Bring a Pen and Paper. “That’s stupid. We don’t need them.”

Taking off for a two-day college orientation and overnight dorm visit:

Sleeping bag packed? Check.
Consent forms signed? Check.
Pen & paper packed? “That’s stupid. We don’t need them”. Really? How are you going to take notes? “Use our phones if we need to”. What if your battery runs down, or you break it, or … ? “That’s ridiculous, you worry too much”. Whatever! I’m tired of fighting every tiny common sense detail.

Taking notesSix hours later at registration tent …  “Can I borrow a pen to check off the sessions I’m going to attend?”, “Me too”. “Me three”. Really? All three of you traveled 360 miles to this special honors weekend and nobody brought a pen?#$%**??! I’m loving this I-told-you-so-moment. They are cringing. They didn’t want to keep them however. They made their marks and tossed them back across the table, as if they were infected with some very un-cool disease.

WHY is this happening? Why do young people think they ‘don’t need to take notes’? Why is it ‘stupid’? A light bulb went off for me in the last session of Day 1.

BECAUSE …   Up to this point in their lives everything they have needed to know is available online. Course notes. Homework assignments. School schedules. Project collaboration. etc. Everything is spoon fed and electronically documented. Much of it even findable on Google. They don’t even need to remember where to look. Imagine that! It’s an amazing everything-at-your-digital-fingertips world.

Indeed, all the important, essential information we heard about during the entire two days was available somewhere online. Most presentations concluded with weblinks, emails, and social media connections. My copious notes looked so-last-century waste of time — i.e., ‘stupid’.

On the way home however (after their phone batteries had all died from Facebook and texting exhaustion), the locked up and closed case on pen & paper was reopened when the discussion turned to one professor who had promised the “Two Tips On How To Get The Most Out Of Your Undergraduate Experience”. He wandered all over the place and was not able to crisply deliver the two tips in such a way that they could pull it out of the air and fix it in their minds. They had no recall of the two tips. I dug out my notes and voila! It was neatly written out there for later retrieval. How did I do that? Practice. Practice. Practice during an age of necessity and no other options.

Why is note-taking important? If everything is available online, why cultivate a seemingly ancient skill. It’s a waste of time. Is note-taking falling by the wayside just like cursive writing? Is new technology rendering it irrelevant? I don’t believe so.

Note-taking is important BECAUSE … it helps the listener pay attention during the talk. It’s important, because it helps imprint what you are hearing for later retrieval. It’s important, because not everything you hear and need to retain is available on Google. Young adults entering the workforce will get messages delivered from bosses, assignments from project leaders, and verbal knowledge from experts, to mention a few, that will not ever appear in any electronically retrievable source.

Showing up a work without  pen & paper is like ending “up a creek without a paddle”. My guess is they will have to learn it through the school of hard knocks. “Sucks for them” is what they might tell me, but they still don’t want the pen and paper today.


About lynnmorstead

Writing about the small things that shape our lives
This entry was posted in Culture, education, Humor, Life Coaching. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Bring a Pen and Paper. “That’s stupid. We don’t need them.”

  1. Lee says:

    Lynn–great post, and so true! They have so much to learn at 18… Ask Elisa to tell you her story about taking notes during class in one of her community college courses, and how that translated into a 100 on a quiz, to the astonishment of the teens in class with her!

  2. Rhonda says:

    I could call you an enabler, but won’t! Sometimes letting people fail because they didn’t prepare, even when they have been told, is the best way for them to learn. You’ve always been there to ensure that they won’t fail, but in college they will be on their own, or rely on the kindness of their friends and strangers (thanks Tennessee Williams!) When our youngest went to college, I casually mentioned that a good rule of thumb is that she would need to study 3 hours for every class hour she took. She asked how “they” would check up on her, to see if she was studying. I said “on the final exam”! One of the best gifts I received for high school graduation was a lovely Cross sterling silver pen and pencil set. I still have it and still use it!

    • lynnmorstead says:

      I realized this weekend that it goes way beyond the “enabling” dilemna. They simply have had no need to take notes up til now. They cannot visualize a different world than the one they are living in. Our oldest had a great ah-ha moment during his stint on the NASA satellite project. They were forging new paths and creating the materials, so there was nowhere to google the information. He now always carries a pen and paper!

  3. Karen says:

    As a teacher I find that most of the students will not take notes during lectures. Just the high achievers are writing things down.

    Part of the problem is that a test two weeks from now has very little meaning. Students think they can figure out what they need to know at the last minute–apparently.

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