Welcome to the 21st Century: Technology’s Place in PC Classrooms

by The Cowl Editor on February 27, 2020


by Eileen Cooney ’23

Assistant News Editor

Although it is not a universal policy that computers and other devices are not allowed to be used during Development of Western Civilization classes, most of the professors who teach the course implement policies that bar technology from being used for learning purposes. 

The prohibition of technology in the classroom can be difficult for students who prefer to type notes on a tablet or a computer rather than handwrite them, or to ensure that the important points of a fast-paced lecture are written down. 

Additionally, many students find it helpful to transfer their notes to a digital PDF study guide that is easy to review before exams. A typed outline of one’s notes can be more concise and clear to study from rather than a messy, unorganized, handwritten notebook. 

Despite the obvious benefits of being able to use a laptop or tablet to take notes, these devices have nonetheless been barred from use in most DWC classes due to their distracting nature. 

Dr. Stephen Lynch, professor of English and head of the Liberal Arts Honors program, says that he does not allow technology to be utilized in his classes because “if a student receives an email or some other notification it is just too tempting for them to go off task and check it.” 

Additionally, he cited various studies that demonstrate that students retain information better when they handwrite their notes because they are forced to be more selective in what they take down. Since they cannot write down their notes nearly as fast as they can type, a student is forced to spend more time processing the information when they write it down as opposed to when they type it. 

While there have been many studies that show that information is often retained better when one physically handwrites it, there is not a general consensus. For example, some students, particularly those with poor penmanship, find it too difficult to study from their notes that have been scribbled down in futile efforts to keep up with fast-paced lectures.  

Katherine Cleary ‘23 says that she would prefer to type her notes because she feels it would allow her to “be more organized” and have all her “notes in one place, not scattered across many different notebooks.” Additionally, it is worth acknowledging that we live in an increasingly digitized world where more and more schools are switching over to paperless curriculums. Many students come to college from high schools that mandate they use technology in the classroom. 

Tara Cooney ‘21 says, “I came from a high school that was entirely paperless. All of my notebooks, textbooks, and powerpoints were on an iPad provided to me by my high school. Coming from this innovative way of learning to only being able to take notes the old-fashioned way was very difficult.” 

Despite the increasingly digitized nature of our society, it does not seem as though the policies in DWC classes are subject to change anytime soon. Just as DWC is a long-time tradition at Providence, taking notes the old-fashioned way seems like it is going to be the norm for the foreseeable future.

Technology in the classroom continues to be a divisive issue at PC.
Jay Willett ’20/TheCowl