Despite popular belief, analog isn’t dying. It’s more than just the intimate nature of analog processes or the nostalgia analog processes instill. In fact, digital tools have been their own worst enemy inside the classroom. Smartphones and tablets are so good at doing everything that they are assumed to be doing everything at all times.

As a result, classroom teachers, professors and instructors generally hate digital devices in the classroom.

I can’t remember a time when pulling out my iPhone or iPad in class wasn’t met with a questionable look from an instructor or classmates. I used my iPad throughout university to type notes and I was consistently questioned about the viability of the iPad as a notetaking device. Worse, it became apparent through comments that I was either spoiled, or lazy, or both. My experience three years ago — which is a long time in technological years — had showed that a stigmatism had developed.

Further to that, I tried taking out my iPhone to type notes and to test my stigma-hypothesis. My teacher looked at me and told me to put my phone away. Of course, I wasn’t sending messages to friends and I wasn’t browsing the Internet. I was taking notes. I was immersed in the content and I was making sure my notes were saved on my Dropbox. In effect, I was being a better student than if I was physically writing notes. The iPad stigmatism was certainly associated with the iPhone as well. I would venture to say the stigmatism was worse.

In complete contrast, when was the last time someone shot an evil look for pulling out a notebook and a pen? University professors expect students to carry around large textbooks and binders full of paper. They even adapt their lesson plans to slow down for pen and paper notetakers. Undoubtedly, those physical writers jot down the same words as digital notetakers. But that doesn’t matter.

It’s not the words that matter. It’s the medium by which those notes are taken:

The medium is the message. — Marshall McLuhan[1]

Pulling out a memo book is considered a sophisticated form of recordkeeping. I whipped out my Field Notes book in a business class and three people talked to me about my notebook after class. They told me about how their parents always carried a pocket notebook to jot down notes, phone numbers and business contacts. They even said they wished they could be disciplined enough to use a memo book.

Is it illegal to pull out a Field Notes book when behind the wheel? It’s equally stupid to using a cell phone, but somehow the “digital device” application doesn’t apply to a pen and paper combination.

I think there is an inherent respect for pen and paper and an inherent disrespect for digital devices.

Digital devices are entirely representative of change — especially in the classroom — and they are associated with distraction, boredom and laziness. Smartphones, tablets and laptops have ushered such revolution that our cultural ways lag behind in their acceptance.

Contrastingly, pens and paper offer no external distractions[2] and are associated with discipline, focus and creativity. Analog notetaking holds a firm grip over education and its nostalgic, intimate nature hinders the digital revolution.[3]

Luckily, the stigmatism beset upon digital devices is dying. The acceptance of smartphones, tablets and laptops in the classroom is growing. Students in local high schools can finally use their phones while in the hallway and specific teachers even allow them to be used in class. iPads are increasingly used for work and, with the introduction of Office for iPad, they can even be used to create documents for assignments.[4] Unbelievably, my college is lobbying to put laptops on the “Required Supplies” for next year’s first year business students. Times are certainly changing. They are just changing slowly in relation to the rest of the technology industry.

I personally use a pen and paper to jot notes because I learn better after writing something down. It took many years to determine this.

It takes many years for everyone to learn how they learn best. And they should be allowed to learn how they learn best. Whether it be digital or analog, notetakers have their preferences and their unique strengths. If an educational institution gets in the way, both through “statutory laws” and “cultural deviance deterrences”, they are hindering the learning experience.

And that’s just wrong. Plain and simple.

  1. Canadian!  ↩

  2. Aside from doodling, which is rightfully being accepted as a way for students to learn and absorb the information offered by a teacher.  ↩

  3. Of course, neither of these assumptions are entirely right or entirely wrong. Education is assigned to provincial governments in Canada because education is considered a localized issue. As a result, my assumptions are merely based on my experiences. These same experiences may not be standard in other provinces or in other countries.  ↩

  4. Despite my blasphemous arguments surrounding the backwardness of education, my local college will never change its use of Microsoft Office. My Business Computing teacher is insistent that businesses will never change their computing paradigms and that Apple’s iWork is “closed” and “not willing to work with other programs.” We can argue for days about how wrong she is. In the end, I have to submit a Word document at the end of class. And utilizing Office for iPad is surprisingly effective.  ↩