Jeremy's Weblog

I recently graduated from Harvard Law School. This is my weblog. It tries to be funny. E-mail me if you like it. For an index of what's lurking in the archives, sorted by category, click here.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Yesterday, I wrote a rant about how laptops in class are not good, from the perspective of an elderly law professor who can't control his bladder.

It was a random idea, and I didn't really think about it, but now that I do think about it, I sort of meant it.

See, I've decided to hand-write my notes this year. On paper. With a pen. No laptop. No typing. And no wireless Internet, that demon creature created by the devil of anti-productivity.

I took notes by hand in 3 classes last year, and by laptop in the other 4. Mostly determined by desk space -- for the classes where we had statutes and casebooks and problem sets to refer to it was just easier to handwrite and not have to fumble around with the laptop. For the others I didn't really think about it and used the laptop by default.

As a data point, on average I did quite measurably better in the classes where I handwrote, but I don't think there's cause and effect there, and I'm pretty sure it's just how it worked out -- I liked those classes better, I understood the material better generally, I don't think how I took notes had anything to do with it. But maybe it did.

The bigger factor, for me, is that I really don't ever go back to my notes at the end of the semester. The advantage of typing your notes is that you can read them, and find stuff easily, and turn them into an outline... but I just never do. I go back to the book and re-read stuff from there. I use other people's outlines I find online. But my notes, whether typed or written, are pretty terrible. I write/type way too much, and I'm awful at outlining on the fly. They're a jumble of everything the professor said for 5 minutes, and then the words "important; dicta; page 7" for the 5 minutes I was distracted by a hummingbird in the window. They're rambling, they're incoherent, and they're poorly structured (like much of this weblog, I fear...). My handwritten notes are admittedly close to illegible. But I've realized it doesn't matter! Because the act of writing the stuff down is what helps me, and I don't need them once I write them.

Plus, the computer is distracting. I play with font colors. I play with outline form. I can distract myself with WordArt. Not to mention all the evil stuff that lurks beyond where I'll let myself go -- solitaire, text twist, first-person shooters. And wireless. Oh, wireless. I finally got a wireless card in April and it killed me in Corporations. I was checking e-mail, surfing the web, it was so not good for me. So easy to get distracted. And not worth it. Just not worth it.

It's terrible in a boring class to not have the laptop. But is it so terrible to be bored? We should be bored in boring classes. It's our role in the educational biosphere. I hate feeling like I'm not paying good attention. I want to get the most out of class. I really do. I want to stay engaged.

So no laptop for me. Pads and paper. I will save the Internet surfing for when I should be doing my reading instead.