Explore a better way to work – one that promises more calm, clarity, and creativity.

Guest Post: How to Use a Laptop in Class

This is a guest post written by Kelly Sutton, one of the good folks from the always excellent Hack College blog.

Kelly’s Secret

“Wow, you write for a blog and you are a current student! How on earth can you juggle those two tasks?”

Admittedly, I’ve only heard this question once or twice during my run as a college student. It never quite occurred to me exactly how I can handle a few responsibilities simultaneously. Then I remembered:

I bring my laptop to class.

I probably take some of the most cohesive and complete notes of my classmates. (Not to one-up them, but I’m pretty sure it’s true. But notes are personal preference. So maybe I’m not so special.) During any given class, I also usually manage to stay updates on my email, the news, all of the other sweet college blogs, Facebook, and also work on whatever project, podcast, or article we have floating around the HackCollege domain. I usually fare pretty well in most of my classes.

Is this a pure realization of the 80-20 rule? Or is it just merely the luck of lower-level classes? Or maybe LMU isn’t all that it’s academically cracked up to be?

The Breakdown

  • Don’t use an entire period to surf the Net all willy-nilly. Some professors don’t like laptops in smaller classes. Some professors also need to learn how to deliver a lecture. It’s a fair trade, really.
  • Avoid using your laptop in any class that directly counts for a bachelor of science degree. Let’s face it, liberal arts courses require much less attention than your average math or compsci class. Unless your LaTeX skills are up to snuff, a laptop will only be a costly distraction.
  • Don’t just surf. If you can also simultaneously work on something else, you’re effectively doubling your Average Productivity Quotient (the standard unit of productivity measurement among lifehackers). Work on a blog or organize your photos.
  • Read the Wikipedia article concurrent to the current lecture. Not only does it give you a viable excuse if your prof ever glances at your screen, but sometimes you will (unfortunately) learn more from the Wikipedia article on the subject than you will in the lecture. I thought this wouldn’t be universally true, but the “German grammar” article is teaching me more than my current German class.

What do you do to not pay attention in class?

10 thoughts on “Guest Post: How to Use a Laptop in Class”

  1. We’ve got another tip that my friend Chris at HackCollege has also started playing around with: editing the Wikipedia article(s) pertaining to the lecture.

    This isn’t applicable everywhere, but it’s definitely worth looking into. We’ll get back to you on that. 🙂

  2. Thanks for the mention! 🙂

    In my political science class I used to work on my site or even read the chapters while the prof was lecturing because he talks in circles. Then I just stopped going to his class because he doesn’t take attendance. I simply read the books and go to class on the days of the test. Much better. The rest of my classes don’t allow laptops, but in my computer science class I do check out blogs and websites.

  3. I thought this was a HALF-decent blog until I read this article. The following quote shows why you are blogging instead of doing something more important:

    “Let’s face it, liberal arts courses require much less attention than your average math or compsci class.”

    This is completely false. What are you doing with your math or comp sci class? My liberal arts degree led to my law degree, which is leading to my job as a corporate attorney.

    Here’s a math equation to sum this up for you:

    My liberal arts classes + law = $275,000 (my starting salary)

    Your blog + math/comp sci = This worthless blog and your empty bank account.

  4. Edward,

    Your starting salary was $275,000!? Dear lord! Whatever it is you do I want to do it. 🙂

    Actually, Kelly, who wrote this article, is a liberal arts major, so I guess he has a lot to look forward to…

    – Cal

  5. I like where Kelly is getting at. Some of the articles at Wikipedia are plain wrong while others lack information. Lecture, I guess, is one of the best source of information. I usually bring laptops to class and onenotes is really an effective notetaking software. If the class is amazingly boring doing something else in your laptop is the best way to keep awake.

  6. You should carry your laptop along with you in class but when lecture is going on you should keep your laptop off otherwise there is possibility that your teacher may anger on you so avoid when teacher is delivering lecture


Leave a Comment