“I was so broke I couldn’t pay attention.”
— Southern Colloquialism
Innovative communication devices are wonderful. Until they aren’t. While searching for a restaurant in Laguna Beach, California, last summer, my husband and I pulled over in a parking lot and asked a lady if she knew the whereabouts of the eatery. She assured us that she had lived in Laguna her whole life and knew the town well. Then she pulled out her phone, punched at it for five minutes, and provided difficult, lengthy instructions.
We said thanks and left. Ultimately, we drove about a hundred yards, took one turn, went up a hill, and found the restaurant sitting in plain view of the parking lot.
You could actually see the eating establishment from the very spot where we had inquired about its location. All that was required of our guide was for her to turn and gesture and say, “There it is. Turn right and drive up the hill.”
It’s as if folks have forgotten how to point without assistance from a smartphone. So I was not surprised to read recently that college professors all over the country are banning laptops as note-taking devices. The digital age is fascinating, and there’s no denying that technology has revolutionized many businesses, including my own. On a personal level, I love texting with relatives and friends. But I am not joined at the hip with my phone. It’s disconcerting and rude when people can’t converse, watch a movie or outdoor event or engage in a business discussion without staring at a tablet or screen. We need human linkups in addition to technical ones.
Professors are weary of staring at the back of laptops in lieu of actually connecting visually with their classroom compatriots. The students hidden behind those screens may be focused on the lecture or they may be surfing the internet, but the teacher can’t know without seeing those faces.
Early returns are in from the students. They’re complaining that taking notes by hand is tiring and that afterwards, sometimes they can’t read their own writing. News flash — no one ever died from a hand cramp. Advice for the students with unreadable hieroglyphics instead of notes? Write more neatly. Develop your own shorthand. And organize your notes in outline form. They can serve as an effective study guide. Many students are recording their classes with cellphones instead of taking notes. What ever happened to paying attention?
One thing that classes without laptops may inspire is actual interaction and discussion among and between students and teachers. Listening to my classmates express themselves was part of our college education. I cannot imagine a more isolating and boring experience than sitting silently in a group where every individual is hidden behind a small computer screen.
Margaret R. McDowell, ChFC®, AIF®, author of the syndicated economic column “Arbor Outlook,” is the founder of Arbor Wealth Management, LLC, (850.608.6121 – www.arborwealth.net), a “fee-only” registered investment advisory firm located near Sandestin.