while doing so, but the majority of people are on Gmail, Facebook, IM, or a blog.

I am not saying this to scold my fellow students. If you don’t want to pay attention in class, don’t. I certainly have had days when I was so worried about getting everything else done that I worked on assignments for one class while sitting in another. Personally, I feel rude if I’m on Facebook chat in class, but that’s between you and your conscience.

But I realized that I just learn so much more when I don’t use my computer in class.

No, really. Game Theory is supposed to be this really hard class or something (I think maybe because lots of people who go to library school weren’t all that good at math2 ), but I find that if I pay attention in class, I actually remember stuff and have to study less.


I can’t seem to escape how this sounds like a scolding teacher saying “pay attention in class!” That’s too bad, because I want to jump up and down like I’ve stumbled on some new discovery. Oh my gosh! This class thing sometimes actually works!

Here’s the thing: as a member of this generation, I feel like I constantly should be multi-tasking. I could be responding to e-mail in class, and thereby being more efficient, so, clearly, I should be. I feel foolish—almost guilty—if I don’t.

That’s why I want to make a public affirmation that when I am sitting there with my lowly low-tech pen and paper, I am being as efficient as I possibly can be because I am focusing on the material. That’s the best way for me to learn it, and it means that I’ll have to study less later.

And not having my computer within reach makes it so much easier to exercise self-control. When I had it with me last year, I would try to pay attention, but I’d find myself on the New York Times or Facebook, honestly without even realizing I’d gone there. My brain really has a mind of its own.

Again: when I am in front of the computer, that is how my mind operates. I do not like this.

I wonder if the other students I see on Gmail and Facebook and blogs actively don’t care about class, or if they have actually wired their brains so that they can not help themselves when the computer is in front of them, like me?

So because I know it’s a struggle to discipline myself minute-by-minute by not bringing it, I’m disciplining myself in one fell swoop3 by not bringing it.

I’ll be able to use the time I save now—by really learning the material—to do more high-quality e-mailing and Internet surfing later.

So if you’re in class now, I won’t be offended if you log off my blog and pay attention. If you’re still here, though, post a comment and share: are you a student? Were you recently? If so, do you/would you bring your computer to class? Do you feel it helps or hinders your learning? (I imagine there’s probably a mix for most people.)

  1. Actually, cave people didn’t have books yet. They didn’t even have clay tablets.
  2. I, for the record, was okay but not great.
  3. I used to think it was one foul swoop, and I wondered what was foul about it. I also used to think things got taken for granite, like they were hard as rocks and unmovable. Hey, it made sense to me. I also like digressing. Maybe this is one reason I’m more vulnerable to Internet-based distraction than most.

4 Responses to “Oh, and also, I stopped bringing my laptop to class.”

  1. So for my computer is most definitely a distraction…my mind has alway naturally wandered a bit in class but before computers the only outlet was to make lists/draw in the margins of my paper. Which unless you’re a really good drawer or having a super distracting problem, can only hold your attention for so long. My laptop on the other hand provides an endless array of places my mind can wander to, things I have to actively concentrate on. Which is why I now try to avoid bringing my laptop to class. The true problem comes when the teachers ask you to bring it and then only have you use it for five minutes.

    But I have to agree that even when I don’t bring my laptop to class, other people’s laptops are super distracting…

  2. Two Kates replying! How confusing. Anyway, this is the one in Yokohama, if my email didn’t give it away. :)

    I finished my undergrad in 2005 and haven’t been back to school since. My main reaction on reading your post was omg, people DO that? Oh, I’m so out of touch.

    I would never want to use a computer during class. I always think better when putting pen to paper. Even most of my essays and assignments in college were handwritten/outlined in great detail before I got on the computer. I can’t think with a blank screen and blinking curser in front of me. I also get too easily distracted when I have my laptop, and I’m a huge dork and love learning, so I wouldn’t want anything to take away of that.

  3. I’m absolutely horrible about not being distracted by my laptop when I bring it to class, and last school year I only did so when it was absolutely necessary or a tech-heavy class (i.e. SI 502 [networked computing, for those non-SI folks]). I’ve definitely been guilty of bringing it with me more this semester to multi-task during classes, but I have a feeling it’s going to come back to haunt me when it comes time to study for midterms.

    I do think, in general, it’s weird to think that it’s only really been in the last five years or so that it’s become possible to be connected to the Internet 24/7/365. When I graduated college in 2005, I don’t think any of my roommates had wireless Internet or laptops, and no one that I can remember brought a laptop to class. In 2006, when I was in my first semester of English graduate school, I’d guess about a quarter of my classmates brought laptops in – in a class that was pretty tech and online-text heavy. The non-tech classes were an even smaller percentage, if anyone. Now, just three years later, probably more than half the students in a class bring laptops and have phones that connect to the Internet. There’s something that gets lost in making the Internet less of a “gee whiz, I can go online and get anything!” type of thing and more of a necessity to make it through day-to-day life.

  4. […] was happy to read all your comments on my recent post about why I don’t bring my laptop to class this year. Those who are interested might want to go and take a look at the comments there; at the very […]

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