Why students should take notes by hand

I just came across this article reporting on research that shows the benefit of taking class notes by hand as opposed to on a laptop. It boils down to the fact that most people can type faster than they can write, and so typing one’s notes means one usually gives in to the temptation to take verbatim or almost-verbatim notes. That in turn means that one becomes more of a passive hearer to the information, not processing the information, not figuring out what is the most important point, etc.

We didn’t have laptops when I was an undergraduate. But when I was a student at Fuller Theological Seminary in the 1990s, I did. I remember taking almost-verbatim notes in one of my systematic theology classes. Come to think of it, the professor actually required students to turn in typed notes (it was his way of giving us a reference work for important theological topics, for future use). Of course, that meant that most of us figured that our laptops would save us from having to type up handwritten notes after the fact. Anyway, long story short, thinking back, I get the feeling my quest for comprehensiveness may well have undermined my learning.

Anyway, the research reported in this article is enough to make me disallow students from using laptops to take notes. In composition classes they rarely do that anyway, but… AND it reminds me to emphasize the need to take a few notes (handwritten) when I’m in the (hopefully brief) lecture mode.

Here’s the research the article is based on.


working bibliography for my ENG 595 paper


From L.E. : “Marilyn Cooper and Cindy Selfe published an essay on this.  Lester Faigley addresses this question in Fragments of Rationality, though interestingly he doesn’t know how to evaluate student online talk–just thinks it’s good that it happens.  And there is more recent research, though right now I can’t think of this.”

Handa, Carolyn, ed. Computers and Community: Teaching Composition in the Twenty-First Century. Portsmouth, N.H.: Boynton/Cook, 1990. (Bedford Bib 675) (this is probably the collection that includes the Cooper / Selfe article)

Nine essays, five on teaching and four on theory, describe and explore the changes to pedagogy and classroom structure wrought by computerized classrooms: enhanced collaboration, a stonger sense of community and audience, less focus on the teacher as reader, more fun with writing. Essays include Thomas Barker and Fred Kemp, “Network Theory: A Postmodern Pedagogy for the Writing Classroom”; Carolyn Boiarsky, “Computers in the Classroom: The Instruction, the Mess, the Noise, the Writing”; Kathleen Skubikowski and John Elder, “Computers and the Social Contexts of Writing”; Mary Flores, “Computer Conferencing: Composing a Feminist Community of Writers”; and Carolyn Handa, “Politics, Ideology, and Strange, Slow Death of the Isolated Composer or Why We Need Community in the Writing Classroom.”


Marilyn Cooper and Cynthia Selfe (1990) have observed that as teachers we all too often “simply assume that students come to college eager to give up their ‘uneducated’ ways in order to become scholars like us” (p. 850). This initiation model-that is, students are introduced to academic discourse in first-year composition-is encouraged by “the traditional forums in our classes,” where “the traditional hegemony of teacher-student relationships” is “supported by the evaluative power of grades and the ideology of the educational institution” (p. 850). Cooper and Selfe are troubled by the fact that the teacher-student relationship fostered through traditional face-to-face classrooms and the ever present evaluative power of grades guarantees “that most of our students respond as we ask them to” (p. 850). That is, the methods of using writing to learn as well as the criteria for evaluating the writing and learning are controlled not by the potentially collaborative computer-based writing technologies that have become available to us but rather by the institutional structure and needs of standardized higher education. While teachers working in computer-mediated writing environments incorporate collaborative learning methods in their pedagogies (e.g., Carol Winkelmann, 1995), the criteria for evaluation remain the property of the classroom teacher.

From the Bedford Bibliography:

Faigley, Lester. Fragments of Rationality. Pittsburgh: Univ. of Pittsburgh Press, 1992. PE1404 .F35 1992 Available Valley

The postmodern era is characterized by randomness of experience, unopposed by any transcendent terms, a randomness that terrifies with the prospect of total dissolution while exhilarating with the possibility of free play of identities and social locations—that is, of subject positions. Composition pedagogy is often unresponsive to postmodernity, continuing to assume that unitary selves compose purposeful, linearly structured, generically recognizable texts. While this focus is often promoted by academic institutions as serving the practical ends of efficient communication, composition scholars increasingly resist it as oppressive to diverse students. A more postmodern composition study entails looking at how discourses, and the unequal power relations among them, are historically produced. Yet the field is still reluctant to abandon a unitary notion of students’ subjectivities. The field needs the kind of destabilized, decentered view that characterizes the networked classroom, where online discussion allows free play with different personae and even “forbidden” discourses (e.g., homophobic, racist, sexist). The problem that remains is how to establish an ethics of engagement for social action against the oppressive economic and discursive structures that postmodern analysis purports to reveal. Winner of CCCC Outstanding Book Award for 1994.

Hawisher, Gail E., Paul LeBlanc, Charles Moran, and Cynthia L. Selfe. Computers and the Teaching of Writing in American Higher Education, 1979–1994: A History. Norwood, N.J.: Ablex, 1996.

Computers and composition has become a coherent subfield within composition studies, growing from early experimental beginnings. Its development is chronicled in five chapters: 1979–1982, focusing on how personal computers were integrated into writing instruction; 1983–1985, described as the period of greatest enthusiasm for computer use; 1986–1988, when computers and composition emerged as a field; 1989–1991, when revisionist critiques of computer use began to appear; and 1992–1994, exploring the sudden impact of the Internet and commercially viable multimedia. Each chapter situates the field of computers and composition within a time period’s developments in both composition studies and computer technology; notes then-current trends in the field; and links the field’s issues with contemporary social and political developments. All but the first chapter also include interviews with key figures, both pioneers and emerging leaders. (Bedford Bib #64)

Hawisher, Gail E., and Cynthia L. Selfe, eds. Passions, Pedagogies, and 21st Century Technologies. Logan: Utah State Univ. Press and NCTE, 1999.

This substantial collection addresses issues of information technologies and the technocultural contexts facing those in the English profession. Each of the four parts contains a response essay. Essays include Doug Hesse, “Saving a Place for Essayistic Literacy”; Gunther Kress, ” ‘English’ at the Crossroads: Rethinking Curricula of Communication in the Context of the Turn to the Visual”; Lester Faigley, “Beyond Imagination: The Internet and Global Digital Literacy”; Marilyn Cooper, “Postmodern Pedagogy in Electronic Conversations”; Charles Moran, “Access: The A Word in Technology Studies”; James Porter, “Liberal Individualism and Internet Policy: A Communitarian Critique”; Gail E. Hawisher and Patricia A. Sullivan, “Fleeting Images: Women Visually Writing the Web”; Cynthia L. Selfe, “Lest We Think the Revolution Is a Revolution: Images of Technology and the Nature of Change”; Anne Frances Wysocki and Johndan Johnson-Eilola, “Blinded by the Letter: Why Are We Using Literacy as a Metaphor for Everything Else?”; and Janet Carey Eldred, “Technology’s Strange, Familiar Voices.” (Bedford Bib #678)

Johnson-Eilola, Johndan, and Stuart A. Selber. “Policing Ourselves: Defining the Boundaries of Appropriate Discussion in Online Forums.” Computers and Composition 13 (1996): 269–91.

Computers and writing specialists need to consider the mechanisms of language and how discourses “write us.” For example, as individuals operate in online forums, they internalize certain discourse laws and then “police” themselves and others. An analysis of one public, nonacademic listserv for technical writers, TECHWR-L, demonstrates the regulating mechanisms that function in online forums and the consequences of violating them. Common messages were strictly on-topic and followed accepted practices, for example, that participants should make their presence known. When threads developed that transgressed the boundaries of conventional discourse in technical communication—such as discussions of racism and sexism—subscribers posted complaints and commands to get back on topic, or they enacted the silent treatment. The authors analyze the debate over appropriate topics and recommend that students learn to recognize discourse regulations.

Selfe, Cynthia. Technology and Literacy in the Twenty-First Century: The Importance of Paying Attention. Carbondale, Ill.: Southern Illinois University Press, 1999.

The national project to expand technological literacy supports and exacerbates inequities within our culture and the public education system. The Technology Literacy Challenge, a federal literacy project begun in 1996, provides a case study of the failure of such an initiative when it does not address the uneven distribution of technologies along the lines of race and socioeconomic status and the continuing reproduction of both illiteracy and poverty. Government initiatives, educators, businesses, parents, and ideology all play a role in creating a potent configuration for technological literacy that feeds Americans’ belief that science + technology = progress, and that disguises the fact that technology is not available to everyone. Discounting the importance of multiple literacies and presenting either/or versions of technology, the dominant brand of technological literacy is defined as “competence with computers” rather than as a complex set of values, practices, and skills. The tendency to construct computers as either bane or boon encourages people to ignore the complicated relationships between technology and literacy, or to assume that the social and financial costs of technological literacy are inevitable. Humanist educators and literacy professionals should work on the local level to construct a larger vision of these issues; then intervene in the national project of expansion; and finally advocate critical technological literacy, which analyzes the technology-literacy link at fundamental levels of both conception and social practice.

Yagelski, Robert P. and Jeffrey T. Grabill, “Computer-Mediated Communication in the Undergraduate Writing Classroom: A Study of the Relationship of Online Discourse and Classroom Discourse in Two Writing Classes.” Computers and Composition 15 (1998): 11–40.

Online discourse in educational settings is characterized by complex relationships, more complicated than the findings of previous studies on the use of computer-mediated communication (CMC). Benefits are cited routinely in studies of CMC, but little attention has been paid to the ways in which online discussions and conventional in-class discourse may relate to and influence each other. Qualitative and quantitative techniques were employed to collect a variety of data related to the in-class and online discourse of two undergraduate writing courses at Purdue University: field notes of class meetings, interviews, surveys, and monitoring online discussions. Results of content coding were tabulated and then put into context through qualitative analyses. Findings indicated that how instructors set up, assigned, and managed the CMC components seemed to play a key role in shaping students’ online participation, also a function of the perceptions about and experiences with CMC in general. Without models of online discussions, for example, students focused on issues that rarely surfaced in class; in addition, students as students reproduced in online discussions “normal” in-class discourse. Simply putting students online does not necessarily increases their rates of participation, change the nature of that participation, or provide a more egalitarian space.


Campbell, H. (2006). Religion and the Internet. Communication Research Trends, 26 (1), 3-24. ILL’d 1-19-09

Campbell, H. (2004). Challenges created by online religious networks. Journal of Media and Religion, 3 (2), 81-99. ILL’d 1-19-09

This article considers the challenges that online religious communities raise for religious culture. A survey of cultural changes in media, community, and religion uncovers similar structural shifts, from hierarchical structures to more open, dynamic relationship patterns in society. Examining this shift helps explain why cyber-religion and online religious communities have become emergent phenomenon. Emphasis is placed on the argument that the Internet has thrived because it has surfaced in a cultural landscape that promotes fluid yet controlled relationships over tightly bound hierarchies. Religious online communities are expressions of these changes and challenge traditional religious definitions of community. Especially problematic is the image of community as a network of relations. This article also addresses common concerns and fears of religious critics related to online communities through an analysis of current literature on these issues, along with a synthesis of research studies relating to the social use and consequences of the Internet.

Cowan, D, and J. Hadden (Eds.), Religion on the Internet: Research Prospects and Promises (pp. 25-54). New York: JAI Press. ILL’d 1-19-09

Dawson, Lorne, and D. Cowan (Eds.), Religion Online: Finding Faith on the Internet. New York: Routledge, 2004. ILL’d 1-19-09

Ess, C. (Ed.). (2004). Critical Thinking and the Bible in the Age of New Media. Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America. ILL’d 1-19-09. Got message saying it’s not available through Summit and to ILL it. [?}. Re-ILL’d 1-24-09

Hojsgaard, M. & M. Warburg (Eds.), Religion and Cyberspace (pp. 67-85). London: Routledge. AVAIL VALLEY: BL37 .R44 2005 Barker, E. (2005). Crossing the boundary: New challenges to religious authority and control as a consequence of access to the Internet. In M. Hojsgaard & M. Warburg (Eds.), Religion and Cyberspace (pp. 67-85). London: Routledge. (SEE ABOVE)

Schultze, Quentin J. Christianity and the mass media in America : toward a democratic accommodation. ILL’d 1-19-09

Happy Birthday, Aleecia!

Happy Birthday to my niece Aleecia!

She’s thirteen today. I’m a bad aunt and haven’t sent her anything (she lives in southern california). And she won’t read this post, since she doesn’t even know about this blog. Is being a thesis-writing course-taking course-teaching grad student count as an excuse?

Anyway,HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ALEECIA!! I miss you.

all I said or quoted or listed here in 2008

Got the idea from Anne-Marie to tagcloud all my 2008 blogposts, and here ’tis. Hers came out with “thinking” the most common word, mine with “writing.” Not suprising. Oh, I couldn’t take out the non-post words like “Comments” or “Edit” so all those are in there, too. And, of course, this includes all the words I quoted and all my bibliographical entries as well as “my own” words. I’m not sure why the word “one” came out so high.

Happy Birthday, John Denver!

John Denver in the early 1970s

John Denver in the early 1970s

Happy Birthday, John Denver! He would’ve been 65 today, though I’m sure he never would have retired in any traditional sense.

And speaking of John Denver, I’ve been emailing the past couple days with a friend from high school — a friend I actually don’t yet remember (very sadly for me) but who has given me a bit of shot in the arm for the vitality of her memories — remembering me, and “how inspirational” I was, my guitar-playing, my John-Denver-song-singing.  I told her that I remember being more unsure of myself than inspirational, but I’m glad to know I came off differently than I felt.

So here’s to friends and memories and being thankful for them. And here’s to John Denver. He was a big influence on my teenage years, exactly when a positive and powerful influence is so… well — influential! Happy Birthday, John.

And happy new 2009 to everyone! It’s cool how looking backward makes the future year all the more exciting.