I like to use my iPhone to take notes in lectures and seminars. I prefer it to using paper (easy to lose, hard to search, bad for the environment) or a laptop (cumbersome to carry and loud to type with).

However, I get the impression that many people are against the use of phones in lectures for any purpose. As an undergraduate, I remember some lecturers publicly shaming people who used their phones, even when they were making notes or looking up something relevant to the lecture. One lecturer in particular even brought a jug of water to the class with her, and threatened that if she saw anyone with a phone she would put it in the jug. Admittedly phones can be used for irrelevant or distracting purposes, but this is also true of laptops and paper! I am now an academic myself, but still worry about offending colleagues.

Is it acceptable to use a phone to make notes in a lecture? If not, what makes them particularly unacceptable/rude compared with a laptop or tablet? And are there any strategies that can be used to indicate to a lecturer that you are using your phone to make notes (and not to make Tik Tok videos)?

Note, I am not asking for advice about whether taking notes on an iPhone is wise, nor about whether a "no phone policy" would be a good idea (the latter point is discussed here).


1 Answer 1


Phones are not perceived as note-taking tools, making them undesirable in education and business settings. Laptops are tolerated in both settings, but don't expect respect. Tablets are perhaps the lesser-evil, especially when used with a stylus. Better still, specialised note-taking devices (not dissimilar to tablets) are now available. Paper will serve you well and set the best impression.

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