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Signing off

Laptops are fast replacing notebooks. Is this the end of note-taking in class?

india Updated: Jun 25, 2009 23:43 IST
V Gangadhar

The ultimate disaster has befallen the educational institutions of this land. There will be no more ‘note-taking’ in the classes of Delhi’s Shri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC). From next year, students and teachers will be expected to come to classes with laptops. With other colleges expected to follow suit, pen and paper notes may quickly become a thing of the past.

That’s sad. When students — at least those sitting in the front rows — took down notes, they knew what they were doing, simply because they had to really concentrate while writing furiously. While attending Prof K K Neelakantan’s English Literature classes at Palakadu Government Victoria College, I kept busy by taking down notes on the ill-fated romance between Antony and Cleopatra, pausing only to watch the professor’s rapturous face as he described the Egyptian queen sailing on a golden barge down the Nile.

You had to be mentally alert because some of the teachers spoke quickly and almost every word they spoke seemed to be important.

Whenever I felt that something in the ‘running notes’ was extra-important, I made jottings in the margin — a star here, an ‘IMP’ there. A double star meant it was very important; a triple star a definite exam question.

I invented my own shorthand to keep up. How useful were the notes? Well, it depended on the teachers concerned. Prof F C Davar, who taught Aldous Huxley’s Science, Liberty and Peace and J M Synge’s Playboy of the Western World was so meticulous that I discovered that it was not necessary to read the texts; just the notes would do the job.

It was different with Prof Vasant Joshi, who taught us Dr Zhivago. He suggested new ideas and challenged students to think on their own on Boris Pasternak’s classic. In sharp contrast, there were the uninspiring teachers, one of whom had inherited his ‘notes’ from his father who was also a teacher.

I hope the advent of laptops in classrooms can do an equally good job of ‘note-taking’ as the good, old pen’n’paper.