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VU education expert encourages teachers to allow note-taking on laptops

A Victoria University education specialist is encouraging teachers to become more comfortable with technology in the classroom and allow students to take notes on laptops and tablets.

Associate Director of The Victoria Institute at Victoria University, Claire Brown says teachers have to develop new skills to use technology purposefully.

“Arguments against the use of laptops, tablets, smart phones and other devices in the classroom largely centre around problems with multi-tasking and distractions on the devices. It also becomes an equity issue if not all students can afford the latest devices.”

“But the fight over whether to use electronic devices for taking notes is a battle that may have already been lost, and it is not an ‘either/or’ problem. Banning technology because teachers are not comfortable using it effectively is not a convincing argument.”

“Whether handwritten or electronic, it is best for teachers and students to choose the most appropriate form of note-taking for each task,” Ms Brown said.

Ms Brown has detailed several different ways that technology can be used effectively. One way is to type notes and review them later.

“As people become faster at typing than handwriting, they can transcribe a lot more content by typing notes than if they write by hand. If a learner has poor working memory, it is sometimes easier to copy first and process the notes later.”

“Learners don’t have to divide their attention as much between the various cognitive tasks involved in simultaneously listening, typing, synthesising and processing information, so they can write more notes. But this note taking strategy works only if learners go back and reprocess the notes within a 24-hour, seven-day and 30-day period.”

Ms Brown says another strategy is for students to use a combination of handwritten notes with electronic devices.

“It is the four stages of processing notes that is critical for students to learn whether notes are taken by hand or electronically.”

The skills of note taking are explicitly taught in a tertiary and career readiness program that Victoria University runs across Australia called AVID, Advancement via Individual Determination


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