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The Blue & Gray Press | August 18, 2019

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Personal essay: handwriting notes is acceptable too

Personal essay: handwriting notes is acceptable too


Many professors on campus allow students to use their laptops in class, but some professors don’t. In high school I was required to write my notes in a notebook or a binder. When I came to college, I found that most students took notes on their laptops.

I tried this approach but then, I found that I stopped paying attention and felt that I wasn’t learning properly. I had stopped critically thinking. When I would handwrite my notes and papers, thoughts flowed naturally for me. One idea bled into another and little side-notes or inspirations could go in the margins but typing took that away from me. I found my notes to be word-for-word recordings of what the professor was saying. I had trouble making sense of my notes because it was not in my own words. Studying from my computer was a nightmare as well.

I got easily distracted, so I would bounce from one set of notes to another and before I knew it I was working on a project that wasn’t due for weeks rather than studying for tomorrow’s exam.

The same thing happens when I write papers. There is something so intimidating about a blank computer screen, with its slow blinking cursor. I grew afraid of it. I wanted to take handwritten notes in class, but I rarely saw other people writing out their notes. I was afraid that if I traded in my keyboard for a pen, I would fall behind during class because handwriting can take so much longer.

Frustrated, I took a class called “Student Development” at Germanna Community College. The curriculum covered different strategies for success in college, such as, time management, self-care and note-taking techniques. I learned all the benefits of handwritten notes and of using different colors. I never typed in class again. All my notes from my first three years of college are handwritten. I have gone through countless pens, both basic black and colored. My penmanship has vastly improved, and I have learned to fear the blank physical page rather than the blinking, unnerving digital page.

This decision has not been without consequences. Most classes are digital-minded classes now, where you can pull up lecture notes and PowerPoint slides, or activities that involve websites and word processors. You can’t exactly pull up a web browser in a notebook. Even my midterm portfolio was a source of complication for me. My first instinct was to handwrite notes and the informal letters. It wasn’t until I was turning it in that I realized I probably should have typed it all up.

I have learned that I am not completely alone in this decision. Others struggle with collecting their thoughts on a computer. I feel bad about it but it does make me feel better knowing that I am not alone. There is just something that seems limiting about physically writing. Yes, it is limiting, but creativity thrives under guidelines. Some of us might need literal lines rather than digital ones.